Operating Systems Overview

The operating system or OS is nothing but the foundation of software on a computer. It is the OS that will provide an interface between hardware and software installed on the computer. Every computer needs to have an OS. It could be a MAC, Windows laptop, tablet or even a smartphone.

Operating Systems on Computers and Hosting Servers

It is a myth among many IT users that the operating systems on their computers and hosting servers have to be the same. However, this not the case at all. There are many reasons for this.

Most hosting customers use web hosting to create and run websites. Most popular website development applications like Joomla!, Drupal etc. are cross platform and can be used on any operating system.
Clients interact with the hosting server through a control panel that is browser based. Tools like FTP and

SSH are also used for this interaction and they are platform independent. There are a few times that Windows users will need a Windows hosting server. One of the reasons is if they need to use some specific Microsoft applications that will work only on a Windows hosting server.

Also, if a web developer is doing new development and the testing of the code needs to be done on a server similar to that of production, they might need to use a specific OS for the hosting server.

Different Options Available For Hosting Server Operating Systems

Not all hosting plans offer every possible operating system option. With shared hosting generally the options are very limited for all resources. Customers don’t get to choose the operating system and Linux is offered by default.

Virtual Private Server (VPN) hosting and dedicated hosting plans might provide customers the option to choose their operating system. On dedicated server the customer can actually install the operating system of their choice. Following are some of the options of operating systems generally available:


Unix is considered the forerunner in modern operating systems. It was developed sometime in the 1990s and many newer operating systems have inherited some of its features. Time-sharing, modular design and multiple users are some of the important features.


Linux was developed in the 1990s as and open source operating system. Because of its open-source nature it is very popularly used in academia. It has now earned the reputation of being the most commonly used operating system in the world.

Linux follows the modular structure. Its core lies in the Linux kernel that handles the memory allocation and CPU time sharing. Independent units/modules of software are used for the other functions of the operating system. This modular structure of Linux has allowed for the development of several different distributions of Linux. Following are some examples of the Linux distributions used for web hosting servers:

  • Red Hat
  • Ubuntu
  • CentOS
  • Fedora

Windows Server

Most web hosting companies do not offer Windows operating system by default. It is available for an additional charge whenever required by the client. Not a large percentage of clients need the Windows OS. Only clients that work with web applications for ERP, productivity and other business needs generally use Windows. Windows OS is not open source hence there are licensing fees that the hosting provider has to take care of. There many different versions of Windows, Windows 2003, Windows 2008 and Windows 2012 are the three major ones.

Choosing The Right Hosting Operating System

Linux is the most popular OS for web servers all around the world. This is mainly due to the cost factor. Other than the RedHat distribution, Linux is open source and available for free. The users and hosting providers do not have to worry about licensing costs.

The open source nature makes Linux very easy to customize according to the clients’ needs. Another reason why Linux is popular is its ability to manage several users and programs. Unix has this benefit too.
The modular structure of Linux allows the client to install only the modules that are needed. This will help save the server resources and improve performance in the long run.

If the client needs to use Visual Studios, .NET server or other Microsoft software for development, the Windows server will have to be chosen instead. Also, because Windows is a paid operating system, the technical support that clients receive will be much better. This is useful for larger enterprise clients.
Last but not the least, the user’s comfort level is very important while choosing the server operating system.

If the user has no experience working with a Linux environment, a Windows OS will be the better option. Most users are familiar with Windows and hence, the learning experience will be a lot easier. Modern web applications are compatible with both operating systems.

Switching to Another OS On Hosting Server

As we have seen above there are many different distributions or versions of the Linux operating system available. Changing the operating system from one distribution to another is not a tough task. The file structures in all the distributions are the same and hence transferring data can be done easily without any loss.

Making this kind of a transition from Linux to Windows server or vice versa is a much bigger deal. The file structures in both these operating systems are very different and this can lead to a lot of hurdles in the transition process. Also there are a few applications that are not available on both operating systems. Some are made only for Linux and some only for Windows. As a result, when a switch of the operating systems is made, an alternative for those applications will have to be found.

There are always issues that can arise when making the transition from one operating system to another. To avoid a lot of big loss of data, proper backups should be made before starting the process. Nowadays, there many guides and supporting material available to help a user through this process. Contacting the hosting provider and the technical support team beforehand is also important.

Operating Systems FAQ

What is a Computer?
A Computer is an electronic device that is used to store the data and process the data. A computer has four basic operations that comprise the information processing cycle. This process is known as input, processing, output, storage (IPOS). These are the four basic operations of a computer.

What is a hardware?
The physical part of the computer is called hardware. Hardware can be touched and seen. Internal and external parts of the computer refer to as hardware. The external parts of the computer are called peripheral devices. These devices can be attached to a computer system to enhance what a computer can do.

What is a software?
A software is a computer program and operating information that instructs the computer that what to do and also tells the computer how to act upon a task. We can touch hardware but we cannot touch software.

How many categories of the software available for computer programs?
Generally, Computer software has two main categories names as system software and application software.

Describe a System software?
System software is a program that is designed to interacts directly on the computer hardware and used to control the other component of the computer and manage application software.

In How many Categories system software can be divided into?
System software can be divided into two main categories called as operating systems and utility software.

What is utility software?
Utility program performs a specific task, usually related to managing a computer, its devices, or its programs. Utility programs can be a part of the operating system to manage specific devices or to perform maintenance of tasks.

What are the examples of a utility software?
Examples of utility software include disk utilities such as defragmenters, compressors, and network connection managers.

Describe an application software?
Application software is a software that cannot run directly on the computer’s hardware. Application software needs system software to run.

Give the examples of application software.
Application software includes adobe Photoshop, google chrome, Microsoft office, these are some examples of application software.

What is an operating system?
The operating system also called “OS” is a system software that controls overall operating of a computer system. Without an operating system, computer hardware is not accessible. An operating system is required to act as an interface by which a user can request executions, and the environment executes the program requested.

When Microsoft created first windows operating system?
In the mid-1980’s Microsoft created first windows operating system

What is Graphical User Interface (GUI)?
All modern operating systems use a Graphical User Interface (GUI). The Graphical User Interface (GUI) of an operating system provides user-friendly visual features and functionalities of an OS. GUI allows the user to use a variety of input devices (such as keyboard and mouse) to interact with the computer and clearly display interactions on the screen using a combination of graphics and text.

What is the difference between today’s operating system and earlier operating systems?
Today’s operating systems are relatively large, very complex software packages, that are among the most advanced programs. while the earlier OS were very humble and fragile programs that required significant preparation to run.

Which are most popular operating systems?
Most popular operating systems used on a computer are Microsoft Windows, Mac OSX, Unix/Linux.

What are the objectives of Operating Systems?
The objective of an operating system is as follows. Operating System make the communication between computer and users more convenient, communication between computer hardware easily, facilitate communication between linked computer systems, optimize the use of computer system resources, keep track of programs and files, provides the envelope of security for computer systems, monitor the system capabilities and alert the user of system failure and other potential problems.

Describe the components of an operating system.
Each operating system has two fundamental parts that perform the actions requested by the computer system users and from its internal structure. These parts are called “Shell” and “Kernel”.

What is Shell and what is Kernel?
The section of an operating system that handles the communication between user’s requests and a machine is called the shell. The internal part of an operating system is handled by a specific part of the OS named “Kernel”.

Describe the role of Scheduler and dispatcher in Operating system?
The scheduler determines which activities are to be considered for execution. Scheduler adds new processes to the process table and removes completed processes from the process table. The Dispatcher controls the allocation of time of these activities. Dispatcher controls the allocation of time slices to the processes in the process table.

What is multitasking?
Many operating systems works on a complex time-sharing execution model which allows various jobs to be executed simultaneously. This is done by allowing the CPU time to be allocated and shared by multiple executing applications. This concept is known as multi-tasking and all operating systems support this feature.

Describe the single user operating system?
Single-user operating systems have no facilities to distinguish between users.

What is the multi-user operating system?
The multi-user operating system has the ability to run by the different user at the same time by differentiating processes and resources among users. This means that different users can run different programs at the same/different time on the same machine.

Give the example of single user OS and multi-user OS?
Mobile OS are the examples of the single user operating system because a mobile operating system has no facilities to distinguish between users but may be in future mobile operating system support distinguishing between users. On the other hand, all modern computer OS supports multi-user system. Regardless of single or multi-user, all modern operating system supports multitasking.

What is most popular mobile operating system today?
Today’s there is two most popular mobile operating systems are Apple iOS and Google Android.

Discuss the most popular operating systems based on different platforms.
According to “Stat Counter Global Stats”, for desktop and laptop computers windows 7 is the most popular operating system. For mobile devices, Android is the most popular operating system. For tablet devices, iOS is the most popular operating system.

Operating Systems Resources For Beginners