There are many reasons to use free and open source software on a web hosting dedicated server that go beyond simple financial savings. From increased security and flexibility in development release cycles to highly customizable and modular components, the possibilities are vast. There are several operating systems and software setups to consider.
Operating Systems choices include Linux (with choices such as CentOS, Fedora, Debian, Ubuntu, and OpenSUSE), BSD (OpenBSD, FreeBSD, and NetBSD), and Open Solaris. Each has its own list of features and release cycles. You should check each link and evaluate them. A large number of the Internet’s web servers now run one of these Unix-like operating systems or one of the many other choices.
For software, the opportunities are even more expansive. If you want a robust HTTP server, there is probably no better and more widely acclaimed than Apache. For something that is light but can handle heavy loads, you might prefer lighttpd. Most of the operating systems mentioned above will come with their own set of software packages for mail servers, DNS servers, firewalls, and other tools, but you can pick and choose the ones that fit your needs.
Some software is so crucial in the new dynamic social Web that it is practically mandatory for any serious dedicated server. Server-side scripting like PHP and Perl usually come installed. For databases the most popular is MySQL, but there are other choices like PostgreSQL and SQLite. Just make sure that the applications you intend to run will run on whatever you choose, or you can run specific applications for individual websites.
Most open source content management systems, ecommerce shopping carts, and other dynamic content delivery systems will run with a combination called LAMP (Linux Apache MySQL PHP). If you have reseller customers or virtual hosting clients on your dedicated server, those four components are a must. You can still have a separate server running Windows or use some type of virtualization to run any number of operating systems. It is a good idea to investigate various options and plan the best solutions for your situation. Once you have done that, you will be well on your way to open source web hosting.