Server Operating System Explained

Updated on Jun 1, 2022

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The server operating system is the key to managing the server and driving applications to run on it. Choosing a suitable server operating system for your business can be a difficult decision. Various factors need to be considered, such as overall performance, management, operation, etc. This article will give you a detailed overview of server operating systems and help you choose the right one for your needs to keep your business running properly.

What Is a Server Operating System?

A server operating system (OS) is an operating system installed and used on servers to manage server hardware and software resources and provide services to multiple programs.

Server operating systems are optimized to provide more advanced features and functions for client-server architectures or enterprise IT environments. And server operating systems are targeted to the network rather than a single user, so they can handle multiple desktops and make for easy administration and less downtime.

Server Operating System Types

Most servers can support a wide range of operating systems. Each server OS has its advantages and disadvantages. The following introduces the most common server operating systems on the market.

Server Operating System

1. UNIX Operating System

UNIX is a multi-user and multi-tasking operating system. It's widely used in the client-server environment. UNIX server operating system is implemented with a high-level C programming language that supports multiple platforms, making it suitable for many hardware architectures.

UNIX is designed for multi-user environments and has built-in TCP/IP, demonstrating superior stability and security. But it is very costly, and there are many different versions of UNIX operating systems from different vendors, so there is no standard UNIX server operating system.

2. Linux Operating System

Linux server operating system is a UNIX-like operating system with all the functions of UNIX. Linux is the dominant operating system on servers and supercomputers. It is reported that more than 96.4% of the world's top 1 million servers use Linux operating system as their server OS.

Linux is free and open-source and supports multi-user, multi-process, multi-threaded operations. However, to adopt a Linux server operating system, enterprises need to make sure they have comprehensive technical expertise, including installation, maintenance, and troubleshooting.

3. Windows Operating System

Windows operating system was developed in the mid-1980s for daily personal use and professional servers. It provides services to multiple users and supports the management and control of data storage, applications, and business networks.

Windows server OS is an operating system applicable to the cloud, which supports virtual memory management and has an intuitive GUI. Moreover, it is more user-friendly than most Linux-based operating systems and is easy to install and use. But Windows server operating system is paid. And it faces more security threats, which requires timely download of the latest security patches to protect the system from these security threats and to ensure ongoing security.

4. NetWare Operating System

NetWare server operating system was widely used in early LANs. It supports multi-processor and high-capacity physical memory management. It also has superb file sharing and printing capabilities and provides high scalability for corporate networks through open standards and file protocols. However, the NetWare server OS has very obvious drawbacks. It requires expensive investment and challenging installation, and many applications don't support the system.

Finding the Right Server Operating System for Businesses

Servers can be valuable to businesses of all sizes and are important to business growth. Although most servers function roughly the same, their features and performance can vary widely depending on the operating system they are running on. There are numerous choices of server operating systems on the market for different types of businesses. Below are some suggestions on choosing a server OS based on business size.


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When choosing a server operating system, small businesses need to take their budget and the expertise of the maintenance team into consideration. First, measure which level of server operating system your budget can afford.

If your budget is sufficient, Windows Server Essentials (formerly Small Business Server or SBS) is a good choice that is priced in the mid-range but designed for small businesses. This server operating system offers all the basic features of a server OS and shows great advantages in terms of management, such as unified management and remote access. But it can only accommodate up to 25 users and 50 devices. So it may be more suitable for small startups.


Medium-sized companies are better off choosing a server OS that does not require a large investment but will facilitate their growth, such as a more stable and secure operating system.

Linux distributions may be the best choice for a medium-sized company, such as the Ubuntu operating system. It is a Linux distribution based on Debian and is free, stable, and easy to install. Moreover, the Ubuntu server operating system has high scalability. Because Ubuntu features open-source, you can adjust it according to your business needs, and customize the most appropriate operating system for your organization.


Larger companies may be more concerned with the type of server operating system and its capabilities, such as whether it supports managing servers within large data centers.

The Linux server operating system is also suitable for large enterprises, especially for enterprises with large business volumes and high security and stability requirements. It is used on a wide variety of supercomputers to run ultra-large applications. Linux is powerful, stable, and easy to manage. But it requires higher learning costs. Large enterprises may need to hire specialists in server operating systems to operate them.

The UNIX server operating system can be used for the core-critical business of large enterprises, such as transaction systems of banks and securities companies. It is more stable and more convenient to maintain and manage than Linux. However, it requires the use of matched hardware devices and is extremely expensive. Large companies with sufficient budgets can choose the UNIX operating system.


The right server OS is indispensable for the growth of your business now and in the future. Currently, there are various server operating systems on the market, with different features, and for different business needs. However, in general, the best choice of server operating system is the one that best matches your organization's existing IT infrastructure and workload.

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