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Server-side Windows vs. Linux: Considering today's differences

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Not long ago, choosing Linux in the data center meant a tradeoff. You had to give up some capabilities in exchange for freedom from Microsoft lock-in. But that has changed. These days the features of Windows and Linux stack up against each other very competitively. For the most part, administrators can choose Linux or Windows today without losing out. Some differences, however, must be considered. In this article, I look at several of those differences.

Management

One of the most broadly touted strengths of Windows is the uniformity of its presentation and its management tools. This is even truer with Windows Server 2003, in which the vast majority of the server's administrative functions can be handled from one console window, and a whole slew of servers can be similarly overseen.

Costs and support

The upfront cost of Windows is usually more than Linux, although the cost for each will vary widely depending on what you purchase. The Premium Support edition of Red Hat Enterprise Linux ES (one of several editions) has a list price of $799; Windows Small Business Server 2003 Premium Edition runs $1,499 but includes SQL Server 2000 and Exchange 2003 as part of the package. Note that you can also get a lesser version of Small Business Server for $599 or so, and the highest-end version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux is $2,499.

Hardware support

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