PHP and MySQL vs. ASP.NET and SQL Server

There are two main ways to create a dynamic website. First, PHP and MySQL work natively together, and these two technologies are a part of what is called “LAMP”, which stands for “Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP.” LAMP environments are common and all open-source technology. You can also run PHP on Windows with Apache and MySQL. This platform is called “WAMP” for “Windows, Apache, MySQL and PHP.”

The second school of thought is for a Windows environment. Windows comes with Internet Information Services (IIS) as the web hosting software, and it uses the .NET framework for development. ASP.NET is home for C# and VB.NET developers.

Before you decide to code, it’s best to choose a technology to focus on. You can learn both, but new developers should focus on one environment and learn the second environment at a later time. This article highlights the differences between the two technologies.


Hypertext preprocessor (PHP) was developed in 1994 and released in 1995. It’s a spinoff of the CGI language, which was the original way to display dynamic content using the Perl language. What makes PHP popular is that it is free, so it’s easy to learn and get a hold on tools to develop. PHP is open-source, so it also has several add-on frameworks that make it a little easier to accomplish certain programming goals. Advantages of PHP include:

  • Works well with MySQL, the database for most PHP projects.
  • Works natively with Apache, but it also runs on IIS with some configurations.
  • Most hosts support PHP when you sign up for website support.
  • Several communities support both PHP and MySQL integration.

PHP is much different from programming in the ASP.NET languages. PHP is more linear, although more recent versions support object-oriented programming (OOP). PHP is also considered more easily learned than ASP.NET.

PHP is a server-side language, so you don’t have to worry about the client’s operating system and browser. However, it also works well with jQuery and Ajax. With PHP, you can make fully-functional websites without spending a dime except in hosting fees.

MySQL is also free for any developer to download. MySQL runs well with Apache and Linux, but it will also run on Windows servers. MySQL is open-source, but it was released after Microsoft’s SQL Server. Because it’s free and open-source, MySQL is a popular solution for people who need database software. MySQL is also the database-of-choice for WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and Magento as well as other popular, pre-packaged website software. Therefore, if you plan to run these applications on your web server, you want to choose PHP and MySQL for your hosting package.

MySQL and SQL Server both use the same Structured Query Language (SQL) to create stored procedures. However, MySQL is slightly different in syntax than SQL Server, so make sure you take a learning course or read tutorials specific to the MySQL language versus SQL Server.

MySQL can also be a bit buggy on a Windows system, so it’s best to use it on a Linux environment. MySQL includes a GUI that you can use to create users, databases, tables and stored procedures. Because MySQL is mostly used on Linux, it has the concept of “root” being the admin of the server where Microsoft uses “system administrator (SA)” for the system admin account.

ASP.NET and SQL Server

The other common platform for web development is ASP.NET and SQL Server. ASP.NET is a framework that uses the C# and VB.Net languages. VB.NET is a derivative of the Visual Basic language, and C# is similar to any other C language such as Java or C++. The two are similar with just different syntaxes, so if you can use one of the languages, you can easily learn the other.

Advantages for ASP.NET and SQL Server include:

  • Natively run on Windows server including Windows 2008, 2003 and the new 2012.
  • Can handle large enterprise applications with millions of records.
  • Free Express versions for developers and a better interface than Notepad++.
  • Paid versions of Visual Studio include TFS, which does change control in the enterprise.
  • OOP model for programmers who prefer object-oriented coding.
  • Easy to manage on IIS web servers.

ASP.NET development is accomplished using Visual Studio. Microsoft offers Visual Studio Express versions for free, but you need to pay for Professional and Enterprise versions. The two latter versions are expensive, but they include tools for collaboration and working with other developers. Basically, the two paid versions are for corporations that need to log developer time and have change control features.

SQL Server and ASP.NET work natively together. You can also connect a .NET website to MySQL, but it can be buggy. SQL Server also has an express version for developers, but you can’t use it in a production environment. Both applications run natively on Windows and IIS servers. IIS assumes the application is on .NET, so you can generally set up a .NET website easily in IIS.

The .NET framework is installed on your Windows server as opposed to PHP, which is simply downloaded and stored in a folder. You will probably need to do some configurations to get PHP sites to run properly in IIS, but with .NET, you just upload the website files and configure a new site on the IIS server.

The issue most people have with .NET and SQL Server is that it is expensive to run a site. If you sign up for web hosting, Windows hosting is generally more expensive than a LAMP environment. To develop for the environment also costs money in the enterprise. If you decide to host the applications in-house, it can cost the company thousands of dollars to purchase the software and licensing to support .NET applications and SQL Server. This is one of the main reasons PHP and MySQL are continuously becoming more popular for enterprise solutions.

If you have low startup funds, PHP and MySQL are probably the best way to start out. If you have some extra money and want to start out with software that is commonly used in the enterprise, .NET and SQL Server might be the better choice. If you are a programmer, it’s best to stick with the environment that you are familiar with, so you don’t accidentally introduce bugs or hacks that you aren’t aware of. It’s better to learn on practice projects than projects you want to use as a main source of income. Both of these products are useful for web applications, so choose the one you feel most comfortable with when coming up with a platform environment for your website.

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