Understanding Log Files

If you are new to dedicated servers and have spent any time reading this site, you have undoubtedly come across posts from us reminding you to check and monitor your server’s log files. We even make sure to tell you where those log files are stored. In many cases, however, finding the log files is the easy part. Once you do locate the log file for the service you want to monitor, you need to make sure you can actually understand what it tells you.

If you were to open your MySQL log file, for example, and find an error such as this one, you need to know how ti interpret it.

130331 9:52:01 [ERROR] Can’t create IP socket: Too many open files in system

The first number “130331” tells you the date: March 31 2013. The second number is the server time that the error occurred. The word in brackets (in this case, “error”) tells you the severity. It may say “warning”, “alert” or some other word letting you know just how concerned you need to be about the message. Finally, it will show an error description that will hopefully give you enough information to proceed.

Log files do not always follow this exact format, but many of the logs on web hosting servers will look similar. If you ever encounter something you do not understand, consult the documentation or contact the software’s support channels before attempting to fix it.