LAMP is an acronym for the Open-Source software applications Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP – probably the most common website ‘stack’ platform on the Web. If you are a serious blogger or operate a website, it’s worthwhile to be familiar with them.
The Linux operating system was developed by Linus Torvalds in 1991. It’s roots can be found in the Unix operating system, and while not used on desktop computers as much as Microsoft Windows, it does have an active community and is popular on servers.
This Open-Source software application is technically the primary software ‘web server’. It handles the chores of HTML GET requests, and opens and closes processes all day long. Think of it as the intermediary between the web-browser (e.g. Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, etc.) and your actual static and dynamic web files residing on the physical server.
PHP or “PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor” is the scripting language – or glue – that holds the pieces together. It runs as a process in Apache and it communicates directly with the MySQL server. It dynamically builds the HTML files that a browser renders.
These four Open-Source applications, commonly referred to as the LAMP stack, form a powerful and inexpensive alternative to proprietary website solutions. Nearly all hosting providers use a variation of the LAMP stack, whether it be shared hosting or a dedicated server.
Many web developers use a version of the LAMP stack on their own computers; MAMP (Mac, Apache, MySQL, PHP) and WAMP (Windows, Apache, MySQL, PHP). This allows the developer to build a website locally, and is useful for keeping a duplicate of a site as a backup, or for testing/staging new features.
Once you have the stack running, you can install a CMS (Drupal, WordPress, Joomla, etc.) or shopping-cart application (Magento) – those are the two most common uses, but there are others.
But I’m Just A Blogger!
You’re probably thinking, “why should I care about the dark underbelly of my blog or website?” or “this stuff is too technical!” Thankfully, you don’t need to be a specialist in each application – but I do encourage getting acquainted with their basic functions. Most hosting providers are savvy with Linux and Apache, and will you help you with most problems, and they’ll often assist you with getting MySQL databases created. Other than making sure PHP is installed or tweaking your PHP.INI file, most providers won’t support or research your PHP coding issues.
Most bloggers start out on Blogger.com or WordPress.com, but for those that stick with it and want more control, the logical next-step is to build a self-hosted blog/site.
Are There Alternatives?
Another popular stack would be the Microsoft offering, which would include; a Windows Server Operating System, IIS (Internet Information Server), Microsoft SQL Server, and ASP (Active Server Pages) or ASP.NET.
You could say, “Well, everyone else is using it”, but let’s dig a bit deeper. Here are 3 reasons why I believe it is the ideal solution.
- Cost. It’s free. Sure, there are the hidden costs of support and development, but those also come with proprietary solutions.
- Support. I’ve found the Open-Source community to be helpful and there are many specialists who can provide ongoing support at a reasonable cost.
- Industry Adoption. Among small to medium-sized sites, it’s not even close, the LAMP stack is the most used solution. As a result, there are a large number of applications written for the stack – many available for free under an Open-Source license.
Go Ahead And Give It A Try
The simplest way to become proficient on the LAMP stack is to download one of the free packages to your computer and take it for a spin. It’s not that difficult, and instructions do exist. Then, install a CMS and create a basic website on it. You’ll gain a lot from the experience!