Log monitoring is a process by which developers and administrators continuously observe logs as they're recorded. In this guide, we will discuss log monitoring, best practices and tools.

Metrics, logs, and distributed traces are the three main pillars of observability.  In this article, we will discuss one of these three observability pillars, log monitoring.

We’ll discuss log monitoring, why we need it, and the best practices. But before we get into any details related to log monitoring, let’s first understand what logs are.

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What are Logs?

In the context of software, a log is the automatically created and time-stamped record of occurrences relevant to a specific system. Software programs and systems generate log files. They contain details about the application, user device, time, IP address, and many more things.

What Is Log Monitoring?

Log monitoring is a process by which developers and administrators continuously observe logs as they’re recorded. IT managers and developers employ log monitoring to collect, examine, and comprehend network performance data.

Log monitoring architecture

As they operate, all network components, including software and hardware, produce logs. It is a process for collecting information and alerting individuals when there is a possible problem.

  • Evaluating gathered logs as they are being recorded.
  • It involves aggregating log files and providing alerts or notifications for particular log messages and events.

Log monitoring use cases

Depending on the scope and techniques employed, multiple kinds of monitoring can be established. Distributed tracing may be necessary for modern cloud-native systems built using microservices to monitor the progress of a request. For all other reasons, monitoring logs, events, and metrics are still essential. Here are a few real-world use cases:

Cloud Monitoring

Cloud monitoring examines, monitors, and manages an IT infrastructure’s operating procedures. Manual or automated management procedures confirm the performance and availability of websites, servers, apps, and other cloud infrastructure. This ongoing assessment of resource usage, server response times, and speed identifies potential vulnerabilities to problems before they materialize.

Making the most of your cloud-based resources is possible with cloud log monitoring. Most contemporary log monitoring tools can collect various logs and data from different sources. 

It can track things like:

  • Host and Virtual Machine,
  • Container platforms,
  • Integration of third-party,
  • Resources, networks, Device info and a lot more.

Here are a few benefits of cloud monitoring:

  • Scaling for increasing activity is simple and effective in businesses of all sizes.
  • The host maintains certain tools (and hardware).
  • Tools may be used on a variety of devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers, allowing your company to monitor apps from anywhere.
  • Infrastructure and settings are already in place, making installation straightforward.
Cloud Log Monitoring

Application Monitoring

Many businesses use distributed tracing and monitoring (metrics) to monitor their applications. Logs are the most acceptable source for connecting the dots throughout an application stack for troubleshooting or debugging programs.

  • It is beneficial to spot issues before they affect actual consumers.
  • Monitoring app components, like- servers, databases, and a lot more.
  • It offers alerts and a dashboard to remove application bottlenecks.

Network Monitoring

Enterprise networks are built on hardware like load balancers, routers, and firewalls. Monitoring and tracking network errors might assist you in making sure that these devices are operating correctly. Additionally, it helps create secure communications, auditing, and fixing network issues.

Web Server Monitoring

Log monitoring is essential to offer a better user experience whether your company website or application is hosted by Apache, IIS, or any other web server. Server logs may monitor traffic volume, issues, failed services, and more. You can improve your online applications, spot spikes in traffic, and solve problems more quickly by keeping an eye on web server logs.

Why do we need log monitoring?

The notions of log monitoring and log analytics are interrelated yet distinct from one another. Together, they ensure that apps and critical services are in good shape and running at their best.

Why do we need log monitoring

 Here are a few benefits of log monitoring:

Compliance

Many government and regulatory bodies demand that businesses follow the law and provide evidence of compliance. Log monitoring can assist companies in adhering to various laws and regulations, including GDPR, HIPAA, PCI, and many more. In addition, logs provide a cost-effective means of complying with critical regulatory requirements.

Common activities tracked consist of:

  • Login attempts to the account
  • Aspects of account management
  • Access to directory services
  • System activities
  • Alterations to policy

Security

Programs and apps are the targets of several cyberattacks. Monitoring logs enable businesses to identify code weaknesses and take preemptive measures to boost program performance.

  • Identifying weak performance areas.
  • Debugging and evaluating the health of an application.
  • Detecting and locating the source of installation and run-time issues in applications.

Performance

Through log monitoring, teams can optimize system performance by identifying possible blockages and ineffective setups. 

  • System health is being monitored in real-time for irregularities or inactivity.
  • Detecting problems with performance or settings.
  • Observe operational goals and SLAs.

Teamwork

Cloud operators and architects gain from a single log monitoring solution to build more dependable multi-cloud setups.

  • Teams can better react to events rapidly and identify issues before they affect end users.
  • Aids in effective collaboration between stakeholders to address any issue.

What are the best practices for log monitoring

Following recommended best practices during log monitoring is advisable to overcome these difficulties.

Use of structured logging

Analyzing log files can be tricky since they often include unstructured text data. While you can use contemporary technologies to examine both structured and unstructured logs, doing so can be time-consuming and frequently error-prone. Therefore, it is good to use standard structured methods for logging. 

Add labels or special identifications.

Tagging logs may be helpful when troubleshooting or debugging programs since they make it easier to segment and filter the records. You can use unique string values to narrow the search. When examining logs in container systems, tags become even more crucial.

Real-Time Monitoring

Real-time monitoring will aid in the prompt resolution of any breaches or difficulties that occur in a live environment. In addition, live monitoring helps you spot issues as they develop and address them before they become major.

Setting Up Alerts

Since IT staff frequently handle several tasks, it’s not always possible to keep an eye on everything constantly. However, establishing baselines for your various monitoring metrics and configuring alerts for changes from these baselines can help you remain on top of your surroundings.

Improve Policy for Log Retention

Depending on their specific requirements and conditions, businesses should establish distinct retention rules for various log kinds.

In some circumstances, keeping records for a long time is necessary to abide with local data protection laws. Additionally, you might wish to save some logs for longer than the typical 90 days in order to facilitate a longer-term study of application performance or user activity.

Organize and Aggregate Your Log Data

Log data is produced at several locations across the IT infrastructure, but it must be collected in one place before it can be properly used for data analysis. Tools should automatically ingest such logs as they are produced by IT systems and send them out of the production environment and into a centralized place.

How to choose the best log monitoring tools?

Each business may have unique logging needs based on log volume, scalability, compliance, or log retention. These are the essential things to think about:

Privacy and Compliance

Privacy compliance refers to an organization’s need to use caution while managing the sensitive data that it receives on a daily basis. It is a procedure that enables businesses or organizations to adhere to both commercial and regulatory requirements for the preservation and management of data.

HIPAA has strict standards for log management and audits.

  • What confidential data is being modified or exchanged?
  • who had access to what data when
  • logins for employees
  • Updates to software and security
  • both system and user activities
  • Unusual use trends

Log Volume and Retention

Determine your daily volume and take data spikes and unusual behavior into consideration. Determine whether your use cases are for the live tail and real-time debugging or whether you must retain logs for compliance, as well as how long to store the data.

Cost & Scalability

The cost will play a significant role in the decision-making process. Pay per gig is one of the most adaptable and wisest uses of a logging platform. Depending on your product, you may go from processing a few thousand logs a day to a few millions overnight.  Here is a helpful checklist for calculating your overall operating costs and the features you’ll want from a log management platform.

  • Free trial
  • Available free plan with live tail
  • Tracking log volume storage retention expenses
  • Limits for users and what to do if they are exceeded
  • Features available for every plan

What are the best log monitoring tools

Logentries

Developers, IT professionals, and business analysis groups of any size can access any sort of computer-generated log data using Logentries, the cloud-based log management platform.

  • Logs from servers, platforms, containers, and other sources may be easily analyzed.
  • For real-time analysis and troubleshooting, stream performance measurements and live application logs.
  • Immutable log storage, centralized reporting, and regulatory compliance.
  • Custom notifications and query-specific reports.

Pricing

Free trial for 30 days

$5.89/mo per asset*

Enterprise: Custom quote.

 GoAccess

GoAccess is a real-time log analyzer program that can be used with either a browser or a Unix terminal. It offers an immediate logging environment where information can be viewed milliseconds after it has been saved on the server.

goaccess
  • Completely Real Time
  • Application Response Time Monitoring
  • Incremental Log Processing
  • Minimal configuration needed

Pricing

  • Open-source

Graylog

Graylog enables you to adhere to compliance regulations and aids in determining the root cause of any specific mistake or issue your apps may be encountering. In addition, large and complicated IT infrastructures may be monitored with the help of this powerful technology.

graylog
  • Personalized dashboards for query and log data visual output.
  • Team members have access to centralized management.
  • Individualized permission control for users and their roles.
  • Personalized triggers and notifications to track any data problems.

Pricing

  • Open-source
  • Enterprise: $6,000/year

Splunk

The software from Splunk is designed to enable the process of indexing and interpreting logs of any kind, including complex application logs and advanced unstructured logs, using a multi-line approach.

splunk
  • Maintain your flexibility and agility to generate high performance and succeed in the cloud.
  • System for monitoring and alerting users to significant activities and events.
  • Real-time data search and analysis with a flexible user interface.

Pricing

  • Free- 500MB/per day
  • 185$+, for the cloud version.
  • 2000$+, for the enterprise edition.

Datadog

Datadog is a SaaS-based software for monitoring cloud applications. With the aid of the tool Datadog, you may keep an eye on serverless operations, system activities, Windows and Linux hosts, and cloud-based software. It may be used to manage logs, investigate metrics, and display data, among other things.

datadog
  • Create shareable, real-time dashboards that include metrics and distributed traces together with log visualization and monitoring.
  • Receive notifications when you go beyond user-defined log monitoring thresholds for a certain amount of time to spot problems like build job notifications or code exception failures.
  • Utilize 500+ technology integrations to create unique pipelines that rapidly process and enrich logs.

Pricing

  • Free
  • Pro –  $15
  • Enterprise- $23

Observ Inc

Observ Inc is another SaaS-based software for monitoring cloud applications. Using this tool, you can get notified of issues and investigate to any level of detail. Observe helps you see your top issues and the system’s overall health at a glance.

  • Your data is managed by Observe, so you don’t have to manage everything on-premise.
  • Storage and computation are separated in the design. You can thus afford to consume all of your data and just make payments when you really use it. 
  • Whenever you need it, infinite scale. Additionally, you aren’t paying for something you don’t need.

Pricing

  • Pay-as-you-go Modal

Chronosphere

Chronosphere is a SaaS solution designed for expanding cloud-native engineering companies that is effective, dependable, and adaptable. It is an observability platform that restores control by reducing cloud-native complexity and runaway data expansion, which boosts corporate trust.

  • When you have thousands of engineers and millions of containers, Chronosphere allows you to prevent monitoring expenses from rising dramatically.
  • It is built from the ground up to manage the enormous amount of monitoring data that cloud-native apps generate.
  • Offered as a single, centralized solution to troubleshoot problems throughout the stack for company leaders, application developers, and infrastructure engineers.

Log monitoring challenges

In current workplaces, it may rapidly become daunting to translate the deluge of incoming logs and data into compelling use cases. Although log monitoring is crucial to IT operations, doing it successfully in cloud-native settings presents certain difficulties.

  • Distributed systems produce a large volume of logs to store, query, and manage, whether built on the classic server/client architecture, containers, or cloud services. For this, you might need a tool that helps you collect logs efficiently.
  • Real-time monitoring is required for efficient monitoring. To undertake a quick troubleshooting procedure, teams must be able to be efficiently informed when an application fails.

Sometimes it provides a less user-friendly interface, leading to issues, oversights, and human error.

Conclusion

Log monitoring is crucial for determining the present performance of your system, keeping it functional, and increasing its effectiveness. You can correctly monitor log events and optimize event log monitoring with the aid of log monitoring software. In this article, we saw what log monitoring is, its benefits, and a few of the best tools you can use.