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So I am looking to get my first hosting (still not sure on VPS or dedicated). it is a social network with photo sharing. Question is the OS. Everywhere i see the options are: CentOS, Debain, Fedora, Ubuntu.

My website is in MySQL and PHP. So i assume I need a linux install? And which OS to choose? I have never seen linux in my life, always used windows so I have no preference on the linux OS. ideally I prefer a stable, secure, easy to use with nice GUI and that can make my life easy hosting my website along with easy to manage/update. Which one to go for?

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Since you're new to Linux (welcome!) I would start by the bare minimums, so start with a VPS server and if you see you're growing out of it you can always swutch to a dedicated hosting.

Those four Linux distributions are divided in package management, I'll give you a brief introduction to each so you can get up to speed fast.

  • CentOS: It's based on RedHat Enterprise Linux, which is the Enterprise version of RedHat Linux, it's what the majority of servers are using right now, but there community behind it is not as strong as other distros
  • Debian: It's one of the oldest Linux distributions, completely open source and maintained by the community, you'll have lots of help in this one but it tends to be a bit behind in features and new software
  • Fedora: It's the bleeding edge of RedHat Linux, it's maintained by the Fedora community and RedHat, although it's cool to play with it it's not recommended for production unless you know very well what are you doing
  • Ubuntu: It's a spinoff based on Debian and maintained by Canonical (another big Linux company like RedHat), it's getting lots of traction lately and also very heavily maintained by the community since any Debian answer will also work here

On my personal experience I would either stick to Ubuntu or CentOS, since you're completely new to the Linux world I would try Ubuntu first and see how you manage (it gives you lots of help and easiness), then when you start getting more skills you can always switch to another distro if you prefer.

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If you do not have that much knowledge about linux, then do not jump head first into it, and have a web facing server, that your trying to manage. You'll be taking on too much at first.

If you only need MySQL, and PHP, then find a service that gives you just that - It will help you get started. Then, as time goes on, and your site grows, build a server on some old cheap hardware at home, maybe a £100 server off of ebay, or something and then attempt to 'host' your site on that box. That experience is better earned at home without the pressure of paying someone a monthly fee :)

Ubuntu server is nice for new comers, it's harder to break :)

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virtual machines are great for this, incidentally – Sirex Jan 24 '11 at 11:08

And what comes to GUI not all distro's deliver it as default witch is good. GUI (aka. desktop (like gnome or kde) eats lot of resources what is away from other usage.

If you feel uncertain to use command like i suggest you to check out web-interfaced management software like ebox or landscape. You should be able to get both of them to work with ubuntu. ebox is free but uses your servers resources and landscape is commercial product witch should be bit more lightweight for your server since it runs on canonical's servers but it is costing a bit.

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