Compare Debian Hosting
Debian is a free operating system that’s popular because it’s stable, secure, and customizable. Some providers are better for Debian hosting than others.
You can host Debian on a shared server, but you get maximum control over your hosting environment with managed or unmanaged VPS, cloud, and dedicated servers. Look for stable Debian hosting with solid support.
In a rush? Here are the five best hosts for Debian, based on expert analysis and customer scores:
How Did We Choose the Best Hosts for Debian?
We looked for hosting plans that came with root access, SSD storage, regular backups, and access to a control panel like cPanel.
We picked hosts with strong uptime guarantees. Then, we looked through the reviews left by legitimate customers, choosing the ones with the best customer ratings.
Compare Debian Hosting
What You’ll Learn
It unleashed the open source movement and impacted the global economy in unforeseen ways. What is Debian and what accounts for its popularity and widespread appeal?
Who are the people behind it? What can we learn about the philosophy and community that fostered it?
In this article, you’ll learn about the background of Debian, its practical uses, and various ways to install and use it yourself.
What Is Debian?
Debian is a computer operating system, much like Windows and Mac OS X.
It’s a particular flavor 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 required.
Advanced Packaging Tool
This Linux distribution pioneered the concept of package management with the Advanced Packaging Tool (APT).
With a single command, you can add and remove software from your system. You can also update your packages from one central repository.
The ability to stay up-to-date with software combined with its stability makes Debian a popular choice for servers.
Debian bills itself as “The Universal Operating System.” You can run it either as a server or as a desktop. The system can be as minimalist or as complete as you like.
Debian refers to itself as a “GNU/Linux” distribution, in accordance with GNU Project founder Richard Stallman’s insistence that Linux is the kernel and the GNU utilities make it a complete operating system.
While Debian is best known as a Linux distribution, there are also experimental versions based on FreeBSD and the GNU Hurd kernel. The Linux version is the most widely used, and it’s the version we’ll consider in this article.
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.
Problems Resulting in Better Solutions
The project was founded after encountering problems with another early Linux distribution, Softlanding Linux Distribution, or SLS.
The early adopters of Linux thought that having the kernel and all the utilities were useful, but the distribution was full of bugs.
Murdock intended the project to be developed as free software in a spirit of cooperation similar to the GNU project and the Linux kernel, outlining his goals in his Debian Manifesto.
Debian wasn’t the only distribution founded due to the poor maintenance of SLS. Patrick Volkerding was also motivated to found Slackware that same year.
Debian Growing Pains
Ian made the first iteration of Debian formally available in 1996, and it 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.
Devuan – The New Distribution
Devuan, developed by Debian.
More recently, Debian has been forked to a new distribution, Devuan (pronounced ‘Dev One’), because of a disagreement over how the OS boots up. Debian is still much more popular than Devuan.
After a few years, Murdock handed control of the project to Bruce Perens.
Perens developed the Debian Free Software Guidelines and the Debian Code of Conduct to further foster a spirit of sharing and collaboration, though Perens’s tenure was controversial as some considered his management style heavy-handed.
Debian Introduces APT
Not too long after, Debian introduced the Advanced Packaging Tool, or APT, a package manager. This was a revolution in the Linux world. APT made it easy to install new software without having to compile from source and to keep the system updated.
The idea of a package manager was quickly copied in other Linux distributions, and Linux users have come to expect them in modern distros. Because of Debian’s wide base of software packages, it was chosen as the basis for the Ubuntu distribution.
Toy Story: No, Really
Interestingly, Debian has a rather unlikely connection to Pixar. Early versions were hosted on its servers. 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.
Versions have been named after Toy Story characters “Buzz”, “Woody”, and “Ham.”
Trivia fans take note: the Debian logo may be a homage to Buzz Lightyear’s facial hair.
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Versions of 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)
- 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.
Its most famous offshoot is the Ubuntu distribution, produced by a commercial company, Canonical. Ubuntu strives to provide an easy-to-use desktop system with up-to-date software packages.
Ubuntu uses a customized desktop derived from the unstable branch of Debian. There’s a bit of a rivalry between the two projects and some clashes over project goals as a non-profit and commercial enterprise, but the code does go back and forth between Ubuntu and “upstream” to the Debian developers.
There’s also a server version of Ubuntu available that powers sites like Wikipedia.
Other Debian Versions
Debian has three major branches:
Packages that are more stable than unstable but not quite ready for development
Available for download
Packages that have been frozen for development. The functionality won’t change much, but security patches will be applied.
Safe for constant use
The development version of Debian.
Available for use, but not recommended to rely on
Most of the time, you’ll want the stable version of Debian for a server.
What’s Included with Regular Debian?
Debian is made up of the Linux or FreeBSD 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 recognizable names and some that will be entirely new to non-Linux users:
- Iceweasel (Firefox)
You can see a full list of packages on the Debian website.
An open-source office suite, essentially acting as a Microsoft Office replacement.
LibreOffice is also cross-platform and supports .doc, .xls, .odt, and .ods, along with other key formats.
Iceweasel is the old name for Firefox, which Mozilla demanded Debian to rename. Iceweasel is pretty much an identical version.
A multi-functional media player, covering most file formats. VLC is also cross-platform, popular amongst both Windows and Linux users.
GIMP is an increasingly popular software used by graphic designers.
It stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. GIMP is a popular cross-platform graphics editor, used by thousands of professional and hobby designers.
QuickML is a server which provides a simple and easy-to-set-up mailing service for Debian.
Cron is a command scheduling package for Debian, already installed as part of the basic system. This is a default feature.
A multiple-use desktop environment, generally praised by users. Gnome is also free.
You can specify which packages you want on your system at installation time. If you’re running a server, you probably don’t need a desktop. There are several packages available in the installation program. You’ll want the web server, the SSH server, an FTP server, and possibly an email server.
6 Notable Debian Features
So why is Debian so popular? It mainly comes down to Debian’s feature set.
- Package Management
- Architecture Support
- Software Guidelines
Debian is stable. The software packages might be a little old in the default stable release, but they will be free of major bugs most of the time.
Stability is a must for servers. You don’t want your system to change very much. It’s possible for some systems to stay up for years without being rebooted.
The simplicity of the Debian Command Line Interface is definitely a loved aspect of the OS. Plenty of resources on it too!
Debian’s package management makes it very easy to maintain the system. To update the system, you just run two commands: # apt-get update and # apt-get dist-upgrade.
Debian supports multiple architectures. While the x86-64 architecture dominates web hosting, Debian is available for ARM, MIPS, PowerPC, and the IBM S/390. These are specialized architectures for embedded computers and mainframes, it’s nice to know that there’s flexibility.
Debian serves as the basis for Ubuntu, using the same commands and package manager. If you’re familiar with one distro, it’s easy to get comfortable with the other.
Debian has some of the most stringent guidelines for free software in its repositories. Its main repositories require that software be open source under the previously mentioned Debian Free Software Guidelines.
The Debian Community
Debian has been in development for over 20 years and has a large developer and user community.
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.
Debian offers a “netinstall” image that’s much smaller with basic utilities. If the machine you’re installing Debian on has an internet connection, the installer will download the packages it requires.
Dual Booting Debian
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.
Multiple Operating Systems
If you run another operating system on your machine, such as Windows, you can set it up to dual boot.
Debian will install a program called a “boot loader” on your hard drive. When you power on or restart your machine, you’ll see a menu that lets you choose which operating system to start.
The installation program will offer to shrink part of your hard drive to use for a Debian partition. The traditional partition scheme is to have a swap partition and another partition to run the actual operating system.
Dual Boot Configuration
You can have more elaborate schemes, such as individual boot and home partitions.
If you install Debian in a dual boot configuration, you should install Windows first. Windows will want to install its own bootloader on your hard drive, wiping out any bootloaders that Debian has installed.
If you did this by accident, you can easily restore the boot loader using the installation media.
Installing Debian in a Virtual Machine
One popular option to try locally is to use a virtual machine. Oracle VM VirtualBox is popular for trying out Linux distros because it’s also free and open source.
Virtual Box provides an easy way to install Debian on your desktop. In this image, the left-hand margin displays three virtual machines powering differing operating systems. (Image via Digital.com)
Installing Using an SSH Server
While VirtualBox is geared toward desktop virtualization, it’s fine for setting up Debian as a test server.
We recommend installing an SSH server because you can paste things in more easily through a terminal window than using the VirtualBox console.
If you install a full desktop system, you can copy and paste between your host and the Debian guest as well.
Your Installation Environment
Whichever method you choose, it’s just a matter of downloading the installation .iso image, copying it to the media you’re using, and booting into the installation environment. You might have to go into your BIOS or setup menu.
This is in order to change the boot order of your machine so that your computer will find the installation media.
When the installation media starts, you have a choice between a graphical and a text installer. The graphical installation is easy to use, but the text installer is nearly identical. If you’re installing a server, we recommend this option.
The Debian Installer
There are a variety of Downloadable Install Images available for the latest recommended installer.
If this is your first time installing Debian, it’s best to just accept the defaults. Be careful about repartitioning the hard drive. Even though the installer can resize partitions, it’s possible to lose data, so back up anything important. If you overwrite any partitions, the data on them is gone forever.
You’ll tell Debian what kind of keyboard you have, what your time zone is, and set up your username and password.
Setting Up a Sudo
By default, Debian sets up a separate root account for administrative tasks, but you can also set up sudo. This means that you or a team of admins won’t have to know your root password. Debian automatically sets up sudo when you install a desktop, but you’ll need to add yourself to the “sudo” group in order to use it.
You have a wide range of choices available for server software. All of the major server projects are available: Apache, MySQL, MariaDB, PostgreSQL, and so on are all just an apt-get away. If you install a server program in Debian, the system will start it for you and automatically configure it to start at boot time.
Selected Debian Hosting Providers
Debian is a fantastic, stable distro that’s been around almost as long as Linux has. The popularity of one of its major offshoots, Ubuntu, means that a lot of people in the industry are familiar with the architecture of Debian-based distros.
A2 Hosting for Debian.
We like A2 Hosting for Debian web hosting. Their entry-level VPS plans start at $4.99 a month, which is a steal for having your own server. The base level gets you 150 gigabytes of storage space and two terabytes of transfers, which is plenty for a small, low-traffic site.
InterServer hosting for Debian.
For $6.00, InterServer offers a VPS plan starting at 30 gigabytes and one terabyte of transfers per month. Our users rated this host five stars out of five. This provider guarantees an uptime of 99.9%. The downside of a VPS hosting account is that a lot of the uptime depends on what you do on your server. If you misconfigure something that takes your server offline, that’s your fault.
Liquid Web hosting for Debian.
Liquid Web is another company specializing in cloud-based solutions like VPS. The company promises 24/7 “heroic support” for its customers. Debian VPS plans start at $15 per month with 40 gigabytes of storage space and 10 terabytes of transfer.
Points to Remember About Debian Hosting
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.
Open Source Perks
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 VPS, you’ll have more choice in the type of Linux you can use, so there may be some room for negotiation.
Using the Right Distribution
Some hosting companies run on Debian, but Red Hat/CentOS seems to be more common, owing to its historical use in an enterprise. While hosting companies typically run on Linux, they’re betting most customers won’t care which distro they’re using.
If you really do, you might prefer a VPS or cloud solution where you have maximum control over your environment. Look for uptime guarantees if you want stability.
Debian is also known as the basis for the popular Ubuntu distribution, which strives to make a user-friendly version. A server version of Ubuntu is also available. Both systems are nearly identical under the hood, so if you get comfortable with one, you can work on the other with no problem.
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