Choosing an OS: CentOS, Ubuntu, Debian, FreeBSD, CoreOS, or Windows Server

Published on: Sun, Aug 16, 2015 at 4:52 am EST
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This article provides a brief synopsis of the server operating systems offered as templates on Vultr.

CentOS

CentOS is an open-source version of RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux). Created in 2004, CentOS is used widely in the hosting industry. Benefits include:

  • Easy to use for beginner level administrators.
  • Has long term support for certain versions (up to ten years).
  • Includes a simple package manager: yum
  • Compatible with cPanel, and a variety of other server control panels.
  • Offered by industry leader, Red Hat.

Trade-offs include:

  • An irregular development cycle. Major releases don't happen on a set cycle; they happen every 3-5 years.
  • Due to long release periods, bundled software support is dated compared to other flavors of Linux.

CoreOS

CoreOS (Container Linux) is an operating system geared towards more advanced users comfortable managing a container environment. Benefits include:

  • Container-friendly. Includes a container management system.
  • Seamless OS updates.

Trade-offs include:

  • Can be too complex for the average user.
  • Does not include a package manager (part of OS design).
  • Update system may not be ideal for all projects (with respect to how reboots are handled).

Debian

Debian is a long-term-supported Linux distribution known for its universal compatibility. Benefits include:

  • Support for many architectures ( x86, x64, ARM, etc ).
  • Modern Linux kernel.
  • Large package repository.
  • Long term support.
  • Multiple desktop environment support.

Fedora

Fedora is a cutting edge Linux distribution. It is part of the CentOS and RHEL family. The main goals of the distribution include:

  • Latest kernel and software package versions.
  • Short lifespan (13 months).
  • New releases roughly every 6 months.

FreeBSD

FreeBSD is a flavor of BSD, which is a version of UNIX developed at the University of California, Berkeley. It is reliable, stable and has been updated for over 20 years. Benefits include:

  • Long term support.
  • Very lightweight.
  • Includes a package manager and port building system.

Trade-offs include:

  • Ports of Linux packages can take a long time.
  • Older filesystem design than other server operating systems.

OpenBSD

OpenBSD is a UNIX-like operating system with a strong focus on security and cryptography. Benefits include:

  • New releases roughly every 6 months.
  • Lightweight UNIX operating system.
  • Security features not available in other operating systems.

Trade-offs include:

  • Routine system administration tasks can become more complicated due to additional security.
  • Less popular than other server operating systems.

Ubuntu

Ubuntu is recognized for its stability and its large list of features. Benefits include:

  • Better software support.
  • Easy-to-use package manager: apt
  • Regular update cycles.
  • 5 year LTS (Long Term Support) templates available.

The regular updates and additional packages bundled into the installation create several trade-offs. These include:

  • Uses more disk space than other distributions.
  • Shorter LTS compared to CentOS.

Windows Server

Windows Server is the server edition of the popular desktop operating system created by Microsoft. It is a closed-source operating system which requires license management. Vultr deployments handle license management automatically. Benefits include:

  • Supported by Microsoft.
  • Regular updates (from every few days to months).
  • Very long term support (more than 10 years).
  • User-friendly GUI (graphical user interface).
  • Great software compatibility.

Trade-offs include:

  • Licensing increases overall cost.
  • Closed source platform.
  • Programs can be more difficult to configure than on Linux/BSD.

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