What Is CentOS?
CentOS is a free and versatile OS based on the popular open-source Linux system.
This OS is well-suited for hosting resellers and those who prefer a Linux-driven server.
What Operating System Does Your Web Host Use — and Why Does it Matter?
One of the many factors that should be considered when choosing a web host is which operating system (OS) drives your host’s servers.
You may not give much thought to what OS your servers are running, as long as it keeps your website up and running.
Impact of Your Web Host’s OS
But the OS your host uses can affect:
- How your website performs
- What kind of controls you see and use on the backend
- What kinds of applications and content your site can use.
That’s why it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with what OS options are out there, and how they can affect your hosting experience.
Unix vs. Windows
Generally, you’re going to be deciding between:
- A Windows-driven server
- A server running some version of UNIX (or the popular open-source version of UNIX, Linux).
(For most users, the decision winds up being a choice between Linux and Windows.)
About Linux Distributions
Linux is available in many distributions (i.e. versions).
These distributions share a large amount of code and look almost alike from the command line.
But they differ in details like:
- File system layout
- Configuration files
- Software distribution methods.
More importantly, they have different support organizations and models.
What Is CentOS Hosting?
CentOS is short for “Community Enterprise Operating System.”
The software is a free community-supported computing platform, derived from Red Hat Linux — the source code of a Linux distribution created for commercial applications.
Linux: Popular with Web Hosting Resellers
In fact, your current host might be using it right now to run their servers.
Catch a glimpse of the mind behind Linux in this intriguing Ted interview with Linus Torvalds.
CentOS vs Windows
Though it can be a great OS for private users, Windows isn’t ideal for running servers (though there are other benefits to Windows hosting depending on your needs).
A web host that uses a Windows-run server might be easier for the host to set up, but would require more RAM and other resources to run your website — possibly running up your bandwidth, and your bill.
On the other hand, a Linux-based server will take a bit more know-how to set up and configure properly, but the lightweight, low-overhead nature of the Linux OS makes it ideal for running servers.
How does CentOS Differ from Other Linux Distributions?
And unlike other Linux distributions, CentOS is targeted for commercial purposes rather than tinkering or “hackability” by its users.
The developers of CentOS are more conservative, placing a priority on consistent performance, security, and compatibility rather than trying to be cutting edge.
As a result, CentOS has a longer release cycle between versions and is generally more polished, stable, and reliable than other Linux distributions.
Red Hat Distributions
CentOS is the most popular Linux distribution for web hosting.
It’s one of three distributions from Red Hat:
- Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) is the commercial version, and it’s popular with large organizations.
- Fedora has frequent releases, making it attractive to developers.
- CentOS issues one release a year, plus security updates as needed. Red Hat supports releases for seven years.
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Benefits of Using CentOS
It’s widely used on cloud, VPS, and dedicated servers.
As a fully-featured Linux variant, CentOS can be used to set up blogging, e-commerce and multimedia content solutions (including podcasting) for your site.
CentOS Support for Languages
It also supports all of the most popular coding and scripting languages, and their frameworks, such as:
Whether you want to write a small custom script for your WordPress installation or build multilevel database management applications, CentOS has you covered.
CentOS is supported by most hosting providers, especially those specializing in customers who resell hosting themselves.
As one of the industry standards for Linux, pricing generally falls in line with other Linux-driven hosting packages.
Be sure to check with your hosting provider for complete details.
Web hosting services and their customers like the stability CentOS provides.
CentOS is well-suited for:
- Virtual private servers
- Dedicated servers
- Shared hosting.
There’s strong community support through mailing lists and forums, with active participation by Red Hat.
Binary files that run on RHEL run on CentOS, and vice versa.
Additional community-based software, not formally supported by Red Hat, is available through the EPEL Repository.
CentOS vs. Debian and Ubuntu
The biggest competitor to the Red Hat family of Linux distributions is the Debian family, including Ubuntu.
These distributions are more community-oriented and less closely managed than Red Hat’s.
Ubuntu’s long-term releases nearly match Red Hat’s regarding stability (5 years of support vs. 7), but Ubuntu has more software options and more complexity to go with them.
Snaps vs. Flatpak
Ubuntu supports “snaps,” universal Linux software packages which promise to make automated software distribution easier.
Red Hat has countered with Flatpak, which makes the same promise but isn’t compatible with Snap. Two competing “universal formats.” What can you say?
How to Choose a Linux Distribution for Web Hosting
Each Linux distribution has its own committed fans.
From the standpoint of hosting or reselling websites, you’ll be mostly concerned with:
- Which one runs the software you want to use
- How well it’s set up.
CentOS for Hosting Resellers: Control Panel Considerations
As a primary operating system for web hosting resellers, CentOS is often used to support both Web Host Manager (WHM) and cPanel installations.
If you’ve ever gone “behind the scenes” to set up your website, create accounts, add content, or install applications, you’ve probably used a control panel application like WHM or cPanel to do so.
Both WHM and cPanel are optimized for Linux, so a host with CentOS is a good choice if you prefer using one of these control panels.
Another popular web hosting control panel is CentOS Web Panel.
If you’re planning to resell hosting on your own site, cPanel and WHM are the primary components you’ll want to add to your CentOS installation.
In a nutshell, WHM hosting allows you to create and manage hosting accounts for your clients.
You can then use cPanel (managed by you via WHM) to give your customers a control panel they can use to set up and maintain their own hosted sites.
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Top CentOS Hosts: My Recommendations
I’ve listed a few personal recommendations here for excellent CentOS web hosts.
These options may give you a jumpstart in your search for a solid web host.
SiteGround: CentOS Used in All Plans
SiteGround uses CentOS for all its shared, dedicated, and cloud servers.
It provides multilingual, international support around the clock.
Daily backups, Cloudflare CDN, and free SSL certificates are available with all web hosting plans.
CentOS plus strong security measures help to keep your site safe.
Bluehost: CentOS Used for Shared, Dedicated, and VPS Linux Servers
BlueHost has CentOS with SSH access and cPanel for its shared, dedicated, and VPS Linux servers.
The web server is a customized version of Apache.
One-click installation is available for popular software packages.
Automatic backups are included, and 24/7 support is available. BlueHost doesn’t offer reseller hosting.
A2 Hosting: CentOS Used for VPS Plans and One Dedicated Plan
The managed server comes with:
- SSL security
- SSD storage.
Root access is optional.
An inexpensive unmanaged VPS plan includes the same OS choices and root access.
Support is available at all times by phone and live chat.
What are the Pros & Cons of CentOS?
Summary: Here’s a wrap-up of the main pros and cons of using CentOS.
- Well-maintained, stable Linux distribution
- Supported by Red Hat and highly compatible with RHEL
- Infrequent releases
- Fewer software options than some other distributions
Closely related features
CentOS Frequently Asked Questions
- What is CentOS?
CentOS is an operating system with a Linux kernel. It’s one of the most popular Linux-based operating systems in web hosting.
CentOS is derived from the code of one of the most popular Linux-based operating systems, Red Hat Linux.
- When was CentOS first released?
CentOS has been available since 2004, when it was first forked from Red Hat Linux.
- What does the name ‘CentOS’ mean?
CentOS stands for Community Enterprise Operating System.
- Why is CentOS popular?
CentOS is stable, reliable, and secure, which keeps website vulnerabilities and application bugs to a minimum. If offers the tools and features that developers need, has good security, and it can be deployed very cheaply.
It’s also compatible with common web hosting software and programming languages. CentOS also has an active community of supporters and developers.
- Why does it matter which version of Linux my host uses?
Some operating systems run slightly slower than others, and not all software runs on every operating system. CentOS is a good general purpose Linux-based OS that offers support for the most commonly-used scripts, languages, and programs.
If you don’t plan to install your own software on your hosting plan, the version of Linux probably won’t matter.
- How do I install CentOS on my web hosting server?
It’s easier to choose a host that provides CentOS than try to install it yourself. Many hosts will not allow you to reinstall the operating system, or they may insist that you pay them to do it for you. Check this before purchasing hosting, if it’s an issue.
- Which hosting companies use CentOS?
Many of the world’s best-known hosting companies use CentOS. For example, Siteground uses it on shared hosting and dedicated servers.
- How does CentOS compare to Windows?
CentOS is designed for commercial use, so it can match windows for performance and security. But if you need Microsoft-specific features for your applications, CentOS won’t support them.
- Is CloudLinux better for cloud hosting?
- Why would I choose CentOS over Red Hat?
The main difference is that Red Hat is not free. CentOS is a community-run project derived from Red Hat, and is free.
- How does CentOS compare to Ubuntu Server?
Ubuntu Server is based on the Debian distribution of Linux. Developers generally have a preference for their own favored Linux distribution.
Some developers consider Ubuntu to be more resource-intensive, because it ships with extra features. However, Ubunto has a shorter release cycle than CentOS.
Note that you cannot run cPanel on Ubuntu Server, which may be an issue for your web hosting account.
- Is CentOS compatible with cPanel?
Yes. CentOS is one of the three operating systems supported by cPanel.
- What are add-ons?
CentOS can be extended with add-ons, which add features to the core operating system.
- What coding languages does CentOS support?
CentOS supports all common Linux-compatible coding and scripting languages including PHP, Ruby on Rails, Perl, Python and CGI.
- Are there any downsides to CentOS?
Because CentOS is free, there is no official support, and there are no certification programs. CentOS is also developed to be stable, so it doesn’t get updated with new features as often as some of its rivals.