Using WordPress Logs to Your Advantage
WordPress is incredible, but it’s not without its faults. Chances are, you could run into problems or a bug at some point.
Thankfully, help is always at hand. Little known logging mechanisms can track user activities critical in preventing, detecting, or minimizing the impact of a data compromise, especially if you’re using numerous themes and plugins.
In this article, we’re going to delve into the world of WordPress logs, which information they hold, and how to use this information to troubleshoot your WordPress website.
Let’s get started.
What are Logs in WordPress?
Logs are records of events related to a given software, application, or service. They are usually kept in plaintext files with a .txt or .log file extension, and the files that contain logs are referred to as log files.
Most modern software products keep logs of some kind. This means everything from your smartphone to a smart fridge, and your WordPress web server keeps a log, yet they are often ignored by the average user.
How Your Site Could Benefit From WordPress Logs
Now we’ve got a measure of what logs are, let’s take a look at some of the most common uses of logs for people administering their WordPress websites.
Logs make troubleshooting issues significantly easier. In some cases, an error message serves as a breadcrumb that inches you closer to solving a problem. In other words, logs may give you precisely what you need to resolve an issue. It’s easier to troubleshoot issues into “Google-able” problems. Even if you don’t know exactly what the error means, your Googling becomes much more targeted.
Logs are also of great help with technical SEO. If your site returns many HTTP error codes, such as it responds with too many 302 redirects or a page with great content has low crawl priority, your website’s SEO will suffer. Analyzing log files enables you to track bot activity, HTTP errors, and redirects, thus fixing these issues.
Increase user accountability
Once a WordPress site reaches the scale where multiple users are making changes, such as an e-commerce store, accountability becomes essential. A WordPress audit trail (activity logs) enables you to determine not only what changes were made but who made the changes.
Building on the accountability point, logs can help enhance overall WordPress security. Once a WordPress site is on the Internet, taking security seriously is a must. Logs can help you be proactive in detecting and preventing malicious behavior. In the event of a breach, logs can also help you determine how widespread the damage was and which vulnerability the attackers exploited.
Meet compliance requirements
For organizations subject to strict regulatory standards, logging may be a requirement. For example, WordPress e-commerce sites need to be PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliant. These regulations have requirements of how long logs must be retained and the type of data recorded in them.
Logs for Your WordPress Website
Now that we understand what logs are and why as a WordPress site administrator, you should care about them, let’s dive into the specific logs you should be aware of.
SMTP server Logs
The SMTP server role on a web server is to send emails. This log file is handy to troubleshoot email delivery problems and relay issues. For example, if a customer has issues receiving the emails you are sending, use the SMTP server log file to find out if it was successfully delivered to their servers or is still queued. You can also find information and troubleshoot relay issues if someone reports that spam email is being relayed through your web server’s SMTP server.
PHP error log file
PHP keeps a record of all the errors that occur when running a web application in a log file. As a WordPress user, you might be asked by a plugin developer to refer to it since you might find useful information in it if you are having issues running a particular plugin or theme.
WordPress debug log file
You can use this log file to find more information about your website’s possible plugins or theme issues.
Web server logs
Web server logs provide a ton of value to WordPress administrators. These logs are mostly used for troubleshooting connectivity and access issues. By analyzing your web server’s access logs, you can also learn about the type of attacks your website is subjected to. It’s then easier to take the necessary evasive actions to protect your website from falling victim to a malicious attack.
Additional log files on your WordPress web server
So far, we’ve covered the information you can find in the log files of some of the most common services running on a WordPress web server. You might have several other log files on your web server that might be useful to you. It all depends on your setup and other services you are running on, such as a firewall or DNS server.
For example, if you have multiple people using your site, you may benefit from WordPress audit logs (activity logs). A WordPress audit log keeps a record of changes made to your website. Here you’ll find timestamped information, including the IP address, the username each time anyone with access modifies files or changes posts.
Where Can I Find All of These Logs?
Instead of wading through error log file paths, use a plugin to do the heavy lighting instead. WordPress has no logging capabilities by default. That is why it is essential to install a WordPress activity log plugin on your website, such as the WP Security Log Plugin. The logs generated from these plugins are available directly from the WordPress dashboard.
Use Your Logs Effectively
Log files give you a good insight into what has happened on your server, which is handy when you need to troubleshoot a technical issue, generate a report, and identify what happened during a malicious hack attack. Still, most WordPress users would have no idea what to do with these errors.
When your site isn’t performing optimally, you need these things fixed. Suppose you’re encountering error messages on your WordPress site. In that case, There’s a significant chance that the answer can be found in a PHP error log and that someone else has encountered it too, and documented how to solve the problem.
WordPress contains the most common errors to have at a glance. Additionally, you could send the debug logs to the plugin developers directly or even post on the official WordPress help forums over at WordPress.org.
Set Up Logs to Sleep Like One!
As we have seen, WordPress logs provide a wealth of information and help detect nefarious activity that may have gone unnoticed. Whether you’re using Windows or running WordPress on Ubuntu, you can get hold of your logs. And while debugging sounds complicated, WordPress makes the process simple. With a security log plugin, you’ll have access to in-depth reports for every error on your website (which shouldn’t be many).
What’s more, interpreting a WordPress error log is simpler than you might imagine thanks to precise terms to refer to, and a humongous community of experienced WordPress users eager to help.
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How are you using WordPress error logs? Let us know in the comments section below!