CentOS vs Ubuntu – Which is better for your VPS?
CentOS vs Ubuntu – Which is better for your VPS?
Choosing between Ubuntu and Centos when setting up a VPS may not sound like something you should dwell on for too long – especially if you’re a beginner. But if you are in for the long haul, it’s worth making the right choices in the very beginning – as it will save you the headache down the road. So, which OS is better for your virtual private server? To answer this question, let’s start with a short overview of each system.
CentOS – Enterprise but Free
Released back in 2004, CentOS is a community-driven free operating system based on a paid OS Red Hat Enterprise Linux designed for businesses. The main difference is that CentOS, as a free product, is maintained by its community.
Thanks to being built on a solid enterprise framework, it’s known as a secure and stable system environment, frequently chosen not just by hosting companies but also many other businesses for which those two features are essential.
Ubuntu – Open Source Linux Distribution
Released initially in the same year as its more business-oriented brother (2004), Ubuntu is a Debian-architecture-based operational system which comes in three different official versions (Ubuntu Server, Ubuntu Core and Ubuntu Desktop) and multiple distributions, and is used on personal computers, smartphones, tablets, servers, and even Internet of things devices.
Over the past few years, Ubuntu has gained a lot of publicity and popularity thanks to its very active and rapidly growing community, which works hard to ensure that the system is stable, reliable and secure out-of-the-box. Even though it prioritizes the same features as CentOS, the systems differ in the way that their developers approach them.
Here are the differences for CentOS vs Ubuntu:
Difference #1: Package Management System
One of the primary differences visible for any user who tried both systems is the package management system used by each of them. For example, Debian-based Ubuntu uses APT – Advanced Package Tool while CentOS utilizes the RPM Package Manager.
The main difference between them, apart from the software used to manage repositories, comes down to the availability of packages for both systems, as developers usually tend to stick to just one type (either .deb or .rpm). But, while this could mean that some packages will not be available as often on CentOS as they are on Ubuntu, there are certain advantages to that infrequency.
Difference #2: System Release Cycle
it’s not just third-party packages and updates to them that are not available as frequently on CentOS as they are on Ubuntu. The new versions of the system itself, as well as its updates, are released a lot less frequently compared to Ubuntu, which also receives new software much faster.
On the other hand, every major release of CentOS is maintained for a lot longer, usually for as much as 7 to 10 years as opposed to Ubuntu which supports each of its long-term support releases (which appear every two years) for up to five years.
Difference #3: Security & Stability
The aforementioned release cycles can be a good thing when talking about the security of your virtual private server. This is because, CentOS infrequent updates can make your server a lot more stable. In the end, your hosting environment doesn’t really need that many features, so with fewer updates, maintaining it secure is much easier.
Not to mention that longer release cycles mean that the system is more thoroughly checked, so the risk of downloading a release that hasn’t been properly secured is minimal. Plus, being based on an enterprise-level Linux Red Hat adds extra points to CentOS security on its own.
Of course, if you prefer to have more frequent update and access to more applications faster, getting Ubuntu may be the way to go. With a much bigger community compared to CentOS, while it gets more updates, any potential bugs may also get fixed a tiny bit faster.
Difference #4: Ease of Getting Started
Even though CentOS is generally believed to be slightly more secure compared to Ubuntu, if you are going to configure everything on your own, it might be better to start with the latter. Especially if you consider the said big community.
Thanks to thousands of web developers around the world working with Ubuntu, there are lots of free resources such as tutorials, step-by-step guides, forums and other communities of people ready to help you get started and secure your VPS the right way.
While there are many similar helps available for those working with CentOS too, the size of the community is much smaller. But, if you’re willing to pay a bit, high-quality premium CentOS support is very easy to find.
Difference #5: Control Panels
Another difference worth noting is the control panels compatibility. This is important especially if you are interested in offering web hosting services yourself – for example, as a reseller. This is where CentOS has a huge advantage over other systems as it is compatible with the most popular control panel – cPanel.
This reason alone makes CentOS a great choice for someone interested in more than just hosting their own websites on the VPS. And is also one of the primary factors which make CentOS a lot more popular in the hosting world itself. Speaking of popularity, let’s compare the usage and popularity of each system.
Difference #6: Popularity
Even though CentOS is popular among those who want to use cPanel, according to W3Techs, a division of an Austrian consulting company Q-Success, it’s far behind its open-source counterpart, with a market share of just 6.7% compared to 14.1% of Ubuntu (for websites of which the OS is known).
It is also less popular among all the popular websites, starting with those ranking in the top 1,000 (7.5% to 20.9%):
Similarly, if we look at the historical trend for the past year, CentOS is on a clear decline, while the usage of Ubuntu looks rather stable:
Of course, the popularity itself doesn’t mean much. What’s more important is the purpose for which you want to use the system. Each of them has its pros and cons, which, together with different release cycles and support for them will meet the needs of a different sets of users.
Generally, if you want all the latest features, are looking for a more developer-friendly OS, and plan to update your server frequently, or simply want access to a huge and very helpful community, Ubuntu with its wealth of tutorials and guides sounds like a no-brainer – especially for beginners on a low-budget.
On the other hand, if having cPanel is a priority either because you can afford the extra cost of license and value its convenience and security, or because you want to provide it to your customers, CentOS will be the right choice for you.
And what if you would like to test both servers? In this case, you should get a decent VPS that gives you the choice of either of them – such as Hostinger’s unmanaged VPS which comes with both of the systems in multiple versions and with different control panels.