I'm new to VPS managing and I need to chose which OS to install on my VPS. I have the following alternatives:

  • CentOS 5.2
  • Ubuntu 9.10
  • Ubuntu Server edition 8.10
  • Debian 5.0 Lenny
  • Debian 4.0 Etch
  • Gentoo Minimal 10.0

I tried to install couple of them, I've also installed Webmin and doesn't really see any big differences among them.

  • Which one would you suggest for someone who is just learning (but it's going to be a working server as soon as I'm done with testing)?

  • Which one uses less resources (I have only 256 MB of RAM)?

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.


CentOS is basically RHEL, which you see a lot in the corporate world. It is very stable, but doesn't have the latest packages. Debian Lenny and Etch are also extremely stable, but tend to have older packages in the repos as well.

Ubuntu tends to have better community support and newer packages and is usually very stable as well, but is more prone to instability due to their tendency to add new packages to their repos frequently (this is not a bad thing though!). Neither of them are an LTS (long-term support) version, so I would go with 9.10 if this is the route you choose. Server edition is the same as regular ubuntu, except without a GUI (which you can uninstall yourself).

Gentoo seems like the odd man out here. It certainly has its merits, especially being very slim, but you see far fewer production Gentoo servers than any of the other choices. It can be daunting to learn on Gentoo, especially since their communities are not as large as the others (once again - not a bad thing. Just something to consider)

Basically it's up to you, but if I were choosing it would be between CentOS, Ubuntu 9.10, or Debian Lenny.


Do you have any experience with any of those? If you have that should make the choice easier, as it's generally better to use one you're more familiar or comfortable with. Beyond that I personally favour CentOS but only because I've had more experience with it than the others. Based on what I see elsewhere Debian Lenny would be my second choice. I've only tried Ubuntu on the desktop and really don't like it but it may be alright on a server.

Whichever you choose, I suggest a minimal install and then add only what you actually require. It would also be to your advantage to ditch Webmin and use command line tools as I believe it's not a good idea to hide the inner workings behind a generic (and pretty clumsy and clunky) GUI interface.

  • As usual, a very sensible answer. Choose the one you're more experienced in, it will make life so much easier later on. – Mark Henderson Mar 11 '10 at 22:07

CentOS is rock solid, however If you have low resources (64MB ~ 256MB) go with Ubuntu Server.

Webmin will appear the same on both.

Remember that man and info are your best friends for a better learning experience.

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