So you are building your home server, the hardware is ready and you want now to put an Operating System on it, so, let’s go.
In short, I would heavily recommend to use Linux, and particularly Ubuntu (or one of its different “flavours”).
Two simple reasons : stability and support
The other alternative you would have are :
- Windows Server : First issue will be the cost, a license is quite expensive in comparison with the free Linux. In terms of stability, it has been greatly improved with the latest versions though it is still in my mind less stable than Linux. The performance is as well, per my experience, a bit lower. Support wise, it is as well quite good and sometimes even better than Linux as you do not have many different distributions with their dedicated support, not always true though as the commercial aspect makes that many consultants invoice their services and don’t do it through browsable forums.
- FreeBSD : Another free OS but with far less support than what you can find on Linux. I would still consider it as a viable alternative but for more advanced users.
- Mac OS : I simply never see anybody doing it, I guess that even if it is possible (I am not sure), it would anyway be a nightmare to find support. Not to mention that the hardware, although good and reliable is not the top in terms of flexibility or upgrade-ability, let along the cost efficiency.
There are so many distributions, why Ubuntu?
Here again, 2 simple reasons : user friendliness and support.
The Ubuntu ecosystem is well developed and there is for sure the answer to your question somewhere on the web. Furthermore, it comes with different flavours with different desktop managers, There is the default Unity in Ubuntu, the very lighweight LXDE in Lubuntu, the feature loaded KDE in Kubuntu or my new favorite XFCE in Xubuntu. I chose Xubuntu as it is quite lightweight and yet simple to use (2 qualities that are not always going together).
There are of course plenty of alternatives and you can use different one, I would just like to mention few here (sorry if your favorite is not here):
- Arch Linux
- Mint Linux