One complaint many new VPS owners have is the amount of work required to setup a new server. If you don’t have an automated system pre-configured that instantly setups a new server, you could end up spending a few days modifying configuration files, installing services, and testing your new server.
One solution that users turn to if they only run a few servers is to use TurnKey Linux. Instead of installing an operating system such as Debian, Ubuntu, or CentOS, you would install the TurnKey Linux image that matches your server’s needs. TurnKey Linux is built upon Debian 8 (Jessie) and each operating system image they provide contains pre-configured and installed services. Some of the popular TurnKey Linux images are LAMP Stack, LEMP Stack, OpenVPN, GitLab, File Server, and over one-hundred other images that you can install onto your server.
Now the question comes down to if you should actually use TurnKey Linux or if you should install a base system and install and configure the services manually. In the end it depends on how many services in the end you need configured, how experienced you are with configuring these services, and your overall knowledge of Linux.
What is TurnKey Linux?
TurnKey Linux in essentially a Linux distribution that comes pre-installed with popular server services to help you get your server setup faster and easier. TurnKey Linux can be sold as the server equivalent of a Linux desktop environment but instead of popular desktop applications you are installing popular server applications and services.
TurnKey Linux is currently based on Debian 8 (Jessie). Debian was selected because of the amount of available packages, security, and stability. TurnKey Linux then creates new images based off of Debian that contain popular packages depending on your needs. One popular image is the LAMP Stack which includes Apache, MySQL, and PHP already configured to quickly get started. If Apache isn’t your cup of tea, there is also a LEMP Stack that replaces Apache with Nginx, and then there is Lighttpd, and so on.
TurnKey Linux is installed the same way you would install any other operating system onto your server. Because there are some services that come with the operating system that may require additional configuration, while installing the operating system you may have to answer additional questions and prompts to install the operating system.
Advantages of TurnKey Linux
TurnKey Linux images are a convenient and quick way to get a server up and running and that brings a lot of advantages. If your new to configuring a server or an experienced system administrator you can find a use for these images if your application requires the services provided in the operating system images.
- Provides a quick and easy setup of a new VPS.
- Requires less knowledge to get a VPS running.
- Consistent services and configuration files can quickly be installed on multiple servers.
- Less hassle with configuring common configuration files.
- Packaged with many additional services to help maintain your server.
Disadvantages of TurnKey Linux
There are a few disadvantages of using TurnKey Linux, but they may not all apply to your situation. With servers specifically, I try to run the absolute least amount of services possible to accomplish the goal of the server. With servers I also like to manually configure all services to be sure everything is configured to my liking. Using a pre-configured services doesn’t mean anything to me because I will still end up configuring the services manually.
- Installs additional services you may not need.
- Additional configuration may still be required for each service.
- Lack of options on what base operating system you can use.
- Additional services can cause a security issue if left installed and ignored.
Alternatives to TurnKey Linux
There are a few VPS providers that offer their own packaged systems for instant installation. To name one example, DigitalOcean has a list of “One-click Apps” that can be installed onto your VPS. These applications are similar to those provided by TurnKey Linux and include images such as Django, Docker, GitLab, LAMP, LEMP and many other pre-configured setups. Of course these setups are limited to the VPS provider and may not be able to easily be moved to difference VPS providers.
Another alternative to TurnKey Linux is to use Docker. Docker is similar to a virtual machine but doesn’t have the same amount of overhead as a regular virtual machine. There are many containers that can be install to Docker that are already configured, such as LAMP, LEMP, and others. Docker is also nice in that you can save the container and use it on other services without any further setup.
Finally, there are many configuration management tools that can be installed such as Chef and Puppet. These services usually require additional infrastructure to run, but if you are managing many services and want all of them to remain synced with each other, looking into these solutions is worth the time.