Linux is the most popular operating system for internet web servers, offering a simple way to run stable and reliable servers for home or business use. There are many different Linux server distributions available to choose from, such as the LAMP configuration (Apache, MySQL, and PHP), for both internet web servers and virtual networks behind cloud computing.
The choice of the right Linux distros for a server can be influenced by personal preference, market power, and specific advantages of a distribution related to the core applications, security issues, or stability. Many web users will never be aware of these differences as the OS works in the background, with only system administrators and IT managers taking notice of the Linux distribution being used.
To help choose the best Linux server distribution, we evaluated various factors such as scalability, security, stability, support, documentation, ease of installation, GUI interface, and online community. Ultimately, the choice of the best distribution often comes down to personal preference. However, we will provide some of the best Linux server distros for you to consider.
Best Linux Server Distros
1. Ubuntu Server
Ubuntu Server is a popular Linux distribution that is widely used for servers, cloud computing, and other enterprise-level applications. It is known for its stability, security, and ease of use.
One of the main advantages of using Ubuntu Server is its robust package management system. With the apt package manager, users can easily install, upgrade, and remove software packages on their server. The system also provides access to thousands of pre-compiled software packages, making it easy to set up and configure a server for various purposes.
Another feature that sets Ubuntu Server apart is its support for various virtualization technologies, including KVM, LXC, and Docker. This makes it possible to run multiple virtual servers on a single physical machine, which is useful for testing, development, and scaling applications.
Ubuntu Server also provides excellent security features, including automatic software updates, strong firewalls, and a well-designed user authentication system. These features help ensure that your server stays secure and protected against potential attacks.
The user interface for Ubuntu Server is also well-designed, with an easy-to-use command-line interface and a web-based administration tool called Ubuntu Server Admin. This tool provides a simple way to manage server configuration, users, and other administrative tasks, making it accessible to even users with limited technical experience.
In terms of community support, Ubuntu Server has a large and active community of users and developers who regularly contribute to the project. This community is a valuable resource for finding answers to questions, getting help with problems, and staying up-to-date with the latest developments in the server space.
Minimum Requirements for Ubuntu Server
- RAM: 1 GB
- Hard Drive: 2.5 GB
- Processor: 1GHz
Key Features of Ubuntu Server
- Easy Installation – Ubuntu Server can be easily installed, even on older hardware. It offers a simple, graphical installation process that makes it easy to get up and running quickly.
- Web Server Software – Ubuntu Server comes with Apache2, the popular open-source web server software. It also includes support for PHP, Perl, and other scripting languages.
- Database Management – Ubuntu Server includes the MySQL database management system, making it easy to manage and store data.
- Virtualization – Ubuntu Server supports virtualization through the KVM hypervisor, allowing you to run multiple virtual machines on a single physical server.
- Cloud Computing – Ubuntu Server is a popular choice for cloud computing environments, with support for cloud platforms like OpenStack and Amazon Web Services.
- Security – Ubuntu Server includes several security features, such as AppArmor security profiles, automatic updates, and firewalls.
- Easy Management – Ubuntu Server includes tools like the Ubuntu Server GUI, the Landscape Systems Management tool, and the command line interface, making it easy to manage and monitor your server.
- Community Support – Ubuntu Server has a large and active community of users, who can provide support and help with any questions or issues you may have.
Scalability – Ubuntu Server can scale to meet the demands of small businesses, large data centers, and everything in between.
2. Debian Server
Debian Server is a popular Linux operating system for servers. It is a stable, secure, and versatile distribution that is well suited for a wide range of applications, from small home servers to large enterprise deployments. One of the key features of Debian Server is its robust package management system, which makes it easy to install, update, and manage software on the system.
Debian Server is well known for its stability and reliability, and it is widely used by businesses, schools, and government organizations. This stability is due in part to its strict testing process, which ensures that all software packages included in the distribution are high quality and free of bugs. The Debian project also has a large and active community of developers, which means that any issues that arise are quickly addressed and resolved.
Debian Server is also highly customizable, which makes it ideal for many different use cases. It can be used as a web server, database server, email server, or VPN gateway, and it can be configured to meet the specific needs of each individual deployment. The distribution also includes a wide range of tools and utilities that make it easy to manage and maintain the system, including the popular web-based administration tool Webmin.
One of the standout features of Debian Server is its security. The distribution is known for its strong security features, and it includes a variety of tools and features to help keep the system and its data safe. This includes firewall management, intrusion detection, and advanced authentication mechanisms, among others.
Minimum Requirements for Debian Server
- RAM: 256 MB
- Hard Drive: 4 GB
- Processor: 1GHz
Key Features of Debian Server
- Package Management System – Debian Server utilizes the Advanced Packaging Tool (APT) to manage software packages, providing easy installation and maintenance of software.
- Scalability – Debian Server is designed to handle large-scale deployments, making it suitable for use in high-traffic environments.
- Customization – Debian Server provides a wealth of customization options, allowing users to configure the operating system to meet their specific needs.
- Security – Debian Server offers a secure environment, with regular security updates and an active security team that works to address potential security vulnerabilities.
- Interoperability – Debian Server is highly interoperable, working well with other operating systems and hardware platforms.
- Stable Release Cycle – Debian Server follows a stable release cycle, providing predictable and reliable software updates.
- Large Community – Debian Server has a large and active community of developers and users who contribute to its development and provide support for its use.
- Free and Open Source – Debian Server is free and open-source software, allowing users to access its source code and customize it to meet their specific needs.
3. Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL)
Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) is a commercial operating system that is widely used in enterprise environments, including data centers, cloud environments, and other large-scale enterprise infrastructure deployments. The operating system is based on the open-source Linux kernel and is maintained and supported by Red Hat, Inc., a leading provider of enterprise-level Linux solutions.
RHEL is known for its robust stability, security, and reliability, making it a popular choice for businesses that require mission-critical systems. The operating system is designed to support a wide range of applications, from web servers and databases to virtualization and cloud computing.
One of the key features of RHEL is its support for advanced management and automation tools, which make it easier for administrators to manage their systems. The operating system includes a number of built-in tools for monitoring, maintenance, and troubleshooting, as well as support for third-party management tools.
In terms of security, RHEL is designed with security in mind, featuring a number of built-in security features such as firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention, and security-enhanced Linux capabilities. Additionally, Red Hat provides a secure software lifecycle model that ensures that the operating system is updated with security patches and other critical updates in a timely manner.
Another standout feature of RHEL is its support for a wide range of hardware, including both x86-64 and ARM architectures, making it suitable for use on a wide range of servers and other hardware platforms. Additionally, RHEL offers support for virtualization and cloud computing, allowing organizations to easily deploy and manage their infrastructure in a virtual environment.
Minimum Requirements for RHEL
- RAM: 1.5 GB
- Hard Drive: 10 GB
- Processor: 2GHz
Key Features of RHEL
- Scalability – RHEL provides a highly scalable infrastructure, making it suitable for large and complex IT environments.
- Reliability – RHEL is a highly stable and robust operating system, providing 99.999% uptime to critical business applications.
- Security – RHEL has a strong focus on security, with features such as SELinux security-enhanced Linux, integrated firewall, and a centralized security management system.
- Management – RHEL provides a centralized management system that makes it easier to manage and monitor servers, applications, and network devices.
- Integration – RHEL is designed to integrate with a wide range of technologies, such as virtualization, cloud computing, storage, and networking.
- Support – RHEL provides a comprehensive support system, including access to Red Hat’s global network of support centers and certified partners.
- Ecosystem – RHEL has a large and active ecosystem, including an extensive collection of third-party applications, tools, and technologies.
- Virtualization – RHEL provides integrated virtualization capabilities, making it possible to run multiple virtual servers on a single physical host.
4. Fedora Server
Fedora Server is a free and open-source operating system designed for server usage, built and maintained by the Fedora Project, which is sponsored by Red Hat. Fedora Server offers a highly flexible and scalable solution for various use cases, from small-scale home servers to large-scale enterprise systems.
One of the key features of Fedora Server is its cutting-edge technology and rapid pace of innovation. Fedora Server is built with the latest open-source technologies, which are often adopted by other operating systems later. This makes Fedora Server an excellent choice for users who want to take advantage of new technology as soon as possible.
Fedora Server also offers robust security features, including SELinux (Security Enhanced Linux), which provides a set of security policies for controlling access to files, resources, and system components. Fedora Server also supports multiple authentication methods, including LDAP, Kerberos, and FreeIPA, making it easy to integrate with existing infrastructure.
Another notable feature of Fedora Server is its modular design, which allows users to choose only the components they need, making it more efficient and less resource-intensive than other server operating systems. Fedora Server also supports a variety of network services, including HTTP/HTTPS, SMTP, DNS, and DHCP, making it easy to set up and manage a server environment.
Minimum Requirements for Fedora Server
- RAM: 2 GB
- Hard Drive: 15 GB
- Processor: 2GHz
Key Features of Fedora Server
- Robust Security – Fedora Server includes the latest security updates and enhancements to help protect against cyber threats. It also features SELinux (Security-Enhanced Linux), a powerful security tool that helps prevent unauthorized access to your server.
- Scalable Infrastructure – Fedora Server provides a flexible and scalable infrastructure for your server needs. It can be used to host small to large scale applications, making it ideal for growing businesses.
- Easy Management – Fedora Server comes with a web-based management console that makes it easy to manage and configure your server, even for non-technical users. The console provides a graphical user interface for managing and monitoring your server, making it easier to maintain and monitor your server.
- Large Community – Fedora Server has a large and active community of users and developers who are always ready to provide support and contribute to the development of the operating system. This community also provides a wealth of resources and tools that can help you get the most out of your Fedora Server installation.
- Customizable Environment – Fedora Server is highly customizable, allowing you to tailor it to your specific needs. You can add or remove packages, install custom software, and configure your server to meet your specific requirements.
5. OpenSUSE Leap
OpenSUSE Leap is a free and open-source Linux-based operating system that is sponsored by the SUSE company. It is a stable and reliable platform that is well-suited for use as a server operating system.
One of the key features of OpenSUSE Leap is its focus on stability. This operating system is designed to provide long-term support and security updates, making it a great choice for those who need a server that will be running 24/7. Additionally, OpenSUSE Leap is easy to use and comes with a user-friendly interface, making it accessible even to those who are new to Linux.
Another important feature of OpenSUSE Leap is its support for a wide range of hardware. This operating system is compatible with a wide variety of server hardware, making it a great choice for those who need a platform that will work with their existing hardware. Additionally, OpenSUSE Leap is highly customizable, allowing users to tailor it to their specific needs and preferences.
In terms of security, OpenSUSE Leap provides a number of important features and tools to help keep your server secure. For example, it includes a firewall that can be configured to protect your server from malicious traffic, as well as advanced tools for managing user permissions and access. Additionally, the operating system is regularly updated with security patches and bug fixes to help prevent vulnerabilities and ensure that your server stays protected.
In terms of performance, OpenSUSE Leap is a highly efficient operating system that is designed to use resources effectively and efficiently. This makes it a great choice for those who need a fast and reliable server, whether for business or personal use.
Minimum Requirements for OpenSUSE Leap
- RAM: 1 GB
- Hard Drive: 10 GB
- Processor: 1.6 GHz
Key Features of OpenSUSE Leap
- Package Management – OpenSUSE Leap uses the powerful and versatile YaST (Yet Another Setup Tool) for package management and system administration, making it easy to install, update, and manage software packages.
- User-Friendly Interface – OpenSUSE Leap provides an intuitive and user-friendly interface with a graphical installation program and a simple system setup.
- Enterprise-Level Security – OpenSUSE Leap includes a number of security features, such as support for full disk encryption and advanced firewall configurations, to help ensure the safety of sensitive data.
- Scalability – OpenSUSE Leap is designed to scale from small servers to large data centers, making it a suitable choice for organizations of all sizes.
- Robust Community Support – OpenSUSE Leap has a large and active community of users, developers, and experts who provide support and guidance for troubleshooting and problem-solving.
- Wide Range of Applications – OpenSUSE Leap supports a wide range of applications, from desktop productivity tools to server applications, making it a versatile choice for a variety of uses.
- Technical Excellence – OpenSUSE Leap is known for its technical excellence, with a focus on high-quality software development and a commitment to open standards and collaboration.
6. Oracle Linux
Oracle Linux is a Linux distros developed by Oracle Corporation. It is a free, open-source operating system that is designed to be highly compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), and can be used as a drop-in replacement for it. The system is well-regarded for its stability, performance, and security features.
Oracle Linux is known for its robust hardware support, including support for modern hardware and cloud environments. It includes a number of enterprise-level features, such as live patching, an update manager, and a secure boot process. The system also includes a number of tools for virtualization and cloud computing, including support for Oracle VM, KVM, and Xen virtualization technologies.
In terms of management and administration, Oracle Linux provides a number of tools and features to help IT teams manage their systems. These include an enterprise-level package management system, a custom repository of software packages, and a comprehensive set of management tools, including the Oracle Enterprise Manager.
In terms of security, Oracle Linux is designed to be highly secure and includes a number of features to help protect against potential security threats. These include support for AppArmor and SELinux security profiles, a secure boot process, and a comprehensive set of security tools and best practices.
Minimum Requirements for Oracle Linux
- RAM: 1.5 GB
- Hard Drive: 10 GB
- Processor: 1 GHz
Key Features of Oracle Linux
- Stability and Reliability – Oracle Linux is known for its stability and reliability, which makes it a popular choice for enterprise-level deployments.
- Security – Oracle Linux includes several built-in security features, including SELinux, firewall, and audit capabilities, which help to secure the system against threats.
- Support – Oracle Linux comes with various support options, including free and paid support plans, which can be useful for enterprise customers who require additional assistance.
- Compatibility – Since Oracle Linux is based on RHEL, it is compatible with a wide range of software and hardware, making it a suitable choice for businesses with complex IT environments.
- Cost Effective – Oracle Linux is an open-source distribution, which means that it is free to use and distribute. Additionally, it can be run on commodity hardware, which can help to reduce costs.
- Easy to Install and Use – Oracle Linux is designed to be easy to install and use, even for users who are new to Linux.
- Virtualization – Oracle Linux includes built-in support for virtualization technologies, such as KVM and Xen, which can be used to create and manage virtual machines.
- Advanced File Systems – Oracle Linux includes support for advanced file systems, such as Btrfs and XFS, which can help to improve data integrity and performance.
- High Availability – Oracle Linux includes built-in support for high availability, which can be useful for mission-critical applications that require maximum uptime.
7. Arch Linux
Arch Linux is a minimalist, open-source and community-driven distribution that targets experienced Linux users. It is often used as a base for custom builds, which are created by the users themselves to suit their specific needs. Arch Linux uses the rolling release model, which means that users receive updates continuously and don’t have to wait for a new version to be released.
One of the key features of Arch Linux is its highly customizable nature, which is achieved through the use of a package manager called Pacman. This package manager is simple, fast and efficient, and can be used to install and manage packages from a comprehensive repository of over 14,000 packages. The Arch User Repository (AUR) is a separate community-driven repository that provides additional packages not included in the official repository.
Another important feature of Arch Linux is its focus on minimalism and performance. It doesn’t include a lot of bloatware, and only includes the bare minimum required to run the system. The lightweight design of Arch Linux makes it an ideal choice for older computers, and for use as a server or for other resource-intensive tasks.
Arch Linux also uses the Linux kernel, which is known for its stability, security, and performance. The distribution supports a variety of popular architectures, including x86-64, ARM, and PowerPC.
Despite its focus on experienced users, Arch Linux provides a lot of documentation and support through its website, forums, and wiki. The Arch Linux community is large and active, and is always ready to help users who encounter issues or need assistance.
Minimum Requirements for Arch Linux
- RAM: 512 MB
- Hard Drive: 2 GB
- Processor: 1 GHz
Key Features of Arch Linux
- Package Management – Arch Linux uses the Pacman package manager which is simple, fast and efficient.
- Rolling Release Model – Arch Linux uses a rolling release model which ensures that users always have the latest software updates and features.
- Customization – Arch Linux is highly customizable, and users can easily modify the system to suit their needs.
- Lightweight and Minimalist – Arch Linux is designed to be lightweight and minimalist, which makes it ideal for use on older computers or for use as a server.
- Community-driven – Arch Linux has a large and active community of users who contribute to the development of the distribution and offer support to other users.
- Advanced Software Packages – Arch Linux offers advanced software packages, such as the latest development versions of software applications and cutting-edge technologies.
- Advanced Networking – Arch Linux offers advanced networking capabilities, including support for IPv6 and a variety of network protocols.
- Simple and Intuitive User Interface – Arch Linux has a simple and intuitive user interface, making it easy for users to install, manage and use software packages.
CentOS (Community Enterprise Operating System) is a free, open-source operating system based on the source code of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). It is developed by the community, with the help of Red Hat, and is designed to be a stable, reliable, and secure operating system for servers and workstations.
CentOS is known for its stability and long-term support, making it a popular choice for enterprise use. It is also popular among developers and hobbyists who want to experiment with the latest software and technologies.
One of the key benefits of CentOS is that it is fully compatible with RHEL, which means that it can run any software that is designed to run on RHEL. This includes a wide range of enterprise software, such as databases, web servers, and application servers.
CentOS also has a strong focus on security, with frequent updates and patches to ensure that the system remains secure and up-to-date. It also includes built-in security features such as SELinux (Security-Enhanced Linux) to provide a more secure and robust system.
Another notable feature of CentOS is its extensive package management system. The system uses the yum package manager, which allows users to easily install, update, and remove packages from the system. The CentOS repositories contain a large number of packages, including server software, desktop software, and development tools.
Minimum Requirements for CentOS
- RAM: 1 GB
- Hard Drive: 10 GB
- Processor: 1 GHz
Key Features of CentOS
- Stability – CentOS is known for its stability and reliability, which is a critical requirement for many server applications.
- Security – CentOS is built with security in mind, and the community is quick to respond to any security vulnerabilities that are identified.
- Package Management – CentOS uses the YUM (Yellowdog Updater Modified) package management system, which makes it easy to install, update, and manage software packages.
- Compatibility – CentOS is designed to be compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), which means that it can run most software that is compatible with RHEL.
- Community Support – CentOS has a large and active community of users and developers who are always ready to offer support and advice.
- Minimal Installation – CentOS provides a minimal installation option, which is ideal for users who want to install only the necessary components and keep the system lightweight.
- Command Line Interface – CentOS is designed to be used primarily through the command line interface, which makes it ideal for advanced users and system administrators.
- Scalability – CentOS can scale to support a wide range of applications, from small web servers to large, high-traffic sites.
- Virtualization Support – CentOS includes support for a wide range of virtualization technologies, including KVM, Xen, and VMware.
- Easy to Customize – CentOS is highly customizable, and users can modify and tweak the system to meet their specific needs.
Slackware is a Linux distros that has been in existence since 1993. It is one of the oldest Linux distributions still in active development, and it has a reputation for stability and simplicity. Slackware is designed to be a minimalist and lightweight distribution that can be customized and configured to meet the specific needs of the user.
One of the distinctive features of Slackware is its lack of an automated installer. Installation is done manually, and the user is required to configure various settings such as the partitioning scheme, file system types, and other system settings. This installation method can be challenging for beginners, but it gives experienced users more control over the installation process and the ability to fine-tune the system for their specific needs.
Another unique feature of Slackware is its packaging system. Slackware uses the .tgz format for package installation, which is a compressed tar archive that contains all the necessary files for a package. The .tgz format is simple and easy to use, but it lacks some of the advanced features found in other package formats such as dependency tracking and automatic upgrades. This simplicity is intentional and fits with the overall philosophy of Slackware.
Slackware is known for its stability, and it achieves this by using stable versions of software rather than bleeding-edge releases. This may mean that Slackware does not have the latest features, but it ensures that the system is reliable and free of bugs. Slackware also has a reputation for security, with a focus on security patches and keeping the system up-to-date with the latest security fixes.
Slackware’s default desktop environment is Xfce, but other environments such as KDE and GNOME can be installed from third-party sources. Slackware also includes a wide range of software packages, including development tools, multimedia software, and server software.
Minimum Requirements for Slackware Linux
- RAM: 64 MB (1GB+ suggested)
- Hard Drive: 5 GB
- Processor: 486 processor
Key Features of Slackware Linux
- Lightweight – Slackware Linux is designed to be minimal and efficient, which means it can run on older hardware or systems with limited resources.
- Stability – Slackware Linux is known for its stability and security. It is well-tested and has a long history of being reliable and predictable.
- Simplicity – Slackware Linux has a simple and straightforward design, with a minimal number of pre-installed packages. This makes it easy to customize and configure to suit specific needs.
- Package Management – Slackware Linux uses its own package management system called pkgtools, which is simple and effective.
- Security – Slackware Linux is designed with security in mind, with regular security updates and a focus on security features like firewalls and access controls.
- Customizability – Slackware Linux is highly customizable, with a wide range of configuration options and the ability to build packages from source code.
- Community Driven – Slackware Linux is developed by a community of volunteers, who work to maintain the system and provide support to users. This means that there is a wealth of knowledge and expertise available to help users solve problems and learn more about the system.
Mageia is a free and open-source Linux operating system that is derived from the Mandriva Linux distribution. It was created in 2010 by former employees of Mandriva, after the company went bankrupt. The goal of Mageia is to provide a stable, secure, and easy-to-use operating system for both desktop and server environments.
One of the key features of Mageia is its easy installation process. The installation process is simple and intuitive, making it easy for even novice users to install and set up the operating system. The Mageia Control Center is a user-friendly interface that provides access to a wide range of system configuration options.
Mageia also includes a wide range of software packages, including popular desktop environments like GNOME, KDE, and Xfce. It also includes a range of server-oriented software packages like Apache, MySQL, and PHP, making it a great choice for both desktop and server environments.
Mageia is known for its stability and reliability. It is built on a solid foundation of proven technology and is designed to be both secure and stable. Mageia is also well-suited for use in enterprise environments, as it includes features like LDAP authentication and support for centralized management tools.
One of the unique features of Mageia is its focus on community involvement. Mageia is a community-driven project, and the developers work closely with the community to ensure that the operating system meets the needs of its users. The Mageia website provides a range of resources for users, including forums, documentation, and user guides.
Minimum Requirements for Mageia
- RAM: 512 MB (1GB+ suggested)
- Hard Drive: 5 GB
- Processor: any AMD, Intel or VIA processor
Key Features of Mageia
- User Friendly – Mageia is designed to be user-friendly, making it easy to use for people of all skill levels.
- Extensive Software Library – Mageia offers an extensive software library with over 6,000 packages, making it easy to find and install the software you need.
- Stability and Security – Mageia is designed to be stable and secure, with regular updates and bug fixes to ensure the system is always up-to-date and protected from security vulnerabilities.
- Multiple Desktop Environments – Mageia comes with several desktop environments to choose from, including KDE, GNOME, Xfce, LXDE, and MATE, so you can choose the one that works best for you.
- Internationalization – Mageia is designed to be used around the world, with support for over 70 languages and input methods.
- Community-driven Development – Mageia is developed by a community of volunteers, who work together to create a high-quality and reliable Linux distribution.
- Free and Open Source – Mageia is a free and open-source operating system, which means that the source code is available for anyone to use, modify, and distribute.
Choosing the best Linux server distros for your needs depends on your specific requirements and preferences. Each Linux distros has its advantages and disadvantages, and it’s important to consider factors such as stability, security, ease of use, support, and community.