Why you should use a log management service?

Logs provide the foundational data to support performance, user and technical monitoring on your WordPress sites and the web servers they run on and the services they use.

Using logs, you can monitor user and system activity on your website and use the log data to understand who changed what and when. You can then use this log data to troubleshoot technical and administrative issues, increase user accountability, and improve the security of your WordPress site.

Where logs really shine, however, is during troubleshooting. They are a bit like the flight data recorder or “black box” on an airliner. You hope you never need it, but when things go wrong, you’ll be relieved it’s there.

However, if you’re managing more than one WordPress website or a larger infrastructure, the last thing you want is to waste time hunting through multiple directories looking for log files and manually scanning through hundreds or thousands of log messages to pinpoint the issue.

This alone can dramatically shorten troubleshooting time. Let’s look at some of the other benefits a log management service can provide. With a log management system, the log data from all of the systems supporting and working alongside your WordPress websites is automatically collated and made accessible from one central location.

If you want to learn more about what are logs management services, read the introduction to log management services.

Viewing errors in context

As mentioned above, one of the major advantages of a log management system is that it aggregates logs to a central location. This can become quite critical when you consider that WordPress does not run in a vacuum – it needs an entire ecosystem of components, tools, and services to run. These include the web server it runs on, the MySQL database it uses to save information, the SMTP server to send emails, and a few other things. In fact, WordPress administrators should consider collecting a variety of logs to ensure a holistic bird’s eye view of their infrastructure.

Centralizing logs allows you to view the log data holistically. You can begin to analyze the behavior of your environment as a whole and start to connect events, and identify patterns. For example, if you happen to experience an issue where WordPress suddenly stops sending emails, the issue might not be with WordPress itself, but rather with the SMTP server or anything else that is required for emails to be sent successfully. By having all systems and components report their logs to a one central location, it becomes that much easier to troubleshoot such issues without having to go back and forth between all of the different systems.

Surround Search featured in Loggly

Log management systems also come with other useful features, such as Loggly’s Surround Search. This nifty tool allows you to view the surrounding events that occurred just before or after critical events across your entire monitored environment. Seeing events in the context of other events can be a great time saver when troubleshooting and can help you identify the root cause of issues that much quicker.

Holistically viewing and searching logs from all your services in a central place is the first step towards analyzing the behavior of your website at scale. For example, when a user enters your website, their ability to login and access the site may depend on multiple services, such as authentication, localization, and content management. To troubleshoot any anomalies, you need to be able to track the process from end to end, which means you need to connect multiple events from multiple services. Log management tools that aggregate and allow you to view related events can dramatically shorten issue identification and resolution times.

Fast search across large volumes of events

A key value proposition of log management services is the ability to search and filter large datasets with minimal effort. Log management services use more user-friendly query syntax instead of the complex regular expressions synonymous with traditional tools like awk and grep. You can string simple Boolean keywords and operators, such as AND or OR, and use parentheses for grouping to build very targeted and complex expressions without needing to learn a new query language.

Beyond just searching log files, some log management services such as Papertrail also offer the ability to see event messages as they are written, e.g. tailing. Tailing a log is very useful both for reproducing an issue, as well as for testing potential fixes. For example, you can do this on Papertrail with their Live Tail feature.

Papertrail's Live Tail feature

Broad log support

Log formats are constantly changing as new services are introduced, and new formats gain in popularity. To get the value out of a log management system, you want to make sure it supports all the logging formats you currently use and is updated frequently to support new versions or formats as they become available. To easily search across different log types, you’ll want the log management service to map your query to the individual log message fields. This ability depends on the log management service offering comprehensive support for different log formats and accurately parsing each log file.

Supported log sources by Loggly

Scalable and Secure Storage

When there’s an issue or an outage, it’s easy for the size of log files to grow exponentially. If your log management service relies on physical storage or hardware, you can quickly run out of space for new log data and end up losing critical event messages. This is one of the main advantages of log management as a service offers. Cloud-based log management services avoid this issue by allowing log storage capacity to seamlessly scale up as log volume increases. This ability can be a lifesaver when you are facing major system failures.

Log Volume analysis in Papertrail

Since storing data in the cloud isn’t without risks, you’ll need to weigh the ability to scale against your security needs. Most log management services provide a way to securely store log data using encryption standards such as AES-256 and offer support for Transport Layer Security (TLS) cryptographic protocol to protect data in transit.

Getting started with Log Management Services

Logs are essential for both real-time analysis and reporting, as well as issue investigation and troubleshooting. Investing in a log management service before you have an issue can provide you with the tools you need to identify an issue, understand the impact, and remediate the problem quickly when an issue does crop up. With the right log management service, you’ll be able to quickly search across logs from multiple sources, zoom in on the issue, understand the context, and validate the effectiveness of remediation efforts. Many log management services offer a free trial, such as Loggly and Papertrail, so try them out and see what log management can do for your environment.

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*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from WP White Security authored by Mark Grima. Read the original post at: