I've got Apache 2.2 running on Debian 7 (on a VPS), with virtual hosts defined for several different websites.

I've set up individual error and access logs for each vhost, but I've not found a way to rotate/archive the logs to my liking.

Of course the default Apache logs on Debian are rotated by logrotate, but I don't find this particularly satisfactory for various reasons - primarily because I want archived logs to be named by date, and because configuring it separately for each vhost seems cumbersome. I'm also unsure about deleting old logs automatically; I might want to do this manually only after downlading them from the server.

My ideal solution would do the following every month (or maybe week) :

  • Append the date to the filename, or move the file to a date-named subfolder.
  • Gzip the archived files.

I also need this to be easy to set up for multiple vhosts.

Ideally, it should not involve restarting apache (though a graceful restart is not the end of the world).

What is the best way to set this up? I'm sure it's been done before...

  • 1
    Looks to me like you'll be writing your own version of logrotate.
    – user9517
    Jul 23, 2013 at 6:52
  • 2
    Why the downvotes - is this type of question not suitable for SF? If there's something wrong with it tell me what, perhaps I can improve it.
    – Caesar
    Jul 23, 2013 at 20:43
  • I suspect it's because the with some honest reading into logrotate's man-page, you would've found that many things could be adressed easily (I linked to it in my answer).
    – Roman
    Jul 24, 2013 at 7:16
  • You won't believe how many hours I spent reading about logrotate... :-) including the full manpage several times, as I was sure I must have missed a setting to make it name by date. But I now realise the online manpage I read was out of date, and in fact newer versions of logrotate do have this functionality to some extent. I guess that should teach me to use my system's man command instead of searching the web...
    – Caesar
    Jul 25, 2013 at 1:30

3 Answers 3


(Do I detect a litlle bit of NIH?)

Here's why you shouldn't do that all by yourself:

  1. It's better to extend than to reinvent: In essential, what you want to do is already covered with logrotate. If you don't like the default behaviour of it, you can thankfully configure it to behave differently, via it's pre/post-actions, naming conventions etc.

  2. Solving an already solved problem: The guys that have contributed to logrotate all have encountered your problem before, and then some. At some point, you most likely run into the same detail problems they faced and solved with way more experience and feedback...do you really want to waste your energy to solve them again?

  3. Not deleting old logs is a very bad idea. This results in a waiting game for filling up your log partition – depending on your setup, your applications, or even your whole server, will come to a screeching halt. Preferably at the height of your day-to-day business.

    If you need to keep old logs around for accounting reasons (security, financial, gov), you have to implement an archiving solution for them.

  4. Supporting homebrew: If you ever run into problems, there's no one else to ask, since only you use this solution - whereas logrotate is used by many others.

  5. Setting up is easy: Just cp and sed your vhost configurations accordingly. Strive for automation.

Note that above reasons are not cast in stone, and do not apply everywhere. It's not a bad idea to challenge existing solutions from time to time (there might be a better solution), but in this case, I would consider this an exercise in futility.

  • Thanks - I wasn't looking to write something myself, rather hoping that something exists that will serve my needs - logrotate doesn't really, though it looks like I may end up using it anyway and just making do. Or maybe someone can tell me if there's a way to make logrotate do what I want it to; I haven't found a way. I'm not sure what you mean about cp and sed - could this be automated, or does it amount to little more than an extra copy-paste job each time I add a vhost?
    – Caesar
    Jul 23, 2013 at 20:38
  • No NIH, on the contrary, but I do want a good solution. Just because it comes with the system doesn't automatically make it fit my needs, though it obviously has other advantages such as stability and updates.
    – Caesar
    Jul 23, 2013 at 20:42
  • As answered, look into the post-actions. / It'll amount to less than copy-paste, since with a little shell-fu, it will boil down to a one-liner. Read into it. / Apologies, but your question sounded like this to me. It's clear it doesn't auto-fit, but in this case, it just requires some work.
    – Roman
    Jul 24, 2013 at 7:13

I found various solutions to this problem on the web, none of them totally satisfactory but several of them acceptable. These included Apache's own rotatelogs script, which involves piping the log to the script along with arguments which tell the script how to split and name the files.

In the end, however, I did end up using logrotate. It turns out, I am ashamed to say, that the online manpage I had been reading was outdated, and in fact logrotate now has the ability to name files by date, which was the main thing I wanted.

I was also able to use wildcards to avoid having to set up a new conf file for logrotate every time I add a vhost in the future.

For anyone else trying to do this, the logrotate config I used was the following:

/var/www/*/logs/*.log {
    rotate 52
    dateformat .%Y%m%d
    extension .log
    olddir old
    create 640 root root
        /etc/init.d/apache2 reload > /dev/null
        if [ -d /etc/logrotate.d/httpd-prerotate ]; then \
            run-parts /etc/logrotate.d/httpd-prerotate;
        fi; \

I'm sure I'll change it in the future, but as a starting point it's fine.

(Note, the olddir is necessary because otherwise *.log also matches last week's log file...)


Another alternative could be doing it via CRON. Here is how I do;


for file in /var/www/*/logs/*.log; do
    # zip and truncate file (dont remove cos apache cannot write on it unless restarted)
    zip $(dirname $file)/$(date +"%Y-%m-%d")-$(basename $file).zip $file && truncate -s 0 $file

This script will produce a zipped log file like /var/www/example.com/logs/2010-01-01-access.log.zip.

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