Well, that’s really not the question. Most of you probably don’t have a web server. If you do, you very well might be using something that’s not on our list. There are some great distros, known to make dependable and trouble-free servers, that aren’t listed here. The most glaring omission is probably Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), considered by some to be the Cadillac of server distros.
The list of GNU/Linux operating systems we’ve supplied in our poll is one we’ve compiled from looking at the choices of operating systems being offered by many hosting companies in virtual private servers (VPS) packages and on dedicated servers.
Most shared hosting packages and even most shared hosting reseller accounts don’t offer a choice of operating systems. When they do, the choice is often only between Linux and Windows, with Linux being whatever distro they have on their servers, which is subject to change without notice at upgrade time. However, when you step up into the VPS or dedicated server world, you’ll find yourself being offered a choice like the one we’re offering in our poll.
RHEL is usually not offered as a choice because it can’t be had for free. Although there would be nothing keeping you from installing Red Hat yourself, if you’re using a hosting company there would be no reason to do so. Most hosting companies offer technical support (or managed hosting) for a very reasonable fee. Unless you want to make yourself available 24/7 to handle the niggling little problems that are bound to arise, managed hosting is worth every penny–assuming you have a good hosting company.
If you look at our poll, you’ll see that it offers a choice between six different distros in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. The 32/64-bit choice seems to be something of a coin toss at present. 32-bit operating systems are slightly more memory efficient. However, your 32-bit OS will quit being supported one day, sooner rather than later as we like to say, since we’re now in a 64-bit world. With technology, there’s never any turning back. That being said, we still serve our sites using 32-bit operating systems.
Of the distros offered in our poll, Red Hat is very well represented with fully half having direct ties to RHEL. CentOS and Scientific Linux are basically Red Hat clones. Indeed, we know CentOS to be RHEL code with the copyrights removed and that Scientific Linux aims to be “as close to the commercial enterprise distribution as we can get it.” Fedora, of course, is Red Hat’s “community distibution.”
openSUSE is the “community distribution” of SUSE Linux, one of the oldest Linux distros which was originally based on Slackware and Softlanding Linux System (SLS). Although SUSE has a good reputation as a server OS, we don’t have any experience with openSUSE, which began under the ownership of Novell in 2006.
Our list is rounded off with the grand old dame of community distributions, Debian, which has a fine reputation as a server OS, and Ubuntu, the popular distro based on Debian.
So, which would you choose?
It doesn’t matter whether you’re an old pro at running a server or a newbie. If you’re reading this article, you probably know at least a little bit about the various Linux distributions and can make an informed choice. If you’ve been running websites for a while and managing servers, we’ll assume you know even more–maybe more than you want to know.
In our poll, you can make one choice only and there’s no “other” category where you can fill-in a blank to install something else. Given these choices, what would you want running on your server?
After you’ve taken our poll, let us know why you made the choice you did by commenting below.