Having run a game server host for 8 years this is something I should be able to talk about in detail. I’ve seen all sorts of game server providers from the very best to the very worst. How those hosts run their game servers dictates how successful their company is. Let’s look at the way in which game servers operate.
Gameservers normally support both types of operating systems. It’s very unlikely you’ll find a gameserver that doesn’t run on Windows. CSS servers for example run great on both Windows and Linux. There are however some games that only run on Windows. The majority of game server hosts run Windows 2003 Server. There’s a divide on what operating system is best. Purist game server providers (at least that’s the best way of describing them) will cough at the thought of running gameservers on Windows, unless there is really no Linux support. Indeed Linux is considered to be more stable. Linux servers are generally smoother and thought to be more secure. You can always choose to run Wine on Linux in order to emulate Windows. Do be aware though, Wine isn’t as stable as running Windows.
So why would you use a game server provider? Why not rent your own dedicated server and run the games? Perhaps if you are an experienced server admin. Let’s assume you are going to manage your game servers on a Linux server. If this is the case, you are going to need to ensure the server is fully patched and secured. Should the dedicated server go pop, you are going to need to know how to fix it. If you don’t know how to mend it, you’ll have the option from your dedicated server provider to either have a clean format (make sure you have backups, and are ready for the painful process of uploading maps!), or pay the dedicated server provider to try and troubleshoot the problem. Of course knowing what you are doing, and not chowning the Linux operating system to another user generally helps!
Also consider game server providers spend all day fixing mods. Mods or addons are made by community members. Thus is is worth considering they are not being professionally developed, and have their fair share of bugs. Every time there is a big update for Team Fortress 2 Servers for example expect all your mods to break. You then have to wait for the mod makers to release a patch. It’s not fun because you’ll get shouted at by those that play for free on the game server, and burst into tears if they cant play games 2am on a Sunday morning.
Game servers take care of all of the above! They deal with all the hassle for you. Given how cheap game servers are these days, you may as well pay a provider anyway. Good luck!
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