A Beginner’s Guide to Docker


In the fast-paced world of software development and deployment, Docker has become a cornerstone technology. It offers a standardized approach to packaging, distributing, and running applications. In this detailed guide, we will explore the core components of Docker, including Docker images, containers, Dockerfiles, Docker Compose, and delve into the practical use of volumes. Our journey will be accompanied by a simple Node.js application to illustrate each concept.

Docker Images

At the core of Docker lies the concept of images. An image is a lightweight, standalone, and executable package that encapsulates everything needed to run an application—code, runtime, libraries, and system tools. Docker images are constructed using a set of instructions defined in a Dockerfile.

To demonstrate, let’s create a basic Node.js application. Begin by crafting a file named app.js with the following content:

const http = require('http');

const server = http.createServer((req, res) => {
  res.writeHead(200, { 'Content-Type': 'text/plain' });
  res.end('Hello, Docker!\n');

const PORT = 3000;

server.listen(PORT, () => {
  console.log(Server running at http://localhost:${PORT}/);

Docker Containers

Once we have our Node.js application, the next step is to create a Docker container. A container is an executable instance of a Docker image, ensuring consistent execution across different environments.

To accomplish this, let’s construct a Dockerfile:

FROM node:14
WORKDIR /usr/src/app
COPY package*.json ./
RUN npm install
COPY . .
CMD ["node", "app.js"]

This Dockerfile utilizes the official Node.js image as its base, specifies the working directory, installs dependencies, copies the application code, exposes port 3000, and defines the command to run the application.

To build and run the Docker container:

#Build the Docker image
docker build -t my-node-app .

#Run the Docker container
docker run -p 3000:3000 my-node-app

Visit http://localhost:3000 in your browser to witness the “Hello, Docker!” message.

Docker Compose

Docker Compose simplifies the orchestration of multi-container Docker applications. By defining services, networks, and volumes in a single file, it streamlines the management of complex setups.

Let’s create a docker-compose.yml file:

version: '3'

      context: .
      - "3000:3000"

This file defines a service named node-app based on the current directory (where the Dockerfile resides) and maps port 3000 on the host to port 3000 in the container.

To start the application using Docker Compose:

docker-compose up

Visit http://localhost:3000 to observe the same “Hello, Docker!” message.

Docker Volumes

Volumes in Docker provide a mechanism for persisting and sharing data between containers and the host machine. This is particularly useful for scenarios where data must persist even if the container is stopped or removed.

Consider a scenario where you want to persist log files generated by your Node.js application. Update the Docker Compose file to include a volume:

version: '3'

      context: .
      - "3000:3000"
      - ./logs:/usr/src/app/logs

In this example, the ./logs directory on the host machine is mapped to /usr/src/app/logs in the container. This ensures that logs generated by the Node.js application are stored on the host and can be accessed even if the container is stopped.


Docker, with its powerful concepts of images, containers, Dockerfiles, Docker Compose, and volumes, empowers developers to create consistent and reproducible environments for their applications. Understanding and harnessing these concepts are key to streamlining development workflows and ensuring seamless deployment across various environments. With Docker, you can confidently build, ship, and run your applications with efficiency and reliability.