This is an often asked question in newsgroups and forums. The reason for this, is that there is no easy answer. If a straight forward answer could be given, it could have been found on Wikipedia. The fact is, that it is not a yes-or-no-answer question.

Often you will see this ‘political’ answer “It depends”. It depends how you’re planning to use the operating system (desktop, server) and where (home, data center, server room, embedded etc).

Both Linux and FreeBSD have their strong and weak points, but overall, they can do almost anything you ask it to do, but when one wants an answer to the question “FreeBSD or (Debian) Linux?” one needs to find an answer to the following questions first to see which operating system suits one’s needs best:

1) Is your current hardware supported? If the purchase of new hardware is planned, is it supported by either/both?

2) Which operating system is supported by the third party commercial applications vendors that you use? If it is not supported, is there an acceptable equivalent available for the operating system your preference goes out to?

3) Are your current networking hardware (and appliances) supported by the O/S?

4) Are any new third party system management and monitoring tools required? If so, are they supported by the “new” OS?

5) Is  your storage hardware and servers supported by your preferred O/S? think of Network Attached Storage, SAN’s RAID, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE).

5) Is the IT department capable of maintaining (and further developing) the new system, or is there a need to hire new staff? Or, can you get consulting services and/or third party support for your operating system?

There are plenty more questions that can be asked before deciding whether it’s Linux or FreeBSD that fits your needs best.

Have you been in a (work / home) situation where you had to make the choice? It would be nice to find out about your experience. Please share via the comments.