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As your IT infrastructure becomes larger, more distributed, and more complex, you may need to devote more attention and resources to ensuring it’s properly monitored and secure. One way you can keep an eye on the health of your infrastructure is through log analysis.
Applications, devices, and operating systems generate messages based on activity and data flow, essentially indicating how the resources within the network environment are performing or being used. Log messages contain information potentially traced to errors, anomalies, unauthorized end-user behavior, and other activity deviating from normal standards and benchmarks. These log messages—sometimes called audit trail records or event logs—can be collected, analyzed, and archived in a process known as log analysis.
Log analysis helps you understand patterns and trends in activity within the infrastructure. Log analysis data can be used to troubleshoot performance issues with specific applications and identify potentially threatening anomalies. Regular log management, analysis, and archiving are also key tasks if you hope to demonstrate compliance with various security standards and regulations. Overall, you can make the most of the benefits log data analysis provides by incorporating log analyzer tools into your security practices.
Log analysis tools are software solutions designed to streamline the process of collecting, archiving, and deriving actionable insights from data log files. They can both centralize and standardize logs from across your network. Because so many different elements of IT infrastructure generate event logs, the files tend to come in different formats. Log viewer software streamlines the process by relegating all files to a shared format and terminology. This ensures cohesive and uniform analysis and archiving, and more accurate and comprehensive reports and statistics.
In addition to centralizing log files in a single location and marking the files with useful metadata like timestamps, these tools allow you to search through log data for specific metrics or values. The analysis process involves scanning the logs for patterns and anomalies deviating from acceptable norms and benchmarks. The best logging tools grant critical visibility into these events and patterns—enabling you to see what happened, when it happened, who (if anyone) was involved, and how it affected performance within the network. Using these insights, you can then build or adjust your security countermeasures to compensate and help prevent future risks and problems.
The benefits of proactive log monitoring and analysis extend beyond IT management to the business as a whole, helping to boost efficiency and productivity for any company relying on IT operations. Here are five ways log analysis contributes to the overall success of your company.
Because so many departments—from finance and accounting to HR and legal—rely on IT resources to carry out their business-critical tasks and responsibilities, log analysis tools provide the functionality necessary to spot critical system errors or trends and address them quickly and efficiently.
Log analyzers also play a role in maintaining Service Level Agreements (SLAs) between IT teams and other departments or customers. By taking a proactive stance on problem detection and troubleshooting, you’re helping to avoid service disruptions and downtime—which can be frustrating for employees and customers alike, potentially leading to lost revenue.
Businesses using computers and networks requires certain resources to properly function. These include hardware drives for storing data, network bandwidth to ensure end users can simultaneously do their jobs, and sufficient processing power. Getting each of these factors right is important: too few and there will be bottlenecks in the system’s ability to efficiently provide service, too many and they’ll eat into your company’s finances.
Log analysis software can help you assess whether infrastructural resources are properly provisioned and allocated—and should the analysis indicate an element is imbalanced, these tools will provide insight into which resources need a second look. Keeping an eye on resource usage can help you track system overload and prevent costly disruptions in service.
The financial damage caused by cyberattacks has been steadily rising in recent years, so it’s more important than ever to implement and maintain strong security practices. Event log files play an important role both in proactive security measures and in instances when forensic investigations are deemed necessary.
Viewed through a security lens, log analysis can provide instant awareness of any security red flags. A log analyzer tool can help to block and filter incoming network traffic, keep IT admins alerted about failed authentication attempts, and ensure firewall configurations are operating most effectively.
While every company needs internal policies to ensure consistent service, many are also legally required to adhere to regulations and security standards like HIPAA, PCI DSS, or GDPR. Event log files are the best way to demonstrate you’re meeting the regulatory benchmarks for these various standards. With a log analyzer tool, you can continually track whether you’re meeting benchmarks for these guidelines. And if you need to provide evidence to auditors, you have the log files you need to prove compliance.
How do you measure the effectiveness of a sales campaign? You can check the sales figures and revenue, yes, but do you know what other process is helpful? Log analysis. This is because log files allow you to monitor analytics like conversion errors, traffic volume, and how customers navigate around your site.
Log data also helps you spot errors before customers do, but also gives you insight into traffic metrics like how many people have visited your site and which pages get the most hits. Use those analytics to make the sales process more convenient and intuitive, and you can potentially increase your company’s bottom line.
Event logs play a role in how every part of your company functions—and it takes a lot of work to stay on top of monitoring and analyzing the data generated by each element within the IT infrastructure. That’s why using an online log analyzer like SolarWinds® Loggly® can help you get out in front of problems before they cause trouble.
Many modern IT environments have data distributed across different systems and servers, but Loggly allows you to manage and analyze every log message your system creates from within a single, centralized repository. With one unified dashboard, you’re able to see your entire stack and quickly drill down to specific files and incidents, allowing you to keep track of application performance and system behavior to quickly identify unusual activity. From server log analysis to tracking resource metrics, Loggly’s lightweight, agentless architecture makes it a comprehensive tool for real-time and historical log management.
Two other log management solutions you might consider are Logstash and Splunk. Logstash is an open-source logging tool designed to be used in tandem with other open-source programs like Elasticsearch and Kibana—which provide search, analytics, and data visualization capabilities—to provide a fully comprehensive log monitoring solution. Splunk comes in free and paid versions. It can store, index, analyze, and visualize log data without the need for other application integrations, although the free version can only process limited data per day.
Regular analysis can provide important benefits for departments all across a company. From reducing overhead costs and ensuring your resources are properly allocated to bolstering security and optimizing business operations, proactive log analysis goes a long way toward setting up your organization for success. With Loggly’s 14-day free trial, you can test out a log analyzer tool designed to offer the insights you need.