Set up MySQL, PostgreSQL, or SQLite for a Laravel web application

(This is part of a larger guide to deploying a Laravel and Vue.js web application.)

This article covers the installation and basic set up a database management system.

I’ve included sections on three common DBMSs—use whichever you prefer out of:

  1. MySQL (MariaDB)
  2. PostgreSQL
  3. SQLite

If you’re using MySQL, you might also like Digital Ocean’s guide to setting up MySQL on an Ubuntu machine, which covers similar material.

MySQL

First install MySQL. (Technically we’re installing MariaDB, which is a drop-in, open source replacement for MySQL. The two are interchangeable for our purposes).

# Install MariaDB (MariaDB is an open source, drop-in MySQL replacement).
# It might be preinstalled on your server, but it can't hurt to reinstall.
laravel@server$ sudo apt install mariadb-server 

You then need to create a database to store your web app’s data and a database user to interact with the database. To do this, first log in to the MySQL shell using the root DB account:

# Log in to the MySQL shell using the root MySQL account
laravel@server$ sudo mysql

Then create a dedicated database and DB account for your web app.

Disclaimer: I’m showing a simple setup

I’m showing only a basic setup in this guide, encompassing:

  • Password-based authentication using MySQL’s default authentication plugin (caching_sha2_password at the time of writing).
  • Granting all privileges on the web app’s DB to the non-root account. Note: we’re intentionally restricting the non-root account’s privileges to only the web app’s database (i.e. using GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON laraveldb.*) and not granting privilege for all databases on the server (which would be GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON *.*).

This is all you need to run a Laravel web app and should work well for most users, but keep in mind that there are many more possible authentication methods and privilege grants to choose from. Consider reading through these two Digital Ocean guides if you’re new to managing MySQL databases.

-- Create a database for your web app.
-- (Update the database name as desired.)
CREATE DATABASE laraveldb;

-- Create a dedicated DB account to manage the app's DB.
-- (Update the account's username and password as desired.)
CREATE USER 'laravel'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'supersecretpassword';

-- Grant the DB user all privileges on the app's database
GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON laraveldb.* TO 'laravel'@'localhost';
Hardening your MySQL installation with mysql_secure_installation

TLDR: read the warning about mysql_secure_installation in this Digital Ocean article, perform the suggested temporary change of root@localhost’s authentication method to mysql_native_password, then run:

# ASSUMING you've allowed password authentication for the root account, just
# follow the prompts and use common sense.
laravel@server$ sudo mysql_secure_installation

End TLDR

It’s best practice to secure your MySQL install using the mysql_secure_installation tool.

But at the time of writing, this is complicated by a clash between mysql_secure_installation and Ubuntu’s default MySQL settings: namely, mysql_secure_installation attempts to set a password for the root database account, but by default this account is only allowed to authenticate using Unix socket authentication (i.e. MySQL’s auth_socket method).

You can get around this by tweaking some MySQL config settings, but it takes manual intervention on your part. Digital Ocean has already covered this, so I refer to their guide (here you go) and see no reason to repeat the same information here.

Finally, enable and start the MySQL server:

# Enable and start the MySQL server
laravel@server$ sudo systemctl enable --now mariadb.service

You should be able to log in to a MySQL shell:

# Log in to MySQL shell; connect to just-created database with just-created account.
# Specify password when prompted.
laravel@server$ mysql -D laraveldb -u laravel -p

PostgreSQL

First install PostgreSQL:

# Install PostgreSQL
laravel@server$ sudo apt install postgresql

You then need to create a database to store your web app’s data and a database user to interact with the database. To do this, first log in to the PostgreSQL shell:

# Log in to the PostgreSQL shell using the `postgres` PostgreSQL account.
# We do this by first switching to the `postgres` Linux user,
# then running the `psql` command as the `postgres` Linux user
laravel@server$ sudo --login --user=postgres
postgres@server$ psql

# Note: you could also do that in one shot with:
laravel@server$ sudo -u postgres psql
About logging in to PostgreSQL and why we switch to the postgres user

Logging in to PostgreSQL can (understandably) be a bit confusing for new users.

Here’s everything involved in a PostgreSQL connection:

(Most of these are set implicitly, so beginner users are not aware of them—this causes confusion upon encountering problems that require knowing what’s going on under the hood.)

First some background: the PostgreSQL installation, among other things, creates:

  • A Linux user called postgres (you can confirm this by checking the bottom of the /etc/passwd file, which keeps track of Linux users, after installing PostgreSQL).
  • A PostgreSQL account, also called postgres.
  • A PostgreSQL database, also called postgres.
  • A psql binary, often in /usr/bin/psql.

When you run psql without explicitly specifying a database, PostgreSQL user, host, or port, psql will try to log you into the PostgreSQL shell:

  • as the PostgreSQL user whose username matches the username of the Linux user who ran the psql command (using peer-based authentication, which relies precisely on the Linux user’s and PostgreSQL user’s names matching),
  • connected to the database whose name matches the username of the Linux user who ran the psql command,
  • on port 5432, the default PostgreSQL port number,
  • using a Unix domain socket connection (the local connection type in the pg_hba.conf file) on the local host.

(The last two bullet points fall beyond the scope of this tutorial and require some networking background, so don’t worry if you don’t understand them.) My goal here is mainly for you to understand why we switch to the postgres Linux user before running psql.

Well, our goal is to log in to the PostgreSQL shell as the postgres PostgreSQL user, connected to the default postgres database. We’ve mentioned that, by default, psql will connect you to the database and PostgreSQL account matching the name of the Linux user who ran the psql command, so running psql as the postgres Linux user ensures we connect to the postgres database as the postgres PostgreSQL user.

(And why connect with the postgres PostgreSQL account in the first place? Answer: postgres is the PostgreSQL superuser account (like the root Linux account) that is used to create new databases and other users.)

Some helpful tools and documentation
  • You can show psql connection info by running \conninfo after connecting to a PostgreSQL shell.
  • psql’s -U option lets you log in to the PostgreSQL shell as a custom user (but will need appropriate permissions/authentication).
  • psql’s -d option lets you connect to a custom database
  • psql’s -h option lets you connect to a specific host, and can be used to attempt a host-based connection.
  • The comments in the pg_hba.conf file nicely summarize practical use of various authentication methods and connection types (you can locate the file by running SHOW hba_file; as a superuser from a PostgreSQL shell). (The pg_hba.conf file is where you configure PostgreSQL authentication, but you should know what you’re doing before editing it.)
  • Chapter 21 of the PostgreSQL manual thoroughly covers authentication in PostgreSQL. This is where to go if you’re curious about things like connection types and authentication methods beyond the cursory info in this article.

Then create a dedicated database and DB account for your web app (remember the semicolons—the PostgreSQL shell is picky).

-- Create a database for your web app.
-- (Update the database name as desired.)
postgres=# CREATE DATABASE laraveldb;

-- Create a dedicated DB account to manage the app's DB.
-- (Update the account's username and password as desired.)
postgres=# CREATE USER laravel WITH ENCRYPTED PASSWORD 'supersecretpassword';

-- A simple way of granting the DB user privileges on the app's database---we
-- just make the user the owner of the database.
postgres=# ALTER DATABASE laraveldb OWNER TO laravel;
Disclaimer: this setup is simple

I’m showing only a basic setup in this guide, encompassing:

  • Password-based authentication (that will only work with local host-based connections on the server). This means you’ll need to add an -h flag when using psql.
  • Giving the PostgreSQL user permissions to interact with the app’s database by simply making the user the owner of the database.

This is all you need to run a Laravel web app and should work well for most users, but keep in mind that there are many more possible authentication methods and privilege grants to choose from. If inspired consider reading through the PostgreSQL docs on client authentication and available privileges, as well as this StackOverflow answer and the references therein.

Finally, enable and start the PostgreSQL server:

# Enable and start the PostgreSQL server
laravel@server$ sudo systemctl enable --now postgresql.service

You should then be able to log in to a PostgreSQL shell as follows:

# Log in to PostgreSQL shell and connect to just-created DB.
# IMPORTANT: you need the `-h` flag to initiate a host-based connection.
# Specify password when prompted.
laravel@server$ psql -U laravel -d laraveldb -h localhost
You need the --host flag!
Assuming you’re following along with the guide, you need the -h flag (short for --host) to initiate a local host-based connection; psql would otherwise attempt a socket-based connection using peer authentication, which will fail because of how we’ve set up the PostgreSQL user combined with the default settings in pg_hba.conf. (Although explaining the details of PostgreSQL authentication modes falls beyond the scope of this article.)

SQLite

SQLite is easy compared to MySQL and PostgreSQL—since SQLite doesn’t use a database server, we don’t have to deal with account and privilege management; all we have to do is install SQLite:

# Install SQLite
laravel@server$ sudo apt install sqlite3

That’s all you need for now—I’m assuming you’ll be bring along an existing *.sqlite database file with a Laravel app.

Next: The next article covers server-side Git setup.

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