Docker containers feature image

Sharing Data between Docker Containers


Docker is a container platform that is a lightweight, virtualized, portable, software-defined standardized environment that allows the software to run in isolation of other software running on the physical host machine. Docker is a defining component of the Continuous Development and Integration aspect of Software Development. By providing a consistent run-time environment, Docker ensures that software behaves the same regardless of the physical host machine on which it is deployed. For a thorough overview of the Docker ecosystem, check out this article.

While Docker containers are self-contained, they sometimes need to share access to data or persist data to disk after the container is stopped. Data can be in the form of databases, log files, or user-generated data. Such data is impossible to include in a Docker image configuration file but it needs to be available for your application to run as expected. Sharing and persisting data in Docker containers is handled by Docker Volumes. Docker Volumes can be created during container creation or created later and attached to containers. In this tutorial, we will be discussing the four different ways to share data between containers.


Please note that, while we are working with Ubuntu 20.04, the instructions and commands for Docker will work on any other operating system with Docker installed and the sudo user added to the docker group as explained in the prerequisites above.

Step 1: Create Independent Docker Volumes

We will start by creating independent volumes that are not related to any Docker container. To achieve this, we have the command docker volume create that was introduced in Docker 1.9 version. Enter the following command to create a volume named Step1DataVolume :

You should see the following output indicating the volume creation was successful:

Docker Volume Create

Now that we have an independent volume, we can create a new container from the official Ubuntu image as an example to make use of it. Enter the following command to create the container and attach the volume:

In this command, the --rm flag will automatically delete the container after exiting. The -v flag is used to specify and mount the volume. The -v flag takes the name of the volume, a full colon, and the absolute path inside the container where the volume should appear. Keep in mind that when the command runs, if the specified directories in the path do not exist, they will be created. If they already exist, the mounted volume will hide the existing content. For the -ti flag, the -t gives access to the terminal, and the -i allows us to interact with the container through the terminal.

While inside the container, run the following command to write some data to the volume:

Type exit and press enter to exit the container. As explained, the container is automatically deleted when you exit, thanks to the --rm flag, however, the volume will still be accessible.

To verify that the volume still exists, you can use the docker volume inspect command:

You should see the following output:

Docker Volume Inspect

Next, let’s create a new container. First, attach the volume and see if we can access the text we created in the previous container. Enter the following command to create and run the container using the ubuntu image:

Inside the container, run the following command to verify that the StepOne.txt file exists:

You should see a similar output:

Docker Volume Content 1

Next, type exit and press enter to exit the container. In this step, you learned how to handle data persistence using independent Docker volumes and how to attach volumes to containers.

Step 2: Creating a Docker Volume that Persists Data when you Delete a Container

In this step, we will use a single command to create a volume at the same time as we create a container. We will then delete the container and attach the volume to a new container. The command is similar to the one used in Step 1, however, we add one flag --name, to specify a name for the container:

While inside the container, enter the following command to write data to the volume and verify that the data is there:

Below is the output of the three commands:

Persistent Docker Volume

Next, exit the container. When you restart the container using the following command, the volume will attach automatically:

Inside the container, verify the volume is mounted by checking the existence of the StepTwo.txt file using the command:

Here is the output:

Docker Volume After Restart

You can exit the container now. Docker prevents the removal of a volume that another container references. You can try removing the volume using the command:

You should see the error message in the output:

Error Response

Let’s remove the container using the container id shown in the output with the docker rm command:

Replace the highlighted container id with the id of your container shown in your terminal. The command removes the container, but it does not remove the volume we created. You can list the volumes available using the docker volume ls command to verify:

Here is the output:

Docker Volume List

To remove the container created in Step 2, enter the following command:

In this step, you were able to create a Docker volume at the same time when creating a container. Let’s see how we can create a volume from an existing directory with data.

Step 3: Creating a Docker Volume from an Existing Directory with Data

If you want to copy data into a volume, you can create a volume while creating a container and provide the path to a directory containing the data in the base image. In the command below, we create a container and add a data volume at /var, which is a directory containing data in the base image:

When the command runs, content from the base image’s /var directory will be copied into the volume. The volume can be attached to a new container. Next, exit the container:

Create Docker Volume

Enter the following command to create the container, attach the volume and list the contents of the volume using the ls command:

You should see similar output from the command, which is a copy of the contents of the /var directory from the base image now available in the Step3DataVolume:

Copy Docker Volume

While mounting the /var directory as we did in this example may be impractical, it helps us understand that you can mount any directory created in your custom images to a Docker volume to make the data available to other containers.

Step 4: Sharing Data Between Multiple Docker Containers

In most cases, you will want multiple containers to access data from one Docker volume. In the previous examples, we have only attached a volume to one container. Now, you will learn how to attach a volume to multiple containers. While you can achieve this easily, Docker does not handle file locking. For multiple containers writing to the same volume, you must individually design the applications running in those containers to handle writing to shared data stores to avoid data corruption.

  • Create Step4Container1 and Step4DataVolume

Use the docker run command with the --name flag to create a named container:

Inside the container, run the following command to create a text file and add some text:

After that, exit the container and get back to the host environment. Now, we want to create another container and mount the volumes from Step4Container1 to it.

  • Create Step4Container2 and attach the volumes from the container Step4Container1

Execute the following command to create Step4Container2 and mount volumes from Step4Container1:

Inside the container, use the cat command to verify data persistence:

You should see the following output:

Container Data Sharing

We can append some more text to the file from Step4Container2 by entering the following command:

Exit the container after this and we will go back to Step4Container1 to check if the data is still present.

  • Verify changes made in the Docker volume between different containers

To view the changes, you will first restart the Step4Container1 using the command:

Check for changes using the command:

You should see an output similar to the screenshot below:

Copied Container Data

Once you verify that both containers can read and write data to the same volume, you can now exit the container. As mentioned, Docker does not handle file locking, it’s the job of your application logic running inside the containers that should handle read-write access to shared data stores. Docker allows mounting volumes as read-only to prevent accidental data corruption by containers that only require read-only access by adding :ro as shown in the next example.

  • Mounting a volume to a Docker container as read-only

For this example, we will create a container named Step4Container3. In the create command, we mount volumes from Step4Container1 and add :ro to specify that this container has read-only access but cannot write to the volume. Execute the following command in your terminal:

Once inside the container, you can read the text file in the volume by entering the following command:

Read Only Mount

However, if you try to remove the file using the command:

You will get an error message in your terminal like:

Read Only Error

Once you have verified the read-write permissions, you can exit the container. If you would like to clean up the containers and volume created in this tutorial, run the following commands:

In this step, you learned how to share data among multiple containers using Docker volumes as well as mounting data volumes to containers as read-only.


In this tutorial, you created some Docker volumes and learned how to share data across Docker containers. While dealing with data sharing between containers, we noted that individual application logic inside the container must handle file locking to prevent data corruption when writing to shared data stores, since Docker has no implementation for handling file locking.

For further resources on utilizing Docker, you may want to check out more tutorials on our blog:

Happy Computing!