Choosing an OS: CentOS, Ubuntu, Debian, FreeBSD, or Windows Server

Updated on August 16, 2015
Choosing an OS: CentOS, Ubuntu, Debian, FreeBSD, or Windows Server header image

This article provides a brief synopsis of the server operating systems offered as templates on Vultr.


CentOS is an open-source version of RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux). Created in 2004, CentOS is used widely in the hosting industry. Benefits include:

  • Easy to use for beginner level administrators.
  • Has long term support for certain versions (up to ten years).
  • Includes a simple package manager: yum (or dnf on newer releases)
  • Compatible with cPanel, and a variety of other server control panels.
  • Offered by industry leader, Red Hat.

Trade-offs include:

  • An irregular development cycle. Major releases don't happen on a set cycle; they happen every 3-5 years.
  • Due to long release periods, bundled software support is dated compared to other flavors of Linux.


Debian is a long-term-supported Linux distribution known for its universal compatibility. Benefits include:

  • Support for many architectures ( x86, x64, ARM, etc ).
  • Modern Linux kernel.
  • Large package repository.
  • Long term support.
  • Multiple desktop environment support.


Fedora is a cutting edge Linux distribution. It is part of the CentOS and RHEL family. The main goals of the distribution include:

  • Latest kernel and software package versions.
  • Short lifespan (13 months).
  • New releases roughly every 6 months.


FreeBSD is a flavor of BSD, which is a version of UNIX developed at the University of California, Berkeley. It is reliable, stable and has been updated for over 20 years. Benefits include:

  • Long term support.
  • Very lightweight.
  • Includes a package manager and port building system.

Trade-offs include:

  • Ports of Linux packages can take a long time.
  • Older filesystem design than other server operating systems.


OpenBSD is a UNIX-like operating system with a strong focus on security and cryptography. Benefits include:

  • New releases roughly every 6 months.
  • Lightweight UNIX operating system.
  • Security features not available in other operating systems.

Trade-offs include:

  • Routine system administration tasks can become more complicated due to additional security.
  • Less popular than other server operating systems.


Ubuntu is recognized for its stability and its large list of features. Benefits include:

  • Better software support.
  • Easy-to-use package manager: apt
  • Regular update cycles.
  • 5 year LTS (Long Term Support) templates available.

The regular updates and additional packages bundled into the installation create several trade-offs. These include:

  • Uses more disk space than other distributions.
  • Shorter LTS compared to CentOS.

windows-server">Windows Server

Windows Server is the server edition of the popular desktop operating system created by Microsoft. It is a closed-source operating system which requires license management. Vultr deployments handle license management automatically. Benefits include:

  • Supported by Microsoft.
  • Regular updates (from every few days to months).
  • Very long term support (more than 10 years).
  • User-friendly GUI (graphical user interface).
  • Great software compatibility.

Trade-offs include:

  • Licensing increases overall cost.
  • Closed source platform.
  • Programs can be more difficult to configure than on Linux/BSD.