[GUIDE] Choosing the Right Linux Distro

Discussion in 'Systems Administration' started by frash23, Jun 22, 2014.

  1. Hello Spigot!

    I have seen a few people argument about which OS is best, and some people asking about switching from windows to linux, so I decided to make this guide.

    This will be a brief summary of the major distro's to choose from, and a conclusion with my favourite picks.

    First, the obvious:

    CentOS is often recommended as the "Professional" distro to choose, and in a lot of cases, it is.
    CentOS focuses primarily on providing interprise grade software and being stable, at the cost of being less cutting edge. CentOS is generally considered less intuitive/user-friendly when compared to Ubuntu or alike, which I would agree on.

    - User friendliness: Medium
    - Stability: Very High
    - Cutting edge: Medium
    - Security: Medium / High​

    I wanted to talk about Ubuntu after CentOS, but Fedora is simply so interesting it got second spot on the summary. Fedora is similar to CentOS, but provides a larger, newer software and is bundled with SELinux enabled and configured by default, making it a much more secure system than any of the other candidates. Fedora is generally as user-friendly as CentOS, except you'll need to understand SELinux.

    - User friendliness: Low
    - Stability: High
    - Cutting edge: Medium / High
    - Security: Very High​

    Ubuntu is often a controversial topic in server hosting - some would claim it is unprofessional, others would claim it to be a secure choice due to it's very large and frequently updated repository. Ubuntu is the most resource intensive distro of all the ones I am comparing, but still far from enough to make any actual difference. Ubuntu is a very user-friendly system, making it a good choice for new users. Ubuntu's security is usually considered lower than most other, due to it's large amount of bundled programs and network daemons.

    - User friendliness: Very High
    - Stability: Medium
    - Cutting edge: High
    - Security: Low / Medium​

    This is one of my favourites. Debian is very similar to Ubuntu, but aims more at being stable and secure. The stable debian versions are rock solid and really lightweight. One of the only downsides to Debian is, when compared to Ubuntu, it's software repository, which aims more at being stable than cutting edge. Debian is still quite modern in it's repository though, and is usually not far behind ubuntu, version-wise.

    - User friendliness: High
    - Stability: High
    - Cutting edge: Medium / High
    - Security: Medium / High​

    Arch Linux
    Arch Linux is not suited for new users to Linux. Arch Linux is highly customizable, also in the more low-level parts of the system. Arch Linux is about as cutting edge as it gets, and is relatively easy to use, even if you aren't deep into linux. Arch Linux' forums are by far the best linux community I know of, and their wiki is the best documentation I have seen any distro have, bumping up it's user-friendlyness.

    - User friendliness: Medium
    - Stability: Medium
    - Cutting edge: Very High / Extremely High
    - Security: Medium / High​

    Red Hat
    I won't talk much about this one as it costs money and is meant for huge enterprises, but I'll mention it.
    Red Hat's major upsides is extreme stability and enterprise software.

    - User friendliness: Very Low
    - Stability: Very High / Extremely High
    - Cutting edge: Very Low
    - Security: High​

    This is an odd one as well. Gentoo is meant for linux enthusiasts, pretty much any software you want needs to be compiled by yourself. This means that all the software you get is as new as it is possible to have it. It is however the least user friendly distro of the ones in this thread, and is definitely not recommended for a simple game server.

    - User friendliness: Very Low
    - Stability: Can't be rated
    - Cutting Edge: Extremely high / Can't be higher
    - Security: Can't be rated.​

    Please do remember that security mainly depends on how you set it up yourself - the ratings given are my judgement on a fresh install of the system!

    Thank you for reading! Hopefully this has provided insight on what system you should choose.
    #1 frash23, Jun 22, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2014
    • Informative Informative x 11
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  2. For someone that has only used 12.04 Ubuntu LTS, how do the commands differ from Debian?
  3. Barely any, the only difference you'll feel might be some packages not preinstalled, and a few obscure packages needing an addeed repository.
  4. kill_da_trolls


    I disagree with CentOS user friendliness, it was my first Linux distribution and I know quite a few people new to Linux systems administration who use it.
    • Agree Agree x 5
  5. I'm basing the ratings off what other distro's provide.
  6. RSNET-Radic


    Ubuntu is built on top of Debian, so the commands would essentially be the same.

    Coming from the server world, the most stable, compatible, and overall best OS would be CentOS 6. It's the only Linux distribution "that just works" with every hardware configuration. That's coming from a company that's tested everything under the sun on thousands of servers across different platforms and generations.

    CentOS 6 does also come with SELinux installed if you choose the right options during the install.
    • Agree Agree x 1
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  7. I've used Ubuntu for a very long time now and had no issues with it ever, so it is my go-to choice <3
    • Agree Agree x 1
  8. RSNET-Radic


    Up until 14.04, there was major compatibility issues with Haswell based systems.

    -Not all of the cores being recognized on random installs
    -Stability issues
    -Rebooting caused the server to shut down instead of reboot

    Tons of other more minor things, but the ones listed above are ridiculous to have on an enterprise grade OS. Especially when the issues didn't exist on Debian.

    Disclaimer: I'm not in anyway hating on Ubuntu or trying to argue with you. Just wanted to bring the facts on our end so users are aware of issues across a broader environment. This is purely informational and I do not wish to start an argument or flame war against/for a specific OS.
    • Informative Informative x 2
  9. Good thing I happened to upgrade my servers to Hashwell based after 14.04 came out :p
    • Like Like x 1
  10. Learned on Ubuntu and probably will move over to CentOS soon.
    • Like Like x 2
    • Agree Agree x 2
  11. Too many guides :p.
  12. Or not enough.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  13. MAKE MORE!!!! :D
    • Agree Agree x 1
  14. There's actually more on the way.
    • Like Like x 1
  15. :(, NOOOO.
    • Funny Funny x 1
  16. Great guide! you should make this into a wiki page.

    And just a side question, from which sources do you got this information and why did you rate Debian's "Stability: High" and CentOS's stability as "very-hight"?
    I used CentOS from beginning but people told me that Debian have updated repositories and is generally faster.
  17. Awesome guide, but it includes a LOT of choices, I currently have used windows all my life and want to change to one of the above OS's I know as much about any of this as a potato and honestly have no idea where to start. Based on this guide I am leading toward Debian, can anyone tell me if this is a good idea, how I should start learning how to work it, and give other suggestions if my interpretation was bad. Thanks.
  18. RSNET-Radic


    Go with CentOS. Download VMWare and run it in a virtual machine on your PC. Play with it, break some stuff.

    Make sure to install CentOS without a GUI, you want to learn the command line.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  19. Nentify


    So that's why my server never turns back on..? Time to update.

    I do personally prefer Ubuntu though, never had any other issues with it.
  20. CentOS is aimed at enteprise use, and is thus more stable. Debian will most likely have newer software, though.