logging vs monitoring vs tracing

If you are a developer or an IT administrator, then it becomes crucial for you to protect your system from bugs and keep track of what’s going on with your system and how you can improve its functionalities of it. And to deal with such problems, you might have heard about 3 buzzwords: Logging, Monitoring, and Tracing.  

Let’s dive into the article to understand what these terms mean to you and how to optimize your systems with them.  

What is Logging?  

What is logging

Developers perform logging to see what transformations are in your system. System administrators need to look at logs when things go wrong in an application. Logging emphasizes monitoring data.  

Moreover, It is the process of capturing data. Not only that, but logging is also responsible for checking errors, faults, and failures and evaluating the health of your IT infrastructure. System administrators can conduct Logging throughout the lifecycle of an application.   

When you are running an application, there are times when your application will not function effectively. In that case, you need to track the errors and see what’s happening in your application, such as informational events, warnings, application issues, failure audits, etc.   

Therefore, Various log monitoring tools are widely available in the market to check the performance and health of your applications. These tools include – Splung, Datalog, LogDNA, Cloudlytics, etc.   

Additionally, System administrators check the log folders to determine the cause of the software’s poor functioning by examining the actions performed on the data, along with the corresponding timestamps.

The most common logging levels involve FATTAL, DEBUG, ERROR, INFO, etc. So, To evaluate the performance of an application, you can analyze various log entries. Logs represent the record of an event in text format by highlighting the unpredictable behavior of an application.  

Logging aims to provide a detailed record of what an application is doing and help developers troubleshoot the issues. Furthermore, There are various types of logs an application has. These include debug logs, error logs, access logs, event logs, etc.   

When talking about the form of logs, logs appear in 3 formats – Plaintext, structured, and binary.   

  • Firstly, Text logs are the most common type of logs. These logs comprise text files that record information about the events that occur in an application. These logs can be readable and understandable by humans.   
  • Structured logs use specific logic or schema while recording information. The system stores these logs in JSON format, allowing developers to use them for analysis purposes, such as generating reports.
  • Finally, In binary form, data is stored in binary format. Binary logs are used to assess the performance of an application or to evaluate the security of an application.   

Read also – Top 5 Tools For Log Monitoring

What is Tracing?  

Tracing provides a bigger picture of an application by presenting a more comprehensive range of information. Furthermore, The ultimate objective of tracing is to identify bottlenecks associated with an application.  

Besides that, Tracing provides actionable insights about an entire user journey, including where the users are coming from and their actions on the specific page.   

Though analyzing logs can give you an overview of how applications function, it fails to track how various applications interact.   

In addition, Tracing covers everything, including how your data moves through the entire system, which helps the developers to analyze the deviations, if any. Tracing proves to be a worthy action to find out the bugs faster.   

Moreover, This technique can help developers to know the exact root cause which is causing poor performance of an application.   

It is important because modern applications comprise different services that work together to provide functionality.   

For Instance – When a user requests the server, that request is handled by multiple services. Tracing helps the developers to understand the entire lifecycle of requests within the system.   

Therefore, Various tracing tools can help developers trace the path to identify the potential issues that might affect the performance of an application. Tracing can be expensive for developers as it involves a lot of data that too with complexities.  

Tracing acts like a Blackbox of an aircraft during the crash, giving you an idea of how things performed during the crash and what went wrong.   

What is Monitoring?  

What is Monitoring

Monitoring of an app refers to observing the behavior and performance of an app to identify the issues, if any.   

It acts as a goldmine for developers if you are keen to analyze the metrics such as CPU usage, network time, response time, memory usage, system availability, etc. Monitoring ensures that the application is running smoothly.   

If you compare monitoring with the above 2 concepts, it is a more expensive task. In addition, It proves to be a lucrative option for developers to get deeper insights into the system’s behavior.   

Monitoring involves the 5 steps as mentioned below:  

  • Firstly, It collects data regarding the performance of an application, such as memory usage, network time, response time, etc.  
  • It analyses the data collected to identify trends and potential issues of an application.
  • Developers can use Monitoring techniques either manually or it can take help of automatic tools.   
  • Alerts are set up to inform the developers as and when some issues are detected.   
  • Finally, Reports help developers to make informed decisions and track the issues of an application

Read also- What Are The Uses Of Monitoring Tools In DevOps?

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Similarities Between Logging, Monitoring, And Tracing   

similarities between logging vs monitoring vs tracing
Similarities Between Logging, Monitoring, Tracing

1. Data Collection   

In the first step, data is collected about the behavior and performance of an application. This data can be further used to optimize the performance of an application and identify the issues, if any.   

2. Analysis   

After the collection of data, developers can perform data analysis either manually or through automation.   

3. Setting Alerts   

Logging, tracing, and monitoring can be used to set up alerts for the system to notify the developers and system administrators as and when certain thresholds get exceeded.   

4. Improves Performance   

Developers too can improve the performance of an application and optimize it by identifying the bottlenecks associated with an application and taking proactive steps.   

Difference Between Logging, Tracing, And Monitoring   

Basis of comparison  Logging  Tracing  Monitoring  
Objective  The objective of logging is to see what goes wrong in your application and assess the current state of an application. It is used to capture events, errors, and failures that occur in an application.   The objective of tracing is to track an entire user journey and analyze how the data moves through the entire system. The prime motto of monitoring is to observe the performance of an application.  
Focus It involves recording information about events such as system events, errors, and warnings  On the contrary, Tracing emphasizes checking how requests are handled  While Monitoring focuses on checking the performance of an application  
Data collection  Tools used for logging include ELK stack, Splung, and gray log  Tracing emphasizes checking how requests are handled  Tools used for monitoring include Prometheus, Nagios, Datadog, etc. 
Usage  Logging is used to diagnose the problems of an application  Tracing is used to figure out the source of problems  While Monitoring is used to identify bottlenecks before they could impact the system’s performance  
Tools  It involves analyzing metrics such as CPU usage, memory consumption, network traffic, etc.  Tracing emphasizes checking how requests are handled  Tools used for tracing include Open tracing, Zipkin, Jaeger, etc.  

To Sum Up

You might get an idea of 3 buzzwords – Logging, Monitoring, and Tracing. So, You might have understood that these tools are essential for you to ensure the optimal performance of your apps.   

Moreover, These tools are not just mere software; they would help developers and system administrators understand how their system works.  

Have any questions? Connect with our Dedicated DevOps to increase the effectiveness of your applications/software.   

Book a 15 min discovery call with our DevOps Consultant  


Q1. Can tracing replace logging?  

No, logging cannot be fully replaceable by tracing because Logging is the process of recording events of an application. Besides that, Logging provides detailed insights into the events that occur within an application.
On the contrary, tracing refers to the process of recording the path and events that occur within the system. Additionally, Tracing provides a deep level of architecture. 

Q2. What does trace mean in logging?  

Trace or stack trace refers to the detailed record of an application. Furthermore, The purpose of Trace in logging is to identify the performance bottlenecks.   
Stack trace helps you identify the call and caller thread and detailed recording of an issue and how it happened.

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