Rotating Rails Production Logs with LogRotate

Keep your log files in check as time goes on and make sure they don't fill up your server's disk space


One of those things you have to pay attention to on your production Rails servers is the size of the log files that your Rails application produces. I’ll be showing you how to logrotate Rails production logs each day to archive a copy of your logs and then compress them to save space and make them much more manageable.

Your log files can grow fast, especially if you have a lot of traffic. For example, after about 1 month, my log files are 300MB in size. Forget about that for a while and you could run out of disk space on your server and that would be bad.

Configuring Logrotate For Rails Production Logs

You might be surprised at just how easy to setup logrotate Rails logs is. The reason it is so handy is that a bunch of your operating system software is already using it. We just have to plug in our configuration and we’re set!

The first step is to open up /etc/logrotate.conf using vim or nano. Jump to the bottom of the file an add the following block of code. You’ll want to change the first line to match the location where your Rails app is deployed. Mine is under the deploy user’s home directory. Make sure to point to the log directory with the *.log bit on the end so that we rotate all the log files.

/home/deploy/APPNAME/current/log/*.log {
  rotate 7

How It Works

This is fantastically easy. Each bit of the configuration does the following:

  • daily – Rotate the log files each day. You can also use weekly or monthly here instead.
  • missingok – If the log file doesn’t exist, ignore it
  • rotate 7 – Only keep 7 days of logs around
  • compress – GZip the log file on rotation
  • delaycompress – Rotate the file one day, then compress it the next day so we can be sure that it won’t interfere with the Rails server
  • notifempty – Don’t rotate the file if the logs are empty
  • copytruncate – Copy the log file and then empties it. This makes sure that the log file Rails is writing to always exists so you won’t get problems because the file does not actually change. If you don’t use this, you would need to restart your Rails application each time.

Running Logrotate

Since we just wrote this configuration, you’ll want to test it.

To run logrotate manually, we just do: sudo /usr/sbin/logrotate -f /etc/logrotate.conf

You’re going to want to run it a second time to make sure the delaycompress option is working and to actually compress the log. Here’s an example of what you’ll see if you ls the log folder after running logrotate twice:

Logrotate Rails 3 Production Log

You can see that the production.log still exists, production.log.1 is a copy of the logs between the first and second run of logrotate, and production.log.2.gz is the 300MB behemoth of a log file that we had before compressed nicely with Gzip. Once we get up to 7 log files, the next time logrotate runs, it will delete the oldest one so that we only have 7 days worth of logs. If you want to keep all the logs around, you can remove the rotate line from the configuration.

Plus, since we just edited the main logrotate.conf file, the cron job will automatically execute the logrotate Rails logs daily!

Setting Up LogRotate Rails Logs Isn’t So Bad After All!

Congratulations, you’re set! I’ve had a few cases where the filesystem filled up on a server before and believe me, that is no fun. This stackoverflow post also has a nice configuration for a weekly rotate that keeps a year’s worth of logs that you might find helpful.