Selecting the best Linux distro for business isn’t easy. With over three hundred active Linux distributions, choosing one for your business can take some serious time.
Admittedly, you don’t have to try all the Linux distro. A few distros, like deepin and elementary, are obviously aimed at desktop users. Probably, too, you won’t want Ubuntu Studio, with its emphasis on creativity, or DebianEdu, which is obviously intended for the class room. Yet even if you eliminate the distros that are a personal hobby or most of the dozens derived from Debian or Ubuntu, the choices are still overwhelming.
Instead, you probably need to begin with the question: What business task do you plan to use your choice of distros for?
Best Linux Distros for Business: Not Ordered by “Best”
The best Linux distro for business – for your business – is unique to your situation. So since your choice is particular to your business, this list is not ordered by “top” or “best” Linux distro. Peruse the options and see what works best for your challenges and issues. The top contenders:
Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL)
Think of Red Hat Enterprise Linux as the default option. If you are familiar with proprietary software, Red Hat offers you a similar relationship, including support and regular upgrades, but with a Linux distribution. It not only boasts military grade security and minimal downtime, but, perhaps just as important, more business experience than any of its rivals and developers responsible for many of the innovations in Linux.
If you are unable to afford RHEL, try its community-based source Fedora. Be warned, though, that Fedora is RHEL’s first-draft, the place where new features are tested, and may sometimes be less stable. Also, its support is community-based, which may be outside your comfort zone.
CentOS is a community-based distribution based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux rather than Fedora. That means that it has an extra level of testing that, theoretically, makes it even more robust and secure. Third party support is available, as well as third party releases for variations of the ARM architecture.
CentOS may suit you if a traditional relationship with a vendor is not a concern, but you still wish to enjoy some of the advantages. As with any community-based software, it requires at least one person in your business able to put in time to remain knowledgeable and up to date.
As a first generation descendant of Debian (see below), Ubuntu is not a bad choice for any business purpose. However, if your concern is the cloud — specifically OpenStack — then you should look at Ubuntu.
In the last five years, Ubuntu has moved its efforts away from the general Linux desktop to the cloud. It was an early adapter of OpenStack, and Canonical Software, the company behind Ubuntu, now claims that its OpenStack solution runs two-thirds of OpenStack deployments with over one thousand users. In addition, its OpenStack Autopilot is one of the easiest ways to install, configure, and upgrade OpenStack.
If security is your concern, Linux has numerous distributions, including Tail, Subgraph, and Whonix. However, if you want a security distribution that all employees can run from their desktops, the obvious choice is QubesOS.
The major feature of QubesOS is security domains — different levels of security to which running applications are assigned. Even routine actions like copying a file are conducted in temporary security domains. As a result, any security violation is restricted to a very small part of the operating system, and can be easily contained.
This setup requires more RAM and storage than most distributions, especially if you use more than a few security domains. However, for easy and efficient security, no other distribution is so effective.
If you want to move all your employees to a Linux desktop, your choices are practically endless. However, if you want to make the transition as painless as possible, I suggest Linux Mint.
Based on Ubuntu and Debian, Linux Mint supports two classical desktops – that is, two desktop environments that consist of a work space, a panel, and a menu. MATE is a fork of GNOME 2, comparable to a Windows 7 or XP desktop, while Cinammon is a new, highly configurable classic desktop. Both seem to add new features with each release, but any regular computer user should feel comfortable in them in less than hour. In fact, some users may hardly notice the transition.
ChromiumOS (Chrome OS)
ChromiumOS is the distribution designed for Chrome Books — inexpensive computers that use cloud storage and online services as much as possible. As a business solution, they are ideal for employees who spend their time traveling or are scattered across different locations, yet need to share resources for each other. Best of all, support and maintenance are not your concern, although you should definitely look up encryption and other additional security measures.
If your answer is a secure server that you are going to maintain in-house, then the obvious choice is Debian Stable. In fact, Debian is a reasonable Linux distro for most business needs.
True, Debian rarely has the latest versions of software, and several years sometimes passes without a new release. However, for a server, those are not the features you want. You want a well-tested, quickly patched operating system – and no other distribution meets those criteria as well as Debian.
The one problem may be finding a qualified sysadmin to maintain your Debian servers. However, Debian is the source of almost two-thirds of the existing distros, so finding one shouldn’t be too difficult so long as you can pay market rates.
The Advantages of Direction
Take a moment to define your business needs, and choosing a Linux distribution becomes much easier. In many cases, you will still have more than one choice, but, because you have direction, deciding on the one you need should become much simpler. At the very least, it should reduce the amount of research you need to reach a decision.