Deciding on an operating system (OS) for your server can often be a challenging task. While you may well know what you want in terms of optimal performance and stability, the options available when it comes to choosing the OS could be confusing.
This article will review two popular operating systems, CentOS vs Ubuntu - and will guide you over what they are, where they shine, and how they differ. We'll check it out in depth and hopefully provide you with a simpler decision to make!
So what is CentOS
CentOS was released in 2004 as an RPM-based Linux distribution maintained and managed by the community.
The CentOS operating system is essentially a free version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), with a few differences thrown in. Unlike RHEL, which comes with paid customer support and is a commercialized product, CentOS is completely free to use.
RHEL. Source: Techotopia.com
They also combine 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. Early last year, CentOS announced its official joining with RHEL, although they plan on remaining independent from RHEL and under a new CentOS board.
Ubuntu, take the stage
Ubuntu is another flavour of Linux operating systems that, while newer, has quickly garnered the respect of novices and experienced Linux users alike.
This Debian-based operating system is used on servers, desktops, tablets, and smartphones, and is an open source distribution contributed by developers from all over the globe. It’s evolved into a more modern and intuitive interface; it’s faster, more secure, and offers a wealth of applications to download.
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. Their software is updated and supported for an extended period of time, with software versions never changing in the middle of a release.
What are the key differences
CentOS isn’t exactly at the forefront of cutting-edge software, with upgrades occurring fairly infrequently. Instead, however, they prioritize things like 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.
Package Management System
One of the biggest user-visible differentiating factors between CentOS and Ubuntu is the package 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).
Users who opt for Ubuntu’s desktop version will most likely face far fewer difficulties in adapting to the server version, and their graphic user interface (GUI) is also easier than the command line interface (CLI) on CentOS.
Image source: ostechnix.com
Web Hosting Capabilities
A major aspect that might move web hosting clients to select CentOS is their web hosting control panel compatibility. CentOS pretty much dominates in the web hosting world, with the majority of web hosting control panels (like cPanel and InterWorx) in the palm of their hands.
If your goal is to provide web hosting solutions using some form of a control panel, then CentOS is the best option by far.
Support and Release
- As already mentioned, CentOS comes with a much longer release cycle than Ubuntu and also has a longer support cycle. Ubuntu releases their Long Term Support every two years and comes with a five-year support life.
- CentOS 6 has had five minor point releases since their 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, especially now that they are officially under the Red Hat umbrella.
- Another key difference is their release cycle. Since CentOS is based on Red Hat, the releases are more infrequent, which some would argue makes them more stable. However, it should be noted that 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. Additionally, Ubuntu typically has releases every six months which provide the latest software advancements. In terms of releases, Ubuntu is way ahead.
- Ubuntu offers more documentation as well as free tech support. Its server version has more cloud and container deployment support.
- Even though Ubuntu has more updates than CentOS, this doesn’t necessarily mean less stability or less security.
There are several other smaller differences between the two operating systems in regards to security (such as Ubuntu forcing sudo use by default and disabling the root account), development, and packages, but these don’t have much impact on the large majority of users.
CentOS & Ubuntu are both great options!
After making some comparisons, it really comes down to the purpose of use for each operating system as well as the size of your business. For smaller businesses as well as beginners, Ubuntu is a safe choice. Given their huge user base, Ubuntu has a wealth of online resources, tutorials, and online forums, along with a large community of open source developers. This makes finding solutions to problems much easier.
CentOs is also a good choice for small and medium-sized businesses and websites requiring cPanel. While their user base is much smaller than Ubuntu, CentOS still houses a smaller online community but with more premium support options.