Choosing an operating system for your server is no easy task. One nice thing is that there are a lot of options out there, but because their features can be so similar, especially to a non-expert, picking one can often feel like shooting in the dark. Here’s an overview of the difference between 3 popular options: Ubuntu, CentOS, and RedHat.
First released in 2004, Ubuntu is based on Debian architecture and has quickly become a go-to option for servers worldwide. It’s open source, receives regular updates, and features a robust ecosystem of apps, with over 40,000 available in the Ubuntu software center. It also likely has the most tutorials, online communities, and books available for those who want to learn its intricacies.
CentOS and RHEL
These two options are mostly the same, since they are largely based on the same underlying code. The biggest difference is that CentOS has been a community-developed, free alternative to RHEL.
Since CentOS is built from the same source code as RHEL:
- The upstream packages are the same.
- The libraries are the same.
- The kernels are the same.
- Both systems are binary compatible with each other.
Because its package updates are less frequent, CentOS is considered to be a more stable distribution compared to Ubuntu. But this can also be seen as a downside, because if you want the most up-to-date version of a certain application, a manual installation is needed.
Up until now, one of the main features of CentOS has been its compatibility with cPanel, easily the most popular control panel on hosted sites worldwide. Meanwhile, Ubuntu has never been supported by cPanel. But now, this cPanel support for Ubuntu is coming later this year in version 102!
One very important aspect to consider is that CentOS is being discontinued, as we wrote about this spring. That means that those using CentOS will be stuck with an OS that will receive no more active development after this year. Some alternatives are AlmaLinux and Rocky Linux.
Ultimately, our recommendation for most beginner and mid-level websites is CentOS 7 or AlmaLinux, as they have the largest user base in the server community.
Have more questions about which operating system to select for your server? Reach out to us to discuss your unique needs, and we’ll be happy to talk you through your options!