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CentOS vs Ubuntu - Which One Wins?

Updated on October 4, 2018
CentOS vs Ubuntu - Which One Wins?

When it comes to choosing a Linux distribution (aka. distro), there is a multitude of options available. This can make it cumbersome when trying to make a decision on which one to use. However, two tried and true options customers tend to choose between are:

  • CentOS
  • Ubuntu

Whether you’re planning to set up a virtual private server or dedicated server, choosing between CentOS and Ubuntu has probably crossed your mind. In this post, we’ll go over some of the differences and similarities between both Linux distros and by the end, you should have a better idea of which one will suit your needs.

Overview of CentOS

CentOS is essentially the free version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). RHEL is a commercial product that comes with paid support while CentOS is maintained by the community. CentOS is well-known for being both stable, secure, and is commonly used in enterprise-class environments. A reason for this is due to the fact that their release cycle is quite infrequent (happening only every 2-3 years).

Furthermore, every version of CentOS is maintained for 7-10 years meaning that you don’t have to worry about a major upgrade any time soon if you’re using a recent version of CentOS.

Overview of Ubuntu

Option number two is Ubuntu. Ubuntu is based on the Debian architecture and is commonly used in both personal computers as well as server environments. Ubuntu is known for its frequent release cycles and cutting-edge features. However, frequent updates and a variety of features can lead to instability in some cases and it can take a greater amount of support to stay up to date with the latest release cycle.

That being said, it’s incredibly powerful and is extremely versatile.

Differences Between CentOS vs Ubuntu

To help lay out the differences and similarities between both popular Linux distributions, we’ve put together a comparison table below. Thanks to This Hosting Rocks for compiling a number of the comparison points below:

Features CentOS Ubuntu
Based On RHEL Debian
Release Cycle Shorter Longer
Market Share 6.8% (as of Aug 2018) 14.1% (as of Aug 2018)
Security Secure out of the box Less secure out of the box
Support/Community Smaller user and developer community (not as much documentation) Larger user and developer community (much more documentation and tutorials)
cPanel Support Supports cPanel/WHM None. Alternatives available
Package Command RPM and YUM apt-get
Difficulty Larger learning curve as there are no desktop releases by RHEL Easier for those who have used Ubuntu on their PC in the past
Stability Arguably more stable as there are fewer updates More frequently updated which can cause stability issues

In terms of how the usage of both Linux distributions are trending, we can reference the historical graph provided by W3Techs below.

As we can tell, Ubuntu is trending slightly upwards while CentOS is trending slightly downwards. Additionally, the graph below shows that although Ubuntu isn’t used by the most number of sites, it is used by the most highly trafficked sites overall. Furthermore, Ubuntu is ahead of CentOS in terms of both the number of sites that use it overall as well as the number of high traffic sites.

Which One Should You Use?

Overall, both CentOS and Ubuntu are great Linux distributions. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses but it really comes down to what your goals are, what you’re used to, and your own personal preference when deciding which distro to go with.

Ubuntu is a good choice for those who want the latest and greatest features. It’s also backed by a much larger community so if you need help with something, there are plenty of tutorials and resources available. The only thing is, with many more features and frequent updates, things can become slightly more cumbersome.

CentOS is a good choice for business or enterprises that don’t need to have the latest features at their disposal and would rather not worry about frequent updates or their current release becoming unsupported. Since CentOS releases are supported for 7-10 years, this distro makes for a great solution for those who don’t have many support resources available or feel the need to update as frequently. CentOS is also the right choice for those who prefer to use cPanel over any other administrative panel, or lack thereof.

Summary

Hopefully, this guide has helped you in deciding which Linux distribution is right for you: CentOS vs Ubuntu. They each have their own set of pros and cons, however, are both great solutions in their own respects. If you’re still on the fence about which one to choose, why not try both and see which one suits you best?

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