Configuring remote syslog from embedded or proprietary systems


To send from embedded devices, generate syslog format messages. Syslog is documented as RFC 5424 and RFC 3164.

Papertrail supports and automatically detects both formats. Papertrail also tries to extract as much meaning as possible from malformed messages.

Syslog is an extremely simple transport for logs of all kinds. While the RFCs provide a much more thorough explanation, at its most basic, each message is transmitted as a simple string. For example:

<22>Apr 25 23:45:56 sendername programname: the log message

At its most basic, this is even a valid message:

<22>sendername: the log message


Choosing a format

Syslog has an older format (RFC 3164) and a newer format (RFC 5424). If you plan to send timestamps in ISO 8601 format, like 2014-06-18T09:56:21Z or are creating a new application or device, we recommend RFC 5424 format.

Papertrail also fully supports the older format, RFC 3164. If absolute minimalism is the goal, RFC 3164 is very slightly simpler.

RFC 5424 (newer)

<22>1 2014-06-18T09:56:21Z sendername programname - - - the log message

Replace the timestamp, sendername, programname, and of course the log message. The <22>1 can be treated as a string literal and does not need to change. Note the space between the 1 and the start of the timestamp.

RFC 3164 (older)

Generate a message like this:

<22>Apr 25 23:45:56 sendername programname: the log message

Replace the timestamp, sendername, programname, and of course the log message.

Consistent with the RFC, the timestamp and program/component name (syslog “tag” field) are optional fields, as is the PID (not shown). We recommend including the timestamp and program/component name, but omitting the PID.

What is the “<22>”?

As the RFCs explain, the messages should include a body and a valid numeric facility/severity (syslog “priority” field), which is “22” in the examples above. While you can choose to generate other values, for most integrations, using only <22> works fine.

Log viewer

In Papertrail’s Event viewer, the sender name and program/component name become clickable orange and blue links to see surrounding context. Used well, this is immensely powerful.

For example, the message:

<22>1 2014-06-18T09:56:21Z sendername programname - - - the log message

Is displayed like this in Papertrail’s log viewer:


Network protocol

Transmit messages via either:

See Self-service protocol options for more on selecting a protocol.

Send to the hostname & destination port provided by Papertrail.

A quick-and-dirty way to do this is to use netcat. The exact syntax varies depending on the flavour, but when using the openbsd variant, the following will submit a test message to Papertrail over UDP:

echo test | nc -w0 -u <host> 11111

where <host> and 11111 are the name and port number shown under log destinations.

Your embedded software vendor or OEM may have additional documentation on its syslog support. We welcome inquiries about other devices or new logging implementations.