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How Can the ELK Stack Be Used to Monitor PHP Apps?

This article was peer reviewed by Christopher Thomas, Younes Rafie, and Scott Molinari. Thanks to all of SitePoint’s peer reviewers for making SitePoint content the best it can be!

When things go south with our applications — as they sometimes do, whether we like it or not — our log files are normally among the first places where we go when we start the troubleshooting process. The big “but” here is that despite the fact that log files contain a wealth of helpful information about events, they are usually extremely difficult to decipher.

A modern web application environment consists of multiple log sources, which collectively output thousands of log lines written in unintelligible machine language. If you, for example, have a LAMP stack set up, then you have PHP, Apache, and MySQL logs to go through. Add system and environment logs into the fray — together with framework-specific logs such as Laravel logs — and you end up with an endless pile of machine data.

Talk about a needle in a haystack.

ELK logo

The ELK Stack (Elasticsearch, Logstash, and Kibana) is quickly becoming the most popular way to handle this challenge. Already the most popular open-source log analysis platform — with 500,000 downloads a month, according to Elastic — ELK is a great way to centralize logs from multiple sources, identify correlations, and perform deep-data analysis.

Elasticsearch is a search-and-analytics engine based on Apache Lucene that allows users to search and analyze large amounts of data in almost real time. Logstash can ingest and forward logs from anywhere to anywhere. Kibana is the stack’s pretty face — a user interface that allows you to query, visualize, and explore Elasticsearch data easily.

This article will describe how to set up the ELK Stack on a local development environment, ship web server logs (Apache logs in this case) into Elasticsearch using Logstash, and then analyze the data in Kibana.

Installing Java

The ELK Stack requires Java 7 and higher (only Oracle’s Java and the OpenJDK are supported), so as an initial step, update your system and run the following:

sudo apt-get install default-jre

Installing ELK

There are numerous ways of installing the ELK Stack — you can use Docker, Ansible, Vagrant, Microsoft Azure, AWS, or a hosted ELK solution — just take your pick. There is a vast number of tutorials and guides that will help you along the way, one being this ELK Stack guide that we at put together.

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