When tracing the history of the best Unix web hosting, developers credit the popular operating system as the impetus for affordable and user-friendly hosting services — much like how the Big Bang kicked off the start of the universe.
While the universe likely started with a massive explosion, web hosting traces its roots to Bell Labs and AT&T in the 1960s and ’70s. Unix, which provides the groundwork for everything from Linux and FreeBSD to macOS, now powers more than 71% of all websites. Thanks to Linux and its many distributions, the software is often a free and open-source component of many successful hosting stacks.
Given the widespread popularity of Unix-based systems, identifying the best environments is a daunting endeavor. That’s why we’ve sifted through the cream of the crop to give you the hosts that showcase all the wonderful features Unix pioneered.
Best Value Unix Web Hosting
Despite being created in a commercial environment, Unix revolutionized early computing by prioritizing affordability and accessibility. Developers charged only a nominal fee for the educational use of Unix, which ran on inexpensive hardware and was easy to adapt and migrate to different machines.
Now, dozens of Unix, Linux, and BSD variants and distributions are free and maintained by open-source communities of programmers around the world. In addition to commercial Unix operating systems, the platform is especially popular via the BSD brand — particularly FreeBSD and OpenBSD. Linux-based operating systems are the base layer of the ultra-popular LAMP stack powering most hosting environments: Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP.
Given the cost-effectiveness of running Linux on servers hosting thousands of websites, it’s no surprise that the world’s largest hosting companies all promote Unix-based packages. Here are a handful of companies we think rise above the crowd when it comes to high-value Linux hosting:
- All servers run on the CentOS operating system
- Secure FTP access and FTP manager
- Easy customization with PHP, Perl, and Python support
- Enhanced security suite ($100 value) and 24/7 monitoring
- Two datacenters with Cisco routers and load balancing
- Get started on iPage now.
- Linux, cPanel, and 1-click software installations
- Support for PHP, Apache, MySQL, and Ruby on Rails
- Secure FTP access and IP blocking
- Tons of Linux-friendly eCommerce tools available
- 24/7 support and advanced spam protection
- Get started on Bluehost now.
- All shared servers run on CentOS
- FREE site transfer and setup
- Easy server management with cPanel and SSH access
- Unlimited databases with daily site backups
- 99.9% uptime and 24/7 network monitoring
- Get started on SiteGround now.
- Business-class hardware with Linux operating system
- SSH access and SSD speed for 20x faster page loads
- Code with Ruby, PHP, and/or MySQL
- SPAM Safe™ email and personalized domain
- FREE SSL and 310+ apps easily installed with cPanel
- Get started on InMotion Hosting now.
Best VPS Unix Web Hosting
For those looking for more computing resources or control over their hosting environment, virtual private servers open up a treasure chest of more Unix-based operating systems you can choose from. Thanks to server virtualization, each VPS tenant can install his or her own operating system independently of the hosting provider and other customers on the same physical machine.
Even better, Unix VPS hosting doesn’t have to break the bank. Our list of the top cheap Linux VPS hosting plans show that you can get started for roughly $5 per month, with site owners still able to find a ton of value by spending up to $20 per month. Because of the added technical pressure placed on VPS customers (with great power comes great responsibility) to properly customize, secure, and optimize their environments, you’ll want to be sure to sign up with a host that offers always-there support alongside the powerful infrastructure and technologies.
Here, we’re highlighting the VPS hosting providers we trust the most to find that sweet spot of managed services, affordability, flexible environments, and superb operating system options. These hosts represent the best of the best when it comes to Unix-based virtual private servers.
- CentOS 6: Enterprise-class Linux operating system
- FREE OS security patches and updates for VPS
- Root access, SSH access, and reseller access with WHM
- FREE cPanel license, SSL, and speed-boosting SSDs
- Unlimited FTP accounts and MySQL databases
- Get started on InMotion Hosting now.
- Choice of Windows or Linux OS available
- Instant provisioning and easy scalability
- RAID-protected SSD VPS options
- Enhanced security and built-in backups
- Blazing-fast speeds coupled with always-on support
- Get started on Liquid Web now.
- $0.01 for the first month using code HOSTINGADV
- Then $6 monthly with no contracts, no price changes
- Flexible configurations for Linux cloud VPS hosting
- Choices of OS include Debian, CentOS, and Ubuntu
- Deploy in 15 minutes or less with 99.9% uptime
- Get started on InterServer now.
- Transition from shared Linux server to VPS quickly
- Powered by modern versions of CentOS, Apache, and OpenStack
- PHP, Perl, Python, Ruby, and MySQL available
- Guaranteed resources with KVM hypervisor
- Enhanced cPanel included for easy hosting management
- Get started on Bluehost now.
What is Unix Hosting?
Now that we’ve run through the top features and price points to look for, let’s take a step back and talk about Unix hosting more broadly. Site owners will more commonly see plans marketed as using a Linux-based operating system, but there are slight differences between Linux and Unix you should know about.
As we alluded to earlier, Unix is specifically a largely commercial product with closed, vendor-specific costs and development. In addition to the work done by AT&T (that continues today), Unix has been popularized through distributions from Oracle (Solaris), IBM (AIX), Hewlett-Packard (HP-UX), and Apple (macOS). Unix is typically used on servers, mainframes, and other complex computing systems, while Linux distributions tend to be more prevalent on consumer-oriented devices. A third option, BSD-based operating systems like FreeBSD and OpenBSD, resides between the two extremes as a developer-friendly open platform.
In response to the 1980s launch of the GNU Project, an ambitious undertaking to create a free and open Unix-like system, Linus Torvalds released the Linux kernel as free software under the GNU General Public License in 1991. The Linux kernel, along with collections of compatible software packages, combines to form dozens of Linux distributions popular with PC users, developers, and website owners:
Thanks to the global communities of developers, Linux has been adapted to serve a wide variety of requirements, technologies, and tech-savviness. Cost-effective Linux and BSD operating systems cover most hosting needs and are expanding into new markets like consumer-grade desktop, mobile, and embedded devices.
Unix vs. Windows Web Hosting: Which is Best?
Before you even get to the point of choosing which Unix or Linux operating system to use, you’ll first probably want to rule out one other option: Windows. Despite the familiar name, the Windows Server operating system is vastly different than what you’re used to seeing on your PC.
At the most basic level, the Linux hosting vs. Windows hosting debate boils down to the programming language and software components you wish to use to build and operate your website. Linux hosting is the natural choice for most hosting customers. Unless you have a specific reason to use Windows, such as running a website or application through the ASP.NET or the .NET frameworks, chances are that a Unix-based hosting environment will be best for you.
For comparison’s sake, however, take a look at our highest-recommended Windows shared hosting plans. You can get a sense of the important features, technologies, and prices you should look out for when shopping for Unix alternatives:
- Strong Windows hosting to launch your ASP.NET site
- Install apps with a single click via Plesk
- FREE domain and unlimited bandwidth included
- Award-winning support from the HostGator team
- Support for ASP.NET, PHP, Python, and MVC
- Get started on HostGator now.
- ASP.NET, ASP, MSSQL, Silverlight, and MVC6
- FREE RAID-10 storage and SSD caching servers
- Unlimited storage, websites, transfer, and email
- Automated weekly backups and FREE Cloudflare CDN
- NO contracts and your price is guaranteed for life
- Get started on InterServer now.
Because of Microsoft’s reputation in the business world and the popularity of the company’s Azure cloud platform, Windows represents a secure and scalable option for established organizations with more demanding computing workloads. Here are our rankings of the best Windows VPS hosting plans to compare with the Unix and Linux options above.
- Managed or unmanaged virtual servers available in Windows or Linux
- Cloud hosting instances with hourly or monthly billing
- Instant upgrades without downtime
- FREE around-the-clock monitoring
- Automatic nightly backups available
- Get started on Hostwinds now.
- Affordable Windows VPS with a flexible pricing model
- Choice of Windows 2008 or 2012 servers
- Deploy your slice within 20 minutes with instant setup
- Plenty of RAM and data transfer
- Cloud backups and snapshots included
- Get started on Interserver now.
What are the Advantages of Unix?
Although Windows and macOS dominate the personal computer operating system landscape, Unix and Linux are the major forces when it comes to servers and web hosting environments. Why, you may ask? And we’re glad you did, as here are some of the top benefits to using Unix hosting:
- Cost: Thanks to Windows’ high licensing fees, price-conscious hosting consumers will find better bargains with Unix and Linux hosting. Many of the programs and associated technologies, including MySQL databases, are free and developed in open-source communities.
- Compatibility: Sure, you can run databases, PHP, and other applications like WordPress through Windows environments, but you may notice some subtle differences or jump through a few extra hoops.
- Performance and stability: Unix-based operating systems are designed to handle high traffic loads without as many reboots and updates as those Windows requires. That means more efficient page load speeds and less downtime.
Naturally, Unix and Linux hosting is not always sunshine and rainbows. Some potential drawbacks to Unix include not being able to run Windows-friendly technologies like Microsoft SQL databases or the .NET family of languages and frameworks.
Perhaps a larger sticking point is the operating system’s reliance on secure shell commands in a terminal or other command line interface. This can be especially intimidating for newbies getting started with their first VPS because you can royally mess up your environment with the wrong commands. Fortunately, most users won’t have to go down that rabbit hole with user-friendly Unix plans.
Unix vs. Windows Hosting: Which is the Best Hosting for WordPress?
Given the power and popularity of the LAMP stack (remember, that’s Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP), Unix is generally considered the supreme option for WordPress and other content management systems. However, Windows users can still run and optimize WordPress in much the same way— it just may not be as smooth a process.
Site owners will notice a few subtle differences in certain components and functions, depending on which operating system they’re on. For instance, Windows users will likely need to update the web.config file in the ASP.NET framework to allow for pretty permalinks. Additionally, PHP operates differently on the two operating systems when it comes to mail — meaning that contact forms on your WordPress site may transmit messages a little slower if you use Windows.
The Linux speed benefits especially shine through with WordPress hosting. The content management system can be a heavy consumer of server resources at times, but an estimated 20% edge in performance for Linux offsets any potential slowdowns nicely.
That being said, keep in mind that content management systems (including Joomla, Drupal, and others) have web-based administrative portals, making your interactions with writing posts, adding media, and updating your theme exactly the same across operating systems.
What to Look for in a Professional Unix Web Hosting Provider
Because Unix, BSD, and Linux-based systems are so popular in web hosting, the attributes for a strong host are pretty common. Obviously, the price is always one of the first characteristics that hosting shoppers look at, but it’s not necessarily a good descriptor of the quality of services you can expect to receive. You can find stellar Unix hosting for just a few dollars per month, but those willing to spend even more can discover upgraded features and add-on tools.
In this case, uptime guarantees are a good indicator of the attention a hosting provider pays to effectively running, maintaining, and supporting Unix systems. Because the family of operating systems is known for stability to start with, any extra promised uptime is icing on the cake. Don’t settle for anything less than 99.9%.
Because of the benefits to performance and email, look for a plan that capitalizes on those Unix-based advantages. Click here to check out our favorite email hosting providers, along with those with high-powered solid-state drives that promise up to 20-times-faster page loads.