Log Analysis – How to Use a Log Analyzer Tool?

By Tek-Tools on May 24, 2020

The importance of log analysis in IT management cannot be overstated. Every device and application in your network creates logs, which can contain crucial health and performance-related data. For instance, event logs can record configuration changes, file and directory movement, network and server errors, and more. Log analyzers play a crucial role in getting actionable intelligence from all this data.

However, today, every organization is making large investments in the digital economy, which is mostly driven by cloud-based applications and platforms. At the same time, they have a significant on-premises IT footprint. This creates a complex environment with a mix of:

  • several legacy and next-gen networking and security equipment,
  • physical and virtual servers, and
  • monolith and micro-services-based applications.

You need advanced log analyzers, which can analyze a large volume of logs from this environment to help you manage your resources better.

How to Analyze Logs With a Log Analyzer Tool?

log file analysis process

Before you start analyzing your logs, you need to ensure all your logs are collected and stored reliably. It’s possible to forward your application and system logs to a centralized server for analysis. While there are several methods for centralized log management, cloud-based log analyzers such as SolarWinds® Loggly®, help you streamline this step. It’s important to note as you forward your logs to an external source, they should be transferred in a secure manner using some encryption algorithm.

Use a Standard Log Format

Another thing to note is as logs come from different sources, they can be structured, semi-structured, and even unstructured. It isn’t easy to inspect and analyze these logs using traditional methods. If you want to make sense of a vast amount of log data, you’ll need to convert all your logs into a standard format, such as JSON or XML, and use log normalization or log parsing tools for further processing.

Automate Log Parsing

Log parsing is the process of classifying or segmenting log data into different fields for quicker search, filtering, and analysis. A lot of advanced log analyzers can automatically parse a wide range of logs. As discussed above, standard log formats like JSON or XML, are recognized easily by log parsers. In case your logs are unstructured or using an unsupported format, you might have to define custom parsing rules to process them. The processed data will help you search through the logs easily. You can search for specific information from a particular time and IP range for troubleshooting any critical issue. Further, you can visualize your log data to get a quick overview of your systems and applications.

Ensure Real-Time Awareness

Today, organizations are releasing new features and updating their applications more frequently and need to monitor their applications and infrastructure continuously. Modern log analyzers can help in real-time monitoring with faster search and live tail features. You can easily sift through numerous log files to identify the root cause of an issue and resolve it quickly.

You can further enhance your troubleshooting by assigning unique identifiers (e.g., transaction ID, User ID, etc.) to your log messages. With these identifiers, you can easily track the flow of a transaction across different devices, network, and services. There are ways to speed up log analysis by reducing noise. By controlling log verbosity and logging levels, you can significantly reduce the volume of information logs carry to your specific areas of interest.

Configure Your Alerts

Log analyzers can also create alerts for important events or breach of a threshold. You have to define baselines for these alerts carefully. Too many alerts can lead to alert fatigue. Many log analyzers offer intelligent alerting features to reduce false positives. They can send these alerts via email or via text message (SMS). You can also integrate your communication tools like Slack and HipChat to a log analyzer and receive alerts on the go.

Visualize Your Log Data

While most log analyzers allow you to manage and monitor logs, perform a full-text search, and gather real-time intelligence, they often lack advanced visualization capabilities. You might have to employ open-source tools like Kibana and Grafana to visualize your log data. However, some commercial solutions also offer pre-configured visual dashboards for key metrics and monitoring scenarios. The main advantage of visualization is it allows you to spot anomalies or spikes in an instant, which can otherwise remain hidden in the sea of data. Visualization also makes it easier to compare historical patterns with real-time data and explore opportunities for optimization.

How to Choose a Log Analyzer?

The log management and analysis needs of organizations can vary depending on their size and industry vertical. Some organizations maintain logs primarily to meet their compliance mandates and rely on open-source tools for the purpose. It may be noted when using open-source tools, you have to depend on community support for resolving any configuration related issues. The time, effort, and costs involved in complex integrations, maintenance, and upgrades often remain unaccounted for.

On the other hand, there are organizations needing tools to help with real-time monitoring and analytics; advanced, cloud-based solutions like Splunk, LogDNA, Sumologic, etc. can be more suited for their needs. However, most of these commercial tools offer a wide range of features and have a steep learning curve. Implementing and harnessing true value from such tools can again take significant time and effort.

If you’re looking for a simple yet powerful solution to manage and analyze logs, then we recommend a free trial of SolarWinds Loggly. It’s a highly intuitive tool, with seamless search and real-time monitoring features. The tool offers a dynamic field explorer, which lets you click and browse through different fields without using complex queries. You can also get out-of-the-box dashboards to monitor key metrics and events. Loggly also integrates with tools like JIRA and GitHub to streamline your operations. With these integrations, you can view ticket and spot problematic code in the source code repository effortlessly. You can learn more about Loggly’s features and advantages here.

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