What is a WordPress activity log? (and why you should care!) | Gravity Forms

WordPress Activity LogThe larger your WordPress website grows, the more important it is for you to find a way of monitoring all site activity and changes. When you have a multi-user site or blog, and share WordPress administration tasks with other users or editors, or use a multisite network, this need only multiplies. The more people that use or access your site, the more necessary it is for you to track what’s going on in it. The best way to accomplish this is by using an activity log.

In this blog post, we describe what an activity log is, how it works and the details it records. We also explain the benefits of using an activity log for your WordPress website, particularly when it comes to site and user security and management. Finally, we provide some advice on how to select an activity log plugin that meets your needs.

What is an activity log?

In the field of information security, an activity log is a chronological, sequenced record of all actions performed by website users. It provides a recorded audit trail that you can then search and analyze for out-of-scope, damaging or positive-impact activities. An activity log is sometimes also called an audit log or a security log.

image2With WordPress websites, there is all the overt user activity – page creation, updates, image uploads, comments and deletions. Then, there are all kinds of administrator functions, such as logins and login attempts, plugin installation, file modifications, theme changes and the rest. E-commerce solutions have their own specific activities, such as order processing and product meta data changes, and stock quantity changes.

WordPress does not keep a log or audit trail of user activity by default. However, a record of all these activities can be kept in an activity log by means of an activity log plugin.

What details can you find in an activity log?

Typically, in a WordPress activity log you will find a record of the user changes and actions on your WordPress site. These recorded changes include content changes, changes to categories, comments, menus, tags, and media. You can also find information about the WordPress core and settings changes, themes and plugin changes (including install, activation, update, deactivation and uninstall, activations and deactivations) and more.

Some activity log plugins also keep a log of changes in third party plugins. For example, if you use WooCommerce for your e-commerce store some activity log plugins keep a log of changes users make to products, the store itself, orders, coupons and much more. The same applies to changes in plugins such as Yoast SEO, MainWP and Gravity Forms.

Most activity log plugins also keep a record of the user and its role, the date and time of when the change happened, and the IP address from where the user is accessing the WordPress dashboard. It is important to note that the level of detail in the activity log and the coverage varies from plugin to plugin.

What are the benefits of having an activity log on your WordPress website?

There are many benefits to keeping an activity log on your WordPress website. The below list highlights some of the benefits;

How does an activity log help with WordPress security?

As well as the general website and user management benefits listed above, an activity log also provides specific help with the security of your WordPress websites. For example;

What sort of activity log plugin should you use?

Generally speaking, the more information your activity log plugin can track, the more useful you will find its logs. Some activity log plugins only record events but not the details involved in those events. This greatly limits the usefulness of the log for troubleshooting technical and security issues.

It is also better to find an activity log plugin that is easy to use, that doesn’t require pre-configuration, and that starts to work automatically upon installation.

image1There are at least six key criteria for evaluating WordPress activity log plugins:

Keep your finger on the pulse of your WordPress website

With the rise of remote working and distributed teams, activity logs are more important than ever. An activity log aids in monitoring of user activity and improving user accountability and communication, eases troubleshooting, helps you improve the security of your WordPress website and more.

Questions on activity logs? Feel free to ask in the comments below…

About the Article Contributor:

Robert Abela Portrait Robert Abela is the founder and CEO of WP White Security, the developers of WP Activity Log and a number of other WordPress security and site management plugins. When not at the office, Robert likes to spend time outdoors with his family and on his bike.

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