If you were starting with a brand new LEMP stack on Ubuntu 15.04, what would you install?

My trusty old “manually installed” LEMP stack on a $5 14.04 x32 Ubuntu droplet has served me very well over the last year - 5 sites (phpbb, Wordpress etc) are running happily, response times excellent, CPU around 30%, memory around 80%, swap around 50% of 1GB.

All good. But so much has changed with things like Docker now, and I’m just a bit mind-boggled for choice.

I know there are multiple options open to me (excluding application droplets until they get on board with 15.04). But if you were to want to install a small, fast, light 5-site droplet (with separate users/pools), where would YOU start, and why?

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“…where would you start, and why?” Short answer: Spin up several servers, try a different combination each time. A server costs less than 1 cent per hour, and the meter stops when you destroy the droplet. If you like the foundation you built, save a snapshot and then use it to built subsequent droplets. You can give each snapshot a very long name to describe it fully.

I have 8 droplets running now, in various states of disrepair, for a grand total of $40 per month for a nice big digital playground. The point is this: if you are spending more than a few hours each week poking around on these things, go ahead and spin up a few droplets, and try different things on each, for less than what you spend on coffee. Build yourself a manual script or cheatsheet; I learned faster by experimenting and restarting. Don’t forget to take notes.

DigitalOcean is fine for production hosting, but it is first and foremost a developer-friendly site. Spin ‘em up, shut ‘em down, start over and over.

As to what to use now, on most droplets I run nginx and mariadb on debian, although my latest droplets are ubuntu. I am exploring 15.04 now, with the latest drupal 8 beta running on apache. I used Composer to install drush. I tried coreOS, but don’t think it adds anything for me. I stay away from the pre-packaged applications because I want to understand and participate in the detailed decisions. After that, building a new one from notes is very fast.

Practice makes perfect.