Before looking at options of best Linux server distros, you must have a specific target and clear overview what are you trying to achieve with this Linux Server OS. The hardware of servers is optimized for maximum efficiency, uptime, and security. These Linux distros for servers also balance between power consumption and computing power. These Linux Server OS focus on serving content to client devices and feature server creation tools does not give importance to GUI. Hence most of the Linux server OSs are headless.
Let’s see some of the best Linux server distros and what each one of them about helps you to pick the best one for your business.
Debian GNU/Linux 8 (Jessie)
Debian is over 20 years old, and one of the best Linux distros designed with top priority for security. However, the security is not everything when you consider Linux Server Distros, the stability is the top priority. Why are many of the Linux distros for server Debian-based! The quick answer is stability. For installing packages, users can make use of API tools, package manager provided, Gdebi being one of the tools.
If you are looking for an easy to set up email, online game or media server, this Linux server OS is for you. But this Linux distro is limited for such users alone, the users who have more specific server requirements can also depend on this. The later is for quite advanced users as it demands some expertise for setting up. The basic version of this Debian GNU Linux server, which is the Network Boot image, that is coming with pretty low size 30MB of size.
Download: Debian GNU/Linux 8 (Jessie)
Ubuntu 16 LTS
Ubuntu might be familiar for a majority of users as an alternative desktop operating system for Windows. Probably you might have used a derivative of Ubuntu when you switched to Linux platform since the list is so vast, popular and stable. One thing that makes Ubuntu popular is its marvelous user experience. When it comes to Ubuntu Server users have two options to choose.
The first variant of Ubuntu server is the LTS version (Long Term Support). This LTS version of this Linux distro offers a five-year support cycle. The second Ubuntu Server variant is the rolling-release, with nine months of maintenance and security updates. One of the pros of Ubuntu Server is, this Linux server is an out-of-the-box server ready. Ubuntu server is one of the best Linux server distros for you if you are a newbie to server operating systems. For newbies, this Linux server can act as an entry-level server. However, this server is not limited to basic functionality, more advanced server setups are out of reach for Ubuntu.
Download: Ubuntu 16 LTS
Open SUSE Linux Enterprise Server
This Linux server OS is based on the open-source openSUSE Linux distro, formerly known as SUSE Linux. Open SUSE has two derivatives: Leap and Tumbleweed. For those who are looking for Linux server distribution with longer release cycles and stability, then Leap is meant for you. Tumbleweed, on the other hand, fashions rolling release with up-to-date packages such as Linux kernel and SAMBA, which is apt for power users.
OpenSUSE has much more features such as openQA for automated testing, Kiwi to deploy the image on various platforms, Linux configuration utilizing YaST control center and a comprehensive package manager. OpenSUSE only downloads minimum required packages and for further package downloads, you can utilize Zypper package. If you are too busy for lengthy troubleshooting calls, OpenSUSE have you covered with 24×7 rapid-response support. OpenSUSE is one of the best Linux server distro, more suited for system administrators. This enterprise Linux server demonstrates great performance as a home server, web server or even as a combo of both. Apart from the top-notch server capabilities, it has an appealing desktop environment.
Download: Open SUSE Linux Enterprise Server
Fedora Linux distro is based on the Red Hat and is community developed and there is a good backup from community members for regular updates. The Rolekit tool of Fedora allows users to deploy and manage their servers. There is a powerful database service called PostgreSQL is included.
A server operating system does not necessarily require a GUI and by default, Fedora server lacks the same. But you may install GUI if you prefer for handling the OS. Fedora Linus server includes FreeIPA (an integrated security information management solution) which aids to perform auditing from a central location, manage authentication credentials and access control information. Fedora is best for system administrator and experienced Linux developers.
CentOS is the acronym for Community Enterprise Operating System and one of the best Linux Distro derived from the Red Hat. in fact, it is a reasonable clone of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux(RHEL). The objective of CentOS Linux distro is to help users develop open source technologies on Linux servers.
About 30 percent of overall Linux servers are operated on CentOS, the reason is the stability. Full updates are available for CentOS until the end of 2020, and the maintenance updates will be available until June 2024. Thus users are free from the hassle of upgrading in near future. The beauty of this bets Linux server OS is, CentOS can perform pretty well on mainframes. Due to the community support, and regular updates, CentOS is keeping as almost a bug-free Linux server OS. CentOS is an excellent solution for this who are looking for advanced Linux server operating system and free RHEL variant. The minimum size iso file available for CentOS is 680MB.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux(RHEL)
Red Hat is a major player in the data center game. This Enterprise Linux Server has pretty good support, almost non-stop, which includes ten-year support for major releases. RHEL not only has a long and quality commercial support but also offers stability operating system for servers. The enterprises who look for scalability improvements can depend on RHEL as this server OS offers on every major update. RHELL Linux distribution includes a new file system which can scale up to 500 TB. This Linux server also has a Docker container virtualization technology.
Download: Red Hat Enterprise Linux(RHEL)
Mandriva is known for prioritizing security and stability. Mageia includes a variety of environments such as KDE, GNOME, Xfce, and LXDE. When it comes to database, Mandriva uses MariaDB instead of MySQL. Servers such as Kolab Groupware Server and 389 Directory Server are also included with this Linux distribution. Since this light server distribution fashions a variety of environments, Mandriva is suitable for GUI thirsty users. What makes this Linux server distro a very dependable Linux server is the tools like MariaDB and Kolab Groupware Server. Apart from this, the stability and security make it more desired.
ClearOS is built for servers, network systems, and gateway machines, and is based on RHEL and CentOS. The standard version of ClearOS, which was formerly known as ClarkConnect, has security enhancement features. This Linux server OS features intrusion detection, email server, firewall and bandwidth management tools. ClearOS has its paid variants, but for the free version, users can rely on COmmunity Edition of ClearOS. The updates are also free but not tested. This Linux fashions an administration interface and has high-level documentation, which is ideal for less-experienced administrators.
Download: Clear OS
Arch Linux is noticed for being simple and lightweight OS. Like many other Linux distros, Arch Linux also consume fewer resources than its counterparts. To ensure maximum uptime and server efficiency, this lightweight Linux server distro properly allots resources. A pre-packaged server release is not available for Arch Linux, so users need to create their own (follow the steps from Arch Linux Wiki). The updates are rolling release models. To get the updates with full dependency tracking you can use Pacman package manager. Arch Linux is for that user who has the good technical knowledge to set up a server since a default server release is not provided.
Download: Arch Linux
Slackware is not a newbie in server distro game, it has been in the game since 1993. This Linux Server OS features X Window System and several servers (email server, web server, news server and FTP server). When you talk about lightweight Linux servers, Slackware is another one of the Linux Servers to hold that lightweight tag. The updates of Slackware ensures simplicity and stability furthermore. Package managers such as pkgtools and slackpkg are featured by this Linux server distro. But then Slackware boots into command line interface implies that, Slackware suits for more advanced users who can work on command line interface.
Container Linux (CoreOS)
The name Container Linux is to imply what it does, designed for deploying containers and apt for secure and scalable deployments. Easy clustered deploys with ways for service discovery is one of its use and also promotes support for Docker, Kubernetes, and rkt. One thing that Container Linux lacks is a package manager. There is flexibility in installation of this Linux server. Either you can opt for on-premise installation or go for virtualization mediums such as VMware, Azure and Amazon EC2. If your server has a cluster infrastructure it is for you, in other words, Container Linux is not for a basic user. But then with the help of official Docker images, it can function as basic media servers and so on.
Download: Container Linux (CoreOS)
There is a variety of Linux server distro available out there. Most of these Linux Distros are best Linux server distros, perform well, but limited to certain users and business. It is clear that not all of these Linux server distros is for everyone. Each one of them is meant for different types of users who are targeting different business model. It is important to understand your use and expertise before choosing a server operating system. Hope the above list help for the same.