7 API logging best practices worth implementing

API integrations inevitably break or perform poorly.

Whenever either scenario affects your organization, your team will need to quickly analyze the relevant API calls and responses. In other words, your team will need to audit an integration’s API logs to diagnose the issue. 

To help you perform this analysis effectively, we’ll highlight some best practices for setting up informative, actionable, and secure logs.

Incorporate meaningful insights into your logs

Your logs are only as valuable as the information they provide.

To maximize their value, you should include details like the endpoint that’s accessed, the request method that’s used, the specific status code that’s returned, the client that's making the request, and the timestamp of the request. You should also go a step further by including the request headers and bodies as well as the response headers and bodies if and when applicable.

A screenshot of logs in Merge
Merge offers comprehensive logs to help you analyze any API integration at a glance.

Pick a single tool for logging data

Storing logs in disparate applications presents a variety of problems.

You’ll need to hop between applications to find specific logs, which can be time consuming and tedious. You’ll also need to become familiar with different applications’ UIs and their specific logging formats and standards, which can take time. Finally, certain logging applications may not offer the same level of security controls, leaving you potentially vulnerable if those applications' logs collect sensitive data.

When you couple these factors together, it becomes clear that logging data in multiple places can compromise your team’s ability to troubleshoot and debug issues quickly, effectively, and safely.

Related: How API logs work

Redact sensitive information

Your API integrations likely handle sensitive data on employees and clients, such as social security numbers, banking information, home addresses, etc. 

Storing this information via logs can lead you to become non-compliant with prominent privacy measures and regulations (e.g. GDPR), and it can lead ill-intentioned individuals to access the information, which carries risk for the employees and clients associated with the data.

To prevent the scenarios above from coming to fruition, you can use specific methods to proactively redact confidential information. For example, you can use pattern matching to replace sensitive data with hashed values; or you can use data masking to only show certain information (e.g. the last four digits of a social security number). Alternatively, you can use scopes to ensure that you’re not even requesting sensitive information.

A screenshot of Common Model Scopes in Merge
Merge uses Common Model Scopes to help users pick the client data they want to access.

Related: A guide to polling API endpoints successfully

Set up alerts based on the log data that’s collected

While your developers can comb through the logs to uncover and diagnose issues, they may not be able to discover issues on time if they’re left to their own devices.

You can enable them to identify issues quickly and without performing any manual work by setting up automated alerts that notify them in an application like Slack or through email.

Sending issue notifications from API logs to Slack or email

While the alerts you set up depend on your unique circumstances, common options include unexpected errors, delayed response times, or a spike in requests or errors over a specific period of time.

Closely monitor your logging system’s users and their access levels

Assuming your logs contain sensitive information, you’ll need to pay especially careful attention to who can access your logging system and how much access they have.

To help minimize any potential risks, you should adopt a logging tool that offers role-based access and includes robust security for accessing the application—such as two-factor authentication. You should also look to follow the principle of least privilege when assigning users access; in other words, users should only be able to access the data they absolutely need. 

A screenshot of managing users in Merge
Merge can enforce two-factor authentication and lets you assign users different roles, depending on how much access you want them to have.

Related: An example of API error handling

Implement a log retention policy

As you collect more logs over time, it’s critical that there’s a mechanism in place for archiving old ones. 

This can help you save on storage space, which translates to cost savings and performance improvements (as you can find information faster and more easily). And it allows you to comply with auditing and compliance requirements more easily, as they might require you to delete logs after a certain period of time. 

Build and maintain documentation on your logging system and processes

As new developers join your team, you'll need a scalable way for them to understand your logging system, data, and processes. This includes insights on how they can access your logging system, interpret the logs, troubleshoot common issues based on the logs, etc.

Logging documentation neatly addresses this need. Moreover, it allows you to be less reliant on the developers who oversee and act on your API logs today; if they leave, the documentation ensures that key information doesn't go with them.

Leverage fully-searchable, comprehensive logs with Merge

Merge, which offers a single API that lets you add hundreds of integrations to your product, not only offers comprehensive API logging functionality but also provides automated issue detection to help your team (and your clients) easily diagnose and remediate any integration issues.

You can learn more about Merge’s logging capabilities, integrations, and much more by scheduling a demo with one of our integration experts.