When thinking about websites and how they’re designed, it’s useful to differentiate between ‘static’ and ‘dynamic’ sites. Generally, static sites display HTML-based content stored on a server, but can only be updated by a developer changing the source code. Dynamic websites, by contrast, are much easier to update and feature content that can be actively generated by user requests.

When a website displays constantly-changing content and offers a range of functionality to users, it can be safely described as dynamic. To support these features, dynamic websites are usually more demanding than static ones in terms of server resources and development.

So if you want to build a dynamic site, what kind of setup do you need? One of the best solutions is a LAMP stack server.

What is LAMP stack technology?

Dynamic sites need a specialised infrastructure of software that includes an operating system, web server, database and scripting in order to function. When all of these are combined and provided as one, they're known as a web stack. There are several web stack options available but current most popular is called LAMP.

A LAMP stack includes all of the usual web stack options within a single platform that bundles together Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP. These four open-source software solutions complement each other and function together to form the complete full stack infrastructure needed to create and maintain dynamic websites.

The beauty of the LAMP stack is in how the individual components work in concert to achieve the desired results. For example, Apache running on Linux can be used to create a base of static web content, while a programming language such as PHP delivers an additional layer of advanced functionality. On top of everything else, relevant information can be pulled from the MySQL database to provide a truly dynamic experience for site users.

Why choose LAMP stack?

Running a LAMP stack on a server can be an affordable option because of its reliance on open-source software. The open-source nature of LAMP also means you can depend on long-term support from the developer community if you choose to install LAMP stack.

LAMP doesn’t need a huge investment in server hardware, either. You can set up a LAMP stack on a fairly modest dedicated or cloud server, just keep in mind the level of performance you'll need for the visitor numbers you expect, plus any extra requirements such as streaming media.

On our CloudNX platform, a LAMP stack server is a relatively simple solution because it only requires a one-server configuration, with your whole environment residing on a single virtual machine.

Another strength of LAMP is its flexibility. While the catchy LAMP acronym has stuck, it’s really more of a general model with interchangeable components. So, for example, you could use Nginx instead of Apache, or Python instead of PHP, depending on the needs of your project. This is what makes full stack software so useful. Whether you want to use LAMP stack on a dedicated server or a cloud platform, Fasthosts provides everything you need to get your LAMP stack up and running.

Alternative LAMP stack options

Full stack developers love LAMP for its open-source accessibility, community support and customisation. As such, LAMP stack gives the basis for a number of variations. Alternatives to the LAMP formula include:

  • LAPP – an ideal option for switching MySQL out for PostgreSQL
  • LEMP – an option which swaps out Apache for NGINX (the E comes from the pronunciation of ‘engine-X’ since LNMP doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue)
  • LLMP – designed for replacing Apache with lighttpd

With so many Linux distributions out there, it’s no surprise that these LAMP variants all begin with L. If you’re a Linux developer, you’re likely to find a LAMP-like web stack that supports your tools of choice, whether it’s a specific web server or a particular database. For other operating systems, there are even more options to choose from.

Choosing a web stack alternative

In addition to distros like Debian and Ubuntu, the LAMP stack model can support non-Linux operating systems. WAMP, for example, uses the same components as the standard LAMP stack, but on top of a Windows OS.

XAMPP, on the other hand, is a cross-OS full stack software, hence the X, which works equally as well on Linux and Windows with PHP or Perl. Ideal for creating test servers, XAMPP can be downloaded as a single file and easily installed. It’s a great option for testing applications that need to run across different operating systems.

For more advanced Microsoft-centric applications, the LAMP stack isn’t going to cut it. This is where a specialised web stack like WISA comes in. WISA is basically ‘the Microsoft web stack’, containing the following components:

  • Windows Server – the operating system
  • Internet Information Services (IIS) – the webserver
  • Microsoft SQL Server – the database
  • ASP.NET – a web application framework

For many developers, LAMP vs WISA essentially comes down to PHP vs ASP.NET languages. The scripting you need to use will likely make up your mind for you.

Alternatively, the MAMP stack is a way of running the classic LAMP stack components on macOS. MAMP is downloaded as a complete package that includes Apache, NGINX, MySQL, PHP, Python and Perl, all with instant macOS compatibility. This is as opposed to individual software versions, which need to be installed manually and aren’t always up to quality in terms of macOS integration.

One major draw of MAMP full stack is also its ability to run WordPress locally on a Mac. With MAMP, Mac users can work directly with WordPress files without uploading and downloading them via a web server. This is ideal for WordPress development and testing purposes.

MEAN stack vs LAMP stack

A MEAN stack is another popular option to the traditional LAMP stack setup. A MEAN stack comprises:

  • MongoDB – a NoSQL database
  • Express – a web application framework for Node.js
  • AngularJS – a JavaScript-based web application framework
  • Node.js – a runtime environment

Obviously, this is not the classic LAMP stack structure. But the MEAN stack model isn’t dependent on a particular OS, and Express can offer the functionality of a web server. This means that MEAN stack is a slimmed-down option compared to LAMP, and because it's a single language – JavaScript – it still runs at every level of the web stack. This gives MEAN stack the potential advantage of not having to switch between languages.

Some variations on a MEAN stack software include:

  • MERN – which uses React instead of AngularJS
  • MEEN – which replaces AngularJS with Ember.js

In a LAMP stack vs MEAN stack comparison, the deciding factor could well be the database: MySQL vs MongoDB – or in other words, SQL vs NoSQL. While SQL (relational) databases like MySQL and MariaDB are well-liked for their ability to efficiently manage large data volumes in complex structures, NoSQL databases like MongoDB are often preferred for their increased flexibility in smaller applications.

Ultimately, your choice of web stack will probably boil down to a particular tool or set of tools that you need to use. Frequently this is a particular scripting language like PHP or JavaScript, but equally, it could be a specific web server, database or framework. With so many possible configurations, the final decision rests on the details of your project and your skillset as a developer.

You can easily install LAMP stack by signing up with Fasthosts. We'll walk you through the process while providing a suite of bonus benefits and monthly payment options.

Here at Fasthosts, our next-gen cloud hosting service offers managed software stacks with a selection of the latest Linux operating systems. With Cloud Hosting, you get a complete package of software and tools, plus the performance of dedicated resources. Simply get in touch with us for more details.

You can also find even more information and tips about improving your website and online presence right here on the Fasthosts blog. We've a range of informative guides and articles that you can read through.