CentOS vs Ubuntu: The Best OS For Your Server


Fiona O’Connell


2019 September 11th

centos vs ubuntu

Choosing an operating system (OS) for your server can be challenging. While you may know what you want in terms of optimal performance and stability, the options for the OS can be confusing.

This comparison reviews two popular operating systems for Linux - CentOS vs Ubuntu. They are often compared to one another as they both perform with quality and advancement. But each has its own fanbase with different argumentation of what is the best operating system.

So, what is better for your server - CentOS or Ubuntu? Let's see and compare their strengths and weaknesses!

What is CentOS?

CentOS is an RPM-based Linux distribution maintained and managed by the community. It was released in 2004 and essentially it is a free version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), with a few differences thrown in.

CentOS Homepage

Unlike RHEL, which comes with paid customer support and is a commercialized product, CentOS is completely free to use.

It also combines aspects from Debian, Linux/Fedora, and FreeBSD to create a stable server environment with 3-5 life cycle clusters. Unlike many other operating systems, CentOS maintains every distributed version for 10 years, with releases every 2 years.

What is Ubuntu?

Ubuntu is a Debian-based operating system used on servers, desktops, tablets, and smartphones. It's an open-source distribution contributed by developers from all over the globe. That's how it evolved into a more modern and intuitive interface.

Ubuntu Homepage

In the past several years, Ubuntu has gained popularity by providing its users with a stable, robust, and reliable platform on which to deploy applications.

Its software is updated and supported for an extended period of time, with software versions never changing in the middle of a release.

CentOS vs Ubuntu: The Key Differences

Ubuntu and CentOS have slightly different approaches to management, upgrades, and support. They also differ in terms of ease of use.

To better compare CentOS vs Ubuntu, let's go through the main differences between these operating systems.

Ease of Management

Ubuntu vs CentOS differ in terms of their management system. CentOS is based on RedHat, which uses Red-hat package manager (rpm), and Ubuntu is based on Debian which uses advanced package tool (apt).

Another usability-related aspect that might encourage web hosting clients to select CentOS is its web hosting control panel compatibility. CentOS pretty much dominates in the web hosting world, offering the majority of web hosting control panels (like cPanel and InterWorx).

Standard cPanel Dashboard
Image source: whoishostingthis.com

So, if your goal is to provide web hosting solutions using some form of a control panel - cPanel or its alternatives, - then CentOS is the best option by far.

However, users who opt for Ubuntu’s desktop version will most likely face far fewer difficulties in adapting to the server version.

Another important difference of CentOS vs Ubuntu in terms of ease of use is Ubuntu's graphic user interface (GUI) that is simpler than the command-line interface (CLI) on CentOS.

Ubuntu Graphic User Interface

Image source: ostechnix.com

In terms of management and ease of use, it is easier to adapt Ubuntu to the server version. However, CentOS supports major hosting control panels which makes it convenient to use.

Ubuntu vs CentOS Support

CentOS vs Ubuntu differ in terms of release and support cycles. CentOS comes with significantly longer release cycle and a longer support life: the period between support releases can be as much as 7 years, while support life is up to 10 years. Ubuntu releases its Long Term Support every 2 years and comes with a 5-year support life.

CentOS 6 has had five minor point releases since its first release in 2010. All of these releases will be supported until 2020. So if you place a high value on a long support cycle and consistency, CentOS is the better choice.

CentOS Lifecycle on linuxlifecycle.com

Another key difference is the release cycle. Since CentOS is based on Red Hat, the releases are more infrequent, which some would argue makes them more stable. However, this also means that some of the software can be outdated.

Ubuntu uses a time-based release cycle, so every two years they will release a long-term support edition. Furthermore, Ubuntu typically has releases every six months to provide the latest software advancements. In terms of releases, Ubuntu is way ahead.

CentOS isn’t exactly at the forefront of cutting-edge software, with upgrades occurring fairly infrequently. Instead, however, CentOS prioritizes security and consistency over quick software updates.

Ubuntu, on the other hand, is a bit less conservative when it comes to upgrades. Therefore, Ubuntu users will usually have updates land in their repos before CentOS users.

Ubuntu Release Cycle

As for user support, Ubuntu offers more documentation as well as free tech support. Its server version has more cloud and container deployment support.

CentOS focuses on stability rather than frequent updates. But while Ubuntu has more updates than CentOS, this doesn’t necessarily mean less stability or less security.

CentOS vs Ubuntu: A Summary

Ubuntu is a more popular option with a strong support community while CentOS offers more safety and stability. All in all, it really comes down to the purpose of use for each operating system as well as the size of your business.

Ubuntu is widely used, meaning it can be a safe choice for beginners - given its huge user base, Ubuntu has a wealth of online resources, tutorials, and online forums. This makes finding solutions to problems much easier. Along with that, Ubuntu constantly improves and has frequent updates.

CentOS is also a good choice for small and medium-sized businesses and websites requiring cPanel. While its user base is much smaller than Ubuntu, CentOS offers premium support. Also, you might prefer the security and consistency of long release cycles.

Ubuntu has a large user base, plenty of help resources, and a simpler GUI. CentOS supports cPanel and, instead of offering frequent upgrades, focuses on consistency.

So, the fight of CentOS vs Ubuntu has no clear winner - both are great products. At this point, the best operating system for your server depends on your needs!

CentOS pros:

  • Safe and stable
  • Compatible web hosting panels (cPanel)

Ubuntu pros:

  • Releases every six months (always up-to-date)
  • Free tech support
  • Easy for beginners - a lot of help and tutorials

CentOS cons:

  • Small community of users and developers
  • Limited library of tutorials and guides
  • Rare updates - can be outdated

Ubuntu cons:

  • Less secure
  • Frequent updates can result in OS instability

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User comments

SannydIz picture

2018 December 10th

Make a more new posts please :) ___ Sanny

Make a more new posts please :) ___ Sanny

Serverental picture

2018 December 6th

Great post. Helps us a lot in choosing the right OS for our server. Thanks for sharing

Great post. Helps us a lot in choosing the right OS for our server. Thanks for sharing

Darick Jones picture
Darick Jones

2018 June 6th

An excellent comparison of centosOS and Unbutu. Looking for a host in the top 5 for an Unbutu product? Is there a way of denoting this prior to purchasing?

An excellent comparison of centosOS and Unbutu. Looking for a host in the top 5 for an Unbutu product? Is there a way of denoting this prior to purchasing?