Why choose Debian over Ubuntu for a server?

As an experienced GNU/Linux system administrator, I’ve been recommending Debian to my colleagues as the go-to GNU/Linux distribution for servers. Ubuntu is an attractive alternative, and for small to medium-sized installations I like it a lot. However, I’m also an Ubuntu user and I still like Debian and feel comfortable working on servers running Debian. So in this blog post, I’m going to give reasons why Debian is a better choice for your server!

Debian is more stable

Many Ubuntu users I meet are used to the Ubuntu/Linux “crash when you least expect it”, and they like it that way. However, the Ubuntu community is very passionate about its distribution, and this is a good thing. But, I think that Debian is just more mature, and more stable. I’ve been using Linux systems for more than 10 years, and Debian for almost 6 years. Debian’s community is much more mature than Ubuntu’s, and Debian is based on a much more mature Linux kernel. That’s the reason that Debian has been around for more than 20 years. I believe that the Ubuntu community will find that Ubuntu is also more stable in time.

Debian is more secure

One of the most obvious reasons to choose Debian over Ubuntu is security. Debian doesn’t have a “non-free” repository by default like Ubuntu. This means that the software repositories for Debian are more secure. Also, Debian has no user-facing GUI on server installations. This means that there is no graphical user interface to allow users to accidentally do something stupid, like deleting a MySQL database server or running the PHP interpreter.

It’s easy to create a local user account on your server, and have root-level access to your server with this user. This makes it very easy to add your own packages to Debian and run root-level commands that will install things that are not appropriate for users to run. You should be very careful running programs that are not in Debian’s repositories. It can very easily lead to your system being hacked. If you’re using Ubuntu as your server, it’s best to be careful that you don’t do anything that your software could easily compromise.

Debian is more reliable

You can use Linux software that’s not in the repositories to make your system more reliable. In Ubuntu, you can add your own software to the repositories, and install that software on your server. In Debian, the policy is that you should only use software from Debian’s repositories. If your computer is doing something, it should be doing it the same way every time. Whenever your programs are running in non-Debian software, they could have different versions and/or settings than other computers running the same versions of Debian. This also makes it more likely that your computer will stay secure because the software will do the right thing.

What should I use?

We recommend Debian 11 and Ubuntu 20.04 LTS as a server operating system. In other words, that’s our choice. If you run a server and you like Ubuntu, use Ubuntu. If you prefer Debian, use Debian, it is more lightweight and stable. Keep in mind, that Ubuntu is owned by Canonical corporation, while Debian is community-driven.


Debian is easier to install and maintain than Ubuntu. Also, it is more reliable than Ubuntu. Ubuntu can get buggy at times. Debian will not interfere with Ubuntu software. If you like Ubuntu, you should be fine with Debian. But if you prefer Debian, the server version of Debian is really good.

Debian will probably work with your computer just fine. But the difference between the Ubuntu and Debian repositories makes it easy to get Ubuntu software on a Debian server. So, if you prefer Ubuntu, there’s nothing wrong with installing a copy of Ubuntu on your server.

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