Welcome to our beginner’s guide on managing data in Docker containers. In this tutorial, we’ll be focusing on two key methods of data management – Docker Volumes and Bind Mounts. Docker is an open-source platform that automates the deployment, scaling, and management of applications. It does this by isolating applications into separate containers. This approach can provide a more efficient environment for software to run than traditional virtual machines.
When working with Docker, there are times when you need to store and manage data generated and used by your Docker containers. This is where Docker volumes and bind mounts come in. Both methods are used to persist data generated by and used by Docker containers. Understanding how and when to use each can be an essential skill in a Docker environment.
To learn more about Docker, please check Docker Tutorials page.
Let’s dive right in!
To follow this tutorial, you should have Docker installed on your system. If you haven’t, you can download Docker Desktop for Mac or Windows, or Docker Engine for Linux from the Docker official website.
Understanding Docker Volumes and Bind Mounts
A Docker volume is a mechanism that allows you to store and manage data that is generated and used by Docker containers. Docker volumes are managed by Docker and are stored in a part of the host filesystem that’s managed by Docker (
/var/lib/docker/volumes/... on Linux).
Docker volumes are the best way to persist data in Docker and they have several advantages over bind mounts:
- Volumes are easier to back up or migrate.
- Volumes can be more safely shared among multiple containers.
- Volume’s contents can be pre-populated by a container.
Bind mounts have been around since the early days of Docker. Bind mounts have limited functionality compared to volumes but they can still be useful. When you use a bind mount, a file or directory on the host machine is mounted into a container. The file or directory is referenced by its absolute path on the host machine.
Bind mounts have a couple of advantages:
- The file or directory is available to the host system even when the Docker service is not running.
- Bind mounts can be created anywhere on the host system.
Docker Volumes: Creating and Managing
To create a volume, you can use the
docker volume create command:
docker volume create my_volume
You can inspect a volume using the
docker volume inspect command:
docker volume inspect my_volume
To list all volumes, use the
docker volume ls command:
docker volume ls
To remove a volume, use the
docker volume rm command:
docker volume rm my_volume
To use a volume, we need to specify it when starting our Docker container with the
--mount flag. Here’s an example using the
docker run -d -v my_volume:/data my_image
In this example,
my_volume is the name of your volume, and
/data is the path where the volume is mounted in your container.
Bind Mounts: Creating and Managing
When you use a bind mount, a file or directory on the host machine is mounted into a container. Unlike volumes, the location of a bind mount on the host machine does not need to be within Docker’s control.
Let’s consider an example. Suppose you have a directory on your host at
/home/user/my_directory, and you want to make it accessible to your container at
/mnt/my_directory. You can use the
--mount flag for this purpose:
docker run -d -v /home/user/my_directory:/mnt/my_directory my_image
docker run -d --mount type=bind,source=/home/user/my_directory,target=/mnt/my_directory my_image
In both examples,
/home/user/my_directory is the path to the source directory on the host, and
/mnt/my_directory is the path where the directory is mounted in the container.
The main difference between
--mount is that the
--mount syntax is more verbose but clearer and easier to use, especially for beginners.
Differences and Use-Cases for Docker Volumes and Bind Mounts
While both Docker volumes and bind mounts allow data to persist beyond the life of a single container and can be used by multiple containers, they’re designed for slightly different scenarios.
- Docker Volumes: If you’re mainly dealing with persisting data generated by Docker containers and don’t need to access this data directly from the host system, Docker volumes are usually the better choice. Docker volumes are managed by Docker directly, which makes it easier to use and less error-prone.
- Bind Mounts: If you need access to specific files or directories from the host system inside your container, bind mounts are the way to go. This is often the case when you’re developing software: you might have your project files on your host system and want to test your application in a Docker container. By using a bind mount, you can work on your files on the host system and have them directly accessible inside the container.
In this tutorial, we’ve explored Docker Volumes and Bind Mounts, two crucial mechanisms for managing data in Docker containers. Understanding these concepts is crucial when working with Docker, especially when designing applications that need to persist data or share data between multiple containers.
Remember, Docker volumes are best for when you want to store data generated by Docker containers, while bind mounts are ideal when you need to share specific files or directories between the host and the container. Each method has its strengths, so understanding your requirements will help you choose the right one.
We hope you find this tutorial helpful. To learn more about Docker, check out the Docker Tutorials for Beginners page.
Keep experimenting and learning!