When it comes to web hosting there are dozens of distro options, but none are more popular than these two: CentOS and Ubuntu. Which to choose is what feels like an eternal battle between enthusiasts, and not one we plan to settle once and for all today.

Instead, we will say this: it depends on your experience level, your uptime requirements, and various other factors. As with any OS, there is no one-size-fits-all that will be the best in every situation. It's more important that you know the benefits and drawbacks of each so you can make an intelligent choice when it comes to your web hosting. So, let's look at those differences:

CentOS vs Ubuntu: The differences

Right out of the gate, the major difference between CentOS and Ubuntu is the architecture they're based on. Ubuntu is based on the Debian architecture, which is popular in desktop distributions ever since its 2004 release.

CentOS, meanwhile, is forked from Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). CentOS also released in 2004, targeting the enterprise primarily. It has since become incredibly popular for hosting.

So, they're both extremely popular despite their differing architectures, but what are the practical advantages of each?

Ubuntu's Advantages

The factors we've mentioned above primarily come down to preference. However, each OS has some distinct advantages over the other. Here are an Ubuntu VPS's advantages:

  • Ubuntu is more cloud-focused. It has a lot of support for containers and cloud deployments which makes it great for many modern use cases.
  • Ubuntu has more tutorials and support than CentOS. As the most popular desktop distribution around, the Ubuntu community is unrivalled. There is no shortage of experts on the distribution and plenty of guides. This means that fixing problems can be easier. The CentOS community is smaller, but still sizeable and passionate.
  • Ubuntu has more packages overall. The Ubuntu repository has tens of thousands of packages.
  • More frequent package updates on Ubuntu mean you're less likely to have to install them manually.
  • Ubuntu is generally more user-friendly.

CentOS's Advantages

CentOS users, meanwhile, benefit from the following:

  • CentOS supports cPanel, while Ubuntu doesn't. This is a big advantage for many admins as cPanel is a very well-made, intuitive, and popular control panel. Ubuntu does have alternatives, such as Webmin or VestaCP, but they aren't as widely known. The same goes for other popular web hosting tools.
  • Owing to its infrequent package updates, CentOS is considered more stable and secure than Ubuntu. This makes it a good choice for web hosting, where uptime can really matter.
  • Though Ubuntu has more tutorials and support, CentOS' less frequent updates mean that you may be more likely to find a solution for your specific version.
  • CentOS is less user-friendly, but also less "hand-holdy", which is likely a plus for experienced users.

Which is right for you?

A clear picture is likely forming after reading the information above. The bottom line is that an Ubuntu VPS is likely the best choice if you're an inexperienced Linux user or a user that likes to stay on top of all the latest developments. This is especially true if you've already used Ubuntu in a desktop environment.  

CentOS requires a little more experience, but its stability and security makes it an excellent choice for high-stakes environments and business owners. If you hate buggy updates and love cPanel, it's the obvious choice.

Truthfully, however, you'll be in good hands no matter which you pick. Both have excellent teams behind them, great features, and thriving communities. Don't stress too much about the choice and just select whatever feels right for you.