What are Web Server Logs? Common Examples and Analysis Tools

Server logs give you a quick, in-depth look at your network’s traffic. All of the web server logs you can monitor and review are managed, compiled and stored by your server. These raw text files and using these files, you can collect factual data about your site’s viewers including their IP address, access date and time, their user agent, referrer, service name and more. Take a look at these examples to learn the basics of reading a web server log and some tools that can help you collect all the most essential information you need from your own.

What’s in a Server Log?

There is a standardized format for common web server logs that enables them to be easily run through NGINX monitoring and other data log analyzers. The basic layout of a server log contains the host followed by the user identifier, the name of the data they’re requesting or attempting to access, the date and time that the request was received and other information such as the HTTP status code and the size of the user’s return data measured in bytes.

Why You Need to Read Your Web Server Logs

Web server data analysis provides you with valuable information about your visitors’ behavior. Data collection is simplified due to the simplistic format of server logs and if you use NGNIX monitoring for your server and network, there are different tools and plug-ins you can install that make it easier to collect server log information. One of the biggest benefits about web server logs is the ability to measure traffic from robots and crawlers; this can be advantageous to companies conducting SEO analysis and attempting to optimize their content.

Benefits to Server Log Analysis

For servers with a ton of traffic, it isn’t practical to read every single log and expect to produce any useful results. Log analysis streamlines the analytic process by collecting and analyzing data for you. You can specify what information you’re most interested in by defining your metrics, or measurements. Consider the process of log analysis like making a scientist assessing the efficacy of a trial medication. Rather than simply hoping it works, they define their objective and set measurable criteria (metrics) to track their progress and draw conclusions. The same principle applies to IT techs and log analysis. The data you collect and metrics you define shape the conclusions you’ll draw, and they provide insight into specific inquiries or issues that your server may have.

NGINX Monitoring for Server Logs

NGINX hosts over 400 million websites, and there is a suite of additional applications you can use to monitor your web traffic, analyze data and keep on top of your cloud and security. Rather than trying to figure out web server log analysis on your own, the NGINX Log Analyzer can quickly compile your site’s data and provide a visual breakdown of everything you need to know. All of the programs utilize a variety of metrics for monitoring NGINX that allows you to monitor performance, track trends and compile reports more easily. A visually optimized interface simplifies complicated data into highly shareable charts and graphics. Metrics help structure log analysis by setting parameters and defining measurements. The exact metrics you use will vary based on your goals and the type of data you want to interpret, but customizing metrics through your monitoring platform will make it easy to consistently and accurately analyze your server’s logs.

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