When choosing a Linux distro, you may not know which will best suit your needs. But don’t worry – we can help.
Although Linux is perhaps best known as the basis for the Android mobile operating system, it’s also a popular platform for desktop and laptop computers. For the first time last year, its share of the global operating system market passed 2%. This is an impressive achievement for an open source software platform, especially one that’s competing against the pre-installed titans of Windows and OS X.
One Distro To Rule Them All
However, Linux’s greatest asset – its flexible open source architecture – has also led to one of its biggest drawbacks. Those proprietary alternatives from Microsoft and Apple only come in one flavor, with subtle changes between generations but minimal compatibility issues.
However, Linux has fragmented into numerous different versions (known as distros), each of which has enough unique characteristics to cause compatibility issues with other distros. There are ongoing arguments about the rival merits of each platform, and particularly the three versions that have come to dominate the Linux market in recent years.
Here, we outline the key benefits of each one:
Ubuntu. Market share: 35.2%*
It can be argued that Ubuntu represents the best of all worlds, blending the community-oriented ethos of Debian with the more commercialized CentOS. Ubuntu’s market dominance can also be attributed to its all-things-to-all-people ethos, with paid technical support and an attractive Desktop edition appealing to IT experts.
At the same time, Ubuntu has the same enthusiastic army of amateur advocates as other distros. Twice-yearly updates keep the platform contemporary without requiring comprehensive re-installation, and there’s little evidence of the sudden glitches often associated with rolling release Linux updates.
Debian. Market share: 31.8%*
Debian is perhaps the most community-oriented of the big Linux distros, while remaining wholly professional from a user’s perspective. Rather charmingly named after its founder and his girlfriend, Debian is reminiscent of WordPress in the availability of third-party plugins that perform specific functions.
As a standalone OS, Debian’s relatively small footprint is ideal for space-limited environments, while its rolling release program attempts to minimize the impact of changes on surrounding architecture. Like its rivals, Debian is frequently incorporated into a Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP stack for the creation of websites and apps, where stability is essential.
CentOS. Market share: 20.5%*
CentOS’s biggest attribute is the strength of its technical support, which is thanks to (or the fault of, if you prefer a rival distro) its ownership by Red Hat Enterprises Linux. Not to be confused with the fringe Red Hat distro (with which it shares the vast majority of its functionality and features), CentOS powers major platforms like CNBC.com and the Sears website. These sites chose CentOS because it’s a stable platform with cPanel compatibility and extensive debugging that ensures each new version is stable from day one. There’s also little requirement for the technical expertise demanded by Gentoo, and no need to worry about a lack of the software support that can sometimes cause issues with Fedora.
* – Market share data taken from W3Techs.com, February 2nd 2017
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