Docker in Production: Best Practices and Considerations

Welcome to a tutorial on Docker’s best practices and considerations for production. By the end of this tutorial, you will understand what Docker is, why it’s beneficial, and the best practices for using Docker in a production environment.

To learn more about Docker, check out other Docker tutorials for beginners.

This tutorial is designed for beginners, so I will explain everything in very simple words. Let’s get started!

Introduction to Docker

Before we dive into the best practices, let’s understand what Docker is. Docker is a platform that simplifies software development by allowing developers to isolate their applications into containers. A Docker container is a lightweight, standalone, executable package that includes everything needed to run a piece of software, including the code, a runtime, libraries, environment variables, and config files.

Benefits of Docker

Docker has several benefits:

  1. Consistency: Docker containers run the same regardless of your environment. This means you can develop your application on your local machine, and it will run exactly the same on any other machine or server that has Docker installed. This eliminates the common issue of “it works on my machine” problem.
  2. Isolation: Docker containers are isolated from each other and the host system. This means if one of your applications has a security vulnerability, it won’t affect your other applications.
  3. Scalability: Docker makes it easy to create multiple containers for your application, which is particularly useful when you need to scale out.
  4. Efficiency: Docker containers are lightweight, making them a more efficient use of system resources compared to virtual machines.

Docker Best Practices for Production

Now that we understand what Docker is and its benefits, let’s dive into the best practices for using Docker in production.

Use Official Docker Images

When creating your Docker containers, it’s recommended to use the official Docker images as your base images. These images are maintained by the Docker team and the community, and are generally kept up-to-date and secure. When using an official image, you can be confident that it has been thoroughly vetted and tested.

For instance, if you’re developing a Node.js application, instead of creating your own image, you can use the official Node.js image:

FROM node:14

Use Dockerfile Best Practices

A Dockerfile is a text document that contains all the commands you would normally execute manually in order to build a Docker image. Here are some Dockerfile best practices:

  • Use .dockerignore: Just like .gitignore, a .dockerignore file can be used to ignore files and directories when building a Docker image. This can significantly reduce the size of your image.
  • Minimize the number of layers: Each RUN, COPY, and ADD command creates a new layer in the Docker image. Try to minimize the number of layers by combining commands in a single RUN instruction where possible.
  • Use multi-stage builds: Multi-stage builds allow you to use multiple FROM statements in your Dockerfile. Each FROM instruction can use a different base, and each of them begins a new stage of the build. You can selectively copy artifacts from one stage to another, leaving behind everything you don’t want in the final image.

Here’s an example of a multi-stage Dockerfile:

# First Stage
FROM node:14 AS builder
COPY package*.json ./
RUN npm install
COPY . .
RUN npm run build

# Second Stage
FROM node:14-alpine
COPY --from=builder /app/dist ./dist
COPY package*.json ./
RUN npm install --only=production
CMD [ "node", "dist/main.js" ]

Use Docker Compose for Development Environment

Docker Compose is a tool for defining and running multi-container Docker applications. With Compose, you use a YAML file to configure your application’s services. Then, with a single command, you create and start all the services from your configuration. This is particularly useful in a development environment where you may have multiple services that your application depends on.

Here’s an example docker-compose.yml file:

version: "3"
    build: .
      - "5000:5000"
    image: "redis:alpine"

Use Orchestration for Production

In a production environment, you need a way to manage your Docker containers. This is where Docker orchestration tools like Kubernetes, Docker Swarm, or Amazon ECS come in. These tools allow you to manage your containers, scale your applications, and ensure your containers are running smoothly.

Monitor Your Docker Containers

Monitoring is crucial in a production environment. You need to know when something goes wrong and have the information necessary to diagnose and fix the issue. There are many tools available for monitoring Docker containers, like Datadog, Prometheus, and Grafana. These tools can help you monitor CPU usage, memory usage, network traffic, and much more.

To learn more, check out the Monitoring and Logging in Docker: Tools and Strategies tutorial.

Regularly Update and Security Scan Your Images

It’s crucial to keep your Docker images up-to-date and regularly scan them for security vulnerabilities. Tools like Docker Hub, Quay, or Amazon ECR provide automated security scanning for Docker images.


Docker is a powerful tool for developing, deploying, and running applications. By following the best practices outlined in this tutorial, you can be confident in using Docker in a production environment. It’s important to remember that while Docker simplifies many aspects of software development, it also requires a good understanding of the underlying principles to use effectively. Keep learning, keep experimenting, and happy Dockerizing!

Remember, this is just the beginning of your Docker journey. There’s a lot more to explore and learn. Keep practicing, and soon you’ll become a Docker pro!