What Is Log Management and Best Practice Tips

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Log management is a very crucial part of a businesses’ safety and security. Each company has different preferences when it comes to the way they manage their logs. For any business to move forward, it is important that they be up to date with the technological advances and use them for their benefits in order to produce effective outcomes. But while introducing new hardware and software into the organization’s IT environment, unknowingly they are also introducing potential threats into their infrastructure. This could lead to attackers accessing sensitive information and misusing it. To prevent and handle such situations, an effective log management system should be put in place. Let us begin with some basics of logs and log management and move further towards best practice tips at the end.

Basic Understanding

First off, let’s begin with understanding what logs are. Logs are records of the events that happen on the network. Any and all events that happen in the operating system, devices, applications generate data. All the data generated through these events are recorded in the logs. These logs should be managed well to prevent potential digital attacks. Log management is basically a practice of collecting, analysing, aggregating and storing the log data to optimize the applications and programs. Log management happens in a few simple yet important steps. Let us look at them one by one.

Collection

The process of log management begins with the Collection of Log data. It starts off with determining how to collect and where to store log data. All the log data from the applications, firewalls, servers, operating systems, routers and other devices will be brought together. Collecting log data could be complex as most of it is unstructured. Log shippers collect the data from the devices where it is generated and forward it to the log management system. Since most of it is unstructured, parsing makes the data structured so that it becomes easier to search through it. This whole process of collecting and storing the data includes several inside procedures like log data normalization, compression, curation and indexing.  A log management system can help you identify which kind of log data you should curate and store.

Log Aggregation

Centralized log aggregation could be a difficult task as the log data comes in no single format. But the normalization process helps in making it easier to aggregate log data. As part of log aggregation, all the log data from different sources is aggregated at one central location, so that when you search for the data later it can be found easily. A Syslog viewer can help you aggregate the logs to a centralized location. This makes the process less complicated and makes it easier to search and sort through the data.

Log Storage, Retention and Rotation

Storing logs is an essential part of log management. But before you store them you need to get clarity on how long you want to store them for. Storing logs for unlimited periods of time, even though sounds like a safe option as you get to access them whenever you want in future. But when you consider the cost-effectiveness of the approach, you would realise that it would lead to unnecessary spending of a lot of money. So it is better if you choose the time period according to industry standards and regulations. 

Log data comes in different sizes and formats, log rotation can help you successfully address those issues you might come to face during log management. Log rotation can help manage log data by renaming, moving, resizing, and deleting the data that is too old or too large. You can choose a time interval after which this kind of data would be automatically deleted, compressed or moved or emailed to another location.

Analysis

The collected log data is analysed to identify any security threats, performance issues, errors and needed information. The analysis of log data lets the organisations search through their database, combining different filters to identify and correlate the data. It also helps in identifying security breaches, finding out the root cause of the threat event.

Log data Monitoring, Search and Reporting

Log data monitoring is real-time checking for threats, intrusions and errors. You can monitor the data by looking for and identifying possible intrusions and threats in real-time through the data on the dashboard. Or you can also set up alerts to notify the tech analysts about an occurrence of a specific event. Most of the threats go undetected for a long time without proper monitoring. So Monitoring log data is a critical step of log management.

Also, searching and reporting the logs could be a mammoth task without a proper tool at hand. Log management systems come with tools that aggregate the log data, dig through large files, and find the data needed. Some also come with advanced search capabilities that can even look through unstructured and structured data to find the needed information. Log reporting is the summary of all the processes and analyses happening in log management. It contains detailed reports and the numbers and graphs related to the searches conducted, data analysed and events that happened.

This is the process of Log management explained in a simple way. Now let us move on to the Best practice tips for Log management.

Best Practice Tips

Though log management can be a tedious process following a few tips could make it less complicated for you and can lead to effective management of the logs. Here are a few tips that could come of use when you need them

Invest in Logging

If you want to manage your logs and are thinking of building your own log management system. It is better if you stop right there. If your concern is to save money and time, then investing in a log management solution could save you both. Building your own log management system is very costly and eats up a lot of your time and resources. There are plenty of Log management solutions that are affordable and easy to use at the same time that saves you a lot of time so that you can spend it on other important tasks.

Manage access

Logs contain crucial data and information related to your business and clients. Most businesses forget that logs could be as important as any other critical data. Managing who has access to your log data could protect your business and secure a lot of sensitive information that is stored in the logs. RBAC (Role-Based Access Control) lets the organisations create an audit trail of the users and the logs they have access to, which of the users have permissions to edit, view, delete or share log data. This information could help you identify how a security event happened quickly.

Central Aggregation

As discussed above, log aggregation could help you to easily find the data they are searching for. In case you have multiple services, it would become difficult to trace specific log data that is generated through these services. When you are tracking the requests made, attaching a random ID to the request from the beginning and tracking it makes it easier to find the related information. Centralizing these logs, by moving them to one location which is accessible, saves a lot of time and effort when you are trying to identify specific logs.

What to monitor?

We already know that monitoring log data is a crucial step of log management. But what data to monitor and what not is what you should decide. Monitoring too many logs would make it difficult for you to manage. But at the same time logging, little data could cause blind spots. So you need to find a balance between these two and find out exactly what and how much data you should monitor.

Manage the space

More and more logs are generated with each happening event in the system. Storing all these logs can take up a lot of space. If the logs are not properly managed they might end up filling all the space and leave no space for the logs that are generated in future. Logs should be filtered and compressed if they are too large and the logs that are too old can either be deleted or moved to someplace else to manage the space for upcoming logs.

In conclusion

Logs are important assets of any organization that needs to be properly managed and preserved for future use cases. Improper management of logs can lead to security breaches and bring upon many threats that could lead to data tampering and loss of important and sensitive information. Now that we have established how important log management is, now the last but very needed tip is to find the right log management solution for your business as this could affect the whole process and can provide you with effective management of your logs as well your business security. Go ahead and find the right solution for your business.