SharePoint Hosting News: SharePoint Workflow History Data and Logs

SharePoint Hosting News

Organizations use SharePoint to create websites. You can use it as a secure place to store, organize, share, and access information from almost any device. All you need is a web browser, such as Internet Explorer, Chrome, or Firefox.

SharePoint 2013 offers a simplified user experience and added enterprise social media capabilities, which expand upon previously offered capabilities for website management that include shared calendars, blogs, wikis, surveys, document libraries and shared task lists. SharePoint 2013 includes a community forum for users to engage in and categorize discussions, a microblogging capability and enhanced search capabilities.

SharePoint Workflow History Data and Logs

Workflow History List is hidden by default. You can open it by typing the URL

Or using SharePoint designer

  1. Open site in SharePoint Designer
  2. From Left Navigation Click All Files
  3. Click Lists
  4. Right Click Workflow History and Select Properties
  5. From the new window uncheck “Hide from browser”
  6. Save

Now you can view all site content in browser where the history list will be visible.

SharePoint Workflow Designer gives you a built-in way to through some log data to a history list using an action (Log to History List). I am not fan at all of using this way of logging for different reason.

Let us talk a little bit about the Log to History List and about the History list itself. By default, there is a hidden list that get created by default when you first create your first workflow in a site called History List. You can use this history list for different workflows or you can choose or create different history list for each workflow.

One of things I do not like in such history lists is that it accept only single string at a time. There is no other columns in that history list that you can benefit from. Not that this is a big limitation, but I do not like to be restricted with only sending a string at a time. It makes it hard to filter and analyze the log data as I will described later because of the lack of other columns.

Second thing is that a workflow can be associated with only one history list to be used for logging. Take this example: You have a workflow that calls a web service, and you want to log the status code or perhaps the returned value from that web service call. The only option you have here is to use theLog to History List. You also want to log other events during the workflow execution. Now, someone came to you and ask you to give a report of all web service calls and their return code for analysis. You have to go and open that hidden history list from SharePoint designer, and then what you will see? You will see a lot of lines without any ability to filter the logs related to the web service calls and to track them back to the list item that cause the service to start. My point is it is very hard to look at the history list and track certain events, or do any kind of filtering.

Also we talked about two types of logs, audit and debug logs. Your only option here is to use the Log to History List and through logs related to auditing and other log entries (debug data) for you to troubleshoot the workflow. Now when the auditors ask you to extract a report for a certain item, the logs are mixed between audit and debug. Also, you may want to keep log entries used for auditing for longer time than those used for debugging, which you cannot do in this case because both are saved in the same history list.

Things become more interesting when you read about the “Workflow Auto Cleanup“. It is not best practice to disable this job or change its duration by the way. This job will remove the association of the workflow tasks and history data after 60 days by default. But what about the need to keep audit data for one year for example?. What will do then? People will disable this timer job, but Microsoft keep saying it will affect the performance of the product or something. If Microsoft implemented this timer job then there is a reason.

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