All You Need To Know About Structured Logging

All You Need To Know About Structured Logging

A developer tends to have one of the most valuable assets: the Log files. Whenever a production house encounters something wrong, the first thing they look for is the logs. This is what structured logging is also used for.

The structured logging best practices are aimed at bringing more value to the format and details of the logging. To know more about it in detail, you need to move further in this article.

What Is Structured Logging?

Developers always find it arduous to read the log files because of their unstructured text data. They also won’t be able to query them to acquire useful information. That is why they have to filter all logs by specific customer hashtags or transaction hashtags. The goal is to structure these issues and even add more analytics.

If you want to make your log files machine-readable and have more advanced log functionality, it is significant to write them in a structured format that can be parsed effortlessly. This format can include XML, JSON, etc.

Moreover, you can use structured logging for several different use cases:

  • For Analytics Or Business Intelligence-  You can process webserver to access logs and also perform some basic summarization and aggregation across the data.
  • Searching Log Files- You can easily search and correlate log messages. It adds value during the development process and even solves troubleshooting production issues.

Structured Logging Best Practices

One of the hardest things a developer has to do is knowing how and what to log. It is mostly because of its akin divination. Also, it becomes relatively difficult to know the information required during troubleshooting. That is why we have created the list of best practices one can follow during structured logging.

Avoid Writing Logs By Yourself

Always avoid writing a log by yourself. Instead, use a standard library or system API call to perform these tasks. It will help you to ensure that the running application is playing nicely with other system components and will also log to the right place or network services without special system configurations.

Employ The Proper Log Category

Several logging libraries enable you to specify a logging category. This category helps in classifying the log messages. It, eventually, gets logged in a distinct way or not logged at all based on the logging framework configurations. Mostly, Java Developers utilize the fully qualified class name that enables log statements to appear as a category. This scheme works appropriately when the program respects the simple responsibility principle.

Write Meaningful Log Messages

This is probably the most crucial structured logging practice. While writing your log entries messages, always expect an emergency situation where the only thing you might have is a log file. From this log file only, you have to understand what has happened. If you do it correctly, there is a high chance of getting promoted.

Mostly, a developer writes a log message in the context of the code in which the log directive is to be inserted. In such conditions, the messages that are written should infer the current context. However, you can overcome this situation by adding remediation information to the log message.

Create Human-Readable Logs

There is no doubt on log files are machine-readable. However, it is also crucial to make them human-readable as well. It is because people also read log entries. Mostly, they are stressed-out developers, who are trying to troubleshoot the faulty application.

Therefore, you can use the following points to achieve human-readable logs:

  • Using a standard date and time format.
  • Adding timestamps in UTC or local time plus offset.
  • Employing log levels correctly.
  • Including the stack trace while logging exceptions.
  • Including the thread’s name while logging from a multi-threaded application.

Think Of Your Audience

Why adding logging to an application is essential? Because someone will read the log one day. That is why it is significant to think of your audience while writing a log message content, context, category, and level.

Your audience can be:

  • End-user who tries to troubleshoot the problem.
  • An operation engineer or system administrator troubleshooting a production issue.
  • A developer who will debug during development or solve production issues.

Using these best practices, developing log messages will become relatively effortless.

John Norwood
John Norwood is best known as a technology journalist, currently at Ziddu where he focuses on tech startups, companies, and products.