One of the key decisions when setting up a virtual private server (VPS) is choosing the right operating system (OS) to install. The OS has a major impact on the server environment, security, resource usage, and compatibility with software.
In this guide, we’ll explore the criteria to consider when selecting a VPS operating system along with the strengths of different options.
Common VPS Operating System Options
Some of the popular OS choices for VPS deployments include:
- Linux – Open-source OS with many distributions like Ubuntu, CentOS, Debian, etc.
- Windows – Proprietary OS from Microsoft including Windows Server versions.
- BSD – Lightweight, secure Unix-based OS including FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD.
- Custom OS – Some VPS providers allow installing less common OS options.
Linux is the preferred choice for the majority of use cases owing to its stability, security and flexibility. But evaluate your needs to pick the right fit.
Key Factors to Consider
Here are some factors to assess when deciding the right OS for your VPS:
Compatibility With Software
Ensure the OS supports installing and running key software like web servers, databases, programming languages, etc. Linux is compatible with most common apps.
Management and Ease of Use
Consider the OS skills of your team and choose one that is easier for you to manage VPS infrastructure. For example, Linux control panels like cPanel or Webmin.
Performance and Resource Usage
Lighter-weight OS like Linux and BSD typically have lower resource usage than Windows, which improves VPS performance.
Some OS like OpenBSD pride themselves on advanced security capabilities for creating hardened VPS instances.
Make sure the OS can easily support scaling up the VPS hosting capacity by adding resources when needed.
If the VPS is used for application development, pick an OS aligned with target production environments like RHEL for enterprise Linux apps.
OS like Windows Server adds to the base price of a VPS while Linux OS is mostly free. Cost may be a consideration.
By evaluating these factors, you can determine the ideal operating system for your specific VPS workloads.
Linux as the Preferred VPS OS
Linux is the clear favorite when it comes to VPS deployments. Let’s look at some of the reasons contributing to its widespread adoption:
- Works with all mainstream web and application stacks including LAMP, LEMP, MEAN, etc.
- Highly stable and secure especially with LTS distributions like Ubuntu 20.04 LTS.
- Mature OS hardening and security enhancement tools are available.
- Supports all popular programming languages and dev tools eg. Python, Ruby, NodeJS, etc.
- Ideal for scalability and cloud infrastructure thanks to a tiny resource footprint.
- A broad ecosystem of management tools like cPanel, Webmin, Virtualmin, etc.
- Flexible with customization modules that can be added as needed.
- No licensing costs associated with Linux OS, unlike Windows.
For a wide range of VPS use cases, from basic websites to enterprise applications, Linux delivers the best blend of compatibility, security, performance, and ease of use.
When to Consider Windows OS
Despite Linux being the predominant option, Windows OS on a VPS may be suitable in certain cases:
- Already have strong Windows expertise in-house making management easier.
- Have legacy Windows-only apps and databases that require a Windows environment.
- Need tight Active Directory integration within a Windows domain environment.
- Require compatibility with .NET apps and development frameworks.
- Rely on Windows-exclusive tools and utilities like IIS, PowerShell, etc.
So while Linux covers the majority of use cases, Windows brings specificity for Windows-centric development and applications.
Choosing the right VPS OS involves assessing your software needs, management skills, security priorities, and long-term requirements. For most use cases, Linux distributions like Ubuntu or CentOS provide the best experience. But Windows brings benefits for Microsoft-based apps and skill sets. Carefully match your workload needs to pick the optimal VPS OS.