A virtual private server (VPS) is a popular web hosting option for web development agencies and businesses looking to host websites and applications. VPS servers offer compelling configurations and scalability depending on the hosting provider, making them attractive.
One of the critical factors for choosing a VPS is selecting the operating system (OS) that runs on it. This choice determines the additional software and tools you use since there can be compatibility issues that need addressing.
This article compares Ubuntu vs. CentOS, two popular Linux-based operating systems for VPS. It explores what they are, their advantages and disadvantages, and use cases. The goal is to assist you in choosing the best option for your development or business needs.
- What is Ubuntu?
- What is CentOS?
- Ubuntu vs. CentOS: Comparison
- Ubuntu Use Cases
- CentOS Use Cases
- Ubuntu vs. CentOS: Which is Right for You?
- Final Thoughts
What is Ubuntu?
Ubuntu is a mostly free and open-source Linux distribution based on Debian, another highly regarded Linux distribution. The Ubuntu OS is available for use on:
- Standard and enterprise servers.
- Cloud implementations.
- Internet of Things (IoT).
The three available Ubuntu editions are Server, Desktop, and Core (used for IoT and robotics applications).
First released in October 2004, Ubuntu is built on Debian’s architecture and infrastructure. The British company Canonical and a community of other developers currently develop Ubuntu.
Ubuntu releases updated versions predictably every six months, with each release receiving free support for nine months. OS support includes security fixes for high-impact bugs and conservative, substantially beneficial fixes for low-risk bugs. Support starts from the release date until its designated end-of-life (EOL) date.
Advantages of Ubuntu
There are several advantages to using Ubuntu. Here are three main benefits of Ubuntu.
Ease of Use
Ubuntu is known for its user-friendly interface and easy installation process. Users gravitate towards OSs that have little-to-no barrier to entry.
Compatible Software Availability
Ubuntu’s extensive repository of available software packages makes finding and installing the programs you need easy. Whether you use the Advanced Package Tool (APT) or Snaps, you can install and manage the software packages you wish quickly and efficiently.
As previously mentioned, Ubuntu has a large, active community providing support and resources for its users. From the Community section of the Ubuntu website, you’ll find tons of links for community-driven sites regarding Ubuntu. Aside from that, use your search engine of choice to find a host of forums and websites geared toward information about Ubuntu.
Disadvantages of Ubuntu
The Ubuntu Linux distribution also has its challenges. Here are some disadvantages to using Ubuntu.
Popular OSs make them a target amongst hackers, and Ubuntu is no exception. While security is up to companies and their end-users, Canonical and the Ubuntu community do everything possible to patch vulnerabilities promptly. Still, nefarious actors always look for bugs to exploit, making security a concern.
Ubuntu’s frequent update cycle can be a hassle for those running mission-critical workloads. New updates bring changes to the operating system that can prove detrimental to websites and applications that rely on scrapped or changed dependencies. Companies or users spend additional time, effort, or revenue updating code or making configuration changes to keep up with the evolving OS.
What is CentOS?
Community Enterprise Operating System, or CentOS, is a discontinued free and open-source Linux distribution providing a community-supported computing platform functionally compatible with its upstream source, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). CentOS was available for use on:
- Standard and enterprise servers.
- Enterprise workstations.
The first CentOS release was in May 2004 with version 2, a fork of RHEL version 2.1AS. Releases up to version 6 supported the IA-32 architecture, with official support for the x86-64, ARM64, and POWER8 architectures since version 8.
CentOS joined Red Hat in January 2014 as an independent company under a new governing board. Red Hat unilaterally terminated CentOS development in December 2020 and discontinued it at the end of 2021 in favor of CentOS Stream, a distribution positioned upstream of RHEL.
Note: Upstream refers to the direction toward the original authors or maintainers of software. Patches or other software requests are offered to them and could affect the source code. Downstream refers to the direction away from the original authors or maintainers. Patches or requests are provided to developers and maintainers of forked software projects and do not affect source code.
CentOS Stream is a continuously delivered Linux distribution whose development cycle is just ahead of RHEL, positioning it midstream between Fedora Linux and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. CentOS Stream represents a drastic change from previous CentOS Linux releases since it is no longer derived directly from RHEL.
Advantages of CentOS
Like Ubuntu, there are several advantages to using CentOS. It is important to note that CentOS is discontinued, and support for CentOS Linux 8 ended December 31, 2021, and CentOS Linux 7 ends June 30, 2024. Users wishing to continue with a similar experience must either move to CentOS Stream or use one of several CentOS Linux alternatives.
One main advantage of CentOS is the support it receives from its community. In addition to submissions to the project, the community provides support through resources, tutorials, and forums where users can grow their knowledge graph.
CentOS Linux has a reputation for security due to its regular updates and use of Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux). Regular updates ensure the OS remains patched and maintained. SELinux provides access control security policies available for implementation on processes and files.
All of the other advantages serve to enhance the stability and reliability of CentOS Linux. In addition, their longer release cycle means applications need fewer updates, and the software remains stable.
Disadvantages of CentOS
Here are some disadvantages of CentOS.
The most apparent disadvantage of CentOS is that it is EOL once CentOS 7 support ends in June of 2024. While this has not stopped developers and businesses from continued use of EOL software in the past, those who prefer an OS that has security updates and maintenance releases would do well to seek an alternative.
Software Package Availability
CentOS’ software package repository is smaller than Ubuntu’s, potentially making it harder to find and install the necessary software. While most seasoned system administrators can find ways around this issue, it can turn the average user off from using the OS.
Ubuntu vs. CentOS: Comparison
User Interface (UI)
Ubuntu: Easy to use and intuitive.
CentOS: Minimalistic and lacking in common features.
Ubuntu: Advanced Packaging Tool (APT).
CentOS: Yellowdog Updater, Modified (YUM).
Security and Stability
Ubuntu: Known for security and stability. Faster update cycle.
CentOS: Known for security and stability. Slower update cycle.
Ubuntu: Exceptional speed and resource usage.
CentOS: Exceptional speed and resource usage.
Ubuntu Use Cases
One of Ubuntu’s primary use cases is a desktop OS. Its user-friendly and intuitive UI makes it attractive among new and experienced Linux desktop users.
Developers use and create software for popular OSs. The size of Ubuntu’s repository and its active community attest to its popularity amongst software developers.
Web Hosting and IoT
Ubuntu is highly used in web hosting and IoT workflows because of its support and community resources. The more developers and community members cater to it, the more traction it gains in those spaces.
CentOS Use Cases
Standard and Enterprise Server Workloads
CentOS is a workhorse for standard and enterprise web hosting and application workloads. Their focus on security and stability in a minimal package keeps die-hard users sticking with this OS.
The spread-out nature of the CentOS Linux update cycle makes it appealing to agencies and businesses running legacy systems. Slower updates to worry about means fewer code and configuration updates to implement.
Resellers and Web Hosting Providers
CentOS was once the go-to OS for resellers and web hosting providers because it is free to download and use and one-to-one compatible with RHEL. Using such a robust OS without the overhead costs made CentOS Linux rise in popularity among Linux distributions.
Ubuntu vs. CentOS: Which is Right for You?
The choice between Ubuntu vs. CentOS Linux comes down to your specific needs. The glaring issue is that CentOS Linux is now CentOS Stream and no longer functions as a primary OS. Instead, CentOS Stream exists as a rolling preview of feature sets that eventually roll out in RHEL.
Though CentOS was known for its stability and security, Ubuntu will offer more stable releases with a steady release cycle. Users who don’t mind being on the bleeding edge of what RHEL offers may choose CentOS Stream. Those looking for more stability will look at Ubuntu or other CentOS alternatives.
When it comes to selecting an operating system for your VPS hosting, there are a variety of options from which to choose. While Ubuntu and CentOS are great options, this guide outlines some key differences between the two for consideration before making a decision.
Ubuntu is often praised as a beginner-friendly OS with an intuitive UI. On the other hand, CentOS is revered for putting security at the forefront. However, both are ideal for businesses requiring a highly secure hosting environment without sacrificing performance.
Whichever operating system you choose, ensure you have the right hosting provider backing you every step of the way.