I am a amateur+ administrator (use Linux since 1993 on a number of machines (from 1 to 50)), this is to say that I never went deep-neck into gory details of the differences between distributions and was rather concentrating on the higher-level layers (services).
I usually used Debian with its variants.
For some time now I have to deal with the Redhat family (mostly CentOS) which does not make much of a difference to me, from the services perspective.
There is one thing, though, which is problematic: the level of freshness of packages in CentOS. I currently have a CentOS6 machine, which may be upgradeable to CentOS7 but a previous upgrade (same case: CentOS6 to CentOS7) was horrendous. This may have been our fault (though we religiously read the docs, preupgrade checks etc.) - never mind.
The point is that the version of packages is craved in stone, there are no "testing" repositories (even the EPEL testing is old) and I end up with archaic versions of packages I need.
How best approach this for this family of distros?
- upgrade?: beside the psychotic fear due to the previous update -- in some time we will be facing the same problem
- compile from sources? I do not want to "go gentoo" anymore, I like packages which enormously simplify the life of wannabe admins like me. This may be acceptable fo some well-contained packages (I did that to break free from Python 2.5) but others which are deeply rooted in the system will be a problem.
- get an RPM with the latest version? I tried (unsupported) packages but right at the start they require zillions of dependencies (including scary ones like glib) - that would have been fine (I have it all the time on Debian) but I fear the conflicts.