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Many options are available when considering which operating system (OS) to use for web hosting. In that context, a popular Linux distribution is often brought up. So, what is CentOS exactly in the world of Linux OSs? The Community Enterprise Operating System (CentOS) is an open-source operating system centered around Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) source code.

What is CentOS used for? Hosting has been what CentOS is known for since its release in 2004. CentOS has been the preferred Linux distribution in the hosting industry for many years, and it was only recently that Ubuntu Server overtook this distro as the primary OS used for web hosting.

CentOS logo

It’s important to note that CentOS Linux 7 will sundown on June 30, 2024. So, if that’s your preferred OS, you must research a viable alternative as the replacement. But, for now, let’s dive right in. We will discuss the five major benefits of using CentOS 7.

What is CentOS Best for? Why Use CentOS?

So, why use CentOS for web hosting? It’s a valid question with so many OS options available. Here are the top five reasons and features that justify choosing CentOS over all the others regarding your hosting needs.

Reason #1: Security

In today’s world, security is the primary concern that comes to mind, and CentOS has multiple security features built-in. One way CentOS helps protect you from cyberattacks
Lock and Keyis by utilizing Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux). What is CentOS in terms of its security features? 

SELinux is an access control mechanism that can enforce rules on processes and files based on policies that you define. One of the most beneficial features is that it reduces vulnerabilities to privilege escalation attacks.

If a process is hacked, the bad actor can only access that its standard functions and files. Because CentOS is more secure out of the box, it requires less initial configuration than other operating systems to get started. Additionally, CentOS regularly pulls backports (or updates) directly from Red Hat and quickly pushes those nightly updates out.

Reason #2: Extended Support

Tech SupportIf you’re developing a software application, stability and support are essential to your platform. If your application stack is expected to last for seven years, and the OS it’s built on will only receive updates for the next four years, you’ll run into some security problems once the OS reaches its end of life (EOL). So, what is CentOS in terms of its extended support model? 

With CentOS, major versions are supported for ten years and will receive security updates as needed. CentOS 7 was released on July 7, 2014, and will be supported until June 30, 2024. CentOS uses a very stable (and oftentimes more mature) version of its software, and because the release cycle is more prolonged, applications can be updated less often. This longer window of time allows for developers and major corporations who utilize it to save money as it decreases costs associated with additional development time.

Fewer upgrades also mean less downtime for updates. CentOS also supports nearly all hardware forms on the market today, including support for older hardware types. This fact allows users to maintain a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) when considering long-term use, including the cost of hardware maintenance.

For these reasons, CentOS is preferred by larger corporations and developers that require a more reliable and mature OS that has a longer release cycle. Additionally, because it is a free and open-source Linux distribution, no out-of-pocket cost is needed there.

Reason #3: Package Management

If you have an application or site in production, you don’t want it to change or have the packages updated when you need to run a specific version. specific version. CentOS uses the YUM (Yellowdog Updater Modified) package manager to keep your system current.Software

This use of YUM makes the operating system modular, meaning you can easily add and remove features as you’d like. CentOS is highly flexible and can be configured to accomplish almost any task. The wide variety of software titles allows it to function as a database server, mail server, web server, application server, file server, FTP server, proxy server, and more.

CentOS fits the bill if you need to set up a broad-based system that can handle a single task or a wide array of functionalities. Modern versions of CentOS can also take advantage of the latest containerization, virtualization, and Micro Services platforms, Docker or Kubernetes.

Because these technologies derived their support directly from Red Hat’s OpenShift platform, the utilization of these staging and deployment services makes the inherent administration of the applications running on those platforms much more accessible.

Reason #4: A Wealth of Documentation

DocumentationBecause CentOS is a widely used platform throughout the hosting world, there’s a large amount of information and documentation available for it on the web. The platform has a robust community of developers and users who share intelligence and other issues regularly — increasing its overall value as a preferred OS.

What is CentOS in terms of its documentation? There are multiple avenues of instruction, including forums and sites with guides about setting up and configuring CentOS properly. CentOS provides an excellent wiki found here in the link to the CentOS wiki archive.

Reason #5: Management & Control Panel Support

Lastly, what is CentOS in terms of its management and control panel interoperability? CentOS can support multiple management and control panel platforms, including:

  • cPanel
  • InterWorx
  • WebMin
  • DirectAdmin
  • Spacewalk
  • CWP
  • Plesk
  • ISPConfig
  • Virtualmin
  • Vesta CP

panelThese management panels make it easy to host multiple sites on your server, as well as keep all the core processes and server procedures easily managed. You can set up email, websites, FTP access, and many other functions for users on your server with an easy-to-use web interface.

Users can also completely manage all the complex tasks associated with server management with only a couple of clicks on these panels, thanks to features like:

  •   Backup management
  •   Software installation (for example, installing WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc.)
  •   DNS
  •   Network databases
  •   Additional security features like ConfigServer Firewall (CSF) management, brute force protection, and virus scanning

The Benefits of Using CentOS

What is CentOS all about? With all the natural features and improvements made by the CentOS community, the platform provides a significant upside to your business. Here are just a few of the benefits CentOS offers.

Benefit #1: Cost Effectiveness

What is CentOS in terms of its costs?  Since CentOS is open-source, it’s much more cost effective than traditional OS platforms. In fact, it’s free. The platform is distributed, maintained, and updated by the community of developers who support it.

Benefit #2: Stability

CentOS offers unrivaled software stability due to its longer release cycle. Since there is much more time between new versions of CentOS than with other OS platforms, people using the platform never had to worry about missing mission-critical updates or constantly migrating data to a new platform.

Now, with the pending sundown of CentOS, stability gets called into question. But, while you may not be using CentOS anymore, the same level of stability can be found on other platforms we’ll discuss later on.

Benefit #3: Customization

Since CentOS is open-source, anyone can update or modify the source code anytime. As a result, many developers within the community have released custom themes, dashboards, extensions, fonts, and window buttons.

Benefit #4: Community Support

What is CentOS in terms of the userbase? Community is central to what CentOS is. The developers who have — and continue to — access the platform’s source code provide all the support users will need. Together, they have compiled a vast library of tutorials and troubleshooting guides to help even the newest CentOS users.

How to Install CentOS

If you are new to CentOS, here are step-by-step instructions on installing the platform.

Step #1: Create a bootable drive

Download CentOS 7 and transfer the ISO file to a USB drive. If it’s easier or necessary, you can burn the image of the software onto a DVD or load it onto a virtual machine (VM).

Step #2: Boot Up CentOS 7

Please navigate to the CD-ROM or file image that contains your CentOS ISO file and run it. Once you click on the file, you can select Install CentOS 7. From there, the installation interface will launch.

If you’re installing from a USB, the process looks slightly different. Once you launch the file from your boot drive, you’ll want to click the Install to Hard Drive icon on your desktop, which will open the CentOS installation wizard.

Step #3: Install CentOS 7

The installation wizard starts by prompting you to select your language. Make your choice and then click continue. Next, you’ll see several icons representing your CentOS 7 settings. Anything with a “warning” sign next to it is something you need to configure before you can move forward with the installation process.

Some of the settings CentOS requires you to set are:

  • Date & Time — Select Date & Time under the Localization tab, and you’ll see a world map. Select your specific region and click Done.
  • Keyboard Layout — CentOS defaults to the English (US) keyboard layout. While still under the Localization tab, you can hit the “+” option next to the keyboard layout to display other options. As well, you are able to click the Options button and assign a key combination to toggle between keyboard layouts if necessary.
  • System Language — Under Localization, you’ll also want to select Language Support. The language you set at the beginning of the installation process will be the default. If you require CentOS to support additional languages, you can add them here and click Done to save your settings.
  • Software Selection — Choose the install type you want. Minimal is the most flexible option available. If you are confident in the role your server will play in your organization, you can choose from a list of Predefined Server Options. If you’re using CentOS in a way that requires a graphical user interface (GUI), you’ll want to choose the final option, GNOME Desktop and KDE Plasma Workspaces.
  • Installation Destination — Click the System tab and select Installation Destination. Here, you can choose Local Standard Disks to check your system’s storage capacity. CentOS will automatically install on the selected disk. For more control, you can select Other Storage Options and walk through automatic or manual partitioning steps.
    KDUMP configuration — KDUMP, the kernel crash dumping mechanism, is enabled by default. To deactivate it, uncheck the Enable KDUMP box within the System tab and click Done.
  • Network & Hostname — To set the Hostname, type in the full domain of your system. Select Configure and choose either IPv4 or IPv6 settings, whichever corresponds to your system. You’ll also want to add static IP so CentOS can recognize your computer on the network.
  • Security Policy — Under the System tab, select Security Policy. Choose profile from the picklist and click the Select Profile option. Once you find the best one for your use case, click Done to implement these changes.

Step #4: Begin Installation

Once you have all the settings configured how you want them, click the Begin Installation button. Congratulations! You’ve started the installation process.

Step #5: Generate Root Password

You’ll need to define the system’s root user. To do this, select the Root Password icon. Choose your root password and then re-enter it in the confirm field. Passwords must be at least 12 characters and can contain uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and special characters.

It’s critical that your password be something unique and challenging to decipher since it provides access to your entire system.

Step #6: Create User Profiles

Create new user accounts by entering the user’s full name, username, and password. You’ll also want to make the user and administrator and grant them root access to the system. Check the Make User an Administrator and Require a Password to Use this Account boxes. Once all fields are entered, and you’ve chosen a strong password, you can click Done in the upper left-hand corner.

Where to Use CentOS

CentOS 7 can be used on various physical and virtual devices, including laptops, embedded systems, workstations, and servers. It also supports all the major cloud computing platforms like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). So, now you better understand what is CentOS in terms of its usage capabilities.

How to Handle CentOS EOL

With June 30, 2024, rapidly approaching, many people in the tech world are scrambling to find a CentOS replacement. Large Fortune 500 companies rely on CentOS to power their digital worlds, so finding a viable option to take them into the future after June is a mission-critical task.

So what is CentOS like with regard to replacement options available as the OS approached its EOL? If you find yourself in the same position as the many enterprises that rely on CentOS, here are seven alternatives you can consider to usher you into the future of your business:

  1. Rocky Linux
  2. Debian
  3. Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL)
  4. Oracle Linux
  5. AlmaLinux
  6. VzLinux
  7. Ubuntu

As well, our knowledge base contains many article discussing the best Linux distributions for web hosting.

Alternative #1: Rocky Linux

Rocky Linux is an easy platform for former CentOS users to migrate to. It’s a production-ready platform that works on both x86_64 and ARM64 architectures. The platform also offers a simple script — migrate2rocky — allowing CentOS users to easily switch their system to the new software.

Alternative #2: Debian

Debian is a Linux distribution offered on the Unix operating system, giving users supreme versatility. The platform comes in three versions and can integrate with over 50,000 open-source packages. It accommodates i386, AMD64, IBM System Z, and Power PC architectures.

This platform isn’t beginner-friendly and will require some technical expertise. Additionally, new versions are released every two to three years – making for a much shorter release cycle and much less stability. Consider these factors and how you intend to use the platform before migrating to Debian.

Alternative #3: Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL)

Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) is the basis for CentOS 7, making it an excellent replacement option. REHL aims to serve the commercial or enterprise markets but is a great choice for teams that need reliability and consistency across multiple environments.

This platform supports x86_64, IBM Z, IBM LinuxOne, IBM Power, and ARM64 architectures. REHL is also available on a wide variety of platforms and can integrate with numerous different technologies, making it a solid platform for beginners.

Alternative #4: Oracle Linux

Oracle Linux, developed by Oracle, provides users with a beginner-friendly replacement to what CentOS is already doing for your system. This Linux distro can administer patches without interruption, provide a secure operating environment, and offer a highly flexible filing system to accommodate your business growth.

Alternative #5: AlmaLinux

AlmaLinux may be a good fit for beginners new to the platform, but requires some overall technical expertise. This Linux distro runs on x86_64, s390x, ppc64le, and ARM64 architectures. CloudLinux, Inc. offers this platform and is a fork of REHL meant to continue CentOS once it sundowns. AlmaLinux is an open-source, community-driven platform and provides new users with a conversion script, almalinux-deploy, to help make the transition from CentOS even easier. It is worth noting here that our knowledge base is an excellent resource for AlmaLinux information.

Alternative #6: VzLinux

Many IT experts refer to VzLinux as “the CentOS clone for virtualization.” This platform supports the x86_64 architecture and can run on physical servers, containers, and virtual machines.

VzLinux also provides a masking script, CentOS conversion dry runs, and it can run as a guest operating system in virtualization scenarios. It’s available in three versions – a virtual environment, a bare metal image for dedicated servers, and a high-dense system container. While the features are innovative, the platform requires significant technical expertise and is recommended for advanced users.

Alternative #7: Ubuntu

Ubuntu offers users scalability, security, and flexibility through its compatibility with a number of open-source programs and the fact that it supports most major architectures (x86_64, PowerPC, RISC-V, IBM system Z, and ARM64). It originates from the Debian fork of products and already comes with several valuable applications pre-installed.

Feature updates occur every six months, and new versions are released every two years. While this is a shorter release cycle, Ubuntu supports its latest product releases for up to 10 years, making it a reliable choice for users who need stability.

Final Thoughts

Are you still wondering what CentOS is going to do for your business? Our support admins are standing by to provide more info on these and any other hosting questions you may have. If you need assistance setting up your server or with the data outlined above, please don’t hesitate to call us at 800.580.4985 or open a chat session or ticket with us. We will be happy to assist. Our team of experts here at Liquid Web live and breathe web hosting solutions.

Original Publication Date

This article was originally published in August 2019. It has since been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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