How Do Ubuntu Server and Windows Server 2012 Compare?

In the home computing world, Windows is the dominant force, Mac comes in second, and Linux plays third fiddle. In the server world things are a bit different, however. Linux still outranks Windows, though not quite as badly as it did a few years ago.

When it comes to Linux servers, Debian and Ubuntu are probably two of the more popular distros out there. Since Ubuntu also is the most popular standard consumer OS, let’s compared Ubuntu to Windows Server 2012 to figure out which is right for your business.

Whether you are considering switching from Linux to Windows, or even are currently using Windows Server but thinking about Linux over an upgrade to Server 2012 – this will help give you an idea of what both are about.

The overview might miss a few big hitters or features, but it at least helps paint a picture.

Let’s start with Ubuntu:

Ubuntu for Server

Ubuntu has become a big force in the Linux world, despite the fact that many Linux purists don’t care much for the UnityUI that has brought more of a mainstream look and feel to Linux.

Some of the best features for Ubuntu on Servers include the following:

Ubuntu Software Center

When it comes to finding programs for managing your server, USC makes life easier. The terminal still is the preferred way for doing many things in Linux, but this certainly comes in handy as well.

Raid Configurations

Making raid arrays is actually pretty cheap and easy in Ubuntu, thanks to the mdadm tool. You don’t need to use CLI and there is even a tool that tells you if the raid is degrading and will even help you rebuild the array.

File Sharing & Storing

Although you might be considering Linux (or currently using it) for your server, it is still more than likely that many, if not all, of your workstations will run on Windows PCs. That is why the ability to share files and storage with Windows PCs is important – luckily Linux handles this well enough.

Security & Data Protection

Ubuntu has built-in firewalls turned on by default and has automatic security updates with file encryption support. There are also advanced features like password vaults and due to the nature of Linux, it is relatively malware and virus proof (though not completely).

Ubuntu Server Cost

If your organization doesn’t mind “being on its own” when it comes to customer support and aide, Ubuntu Server is totally free. Looking for support? Canonical offers it starting at $320 per server, per year.

Windows Server 2012

Windows Server 2012 hasn’t been out for that long yet but it truly brings many great new features to the table. This time around there is the new MetroUI (as seen with Windows 8) alongside the traditional desktop. There is also a much stronger cloud focus in the latest server version, as well as many new features.

Windows Apps

From the Windows App Store to commercial Windows apps, there is a ton of software that works for Windows. While Linux also has quite a bit of software (most open-source), Windows Server has even more.

Raid Configurations

If Raid configurations are important to you, you’ll be happy to know that Microsoft put a lot of focus into this with Server 2012. The latest version of Windows Server includes a brand new feature called “Storage Pool and Spaces”.

What is that exactly? It is like a raid0 but without needing to strip the data across all disks. If one drive fails, you simply replace it and keep your data. Unlike raid-5 it doesn’t take half the space for backup drives and also utilizes the very efficient ReFS file system.

File Sharing & Storing

There probably isn’t much to say here, sharing and storing is ultra-simple with Windows Server 2012. Ubuntu does a good job here, but Server 2012 does a better one.

Security & Data Protection

Windows Server 2012 goes along way into making the experience more secure than past versions of Windows Server, merging their security suit into a comprehensive anti-virus/malware system called Windows Defender. There is also Bitlocker Protection to encrypt your data.

All in all, this is one of the most secure Windows experiences to date, but Linux is admittedly stronger in this aspect.

Other Unique Windows Advantages

As seen in one of our other articles, some of the more unique aspects of Server 2012 includes its major push towards Hyper-V, its ability to turn off and on a GUI at will, and a unique ability to ‘stream’ intensive apps to low power Windows devices – including making it possible to run x86 desktop apps on your network even on Windows RT devices like the Surface RT.

Price

Depending on the version your business needs, you are likely talking about close to $1000, if not tons more than that. Obviously if you are a DIY kind of organization that doesn’t need the customer support, Ubuntu is a lot cheaper.

While Ubuntu (and any Linux server distro for that matter) has a lot to offer, Microsoft also has many unique features that make it work great in an existing Windows environment. Ultimately it is up to you to decide which OS works better for your business, though.

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