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I'm a developer with virtually no "real" server experience, and I'm planning on building a web app that I'll need to bootstrap until I get enough paying customers to afford a proper devops person.

I've embraced docker, and feel like that provides some good initial workflow for me to manage dev, testing, and basic production (to VMs like digital ocean, vultr, etc).

Currently I do everything as a single node, but I've been starting to learn clusters (docker swarms).

It's a huge amount of information and I'm worried that I'm losing valuable dev time learning about ops -- especially since the plan is to hire an ops person asap.

I'm wondering where I might be able to get some guidance on what's practical to learn for someone like me when it comes to the ops side of things? Can a single hosted VM node be successful at launching a small start-up or do I need to learn how to deal with clusters from the start?

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Well, it is an unfortunate thing in the SE sites that they interpret topicality often too narrow.

a) Your this question would be probably closed on the SO, because it is not a question about programming.

b) Your question would be probably closed also on the ServerFault, because although your question is about system administration, it is not a question what a professional system administrator would ask. The high quality of your question and your clear intent to hire a professional sysadmin may push them into a more friendly tone, but it won't be probably enough for your question to survive.

What could work:

  1. Give a try to the SuperUser, they are quite friendly for constructive questions such as yours. Actually, you can get answers not only to power user questions, but often for any IT-related, professional questions if they consider your question will improve the quality of their site.
  2. Start to build your docker container (image). If you find a problem (you will), this problem will be already enough clear to have a significant chance on the serverfault to survive. If you deal with them, try to focus to the pure professional system administration side of your problem, any other would make it offtopic.
  3. If you are working in a clean unix/linux environment, the Unix SE is also very friendly until you don't ask anything from programming (they send programming questions to the SO, where it would be offtopic because (a)).

Most of the sites are cooperative only if you want an answer to a specific problem. Thus, "What should I do?" questions have much smaller chance to survive. Questions like "X don't work in docker, this is the error message:", are okay.

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