If you ask someone at Red Hat about CentOS, they will likely tell you that it is a great “community” distribution, but for enterprise servers, you need Red Hat Enterprise Linux and the support that comes with it. This is their job, of course, to promote their own software, but there is also some truth to it. Are there situations, however, when it might be better for you to use CentOS for your business?
The first thing to understand about CentOS is that in terms of technology it is every bit as effective as Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). In fact, on an OS and software level, it is RHEL to the core. It receives the same security updates and the same packages. What it does not have is Red Hat’s backing in any shape or form. You cannot call Red Hat if your CentOS server stops working, nor can you consult Red Hat for help with optimizing it or anything else. What you do get is a large CentOS community that may be able to help in many cases.
In terms of cost to maintain, RHEL obviously has the upfront licensing costs and the support costs. For CentOS, you will need someone, possibly a team of people, depending on your business size, who can maintain a Linux server on their own. Having said that, there are also companies more than willing to offer paid CentOS support. You can save on licensing but still pay for a managed server.
Finally, RHEL may be overkill for a small business with one server. It is likely just not in your budget to pay for the licensing. On the other hand, a large enterprise that wants to keep everything in house for research and development may also like CentOS. There are many other scenarios where companies might prefer CentOS, but it ultimately is a preference. You have to decide for yourself if it is right for you.