Comparing CentOS, Ubuntu, and Debian: Selecting the Ideal Linux OS for Your Server


Comparing CentOS, Ubuntu, and Debian

When it comes to configuring a Linux server, choosing the right operating system can be a daunting task.

Among the top contenders, Ubuntu, Debian, and CentOS stand out as popular options.

Each of these Linux distributions has its own strengths and weaknesses, making it crucial to carefully assess your specific requirements before making a decision.

In this article, we will compare these three operating systems to help you determine the best Linux OS for your server.


Debian, stablished in 1993, holds a significant market share of Linux web servers, accounting for approximately 17% as of April 2020. Being one of the oldest Linux distributions, it serves as the foundation for many others, including Ubuntu.

Debian’s versatility allows it to run on various architectures, contributing to its widespread adoption. It is a completely community-driven distribution, distinguishing it from the others.

Debian utilizes .deb packages, with management handled by the APT utility. The Debian ecosystem boasts an impressive collection of around 59,000 available applications. Renowned for its stability, consistent performance, and frequent updates, Debian has built a thriving community over its 27-year history.

1. Security Support:

The Debian Project offers security support for stable releases for one year after the subsequent stable version is published.

Debian 9, for example, received security updates until June 2018 after Debian 10 was released in June 2017.

Furthermore, newer releases benefit from five years of long-term support (LTS) from their initial release date.

2. Superior Stability:

Debian’s longer release schedules provide extensive testing periods, resulting in a highly reliable Linux distribution.

This makes it an excellent choice for enterprise environments, as it minimizes the costs associated with release flaws.

Additionally, Debian’s commitment to patching security vulnerabilities ensures a secure operating system compared to other Linux distributions.

3. Abundance of Debian Applications:

With approximately 59,000 software packages available in Debian 10, users have access to a vast range of software.

Additional packages can be installed as per requirements.

Unlike some other distributions, Debian does not have a paid marketplace for packages, with the majority of software being freely available.

However, independent vendors have the option to offer paid products.

4. Active Community Engagement:

While Debian’s community may be smaller than Ubuntu’s, it comprises more technically inclined users due to the distribution’s complexity.

The community actively supports Debian’s dedication to free software through various user forums, resource centers, and a significant number of volunteers.

5. Suitability for Beginners:

Debian is generally considered more suitable for Linux specialists than beginners.

Its installer assumes a certain level of Linux knowledge and provides users with greater configuration control, making it ideal for advanced users seeking a personalized experience.

However, this may overwhelm newcomers, leading to Debian having a user base primarily composed of more technically inclined individuals.

If you’re a beginner, you may find other distributions more beginner-friendly.

By carefully considering the features and characteristics of CentOS, Ubuntu, and Debian, you can make an informed decision on the Linux OS that best fits your server requirements.


CentOS is an operating system based on Linux that maintains functional compatibility with its upstream source. It originated from the CentOS project, developed by Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Its initial release occurred in 2004.

For a period, CentOS surpassed Debian as the most popular Linux distribution for web servers in 2010. However, in 2012, Debian regained popularity by introducing new features, causing a decline in CentOS’ popularity. CentOS serves as a powerful and highly customizable Linux distribution.

It is known for its stability, security, and frequent corporate-level security updates, making it an excellent choice for users. CentOS utilizes Red Hat Yum as its package manager for updates, which automatically manages software updates whenever new software is installed.

This Linux-based operating system offers numerous advantages. It provides a high level of security, reducing the risk of cyber attacks. Additionally, it offers extensive administrative support to system administrators.

However, there are certain disadvantages to consider. CentOS is not particularly user-friendly, which may pose challenges for non-technical users. It may not be as compatible with gaming and entertainment as other systems.

Furthermore, its support for driver creation and storage management is limited. Additionally, its technical support may not be as comprehensive as Ubuntu’s.


Ubuntu is widely recognized as the most popular Linux distribution. Since its release in 2004, Ubuntu has attracted a large number of users due to its sleek desktop environment and user-friendly interface.

Ubuntu is available in various versions tailored for desktop computers, servers, IoT devices, and cloud platforms. While CentOS remains a preferred choice for many hosting providers, Ubuntu continues to be the go-to Linux distribution for individuals and organizations seeking to host their own websites.

According to W3Techs, over 12% of the world’s websites run on servers powered by Ubuntu.

Based on Debian, Ubuntu utilizes the APT system for managing .deb packages. Unlike Debian, Ubuntu is renowned for its user-friendly interface and benefits from a rapid update cycle that introduces numerous new features.

With a large user base, there is a robust support community, and Canonical, the company behind the project, offers paid support and an extensive application store.

Under the hood, Ubuntu operates as any other Linux distribution, and if used as a server operating system without a graphical user interface, there are minimal differences compared to other Linux distributions, aside from a few technical aspects.

Ubuntu is available in over 55 languages, and its software center offers access to over 40,000 applications. It has three official versions: Desktop for standard desktop computers, Server for small or enterprise servers, and Core for the Internet of Things (IoT).

Which Linux OS is the best choice for my server?

Debian CentOS Ubuntu
Founded 1993 2004 2004
Popularity Approximately 17% of Linux web servers (April 2020) Previous most popular Linux distribution for web servers Widely recognized as the most popular Linux distribution
Community Completely community-driven Developed by Red Hat Enterprise Linux Robust support community and Canonical’s support
Package Management APT utility with .deb packages Red Hat Yum for updates APT system with .deb packages
Stability Renowned for stability and consistent performance Highly stable and reliable Stable with frequent updates
Security Support 1 year for stable releases, 5 years for LTS releases Numerous corporate-level security updates Canonical offers paid support and LTS releases
Applications Around 59,000 available applications Over 40,000 applications in the software center
User-Friendliness May require more Linux knowledge and configuration control Not particularly user-friendly Known for its user-friendly interface
Compatibility Versatile and runs on various architectures Compatible with desktops, servers, IoT, and cloud platforms
Technical Support Active community support Canonical offers paid support
Suitable For More suitable for Linux specialists Suitable for enterprise environments Widely used for hosting websites
Beginner-Friendly More complex, primarily for technically inclined users Not as user-friendly as other distributions User-friendly interface, suitable for beginners

Table: A Comparison of Debian, CentOS and Ubuntu

The wide range of Linux distributions available may seem like an advantage, offering the possibility of finding the perfect match for your server needs. However, it also makes the decision-making process more challenging.

Each Linux distribution comes with its own set of advantages, disadvantages, limitations, and useful features.

CentOS, for example, is renowned for its stability and efficient performance without bugs.

However, its tendency to incorporate outdated software packages lacking modern features is a drawback. Some users also criticize its slow update frequency.

On the other hand, Ubuntu stands out for its frequent updates and introduction of new features.

However, there have been instances where these updates have introduced flaws and security vulnerabilities.

Ubuntu excels in terms of support, and if you have the budget, you can opt for premium support from a large and helpful community.

Debian is the most challenging distribution to use among the options discussed here.

It offers versatility and a vast selection of software applications, but it is not recommended for beginners.

CentOS and Ubuntu are the most commonly used distributions for web hosting servers, so hosting providers often suggest choosing between these two.

However, your final decision should consider additional factors such as your technical expertise and the specific requirements of your project.

In Conclusion

Selecting the right operating system for your Linux server is a critical decision that impacts performance, security, and usability.

In this article, we compared Ubuntu, Debian, and CentOS, three prominent options.

Debian excels in stability and security, while Ubuntu is ideal for newcomers and those seeking a user-friendly interface.

CentOS is preferred in enterprise environments due to its long-term support and reliability.

Ultimately, the best Linux operating system for your server depends on your specific needs and preferences.

We hope this article has provided valuable insights to help you make an informed decision.

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