I would generally recommend following the Bourne-again SHell's way of doing things, since bash is arguably the most popular Unix shell out there. Bash typically uses either
2>&1. IMHO, neither is "perfect", so I recommend forgetting about that nonsense. Realistically, which one you should use depends on what you are trying to do.
2>&1 merges stderr with stdout, which can be useful if, for example, you want to pipe stderr text. So, for example, if you want to see if a program prints a certain stderr message, but don't want your screen filled with (presumably) unimportant garbage, you could do something like
program 2>&1 | grep crashed, which will search the stdout and stderr from a program called "program" for the word "crashed".
On the other hand, if you don't want a program to print anything at all, you could simply run
program &> /dev/null, which will redirect both stderr and stdout to /dev/null, a special file which magically makes things disappear. Or, if you want to save the output of a program (perhaps to report a bug or something), you could redirect both stderr and stdout to a file:
program &> log.txt will redirect all data to a file called "log.txt". If you wanted to, you could redirect the stdout and stderr via
program 2> log.txt > log.txt or
program 2>&1 | cat > log.txt, both of which would have the same effect as using
&>. If you do something like
program 2>&1 > file, only stdout will be redirected, but stderr can still be piped to another program, such as cat, which could be redirected as shown above. However, typing
&> is easier than any of the above examples, since it involve typing fewer characters (and it's a bit easier for human beings to read). Do note that
program 2> log.txt > log.txt might be more likely to work on non-bash shells.
PS: if you are worried about people using other shells, there's something you can add to be first line of your script called a "magic number", or "shebang". This is essentially a way to make sure other computers (particularly those running Unix-like operating systems) know which program to use to execute a script. Different scripts use different shebangs. A shebang for a bash script looks like this:
If you use the above as the first line of a given script, bash will generally be used to execute said script. This will make it much more difficult for someone to accidentally execute the script with the wrong shell.
PS: I'm not going to lie: up till now, I didn't know one could use
>&, but, as far as bash goes, it seems to do the same as
&>. You learn something new everyday.