Why should you care about centralizing your logs?
It’s not hard to use logs at the start of your project. Most likely, you can access all the logs you need from your local machine. If something goes wrong, go to the AppData directory, find the most recent session logs, and open them with Notepad. Likely, you’re well on your way to fixing the problem.
This approach is acceptable for a simple local project or learning how to use log data effectively. But it doesn’t scale well. Later down the line, when the application runs on multiple hosts across dozens of different servers, accessing the logs you need will be a bit more complicated. Even worse, maybe dozens of servers are actually hundreds - and finding the correct log will be a nightmare without a better system.
Centralized logging lets you bypass this headache. Instead of relying on access to hundreds of different machines, you designate one accessible location for all your log data.
Below, we discuss some of the specific benefits of centralized logging and how that will improve your workflow.
Centralized Logging Systems make troubleshooting faster
How much time do you spend finding logs, not solving problems?
You may know where the logs are on your local machine, but do you know exactly where to find them for a customer in Ohio? Where to find logs for a user running a beta? You might not know off the top of your head. It can be challenging to keep track of this information (and it’s even more difficult if you create multiple applications).
Let’s take a look at a potential process for finding logs when you don’t know the location:
- Get an email about an error
- Pry for more information about the error because you have no idea where to start
- Discover the machine(s) affected by the error
- Get the credentials for machine(s) and log in
- Find out which directory stores error logs
- Find the correct logs for the session
These steps represent a process in which finding the right logs might be more challenging than solving the problem itself. It requires you have a substantial amount of information before you can even access the right log. And it might require a considerable amount of people too, depending on your team’s structure.
You might think, “maybe I can try emailing the client for logs from their local machine to get around this?”
But that won’t be a faster process considering many users won’t know where those logs are stored themselves, and the more you ask your users to root around looking for things, the less likely they’re going to be satisfied with the support they’re getting.
It’s better to access one location every time for your application logs and save everyone a headache. This way, you can access the information you need without involving other parties.
Keep your logs in one location and solve problems faster
Finding the error logs you need should not be that complicated, which is why centralized logging is so important. With a centralized logging system, you don’t need to know the exact machine that has the error (or how to access that machine); you can find that information as you look through your recent logs.
Additionally, centralized logging increases the odds that you will have your log data when it counts. When a system is in real trouble, you don’t need to rely on the machine sending the logs to be stable enough for you to access and get the information. A good centralized logging solution will work around network interruptions, bandwidth constraints, and work when everything else goes wrong. Ensuring you have your logs in the first place, centralized logging increases the odds that you will solve problems quickly.
Overall, keeping your logs in one location will reduce the information you need to start troubleshooting, ensure you have logs when you need them, and let you resolve problems faster.
Keep unnecessary access to a minimum for your critical environments
Even if you know the exact locations for all your log files, accessing them may still be tricky or not a best practice. Sure, you will not hesitate to grab the log files from a production server when something is critically broken, but what about when your application is just performing poorly? Do you want your dev team to log in to the production system for that issue?
Your development team may have easy access to production for troubleshooting, but it’s more likely that the system is only accessible by the system admin team. It may even be a shared platform where local access to the file system is difficult at best.
The former is more convenient for the development team when solving a problem but is a liability in every other scenario. Limiting access to system administrators makes sense in general, but this is a massive bottleneck for developers when they need the log data from production in an emergency.
Centralized logging tools get around this problem by ensuring the development team has
easy access to logs from every environment
without requiring access to every environment. This way, developers have all the information
they need without requiring the keys to the kingdom and increasing unnecessary risk.
Logs contain quantitative data you should leverage
What’s Actually in Your Logs?
Logs are great for troubleshooting errors. And while a product manager cares about resolving problems, they are often not directly responsible. However, there is no reason logs need to be used only for troubleshooting.
- The user’s ID or name
- The user’s computer ID or name
- The computer’s operating system
- The software version they use
- The user’s location/time zone
There is no doubt this information can be beneficial when breaking down a problem. But this information is also useful when making decisions for the product.
Use your logging data outside of troubleshooting
Let’s say that your development team wants to drop support for an OS in the next release. Sure, you can always check broadly if the OS is still supported by your competitors (or even the OS company itself), but that doesn’t let you know if your users have stopped caring about that OS or not.
With your log data, you can get exact numbers about how many users use that operating system and make a better decision. Plus, if you have to push back on your teams’ request to drop support, you can do it with real, quantitative data.
That example shows you why you should leverage your log data outside of troubleshooting errors. Still, centralized logging is crucial for this because it makes it so much easier to process data from all of your environments. If you need to gather information from multiple servers, systems, applications, etc., it can get tedious quickly.
Maybe you need permission to access an environment from operations.
Or maybe you have hundreds of servers.
No matter the specific obstacles, they can add up to the point where you may be tempted to just forget about using this data altogether instead of going through the process of gathering it all.
Centralized logging ensures you will not fall for that temptation. You will always just access one
location to analyze your logs.
Simplify your Logging process
You get many specific benefits from a centralized logging system, but the main conclusion is it will let you spend less time thinking about your logs and more time using them.
Are you interested in using centralized logging for your applications? Loupe Server is our dedicated centralized logging solution for .NET and JAVA developers. You can try our free trial in the link below.