CentOS vs Ubuntu: Which one is better for a server


Finally decided to get a VPS but can’t decide which Linux distro to use? We’ve all been there. The choice may even be overwhelming, even for Linux distros, considering all the different flavors and distros that are out there. Though, the two most widely used and most popular server distros are CentOS and Ubuntu. This is the main dilemma among admins, both beginners and professionals. Having experience with both (and more) distros, we decided to do a comparison of CentOS and Ubuntu when used for a server.

A quick overview:



CentOS


Ubuntu
Based on Red Hat Linux EnterpriseBased on Debian
Less frequently updatedFrequently updated
Arguably more stable and secure because of the infrequent updates.Updated packages may be unstable and not secure, which is unlikely since they are vigorously tested before pushed to official release.
Not enough tutorials and has a smaller userbaseRich documentation, active community and lots of tutorials available online
Difficult for beginners, as there are no popular and widely used Red Hat-based Desktop distrosEasier to use for beginners that are already familiar with the Desktop version of Ubuntu
Supports cPanelDoesn't support cPanel
.rpm packages and 'yum' package manager.deb packages and 'apt-get' package manager
Try a CentOS server for free at VultrTry an Ubuntu server for free at Vultr

Which one is better for beginners?

Ubuntu. As always, it highly depends on your requirements and previous experiences, but generally, Ubuntu is a better choice for beginners. Mainly because of these 2 reasons:

  • Ubuntu has a big community that’s ready to help for free. And we really do mean big. Thousands of users in hundreds of different online forums and groups. Even real life conventions. You can still find a lot of tutorials and help for CentOS too, especially for simple LAMP stacks and popular applications.
  • Ubuntu server would be a lot easier for someone that has previously used Ubuntu desktop. The same goes for CentOS and Fedora too, but the Ubuntu Desktop version is far more popular than any other Linux-based distro for home-use.

So, if you are a beginner and don’t have any special requirements, go with an Ubuntu server. Even better if you get a server from a cheap managed provider, so you can experiment on your server and have a professional 24/7 support team ready to help you.

Which one is better for businesses?

CentOS. And again, you can still use Ubuntu for a business website or an internal company server, but CentOS has its advantages:

  • CentOS is (arguably) more stable and secure. Since CentOS has less frequent updates, that means that the software is tested for a longer period of time and only truly stable versions get released. You won’t get any stability issues from a new, buggy release of an app if you use CentOS because you won’t actually get that new, buggy release.
  • Most control panels (including the most popular one – cPanel) support CentOS only. So that means if you are a web hosting company, or if you are a web agency with a lot of clients and need a control panel – CentOS is a better option.

Try them out and just pick one

If you still can’t decide, you can just try them out for free. You can install them locally or use a live image. You can also get a cheap VPS ($5/mo) from Linode, Vultr and DigitalOcean. You can spin up a CentOS/Ubuntu server in seconds. When you sign up through an affiliate link (like ours) you’ll probably get free credits – meaning you’ll actually get to try them out for free.

Which one is faster?

They are the same in terms of speed. They are as fast as your hardware. They’ll be as fast as you configure them. You should properly configure and secure all your servers, configurations and applications, no matter what.

 

Which distro do you use? Wanna tell us how we are a bunch of [insert distro here] fanboys? Feel free to leave a comment below.


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19 thoughts on “CentOS vs Ubuntu: Which one is better for a server

  • W. Anderson

    Most all of my Linux server deployments are for business clients, so I am bewildered by article author in referencing GUI Client version in regard any Server admin capability or functions. Often WebMin, VirtualAdmin or similar tools are used as control panels on CentOS, Ubuntu, or frequently deployed OpenSuse Leap and FreeBSD 10+ Server OS by many services providers, even in a Virtual Private Server (VPN) environment.

    Centos has distinct advantage over Ubuntu for many business applications, as well as advanced Networking/Virtualization and Cloud Computing environments, and CentOS makes excellent use of SELinux framework for hardened security layer, not currently available (or easily) in Ubuntu.

    This type comparison is generally superfluous, since there almost are always specific and nuanced requirements and needs for Server implementation that will dictate which distribution has more advantage or purpose – based on technologists/hosting company’s expertise and broad experience with that distribution.

  • VAN DER BEKEN

    The right comparison is to be made between Debian and CentOS.

    From my experience, I use both CentOS and Debian as servers. I prefer a bit Debian for its community.

  • Rob Lawton

    IMHO ironically Debian feels more r00ted to the original Linux terms of endearment in having a wider, open community of support. Centos, despite the free moniker appears to be Red Hat without the big dollar support model but alas no realistic discerning open community support. With Ubuntu now with free LTS I personally feel Debian will grow and become a major player not just in the home but also business sector and quite rightly so. Microsoft’s inclusion of Ubuntu with Windows 10 is a nod to its uptake.

  • Olawale Daniel

    I am a beginner and I can say because of your write up and the comment you left in the Digital Ocean community, I am going for CENTOS at least for this moment. Once I am good at it, I can transfer my property back to Ubuntu because I am not really good at configuring the server and all those stuffs yet.

    Thanks for your work brother
    Olawale Daniel

  • Oded

    In case I want a stable business server, but my need require a small number of newer software than can be found in CentOS repos, thus going to compiling from source, maybe discovering along the way that some of the dependencies require compilation from source as well etc. – while on Ubuntu I wouldn’t need all that.

    Would it be true to say that now my CentOS’ stability&security might be compromised and made worse than Ubuntu’s? I know the case is specific, but that’s a concern I have

  • Huns

    I don’t know why you think CentOS is more stable. Packages don’t get into the stable repositories for Debian or Ubuntu until they’ve been testing for over a year.

    If you want paid support for a RH distro, you get RHEL7, and probably not CentOS. If you want paid support for a Debian distro, you get Ubuntu, which is supported directly by Canonical. However, I can’t imagine a shop with senior sysadmins actually using this service. I never heard of it. If you have senior sysadmins, they already know how to figure out everything.

    The one advantage RH/CentOS have over Debian/Ubuntu is that they support their distros for 10 years, versus “5 plus” for Debian/Ubuntu. I don’t see any advantage in running a 10-year-old Linux OS on a workstation OR a server, so I don’t care. Upgrading from one Ubuntu LTS to the next in line is simple and usually works. If it doesn’t, you have backups. If you used Chef or some other CM system, then getting your server completely restored – all packages installed, configs edited, etc. – is a matter of typing a few lines. The more people adopt CM, the more support for a 10-year-old OS will seem like a fish with a bicycle.

  • gohubu

    Debian/Ubuntu is clearly the better choice (huge market share) in europe, but Centos in the US. RHEL is not popular in europe at all. Even SUSE is more popular.

  • Bo

    Ubuntu has about twice the system requirements as Cent OS and is much slower when ran in a server environment just as it is in a home use environment.. Ubuntu is much easier to get support for, but if you need reliability, stability, and the normal things you want from a server then Cent OS is a far better choice.

    • luca

      Ubuntu has twice requirements than Centos? You mean Ubuntu Desktop ? 🙂
      Ubuntu LTS has no gui, so requirements are the same than Centos Minimal no gui.
      There are other difference such as default filesystem choice(centos XFS, Ubuntu ext4), for some applications could result in really different performance; So Centos make more sense if XFS is needed.
      Sincerely, is really difficult saying wich distribution is more stable, both are stable in terms of ABI requirements. Ubuntu has lot of kernel updates(because of desktop use), but is the use case the key of choice:
      if you need to use Cpanel, go for Centos. If you need environment for Ruby on Rails, go for Ubuntu.
      My Two Cents

      • Tim

        Man, you most of you don’t understand that stability means. When you work in a real enterprise environment. I am talking like GE, Coca-Cola. You will realize how much you need a stable Linux. I am sorry but UbuntuLTS is far less stable than you think. We have clusters of 1000’s of servers and the ones that segfault more(often for no reason at all) were UbuntuLTS. That is the reason we replaced them with RHEL Linux. Now there is nothing wrong with Ubuntu at all but for critical applications, I will not trust anything but CENT/RHEL. And before you reply oh you don’t know what you are doing blah blah blah. Trust me I do and so does our team. Facts are Facts. I also don’t need “well I been running it for years blah blah blah”. Just because it doesn’t happen to you doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. When you have 1000’s of servers and you see a pattern you know for a fact one is better than the other.

    • Qi

      Bah. It’s 2018 and we’re still complaining about the “minimum” system requirements. RAMs nowadays are very cheap, HDDs are even cheaper and larger. The kernel is now Version 4.x with more support for hardware than ever. There’s also a Spectre and Meltdown issue that is being addressed in the Kernel. Common sense will tell us that the distro with an active community and dependable release cycle will have to be the choice.

      You already mentioned that its much easier to get support for Ubuntu, then why put your balls in the grill pan with CentOS? 😀 It’s cheaper to upgrade hardware than to put your business at risk because there’s not enough community to get help from.

  • Aaron

    The form of the documentation is another difference which is rarely mentioned when comparing CentOS/RHEL and Ubuntu. Red Hat’s documentation (most of Red Hat’s manual are available without a subscription and I have found compatable with CentOS) is formal professional written technical manual, a more traditional approach to documentation. Ubuntu relies heavily on wikis. I believe the choice is up to the user what form they feel more comfortable using. I moved to CentOS after using Fedora/OpenSUSE I spend a lot less time fixing updates and I have been a lot more productive using CentOS as a virtual KVM server. Even with the old 3.10 kernel and the older version of qemu it outperforms Fedora. I have not had much success with Ubuntu I find it more difficult than CentOS. download and install both. A few years ago I installed, OpenSuSE, SLED, CentOS, RHEL, Fedora, Debian, and Ubuntu. I choose Fedora and CentOS. They just felt right.

  • Eric Chin

    CentOS are much more easier for beginners compare to Ubuntu. Ubuntu customize and tweaked too much it way to make it easier for people to use, however it become a chaos when your trying to manage it. CentOS is a clone of RHEL, everything is more towards for enterprise and have a clear standard for as long as your follows the rules from RHEL.