What is an Activity Log?
An activity log, also known as an audit trail, is a time-stamped record of activities that take place on a system such as WordPress. Both WordPress activity log and WordPress audit trial refers to a log that records activities on WordPress.
The log of activities is kept in chronological order, that is, in the order in which the activities being recorded happened. While this can make it easy to reconstruct a timeline of events, it can be time-consuming to find a particular event. Search and filtering, where available, can help administrators find the logs they’re looking for quickly and easily.
The type of activities recorded in the activity log will largely depend on the system that logs the data. With WordPress having no activity logging capabilities built-in, the task is carried out by plugins such as WP Activity Log.
Why is an activity log on WordPress important?
An activity log is an important WordPress security tool for several reasons. In fact, an activity log can have many benefits that extend beyond security. Since different activity log plugins may collect different kinds of data, the log’s role will largely depend on the activity data the plugin collects.
Either way, having an audit trail allows WordPress administrators to trace back any event – including security-related events. This ability makes it possible to understand the events that led to an incident, as well as make team members accountable for their actions.
Furthermore, through an activity log, administrators and managers can keep track of the different changes taking place on their WordPress website, from content and e-store changes to settings and plugin changes.
How activity log data is used on WordPress websites
An activity log for WordPress is maintained by a plugin, and as such may come in different shapes and sizes. Generally speaking, plugins may either be general, that is to say, collect a wide range of activities or focus on a subset of activities. This does not necessarily determine the detail of the log.
While the type of activity log plugin installed will ultimately determine the utility of the log it collects, activity logs can provide the following benefits.
Note: see what are the criteria you should consider when evaluating activity log plugins for WordPress websites.
From a security standpoint, activity logs are a great resource to have. Provided the plugin caters for such activities, a log would contain information about who logged in, what resources they accessed, what changes they made, and so on. Such activities can provide you with a detailed view of everything that goes on in your WordPress, allowing you to identify trends, settle disputes, and correct misconfigurations before they become too costly.
Managing your WordPress website can feel like a gargantuan task, growing bigger, as more users and customers sign-up. The difficulty of this task can be further compounded if there is no way of tracking who is doing what, what software is being installed, and what changes are being made to both the front-end and the back-end. This is a challenge that’s made much easier with an activity log, which keeps track of what changes users and the system make to your website.
From easing the pain of troubleshooting issues to insight into how the website is used, an activity goes a long way into providing you with the insight you need to stay ahead of the game.
From an operational perspective, an activity log can also be of major help. It allows administrators to assign ownership of tasks and resources, indirectly increasing the website’s overall security. This benefit can be especially felt by those managing larger websites with multiple users.
How to keep a log of changes on a WordPress website
WordPress does not maintain an activity log out of the box. As such, a 3rd party plugin such as WP White Security’s WP Activity Log needs to be installed. Once installed and activated, the plugin starts to log activities on your WordPress.
Plugins may also come with a number of settings, allowing you to determine the activities you want to be logged, the level of detail, as well as configure any exclusions you might want to set up. Since all plugins are different, you will need to find the one that best fits your needs and requirements.