Helping You Find a Home for Your Website
The ideal provider will be able to offer both MySQL and MS SQL server hosting, so you can continue working with the same hosting service no matter which database server you're most comfortable with. Plus, that way you'll have the freedom to switch operating systems down the road without having to shop around for a new hosting provider.
The most popular types of database are MySQL and MS SQL hosting. While MySQL will run on either Windows or Linux, MS SQL is a Microsoft program, and will require a Windows dedicated server. Both are solid database servers which can be used for a wide range of needs; the real difference is proprietary software vs open source.
MS SQL and MySQL are similar, except for one huge difference: MS SQL is proprietary. This means extra licensing fees, just like buying any name-brand product. Hosting providers who support MS SQL usually charge extra to cover this cost. However, if your sites are built using other Microsoft products such as FrontPage and ASP.NET, you'll need a Windows server anyway.
Linux dedicated server hosting can be used for just about every other platform except MS SQL. Linux also has a reputation for being extremely reliable, with limited downtime and powerful performance. Linux and MySQL are both open source, which has the added benefit of lots of cooks in the kitchen if a programming hole is found; anyone can write a fix. This makes any technical issues resolved comparatively quickly, which can mean reduced maintenance and operating costs.
Generally speaking, Linux servers are considered to be a lower security risk than Windows servers. However, security (and overall) performance depends on the hosting providers' skill level as well as the platform. A good administrator will customize as needed to provide the best performance combined with optimum security, no matter which operating system is being utilized.
Choosing for Efficiency
In the end, there are pros and cons to either type of database; whichever platform you choose, the key is to choose a hosting provider who can help ensure the highest efficiency level possible for your needs. Whether you have the experience to wrangle Linux, or prefer the Windows interface, the ideal hosting provider will give you the level of system administration and support you need. More importantly, they need to provide the high uptimes and data security which are integral to maintaining any database.