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Windows NT vs Unix Web Hosting
When planning an Internet venture, one of the most basic questions for any Webmaster is what platform to base the Web site on. The two most popular platforms, UNIX and NT are widely available and offer various options and have differing abilities. Your choice of platform will define the utility and type of software that you can use, the kind of applications that your site can run, what kind of server can host your site, the amount of control you have over your site and how efficiently your site will work as it grows in scale.

When deciding on whether or not you will choose a UNIX or NT platform it is important to keep in mind what Web host will host your site. Established Web hosts offer service on both platforms, while others offer service only on NT or UNIX. Any Web Host can offer service in either platform but the main difference is in customer support. Above all, make sure when choosing a host that they have a skilled technical support team that is knowledgeable about the platform you choose.

Introduction to UNIX and NT

The fundamental difference between UNIX and NT stems from how they came into existence. UNIX was designed to integrate with large network systems, while NT was made to serve the needs of individual users or companies that don't want to deal with the complexities of UNIX administration.

UNIX has been around, in one form or another, for the last twenty years and as such is a very mature platform. Because of this, the system is very well developed and stable, and there is a lot of software and applications designed to work for it. NT, on the other hand, was created more recently by Microsoft as a system specifically designed to handle the user-friendly software, which it has developed for Web page design. With NT, you get a platform that runs a series of naturally compatible programs and applications that mesh easily within the ubiquitous Windows environment. The main thing is to decide which system suits the projected needs of your Web site.

How will your customers or visitors view your site?
When you are planning your site, think of how your visitors view your site. The technology is improving every day and users are upgrading their systems in kind, but it is important to remember that a great number of users are working with technology that is a few years out of date. This concept is important at every level of Web site planning, even when deciding what platform to use. Creating a complex web site that requires a lot of data transfer will be slow on older equipment and this may be counter productive for you. Remember to think of your visitors when deciding what software you are planning to use. This is important because the software you want can some times determine what platform you must use!

What programs and application will work for you?
FrontPage 2000 by Microsoft, Cold Fusion by Allaire, CGI scripts, Cybercash, and Java servelts are just a few off the many names and buzz words that float around the Internet business. Deciding what software you need and what features you want, and therefore what kind of platform you run your site on, is one of the most important decisions you will make. For instance, if you or your are skilled systems administrator you might choose the UNIX platform so that you can take advantage of it programming flexibility. On the other hand if your Web site is an accessory to your business and your time and staff resources are small, you should work with an integrated package like Microsoft's FrontPage 2000 and run on an NT platform.

How large do you expect your site to grow?
When you are making the plan for your web site try and think of how large it is going to grow. Is your Web host going to need to support a lot of features? Do you need Real Audio, Video or chat capability? Are you going to have a lot of web pages and a lot of traffic, e-mail accounts and E-commerce activity? In the beginning, even if you start out small, on a virtual host (or shared host), remember that one day you may grow large. At the present time, you may be advised to go with a UNIX platform because of its flexibility, its multiple application possibilities and its proven robustness in large Web site environments.

Keep in mind, however, that recoding from one platform to another is difficult and time-consuming. Many believe that Microsoft will soon have features comparable to UNIX: Features that are not only easier for the average Webmaster to use but ones that will integrate easily into already existing Web sites.

How much administrative control do you really need?
In this category, UNIX is generally considered superior. This is because its system allow for programming closer to the base of the programming hierarchy. In UNIX an experienced Webmaster or Web developer can fine-tune a Web site, using CGI scripts, to create applications and site features specific to their needs. In fact, some Web hosting services even offer free CGI scripting as part of their UNIX packages. Find out about these when choosing your Web host. But the question is 'how much administrative control do you really need?' Many users do not need the kind of direct control that UNIX provides and are better off with the simpler, pre-prepared (and integrated) programming that Microsoft supplies for the NT platform.

Summary:
In the end, it will be the needs of you and your visitors that will define what programs and applications you want to work with. Once this is decided the kind of platform you need will become apparent. If you need help answering these questions, ask a professional Web developer or sales representative from a reputable Web hosting company. They will be able to help you wade through the details and decide whether you should use a UNIX or an NT platform. Defining whether one platform is superior to the other is relative to you and your visitors needs. UNIX is older and offers some network and programming advantages, but you can be sure that Microsoft is working overtime to produce similar capability in a Webmaster friendly environment. NT's simplicity and integration may make it a better long-run solution for your web site.

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