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Top 5 Linux Distros for Web Hosting

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Linux is an open-source operating system based on Unix. It was developed by Linus Torvalds back in 1991 while he was a student. As it gained popularity, other developers started working on it, giving rise to a large community of Linux users and contributors.

While Linux was originally only used by computer enthusiasts, it has since matured. Today, it’s one of the most used operating systems by governments, corporations, and non-profit organizations. There are two primary reasons for this growing interest in Linux: it’s highly secure and it’s free.

Top 5 Linux Distros for Web Hosting

Because Linux is open source, anyone can modify it to make their version known as a distribution or distro. Each version is based on the same Linux core, called the kernel, but adds its own unique set of software solutions. These solutions include apps, utilities, and a graphical user interface.

When choosing a Linux distro for web hosting, you should consider some important characteristics, such as special features, control panel compatibility, pricing, and support.

1. Debian

Debian is a free, open-source Linux distribution that was first released in 1993. It’s developed and maintained by a community called The Debian Project and led by an annually elected project leader.

Due to its popularity and versatility, several Linux distributions were based on Debian. The most prominent of those distributions is Ubuntu, which we’ll cover next.

Debian has a big community of developers and users, and it's used in both desktop and server systems. Furthermore, while Debian doesn’t support the most popular control panel solution, cPanel, it does support Plesk.

Generally speaking, Debian is one of the best Linux server distros for most web hosting needs.

2. Ubuntu Server

Ubuntu, one of the most popular Linux distributions, was released in 2004. This distribution is based on Debian and developed by Canonical Ltd. Its server edition is Ubuntu Server.

Unlike its standard version, Ubuntu Server doesn’t have a graphical user interface (GUI). Furthermore, this distribution is known for its large, active community of users. In addition to that, it's supported by many popular control panel solutions, such as cPanel and Plesk.

Ubuntu Server also comes with unique features, including Juju and MAAS. Juju is a multi-cloud orchestration solution that you can use to plan and deploy cloud infrastructure in a breeze. With MAAS, you can save a lot of time on physical hardware setup because this solution treats physical servers as cloud resources.

If you choose Ubuntu Server as your Linux server distro, you will also have the option to upgrade to Ubuntu Pro. This premium version of Ubuntu Server comes with 24/7 support from Canonical and some beneficial features for production environments. For instance, the Kernel Livepatch feature lets you apply Kernel security updates without rebooting. 

Overall, Ubuntu Server is a great Linux distro for web hosting.

3. Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL)

RHEL is a commercial open-source Linux distribution that was first released in 2000. It’s developed and maintained by Red Hat Inc., an IBM subsidiary.

In contrast to the other Linux distributions covered in this article, RHEL isn’t free. However, there are a few free ways to access it, including the Individual Developer Subscription and the no-cost trial option.

The Red Hat Developer Subscription for Individuals is a way of using RHEL for free in non-production environments. Developers can get it by joining the program on Red Hat’s official website. There’s also the no-cost trial option, available to anyone who wants to test-drive RHEL for up to 60 days.

RHEL’s unique features include Red Hat Network and Red Hat Satellite. You can use these tools to simplify and improve large-scale server deployments.

Large corporations prefer RHEL to other distributions because Red Hat offers the highest quality of official support in the entire Linux landscape. RHEL is also compatible with popular control panel solutions like cPanel and Plesk. These facts make it an especially valuable Linux distro for web hosting.

4. AlmaLinux

AlmaLinux is a free, open-source Linux distribution that was released in 2021. It’s developed and maintained by a community known as The AlmaLinux OS Foundation and sponsored by Red Hat.

AlmaLinux’s latest version is 9.1, released on November 16th, 2022.

Back in 2020, Red Hat announced it would discontinue the development of CentOS, one of the best Linux distributions for servers. In response to this news, CloudLinux decided to create AlmaLinux as an alternative to CentOS.

Like CentOS, AlmaLinux is a free fork of the commercial RHEL distribution. Since its release, many CentOS users have considered the advantages and disadvantages of CentOS vs. AlmaLinux. The fact that it was first released in 2021 makes AlmaLinux the youngest of the five distributions reviewed in this article.

AlmaLinux is supported by many popular control panel solutions, including cPanel and Plesk. It’s a worthy successor to the beloved but discontinued CentOS distribution.

5. Fedora

Fedora is a free, open-source Linux distribution that was released in 2003. It’s developed and maintained by a community known as Fedora Project and sponsored by Red Hat.

The latest version of Fedora Server, 38, was released on April 18th, 2023.

Fedora has five flavors: Workstation, Server, CoreOS, IoT, and Cloud. Web hosting users should consider the Server, CoreOS, and Cloud editions for their needs.

An interesting fact about Fedora is that it’s the Linux distribution of choice for Linus Torvalds. It’s also the most cutting-edge distribution as it prioritizes innovation over stability. This tendency makes Fedora great for developers and Linux veterans.

Unfortunately, Fedora doesn’t support popular control panel solutions like cPanel and Plesk. This fact makes it a less-than-optimal choice for inexperienced hosting users, including hosting resellers and their clients.

Which is the Best Linux Distro for Web Hosting?

Choosing a Linux distro for your server can be very time-consuming. Various distributions are available, and they share many similar features and capabilities.

The following table should help you decide which is suitable for your web hosting needs.

Final Thoughts

Due to its security and open-source nature, Linux is a popular operating system used by governments, corporations, and non-profit organizations. Furthermore, various forms of Linux are developed and published by commercial and non-commercial organizations.

These forms are known as distributions, and the best ones for web hosting include Debian, Ubuntu Server, RHEL, AlmaLinux, and Fedora. Each distribution has unique features and strengths, making it suitable for different use cases.

Debian and Ubuntu Server have the largest communities, RHEL provides the highest level of support, AlmaLinux is a free fork of RHEL, and Fedora is ideal for power users. Make sure to consider all of these factors when deciding which Linux distro is best for web hosting.

Avatar for Joseph Molloy

About the Author: Joseph Molloy

Liquid Web Security Operations tech Joseph spends his days cleaning up malware and doing his part to keep the Internet safe. He is interested in all things Linux and always looking for something new to learn. In addition, he enjoys cooking and playing guitar, is an avid horror and sci-fi reader, and is a fan of black metal music.

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