Log Levels

In this section we define and describe the meaning of the log levels in ArangoDB's log messages. The log levels are, from most to least severe:

  • FATAL
  • ERROR
  • WARN
  • INFO
  • DEBUG
  • TRACE

For each log topic one can configure the lowest level which is actually logged. For example, if one sets the log level to ERROR for some log topic, one only sees messages of level ERROR and above (ERROR and FATAL).

See an example of how to configure log levels in the Administration chapter.

FATAL

Fatal errors are the most severe errors and only occur if a service or application can not recover safely from an abnormal state, which forces it to shut down.

Typically, a fatal error only occurs once in the process lifetime, so if the log file is tied to the process, this is typically the last message in the log. There might be a few exceptions to this rule, where it makes more sense to keep the server running, for example to be able to diagnose the problem better.

We reserve this error type for the following events:

  • crucial files/folders are missing or inaccessible during startup
  • overall application or system failure with a serious danger of data corruption or loss (the following shutdown is intended to prevent possible or further data loss)

Recommendation: Fatal errors should be investigated immediately by a system administrator.

ERROR

If a problem is encountered which is fatal to some operation, but not for the service or the application as a whole, then an error is logged.

Reasons for log entries of this severity are for example:

  • missing data
  • a required file can't be opened
  • incorrect connection strings
  • missing services

If some operation is automatically retried and eventually succeeds, no error will be written to the log. Therefore, if an error is logged then it should be taken seriously as it may require user intervention to solve.

Note that in any distributed system, temporary failures of network connections or certain servers or services can and will happen. Most systems will tolerate such failures and retry for some time, but will eventually run out of patience, give up and fail the operation one level up.

Recommendation: A system administrator should be notified automatically to investigate the error. By filtering the log to look at errors (and other logged events above) one can determine the error frequency and quickly identify the initial failure that might have resulted in a cascade of additional errors.

WARN

A warning is triggered by anything that can potentially cause application oddities, but from which the system recovers automatically.

Examples of events which lead to warnings:

  • switching from a primary to backup server
  • retrying an operation
  • missing secondary data
  • things running inefficiently (in particular slow queries and bad system settings)

Certain warnings are logged at startup time only, such as startup option values which lie outside the recommended range.

These might be problems, or might not. For example, expected transient environmental conditions such as short loss of network or database connectivity are logged as warnings, not errors. Viewing a log filtered to show only warnings and errors may give quick insight into early hints at the root cause of subsequent errors.

Recommendation: Can mostly be ignored but can give hints for inefficiencies or future problems.

INFO

Info messages are generally useful information to log to better understand what state the system is in. One will usually want to have info messages available but does usually not care about them under normal circumstances.

Informative messages are logged in events like:

  • successful initialization
  • services starting or stopping
  • successful completion of significant transactions
  • configuration assumptions

Viewing log entries of severity info and above should give a quick overview of major state changes in the process providing top-level context for understanding any warnings or errors that also occur. Logging info level messages and above will usually not spam anything beyond good readability.

Recommendation: Usually good to have, but one does not have to look at info level messages under normal circumstances.

DEBUG

Information which is helpful to ArangoDB developers as well as to other people like system administrators to diagnose an application or service is logged as debug message.

Debug messages make software much more maintainable but require some diligence because the value of individual debug statements may change over time as programs evolve. The best way to achieve this is by getting the development team in the habit of regularly reviewing logs as a standard part of troubleshooting reported issues. We encourage our teams to prune out messages that no longer provide useful context and to add messages where needed to understand the context of subsequent messages.

Recommendation: Debug level messages are usually switched off, but one can switch them on to investigate problems.

TRACE

Trace messages produce a lot of output and are usually only needed by ArangoDB developers to debug problems in the source code.

Recommendation: Trace level logging should generally stay disabled.