LAMP Stack Explained

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There are a variety of software stacks used in web development or application deployment. One of the most popular combinations is the LAMP stack. In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about LAMP stack.

What is the LAMP Stack?

LAMP is the acronym for Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP. It’s a popular software stack used in web development today. We often use software stacks like LAMP to build specific applications or services.

For example, in the case of an application, the stack might serve as the foundation that enables it to function. 

One clear demonstration of this is WordPress, which requires all components of the LAMP stack. However, it’s not a hard and fast rule that WordPress or any other app must use a LAMP stack. Different LAMP variations such as LEMP, LAPP, LEAP, and more exist.

Understanding the LAMP Stack Components

Like other software stacks, LAMP includes components that cover various core areas necessary to operate an application. Each of these components fulfills a critical role while passing data to each other to play their parts. Let’s take a look at the functional roles in LAMP.

Linux – The Operating System

Linux - The Operating System

Linux is the operating system (OS) of choice for Apache and MySQL, so it’s no surprise that Linux plays a central role in LAMP stacks. This Unix-like OS runs everything from supercomputers to smartphones. It is the most critical software component of any hardware device since you can do nothing without an OS.

The open-source nature of Linux means that anyone can use it or modify it without paying licensing fees. This benefit makes Linux an excellent option for web hosting providers who want to offer hosting plans at an affordable price point.

Apache – The Web Server

Apache - The Web Server

Apache is an open-source web server that runs on Linux. The web server is responsible for “listening” and “serving.” Each time it receives a request from web browsers, Apache passes it to other LAMP components for processing. When ready, Apache sends the requested page to the web browser.

Like Linux, Apache is open-source and free to use without a license. Apache is lightweight, so it doesn’t consume many resources on your server. Its flexible nature makes it one of the top choices for many web hosting companies.

MySQL – The Database Engine

MySQL - The Database Engine

Database engines are the workhorses of most modern computing systems. They manage data, make it available to applications, and provide tools for managing that data. Database engines come in many different forms. Some are designed for specific tasks (such as eCommerce), while others are universal solutions.

MySQL is a relational database management system (RDBMS). Relational databases are the most common type of database used in web applications. They are easy to use and allow rapid data access.

PHP – The Scripting Language

PHP - The Scripting Language

PHP is a server-side language that Rasmus Lerdorf created in 1994. You can use it as a scripting language for web development. For example, PHP works with HTML and CSS to create dynamic content for websites, web applications, and other online services.

PHP is one of the three primary languages used in LAMP stacks. Other alternatives include Perl and Python. Often, the nature of the web application dictates the scripting language used in the LAMP stack.

How the LAMP Stack Works?

Each of the applications in the LAMP stack provides a specific set of services, contributing to a higher-level function. Most commonly, this function is to create a web server capable of supporting various applications.

First, Apache receives a request from a web browser. It passes the request to the web application. The web application then queries the database engine and returns the requested information. The data then goes back to Apache, which will send it to the web browser that made the request.

Each of the LAMP components communicates with each other through interfaces designed to be general and abstract. These interfaces are more commonly known as Application Programming Interfaces (API). A good API design should be flexible enough to support multiple implementations and efficient in the usage of resources.

Who uses LAMP?

Because of the versatility of the LAMP stack, it is one of the most widely used software stacks in the web hosting industry. You can use LAMP to run almost any web application. These include WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, LMS, and much more. 

In the perspective of WordPress alone, that makes the LAMP stack the dominating software stack worldwide. WordPress powers more than 40% of all websites online today. If you operate a website that runs on WordPress, you’re also running on a LAMP stack.

Disadvantages of LAMP

Although the LAMP stack offers significant advantages, it isn’t perfect. Here we’ll consider some disadvantages of using LAMP and what it might mean for some niche users.

Lack of Support for New Languages

PHP was designed for web development and remained focused. Meanwhile, other languages have been created specifically for use in scenarios like data science – such as R. The LAMP Stack doesn’t support these languages, so you’ll need to start from scratch if you want to use them with your server setup.

Lack of Security Support

Most open-source components rely on community-based contributions to improve security features. While thus far effective, it can be problematic because there’s no single entity responsible for ensuring that all users have access to the latest security updates.

High Resource Usage

Apache and MySQL can slow down your application performance depending on the traffic volume they need to handle. This slowdown will increase costs if left unchecked (though there are ways around this).

Alternatives to the LAMP Stack

While LAMP is popular, it is by no means the only software stack available. Here are some other software stacks you may want to consider as LAMP stack alternatives:

1. MEAN Stack

MEAN is an acronym for MongoDB, Express, AngularJS, and Node.js. MEAN is a newer framework gaining popularity with developers because it allows them to build apps using JavaScript on both the frontend and backend. MEAN has become a popular choice for startups because it makes it easy to build scalable applications without learning new languages or frameworks.

2. WAMP Stack

WAMP stands for Windows Apache MySQL PHP. It’s similar to LAMP, except for replacing Linux as the OS. Instead, the WAMP stack uses Windows. That inclusion results in the occidental inclusion of other tools like FTP clients, editors, etc.

3. XAMPP Stack

XAMPP stands for Cross-platform (multi-OS), Apache, MySQL, PHP, and Perl. The default distribution includes all four components, but you can also install them separately. XAMPP is available on Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems and can be used to create a testing environment without installing the entire LAMP stack on your server.

How to Install the LAMP Stack on Ubuntu?

This short guide assumes that you already have a copy of Linux installed on your server. The exact commands may be different because of the many Linux flavors available. However, the general process should be relatively similar. We’ll be using Ubuntu 20.04.

Installing the Apache Web Server

  1. Update your local package index with sudo apt update
  2. Install Apache2 with sudo apt install apache2
  3. To confirm that the Apache service is running, type sudo systemctl status apache2
  4. Next, we need to modify firewall settings and increase security. Typing sudo ufw app list will display the firewall modes available. Generally, these will be Apache, Apache Full, and Apache Secure. 

To start, you use just “Apache” as it will disallow all access except for port 80. Do this with the following command; sudo ufw allow ‘Apache’

Installing MySQL

  1. Once Apache is up and running, we move on to installing MySQL. With your repository index already updated, you can just run the MySQL server installation with the following command; sudo apt install mysql-server
  2. Again, you can verify the installation with the systemctl command; sudo systemctl start mysql.service
  3. All fresh MySQL installations are pretty barebones, and one of the essential configuration tasks is hardening security. Thankfully, there’s a security package that you can quickly deploy; sudo mysql_secure_installation

Running the command will result in a series of configuration questions for the script to make the necessary security changes. 

Installing PHP 

Linux comes with PHP in the repository, but you will need to install the package. The command used will depend on which PHP version you want to deploy. For example, to install PHP 7.4 run sudo apt install php7.4.

Final Thoughts

The LAMP stack provides a solid, versatile foundation for various websites or applications. In most cases, you don’t get a choice of what software stack your web hosting provider offers. However, shared hosting users won’t need to handle this – just check if the host supports the application you want.

Software stacks like LAMP come into play when shifting to Virtual Private Servers (VPS). Here you can take full advantage of LAMP’s versatility or even build custom environments that suit your needs.

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Article by Jerry Low

Jerry Low has immersed himself in web technologies for over a decade and has built many successful sites from scratch. He is a self-professed geek who has made it his life’s ambition to keep the web hosting industry honest. For latest personal updates and news, follow Jerry on Facebook and Twitter.
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