CentOS vs. Ubuntu – Choose The Right OS For Your Server

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Choosing an operating system for your server is critical because the OS you opt for supports all other software you’ll use for your business operations. Similarly, your choice would also affect how the apps would take advantage of the server hardware resources.

The CentOS vs Ubuntu debate has been ongoing because both CentOS and Ubuntu are popular server OS options, and both have their dedicated communities. In addition, both offer specific advantages that make them the right fit for particular user groups. So if you need clarification about which OS to choose for your dedicated bare metal server, read on to discover the major reasons why you should opt for CentOS or Ubuntu for your server.

The following comparison is not meant to be an exhaustive discussion of the merits of the two operating systems. Instead, we’ll offer enough information so that you can make an informed decision about the OS you need for your server.

Let’s start with a brief introduction to both server OS.

What is CentOS?

Community Enterprise Operating System (CentOS) is a popular option for server OS because it is based on another very popular Linux distro Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). As a result, it inherits all the stability and support for enterprise-level server operations. As such, it is a very popular server OS for dedicated, bare metal, and cloud servers. And because it is based on RHEL, it can run most of the software available to RHEL users. In fact, a new CentOS version often follows a new RHEL release.

CentOS is often considered to be a dedicated server OS because of its consistent performance and support for enterprise-level server operations and requirements. In addition, it has a huge community that regularly patches and releases updates for many packages available to CentOS users.

Thanks to its origins, it is very secure and offers a highly customizable platform that you can use to build your server exactly the way you need for your server operations. In addition, thanks to its RHEL origins, you can use the YUM package manager for managing packages on your CentOS server.

Why Should You Consider CentOS For Your Server?

Here’re a few factors why you should use CentOS for your server.

  • Easy to set up customizable solutions such as High Availability Clusters.
  • Web and Database Server in a single setup.
  • Excellent speed and performance because CentOS only uses stable versions of the packages.
  • Support for cPanel and WHM.
  • Great support for Docker
  • CentOS is perfect for experienced sysadmins who need a reliable OS experience.

What is Ubuntu?

Among Linux distros, Ubuntu is a more familiar name because of its popularity among desktop users. It is based on Debian, another very stable and popular Linux distro. It started as a Linux-based OS for desktops but soon released a Server edition with a dedicated user base.

Another popular reason why Ubuntu has become a favorite of sysadmins is the frequent update release that ensures sustained stability and security.

In addition to the support for Debian-based software, Ubuntu now has its own application ecosystem that delivers all utilities sysadmins require for server maintenance and security. Another important benefit of this ecosystem is the ease of customization of the server setup. Because it’s based on Debian, sysadmins can use the APT utility for package management.

Why Should You Consider Ubuntu For Your Server?

The following are the top reasons why you should go with Ubuntu as your server OS.

  • Ubuntu has a strong community that has built up a solid knowledge base of tutorials and information for users.
  • Faster updates mean your server runs the latest packages and utilities versions.
  • Better compatibility with hardware, thanks to the latest drivers
  • Ubuntu comes with a broader range of pre-installed software and utilities.
  • Supports virtualization such as Docker and VMs.

CentOS vs. Ubuntu – The Major Differences

Now that you know the major benefits of both operating systems, we would like to highlight the significant areas where the OS differs. It would be best if you weighed each factor so that you can understand the impact of the factor, and how important it is in deciding in favor of an OS.

The Core of the Operating System

Each Linux distribution is usually based on a more stable distro that has stood the test of time.

CentOS is based on RHEL, that is in turn, based on Red Hat, the most respected Linux distro at the moment.

Ubuntu is based on Debian, another very stable Linux distribution. In fact, Ubuntu was originally created to bring the stability and power of Debian to general users.

Repository Manager

If you have used Linux as a server OS, you know that every utility and tool you use comes as a package. Linux-based server OS has a package manager that installs, manages, updates, and removes packages. Repository manager is a very important tool that sysadmins use very frequently.

CentOS, being RHEL based, uses YUM, the Red Hat package manager. Because of Red Hat’s preference for stability over recency, CentOS users can access a limited number of packages that are optimized for performance and security.

Ubuntu uses APT because this is the preferred package manager for Debian-based Linux distros. As a result, Ubuntu users can access a huge list of libraries and software.

Release Cycle

The release cycle refers to the frequency of update releases. Each update brings in bug fixes and new features. However, each update could also introduce new problems in terms of server security and performance.

CentOS, true to its RHEL origins, has a longer release cycle where the updates are infrequent. CentOS users don’t always have the latest version. However, on the other hand, they have stable and secure packages that ensure little to no conflicts and security issues.

Ubuntu has a rapid release cycle where updates are frequent. This ensures that the users have the latest version on their servers. However, this could introduce conflicts and similar issues because the latest versions are not always tested against the majority of the packages

Learning Curve

While each Linux distro has a learning curve, it is important that the server OS should have a gentle curve so that you can get up and running immediately. When it comes to the learning curve, it is all about how many tutorials and guides you can check if you want to explore a feature or resolve an issue. In the CentOS vs Ubuntu debate, this is an essential factor, especially for the junior sysadmins.

CentOS has a smaller community, and you won’t find many training and guides except the detailed official documentation. This means if you are not familiar with CentOS, you might have to go through the official documentation to get started.

Ubuntu has a very active community that creates learning resources for all users. As such, Ubuntu has a gentler learning curve, and you can get started almost immediately.

CentOS vs Ubuntu: Which One Should You Use on Your Server?

So now that you know the major differences between the two great server OS options, we’ll help you make up your mind.

A general rule of thumb is to use CentOS, where you need to use a control panel such as cPanel or Webmin right out of the box. However, it is also an excellent option for enterprise and high-traffic apps that need a stable and reliable platform that prioritizes performance and security at the cost of updated packages and support for the latest software.

On the other hand, if you manage a small or midsize web app where you need a snappy GUI to manage the server, using Ubuntu makes better sense. Here you’ll get to experiment with the latest software so that you can try out new ideas quickly.

Conclusion

Sysadmins often go into the discussions around CentOS vs Ubuntu because both distros are very popular as server OSs.

When evaluating both options, you need to consider the requirements of your web apps, server usage, and sysadmin skills.

If you’re interested in implementing cutting-edge technologies or don’t have a mission-critical app, you could go with Ubuntu. You get to play with the latest releases and don’t have to worry about unresolved issues because there are multiple communities where you can ask for help.

On the other hand, if you’re a seasoned professional managing a mission-critical application that needs better security and performance. It would be best if you realized that these OS are great

for bare metal servers. And, if you have dedicated server hosting, both these options are good in their own right. However, many sysadmins tend to favor CentOS for managing their bare metal servers.

Let us know which OS you favor and why?