Linux VPS: Choosing the right Linux Distribution for your LAMP

Running a LAMP VPS means choosing a distro to go along with your server space; a choice that often comes with a number of judgments on the part of so-called “experts” in the field. Everyone has their favorite distro for their own reasons, but each one performs admirably in its own space. Choosing one comes down largely to personal preference.

CentOS and RHEL – Where’s the Difference?
Both CentOS and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (REHL) are based on the same kernel – the 2.6.9 tree. Because the kernel has been released under the GNU Public license, both distros are required to release details of any modifications they make to it. The main difference in the two distros lies in the fact that CentOS is open-source and free, while Red Hat comes with bundled mandatory support.

If you choose to purchase REHL, you become a member of the Red Hat Network, which provides update notifications and automatic updates. If you choose CentOS you get “yum” instead, which allows you to receive the same kinds of updates. Some REHL packages come with phone or web-based support, but no official support of CentOS exists. With the same critical system packages in each, including glibc, zlibm and OpenSSL, there is very little end-user difference between the two beyond the support offered by Red Hat. Considered to be a top software vendor of 2010, a Red Hat VPS is a viable option if you require more support, or a CentOS VPS if you prefer a more open-source distro.

Debian and Ubuntu – One for New Guys?
Debian and Ubuntu are easily compared distros, since Ubuntu was developed as a fork from Debian. Common wisdom holds that Ubuntu is the “easy version” of the two Linux VPS choices, but in many respects they are closer in functionality than most users realize. Both of these distros use a GNOME-based desktop, though they will also support KDE, Xfce, and LXDE. The Debian GUI is almost identical to what comes out of GNOME to start with, but Ubuntu has taken the time to customize it with notification systems, multiple panels and a trash bin.

When it comes to installation, Ubuntu has a seven-step process that is simple and straightforward. Debian’s installer has been rumored to be more difficult to use, but is that way only if you choose to use it as such. A Debian VPS will allow you to customize every feature of your installation if you want to, and it can rapidly lead to a place of confusion if you are not familiar with the distro. One key difference in the two distros lies in their community, which is more highly regulated for Ubuntu, and comes with a Code of Conduct that helps to keep forum and development threads under control.

All four of these distros have a broad appeal, and can be easily used in a Linux VPS account. Which one you choose depends on your preference for support, usability, and amount of customization that you require.

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