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What Linux OS Is On Your Web Server?

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.

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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.


  1. Eddie G. Eddie G. June 2, 2013

    I chose CEntOS. If RHEL is considered to be the Cadillac of OS’es……then CEntOS would be the Buick/Lincoln division! It’s just that it works flawlessly…with very few problems….and it’s secure as ever. I wonder why more “Big Businesses” don’t invest heavily in training and using their people to use it….it could save them MILLIONS on the back-end expenses!

  2. B.Ross Ashley B.Ross Ashley June 2, 2013

    As it happens I run my website on my Xubuntu desktop … it is on Abyss X1 server software from Aprelium Technology, and while it is not open-source it is really simple to use.

  3. Ovidiu Calbajos Ovidiu Calbajos June 2, 2013

    As a server admin I realy enjoy using openSuSE with his YaST administration tool. The YaST is available with front end under graphical interface and with ncurses under console mode. It’s an stable and fast operating system with a huge community and great support thru the OBS (open build service). Has a lot of packages searchable thru the I using it for about 6 years and had only little problems with the graphical interface (KDE) but over all it’s a great OS.

  4. Trizt Trizt June 3, 2013

    It’s a though question as the options are limited and my main Cochise ain’t listed, but I would most likely go for Debian as I feel they are the most conservative and then you won’t get hiccups when upgrading packages.

  5. Milosz Milosz June 3, 2013

    Debian most of the time. Sometimes CentOS if I am asked to.

  6. lolren lolren June 3, 2013


  7. Christine Hall Christine Hall June 3, 2013

    Eddie G., I also use CentOS. Mainly because it’s what I know and because of it’s close ties to Red Hat. I’ve always wanted to give Debian a try, but I’d like to have a go at it on a PC first, although I’ve obviously never run Cent on a PC. I’m nothing if not inconsistent. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Ovidiu Calbajos There was a time, back before Novell sullied SUSE’s GPL compliance with the Microsoft deal, when SUSE was absolutely the distro I was most eager to try. Since then, however, I’ve sadly lost all interest in SUSE. That’s sad really, because when I first started using GNU/Linux, SUSE was considered by many to be distro that set the bar for others to follow.

  8. Ken Roberts Ken Roberts June 3, 2013

    Hmm. Slackware is missing from the list.

    I have several websites:

    1) Co-located mirror of slackware repository (personal server running slackware)

    2) Shared hosting for church (hosting company runs debian – no choice for me)

    3) Shared hosting for playground (hosting company runs debian – no choice for me)

    All three are located in the same data center.

  9. Christine Hall Christine Hall June 3, 2013

    Yeah, Ken. We found that very few hosting companies offered Slackware as a choice for managed VPS or dedicated servers. Even unmanaged, most don’t offer to install Slackware. Our hosting service offers online instructions on installing and configuring Slackware if we want to do it ourselves, but offers no support if we do. Which is okay with us. We’re happy with what we’ve got.

  10. Eddie G. Eddie G. June 3, 2013

    CHristine: That was also one of the reasons I decided to use it heavily, because when I finally DO go and get RHCSA….I’ll be well versed in the products and procedures of administering it! Also I happen to love CEntOS’s logo as well!……

  11. Zed D Zed D June 3, 2013

    FreeBSD ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. Alex Borrell Alex Borrell June 3, 2013

    I’ve been usinf Debian for quite a long time in different architectures (sparc, PPC, amd) and it always let me configure to my choice without any problems

  13. Christine Hall Christine Hall June 3, 2013

    Nice site, BTW, Adam. And I would’ve had no doubt you’d run Fedora! Something tells me you once ran Mandrake/Mandriva, eh?

    Niki Kovacs, I’m quite impressed! I’m also a little embarrassed that despite five years living in Canada, I remain a dumb American who’s barely fluent in my own language and not fluent at all in any other. What a great skill to be fluent in multiple languages.

    Zed, I would think a BSD to be a great choice for running a server, no?

  14. Christine Hall Christine Hall June 3, 2013

    Oh,I almost forgot. Eddie G., good luck with getting your Red Hat certification. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for you.

  15. Jennifer Jennifer June 3, 2013

    Arch Linux @ x86_64

  16. Niki Kovacs Niki Kovacs June 3, 2013

    @Christine: thanks for the flowers :o)

    I’m Austrian, and my mother language is german. But I’ve been living in France since 1991, so French has become my main language.

    As for installing Slackware on public root servers, I’ve recently written a detailed article on the subject, that is, besides the HOWTO. It will be published in this month’s “Planรจte Linux”, a french Linux magazine (paper).

    The french company offers public servers with root access (no virtual machines, the real thing) for rent for about 15 euros a month. What I do is install either Debian or Ubuntu on these servers, fire up a live rescue session and install Slackware from within a live session. It’s quite like installing Gentoo, with a few hacks. Works nice & it’s actually rock-solid.

    Cheers from the sunny South of France.

  17. Christine Hall Christine Hall June 3, 2013

    Niki – South of France, eh? I’m jealous. Although, I really want to live in Prague. You write English like a native speaker, BTW.

  18. B.Ross Ashley B.Ross Ashley June 3, 2013

    Not right now, you don’t, Chris, the Vltava River is somewhere way the hell over flood stage.

  19. Christine Hall Christine Hall June 3, 2013

    Jennifer – Thanks. Arch is another distro I’ve been wanting to try.

  20. Christine Hall Christine Hall June 3, 2013

    Uh-oh, not good news Ross. One of my best friends is in Prague. Guess I need to check on him and see how he’s doing.

  21. Eddie G. Eddie G. June 4, 2013

    @Christine: Thanks so much! I can’t wait to be certified…and it’s not about the money!…..well not ALL about the money!) it’s a personal goal I’ve set for myself….since both my older sister have college degrees and I couldn’t finish…due to finances (divorce-child support-eviction etc..) I made the RHCSA MY “college” degree!….

  22. Paulus Paulus June 4, 2013

    Why isn’t SuSE Linux Enterpise an option? That would be my choice.

  23. Mikey J Mikey J June 4, 2013

    Suse 64 bit. I use Suse as my host OS on my workstation, and regularly use Fedora, Ubuntu, Debian and CentOS as VMs. I love the UI and things are easy to do in the terminal.

    I have 2 Sun netra servers and I’m about to put Solaris on one and try putting Suse on the other one. Let’s see how that goes.

    I wouldn’t have chosen Slackware. Although I hear it is highly customizable.

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