As WordPress has grown into a fully-fledged CMS (Content Management Software) it is being used more are more by larger teams; perhaps collaborating on posts, creating their own, doing maintenance and generally being involved in the admin area.
As there are potentially a lot of people working on the same website, things can go wrong, whether by accident or perhaps even maliciously (yep, sorry folks, not everyone is nice!).
While WordPress has certain safeguards in effect via its roles and capabilities system, that doesn’t really help when something does go wrong.
What is needed is a way of tracking every single action that occurs.
Thankfully there are several plugins out there that can assist you with this, and they provide a massive amount of data and so far they are all free.
The new kid on the block, Stream is a free and simple to use plugin that literally catches everything that occurs with WordPress in real time.
It can track a wide variety of things, including but certainly not limited to:
- Post and page updates, status change (i.e. publishing), deletion etc.
- Theme and plugin action or deactivation
- New comments and comment activity
- Settings changes, both in WordPress itself and in third party plugins.
The authors have made the plugin extensible, though unless you’re a developer this won’t be of too much interest to you.
As it is such a new plugin it is still being actively developed but I would love to see the ability to get more detail if you want it, as though it’s great to see that the tagline has been changed you might want to know from what and to what.
This plugin has been around for a while now, but as of writing also hasn’t been updated in over a year.
WP Changes Tracker is more geared to experienced WP users as the information it provides goes into the more technical aspect, for example it will not just tell you that an option has been changed but will give the exact option changed, including transient options (geeky stuff that the average user doesn’t need to know about).
I really see this plugin being of more use to a developer than a site admin trying to keep track of things, but it has the edge in providing technical detail if it’s needed.
Another plugin that’s been out for a while and also not updated in a year, audit trail provides a more limited scope of data, but still enough for most use cases:
- File attachments
- Audit Trail actions
- Category management
- Comment management
- Link management
- Post & page management
- Theme switching
- User profiles & logins
- User page visits
The data provided is also more limited, for example, trashing a post was marked as “Save Page” with no id number or anything, and it doesn’t track plugins at all. Not very useful.
Slightly different to the other plugins, WP Security Audit Log is designed to pick up and highlight things that occur from the usual posts being published to also tracking failed WordPress login attempts.
It doesn’t expand on that unfortunately, for instance I would have loved it if it emailed the admin if the same IP failed a login 3 times. Instead it logs the data so a manual check is needed.
Unlike the rest, it has a flexible settings system allowing you to disable logs for events that are not important to you.
Wrapping it up
While choosing one of these plugins is highly dependent upon your own site and set up, I would recommend either Stream or WP Security Audit log. Both have been updated recently, and both in their different ways are very good.
With the advent of the WordPress Heartbeat API, I think we will be seeing more of this style of plugin in the future, as well as improved features.
If you are running a site with multiple authors or staff, it is definitely worthwhile checking these plugins out. Even if you are against monitoring your staffs every moves, have a real time ticking away in the background could be a life saver should anything inadvertently go wrong.
Image credit: Andy Bold