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Recommended Host for Debian
What Is Debian?
Debian is a computer operating system, much like Windows and Mac OS X. It's a particular flavour of Linux that includes additional software and utilities. Users choose it because it's much more convenient to have everything in one installer, rather than downloading things as and when required.
A Brief History of Debian
Originally founded in 1993, Debian has a long history which pre-dates the majority of the web - and the majority of other Linux distributions. Its founding developer was Ian Murdock, a German-born American software engineer, who named the software after his girlfriend at the time (Deb) and himself.
Ian made the first iteration of Debian formally available in 1996 and has had its fair share of controversy. In 2006, Mozilla announced that Firefox and Thunderbird couldn't be distributed with Debian because of the way the developers removed certain images, so they appear under codenames: Iceweasel and Icedove respectively. More recently, Debian has been forked to a new distribution, Devuan (pronounced 'Dev One'), because of a disagreement over how the OS boots up. Devuan will not include systemd.
Toy Story: No, Really
Interestingly, Debian has a rather unlikely connection to Pixar. Its versions are named after characters in the Toy Story movies, while its trunk is named after the bad boy next door, Sid.
Why? Project Leader Bruce Perens worked at Pixar for 12 years, and part of his time there overlapped with his time working on Debian. This explains this charmingly odd connection between the two.
Trivia fans note: the Debian logo may be a homage to Buzz Lightyear's facial hair.
Debian Pure Blends
There are now several versions of Debian, including Debian Live (which can be run from removable media). In addition, there are Pure Blends - versions developed for a specific user group. These include:
- Debian Junior (for children up to age 8 - read more in this interview with Susanne Reininger)
- Debian Med (for medical care applications)
- Debian Edu (for schools and colleges)
- Debian Accessibility, which includes support for braille devices, screen readers and more.
Pure Blends focus on specific app categories.
What's Included With Regular Debian?
Debian is made up of the Linux or kFreeBSD kernel plus tens of thousands of extra software packages. The latest version has more than 37,000 additional tools and applications bundled right into the OS. Everything that is shipped with Debian is free.
Tools offered with Debian include some recognisable names, and some that will be entirely new to non-Linux users:
- Iceweasel (Firefox)
- Various language packs
- Documentation for most of the utilities.
You can see a full list of packages on the Debian website.
You can install Debian yourself on any compatible PC. It can be downloaded using P2P software, or you can install it from an official CD or DVD. Be warned that the CD version of Debian is distributed on 69 discs, so downloading the software is a sensible choice.
If you don't want to install Debian, you can run it from a memory stick or optical media. For this, you must install the Debian Live version.
Hosting For Debian
The official hardware requirements for Debian are listed on its website. However, the page warns that it's impossible to give server specs since Debian has so many potential uses. It's best to rely on the guidance of your hosting provider.
Everything that comes as part of Debian is free and open source, so you won't see additional fees being added to your web hosting bill. However, not all hosts offer a choice of Linux distribution: you'll often get whatever you're given, so look specifically for Debian hosting as an option when shopping around.
If you're looking for a dedicated server, you'll have more choice in the type of Linux you can use, so there may be some room for negotiation.
Debian Hosting Frequently Asked Questions
What is Debian?
Debian is a mature, Unix-like operating system, which has gone through numerous releases over the past two decades. The OS is still under development and receives regular updates. Due to long lifetime, frequent updates, and numerous awards, it remains a very popular GNU/Linux distro for servers.
What makes it different from other Linux distros?
Debian has evolved to encompass various software suites and popular utilities, allowing users to install everything in one go, rather than download and add on additional components. Several different versions of Debian are available, which makes it suitable for different niches.
Is Debian free? What about the add-on software packages?
Yes, Debian is free and can be downloaded from various sources on the internet, or via P2P networks. Debian is published under a Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG) compliant software license and is free and open-source. All packages and applications bundled with Debian are free as well.
In case you were wondering, tens of thousands of applications are available through different Debian software packages.
What sort of hardware do I need to use Debian?
There is no simple answer to this question. Debian comes in so many different versions aimed at a myriad of different use-cases that it's impossible to come up with a straight answer.
Under the hood, Debian is GNU/Linux, so it is very scalable and can run on ancient hardware as well as multiprocessor servers. Numerous architecture ports are available as well, in case you want to use Debian on specific types of hardware, such as AMD Opteron chips, ARM-based processors, or more exotic platforms like SPARC chips.
Do I need to watch out for something if I want to get a dedicated server for Debian?
There is really not much to think about. Debian should have absolutely no trouble running on the vast majority of currently available dedicated servers. Numerous hosts offer Debian plans and dedicated servers. You should have no trouble installing and running Debian on barebones servers, either.
I am not sure I need a dedicated server right now. What about Debian Virtual Private Server (VPS) plans?
A lot of reputable hosts offer different types of Debian VPS plans. These are usually based on virtualization platforms like VMWare, Xen, Linux-VServer, User-Mode Linux, Virtuozzo, OpenVZ and so on. Many of these plans are geared towards developers or small businesses, so entry-level pricing tends to be relatively low. Cloud VPS options are available as well.
Are good shared Debian-based plans available?
You should have no trouble finding hosts offering Debian-based shared web hosting plans. Affordable cloud plans are available as well, and they could be an appealing alternative to traditional shared hosting.
Why are there so many different versions of Debian?
There are more than a hundred Debian-based GNU/Linux distributions available.
They are specialized distributions designed for a small and specific groups of users, such as children, visually impaired users, healthcare institutions, schools, universities, and so on. Debian calls these specialized distributions, "Pure Blends."
In addition to these, there have been attempts to create operating systems for video workstations or simple media centers. The Russian Army uses a Debian-based OS with improved security, while Valve uses SteamOS for gaming. Canonical's Ubuntu, one of the most popular distributions, is also Debian-based.
Does Debian support languages besides English?
The Debian installer is available in more than 70 languages, but the actual level of localization depends on which language you choose. If you are interested in languages like Spanish, French, German, Portuguese or Russian, you should be in the clear.
Is Debian secure?
Debian tries to handle all security issues publicly, so it may seem less secure than it is. Of particular interest is a highly publicized OpenSSL vulnerability that was discovered in 2008. Debian issued a patch, but it was difficult to implement since a lot of keys and certificates had to be regenerated. But in general, Debian is a secure operating system.
How hard is it to install Debian on my own?
Thanks to Debian's popularity, well-written and comprehensive documentation and installation guides are available online. You should have no trouble finding the right one for you.
However, if you are inexperienced and if this is your first time installing a server OS, you might seek out some expert expert advice.
Is Debian hosting more expensive than other kinds?
No. Debian uses off-the-shelf technology and since it’s free, there is really nothing to worry about.
What are the downsides to using Debian?
There aren't too many, at least not from a hosting perspective. Much is just a question of what you value. For example, Ubuntu is optimized to favor new technology and features. In contrast, Debian tends to lag behind because of its focus on stability.
The biggest downside with Debian is that you have a lot of choices. You need to do a bit of research to determine which version you wish to install — and which packages.
What about Debian support?
Debian.org offers limited support and features loads of useful documentation, guides, and tips. If you want professional support, you will need to find a contractor to provide it.