Docker vs. Plesk, an alternative for running websites


For years I ran my websites on a vServer from Hosteurope and managed them with the help of Plesk. Although Plesk has always served me well, especially when switching from one server to another, the environment on the new server was never the same and there was always something to rework, even if it was just installing all the necessary software packages.

Advantages of a vServer with Plesk

Admittedly, the user interface is already comfortable and especially for all those who just want to create a website without having to create the config in any text files, Plesk offers a nice interface: details to the underlying config are hardly necessary with Plesk. Numerous plugins simplify the administration, for example, a WordPress installation can be easily started via a wizard.

Disadvantages of a vServer

Websites running directly on a vServer all share the same environment: the same operating system version and the same installed packages. For example, a new PHP version is always tied to the OS and is only available in the package sources with some delay. New PHP versions are sometimes only available in Plesk after months in the software catalog. Since providers also release new Linux versions for their vServers only after months, this also applies to the OS version. At Hosteurope, it takes up to a year after the release of a new Ubuntu version until it is available as a vServer , see also: Provider change HostEurope vs Hetzner, vServer vs Cloud server). It's different without Plesk: Here, some providers offer the new OS relatively promptly also as a vServer or cloud server, corresponding without any adaptation. In addition, Plesk is subject to licensing and usually costs extra.

The alternative: Docker

Docker Basics

Docker allows applications to be launched by command in a so-called container.
A container is an isolated environment independent of the operating system (OS):
When a container is first launched, Docker independently loads all the necessary sources
from the internet.
Docker can be installed on Windows, macOS or an Linux Distribution
Having used Docker at home for a few years to run certain services (containers), I was able to gain some experience with it. Once set up, Docker can be used to quickly start a new service: Docker containers include all necessary dependencies and run absolutely stable. Not only is startup easier, but moving services to different hardware is also much more relaxed: All that needs to be done is to copy the corresponding folders and then restart the containers. No problems with missing updates, packages or other requirements. Even as a backup, a copy of the respective folders is sufficient to start them somewhere in case of failure.

Web server with Docker without Plesk

(Source: secure https connection: Traefik Reverse Proxy + Let's Encrypt).

I wanted to take advantage of Docker for running this website as well. Mainly to have to invest less time for the next server change. For a server change in the future I only have to synchronize all folders with rsync to the new server, start the Docker containersat the new server and adjust the DNS. The individual websites and their environment: PHP version, etc. can now be maintained independently of the server and its operating system.

My requirements for the web server are not large: I run several Laravel and PHP websites with and without SSL certificate. Since there is no mail server pre-installed on the server, I use Docker for this as well, see: docker-mailserver. The SSL certificates on the websites are taken care of by Traefik, see: secure https connection: Traefik Reverse Proxy + Let's Encrypt. As a backup I have all changed files copied to my NAS daily and as a DNS server I just use the service from the provider. The DNS records now point to the official IP address of the new cloud server and the actual websites and mail server run on isolated containers in the backend .

For more information on running Docker containers: see: topic/docker.

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