What is UNIX?
Unix, officially known as UNIX, is a family of computer operating systems (OS) and tools that conforms to The Open Group Base Specification, Issue 7, otherwise known as POSIX. 1-2008 or IEEE Std 1003.1 – 2008. Technically, the name UNIX is a registered trademark of The Open Group, and as such, to be able to use UNIX means that the user needs to pay The Open Group for the licensing fee and the annual trademark royalties. To date, some of the officially licensed UNIX operating systems are Apple’s OS X, Oracle’s Solaris, IBM’s AIX, SGI’s IRIX and Hewlett-Packard’s HP-UX. Other operating systems that do not conform to the specifications set by UNIX or are not licensed by The Open Group but performs and behaves like UNIX and provides similar utilities as UNIX does are officially termed Unix-like systems. These systems include a number of Linux distributions such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Ubuntu and CentOS as well as FreeBSD, OpenBSD and NetBSB.
UNIX and Unix-like variants are known to run on a wide variety of architectures and is the reason why it is commonly used on mainframes, web servers and supercomputers, as well as on tablets, smart phones and PC’s. Originally developed in the late 1960’s by AT&T’s Bell Labs, it was developed using C, a high-level programming language and was intended as a self-contained software, complete with the OS, development environment, documentation, utilities and a modifiable source code. The intention why C was used instead of any platform-specific language is that it is intended to be portable to multiple computer platforms.
Nowadays, UNIX is popularly used as a platform for utility servers like DNS, for Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) and for web servers. It is ideal as its streamlined architecture is capable of preserving the resources for the application itself rather than using them for booting the OS.
What are the benefits of using UNIX?
Using UNIX brings a number of benefits and advantages to the user and to the machine itself. Among these benefits are as follows:
- Efficiency – UNIX requires less resources to run and can work well with less resources compared to other operating systems. This is a major advantage since users do not need to spend much for high-level hardware nor need huge amounts of memory and disk space. As such, UNIX can be installed on older hardware or on hardware with less resource with little or no negative effect to its performance.
- Cost – Although proprietary Unix may cost a significant amount to its user due to its license and trademark royalty fees, most of the applications that runs on Unix are under open-source license and can be used absolutely free. Aside from this, UNIX’s low resource requirement translates into savings for hardware purchase or upgrade.
- Stability – UNIX systems offer stability and flexibility that are known to be able to stay up and running optimally for long periods of time.
- Security – As UNIX systems are designed as a multi-user user system, which requires each user to have his own credentials to access the system resources. Users are also required administrator privileges to install any software.
- Tools & utilities – Unix are provided with various utilities and commands, each one designed to perform specific tasks, enabling UNIX to handle tasks efficiently.
- Flexibility – UNIX can run on different machines as it is designed as a portable system, making it available on PC’s or Mac’s.
What drawbacks does using UNIX bring?
Among the common drawbacks of using UNIX are:
- UNIX interface is command-line based, making it difficult for those who are used to the Graphical User Interface (GUI) and for those casual computer users.
- UNIX, which is originally designed to be used by programmers, is not a simple operating system, making it difficult to use by novice users.
- It needs a lot of practice and learning to be able to use UNIX’s command-line interface which usually involves a lot of confusing names, terms and characters. Another difficulty with command-line interface is that the user, especially if a novice, do not have a clue as to what is the effect of what he is doing as what he sees are simply texts and characters.
- UNIX is known to support only a limited number of applications and programs from other software companies like Microsoft and Adobe.
- UNIX support for other hardware is not as wide compared to other operating systems like Windows or Mac OS X. Reason for this may not be UNIX’s fault but it is an accepted fact that UNIX do not work on the same hardware configuration as Windows or OS X.
Is UNIX the right system for me?
Knowing whether UNIX is the right operating system for you requires some thorough decision making. However, the most basic consideration that you need to take into account are factors that lie within the purpose of your website, its needs and your preferred language. For one, if you need better security and stability, is adept with command-line interface and prefers PHP compatibility, then UNIX is a good choice for you. However, if you prefer ASP and is more at home with the easy-to-use GUI, then Windows or OS X could be a good choice for you.