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Linux Web Hosting FAQ
By: Rich Smith
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    Our Frequently Asked Questions on Linux gives you insight on what you can expect when choosing a Unix or Linux platform to host your site. Also included is a comparison of Unix vs. Windows Web Hosting features.

    Where can I find reliable Unix & Linux Web hosting? 
    itsALLnet.com features 10 highly rated Unix & Linux Web hosting companies offering excellent service and customer support. We limit our listings to 10 hosts per category because our site provides users with quality and not quantity. We display cost, features, support and more on our site so that choosing a Unix or Linux Web host is easy.

    What is Unix?
    Unix is a computer operating system. Unix was created in the late 1960s, in an effort to provide a multi-user, multitasking system. The philosophy behind the design of Unix was to provide simple, yet powerful utilities that could be pieced together in a flexible manner to perform a wide variety of tasks.

    Who invented Unix? 
    Unix was created in 1969 by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie at Bell Laboratories. Unix, as we know it today, actually began as an exercise to port a game called “Space Travel” onto a PDP-7 computer. The lack of required functionality required the authors to create floating-point arithmetic routines, an assembler, and even a file system. The “Space Travel” effort therefore evolved into the creation of a self-sustaining operating system with a local file system, on a computer that could previously only load software from a paper tape.

    What is Linux? 
    Linux is a complete operating system that is similar but not identical to Unix. It runs on a wide variety of hardware, ranging from Intel and AMD CPUs to more exotic hardware such as Digital Alpha computers, PowerPCs, and Silicon Graphics workstations. Probably the most unique characteristic of Linux is that it is freely distributable. Freely distributable means that the source code for the kernel and most software cannot be withheld. It does not mean that companies cannot charge for it. By means of comparison, hosting a website on Unix or Linux is nearly identical.

    Who invented Linux? 
    A young student, named Linus Torvalds, from the University of Helsinki in Finland, created Linux in 1991. Since it’s inception, Linux has been developed by thousands of developers from all over the world. Developed under the GNU General Public License, the source code for Linux is freely available to everyone, making it an attractive alternative to the pricey Windows platform.

    Do I have to purchase licensing fees to operate my site on Unix? 
    A majority of the software written for Unix and Linux is developed under the same GNU General Public License as the operating systems. What this means, is that it is fairly simple to locate and install the software you need with minimal, if any, out of pocket expense. Compared to the Windows platform, this is a big plus for the Unix and Linux markets.

    What is Apache, and what can it do for me? 
    Apache is the name of the software that allows you to run a web service on a Unix server. Apache is very popular and provides access to most web sites on the Internet.

    Why should I choose to host my website on a Unix-based machine? 
    Unix has a proven track record of performance, stability and security. It has been in a state of constant refinement since its inception 30 years ago, and is based on open standards, allowing easy access to operating system features and applications. Unix is, by default, text-based and does not use a graphical user interface (GUI), which means it can dedicate the full power of the server to your web site.

    What scripting languages are available for Unix? 
    There are many options available when it comes to writing CGI scripts on a Unix machine. The most common at the time of this writing are PHP and PERL. There are many introductions, tutorials, and even sample scripts available on the Internet when it comes to PHP and PERL.

    What databases are available for my Unix website? 
    That depends mostly on the web hosting provider you select to host your website. There are many flavors of databases that run on Unix, but the most prevalent among web host providers are mSQL, MySQL., and PostgreSQL. These databases are all relational in nature, and allow highly optimized communication with your website for quick retrieval of information.

    Is it more or less expensive to host my site on a Unix or a Windows platform? 
    That depends on what you mean by “hosting your site”. If you plan to host the site yourself, and you own the web servers or the software on them, then Unix (or Linux) would definitely be a less expensive option. If you plan to sign up with a web hosting company, and they own the servers and the software installed on them, you will find that there are excellent hosting options available for each platform at very comparable prices.

    How does Unix hosting compare to Windows hosting? 
    Here is a sh
    ort comparison of key features, and which are available for the Unix and Windows platforms.

    MS FrontPage 2000, 2002XX
    Real Audio/Video XX
    Cgi Scripts XX
    SSH (Secure Telnet)XX
    Web-Based Control SystemX 
    Anonymous FTPX 
    Web Site Graphical StatisticsXX
    Web-Based Email SystemXX
    SQL 2000 X
    Cold FusionXX
    ASP (Active Server Pages)XX
    MS Access X
    Visual Basic Scripts X
    Windows Media X

    Glossary of terms:

    Web Server software freely available for both Unix and Linux.

    Common Gateway Interface. In Layman’s terms, a CGI program is a program that can be executed as part of a web server process.

    Cold Fusion
    Special software package that simplifies the creation of database driven web sites.

    GNU General Public License
    An agreement by the author of certain software to offer his or her software for free, and to abide by the stipulations of copyleft. Specifically, the copyleft philosophy stipulates that anyone redistributing free software must also pass along the freedom to further copy and change the program, thereby ensuring that no one can claim ownership of future versions and place restrictions on users.

    The kernel is the essential center of a computer operating system, the core that provides basic services for all other parts of the operating system.

    Perl is a script programming language that is similar in syntax to the C language and that includes a number of popular Unix facilities.

    In Web programming, PHP is a script language and interpreter that is freely available and used primarily on Linux Web servers.

    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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