WordPress activity logs help site administrators better manage their WordPress websites and users, and keep them secure. Activity logs are also very helpful in a post hack scenario, to identify the source of the attack.
If you are new to WordPress activity logs, this article is for you. We will explain what activity logs are, what’s their role on a WordPress website, and what are the benefits of keeping a record of all user and site changes. We will also explain how you can easily keep an activity log on your WordPress website. Let’s start!
What are activity logs?
Activity logs, also known as activity logs or audit trials, are a chronological record of changes that happened on a system. Almost every network and multi user software has activity logs, such as operating systems, web servers, database servers and mail servers.
An out of the box installation of WordPress does not have activity logs. However, with an activity log plugin you can keep a comprehensive activity log of changes that happen on your website.
Why do you need an activity log on your WordPress website?
There are several benefits you can take advantage of when you keep a record of all user and site changes in a WordPress activity logs, such as:
- Improve user accountability,
- Track and monitor user productivity,
- keep track of all changes in your e-commerce store,
- Ease troubleshooting of both technical and non technical issues,
- Identify suspicious behaviour and possible website attacks,
- Get instantly notified of critical site changes (like a WordPress intrusion detection system (IDS))
- Catch hackers red handed to limit the damage,
- Identify the root of the hack in a post hack scenario,
- Meet strict regulatory compliance requirements your business has to adhere to,
- Generate any type of user and site activity report,
- And much much more!
To learn more about this subject refer to the WordPress activity log key benefits for site administrators.
What information can you find in WordPress activity logs?
The WP Activity Log plugin keeps a log of all the details a WordPress site administrator requires in the activity log. Here is the list:
Activity log event ID: The plugin has a unique ID for every unique change on a WordPress website. For example, whenever a user logs in to the website, the plugin keeps a log of such activity with event ID 1000. Refer to the complete list of activity log event IDs for more information. Unique IDs are required because they make things such as searching for specific data, filtering, setting up notifications and generating reports much easier, as explained in event IDs in the activity log.
Date & time of change: The plugin uses the website’s configured time zone, and date and time format in the activity log. You can configure the activity log to use the UTC time zone instead, and to display or hide the milliseconds.
User and role:The plugin reports the user that did the change the the user’s role.By default the plugin displays the username. However, you can configure it to show the first and last name, or the display name instead.
Object: The object is what the event is about. For example, this could be plugin in case of a plugin change event, or user in case of a user profile change. Refer to the list of activity log objects for more information about this.
Event type: This is the type of event recorded in the activity log. For example the event type can be login, update, or deleted. Refer to the list of event types for more information about this.
Message: Here the plugin reports the remaining details about the change. For example, the plugin reports the name and the location of where the plugin is installed when a new plugin is installed, or an installed one is updated. In case of a post’s content change, the plugin reports the post’s name, ID, URL and a link from where you can see the post content changes.
Accessing the activity log on your WordPress website
When you install the WP Activity Log plugin it adds a new entry called Audit Log is in the WordPress dashboard menu. Click on it to access the activity logs:
The activity logs have two view types and a few view settings. Refer to how to change the activity log view type for more information of how you can switch to the pagination view.
Searching for a specific change in the WordPress activity log
In WP Activity Log you can run normal text searches in the activity log. You can then use the filters to fine tune your search results and find what you are looking for in less than a minute.
Generating reports from the activity log
The WP Activity Log plugin has a reporting tool with which you to generate any type of report. You can also configure the plugin to automatically send you periodic reports. For example you can configure the plugin to send you a specific report every day, week, month or quarter.
Refer to the activity logs reports page for more detailed information on how to create reports.
Where are the WordPress activity logs stored?
The plugin saves the activity logs in two tables in the WordPress database. The names of these tables are wp_wsal_metadata and wp_wsal_occurences. Refer to the activity logs plugin database documentation for more information on how the data is stored in these tables.
You can also store the activity logs in an external database, archive old activity log data, and mirror the logs to Slack and other third party services. Refer to the external database and activity logs integration for more information.
Does the activity log plugin slow down my WordPress website?
The short answer is no. Performance is something we are very much aware of, and when developing WP Activity Log we make sure we write efficient code that uses the least possible resources. Also, it only keeps a log of what logged in users are doing. Therefore it does not affect the performance of your website and your site’s visitors’ experience. You can read more about this subject in activity logs and WordPress performance.
The million dollar question; should you install an activity log plugin on your WordPress website?
Definitely! Ask any systems engineer, webmaster, developer or security professional. Their answer will be a resounding YES. There isn’t even a single counter argument to installing an activity log plugin on your website, and to keep a record of all changes that happen on it.