Community Blog How to Select Your Operating System for Your Cloud Server?

How to Select Your Operating System for Your Cloud Server?

This article explains how to select the appropriate operating system for your cloud server.

By Alain Francois and Pablo Puig

The cloud is a service system that offers different services to all its customers. Windows and Linux have advantages and disadvantages as operating systems (OS) for cloud servers. Usually, hosting your service would require you to host it on a server in a data center. Therefore, choosing the appropriate OS is a crucial part of your cloud server setup. You can choose between Windows or Linux.


Linux can be a less expensive solution because it is an open-source operating system. You don’t need to buy licenses or time-limited subscriptions to use it. You need to purchase licenses to use Windows. Linux is license-free, but distribution can be costly depending on the support.

Remote Access

Linux systems integrate a native solution known as terminal and shell for SSH access, while Windows offers a terminal server/client that needs to be installed and configured. A common way for remote access on Windows is through RDP, which allows you to manage it with familiar icons and menus.

Software and Features

The main benefit of Linux is centered around open-source technology, such as the Apache web server, and some cPanel for backend administration, while the Windows Server runs services created and maintained by Microsoft. For Windows and Linux, earlier versions may be end-of-life (EOL) operating systems, meaning they are no longer supported. This means patches, security fixes, bug fixes, etc. will no longer be provided by the manufacturer.

Control Panel

The most popular control panels on Linux systems are cPanel or Web Host Manager (WHM), and the most popular control panel on Windows is Plesk. Your cloud provider can also offer Plesk on Linux, and you can choose whichever one makes you feel comfortable.


On the one hand, Linux provides more opportunities for server optimization and has less intensive hardware requirements. On the other hand, since Windows needs to run a graphical environment, it needs more resources to run properly.


Since Windows runs a graphical environment, it is seen as a potential point of attack, but Linux is assumed to be more secure because it offers command line management. Also, there are countless different versions of Linux, which has the advantages of being a widely-distributed enterprise solution that is very stable and tested heavily.

Which Operating System (OS) Should I Choose?

Which operating system should I choose? This is a very common question I always read. The answer to the question is not easy because it depends on your use case and scenario. Let’s explore the most common operating systems Alibaba Cloud offers with different scenarios:


Windows is one of the most popular and familiar operating systems because it is easy to use, easy to install, and user-friendly. It is a paid operating system, but you can benefit from long-term support and compatibility with other Microsoft products.


Debian is a Linux distribution. Therefore, it is completely free. It supports many libraries, architecture, and filesystems through a DKMS contribution. Typically, it releases a new major version on a 2-year release cycle with three years of full support and an additional two years of long-term support. It also has a larger repository of free software.


CentOS is another Linux distribution. It is compatible with the RPM package format and uses YUM/DNF as the package manager. It supports minor version upgrades, such as CentOS 7.8 to CentOS 7.9. Typically, major releases have a 10-year lifespan, assuring frequent bug reports and minor patches to keep the current version secure and solid. However, this release schedule makes upgrades between major releases complicated. More third-party software is targeted at CentOS, such as cPanel.

Alibaba Cloud Linux

Alibaba Cloud Linux is a Linux distribution provided and maintained by Alibaba Cloud. It is completely free and supports various Alibaba Cloud instance types, including ECS Bare Metal Instance types. Alibaba Cloud Linux is equipped with Alibaba Cloud CLI and other software packages by default.

Alibaba Cloud Elastic Compute Service Image

Alibaba Cloud ECS offers various operating systems called images that you can choose depending on the features offered. Alibaba Cloud provides a list of public images that run Windows, Linux, or UNIX-like operating systems. Alibaba Cloud also provides an OS with built-in software called Alibaba Cloud Marketplace images that is typically pre-installed with a runtime environment or software applications.

You can purchase the appropriate images to create ECS instances based on your needs. For more information, please see Alibaba Cloud Marketplace images. You can purchase Alibaba Cloud Marketplace images to create Elastic Compute Service (ECS) instances that are equipped with pre-installed runtime environments or software applications. These images can be used for scenarios, such as website building, application development, and visualized management. The created ECS instances can be used out-of-the-box, which is time-saving and convenient.

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