RimuHosting has now been providing VM servers for over 15 years.
Back in the day the state of the art distros we setup for customers included 32-bit Debian 3- and Ubuntu 6-based servers.
Things have moved on. By default all new orders are setup with 64-bit distros. And Debian is up to version 9, while Ubuntu 18.04 is about to be released.
The newer distros are almost exclusively the ones you will want. They will have the latest libraries and applications.
In contrast the older distros typically have older application versions and have poorer security. For example they lack the modern crypto libraries required to host well-secured https websites, they may fail to work with remote services (e.g. Paypal) that expect stronger security on API calls, they may not work on newer kernels (e.g. 4.x series), and they generally lack the recent versions of applications that actively developed websites will need. Older distros become unsupported by the distro maker, so will not receive critical security updates.
If re-setting up a server is going to require considerable manual time and skill then that server is likely a 'pet' rather than 'cattle'.
Having a 'pet' server is not necessarily bad. Randy Bias describes them as typically [servers that are] manually built, managed, and “hand fed”. Examples include [..] solitary servers, HA loadbalancers/firewalls (active/active or active/passive), database systems designed as master/slave (active/passive), and so on.
For RimuHosting customers we can use distrorejuve our semi-automated distro upgrade tool. That will bring (even very old) Debian and Ubuntu distros up to the latest long term support versions. There is even an option with that tool to convert the distro from 32 bit to 64 (currently in alpha, try at your own risk).
We recommend you switch to a recent 64 bit kernel and run a snapshot backup of your VM prior to running the distrorejuve tool.
wget -O distrorejuve.sh --no-check-certificate https://raw.githubusercontent.com/pbkwee/distrorejuve/master/distrorejuve.sh sudo bash distrorejuve.sh --dist-upgrade | tee -a distrorejuve.log
For RimuHosting customers we can even run the distro upgrade process for you. Just pop in a ticket . Sysadmin fees (typically an hour's work) may apply.
For non-RimuHosting customers we can help converting your old VM 3rd-party image to the latest distro release (and optionally migrate you from 32 to 64 bits). To do this we create a copy of your server (so the original one is unmodified) running as a VM. Then dist upgrade that and cross grade to 64 bits as required. If you are interested just contact us with a few details about your server like distro version, and disk space used. Running distrorejuve.sh --check will generate these details.
Photo credit: tind