How to Make the Most of Logs With Cloud Log Management

Technology is constantly changing, and so is the IT department. Every IT department seeks efficient systems, better processes, and improved productivity. Many organizations aspire to move their applications and data to the cloud, owing to multiple benefits it offers, such as higher efficiency and scalability. However, while doing so, they’re inadvertently exposed to new levels of complexity.

image depicting log management in traditional and cloud based environments

Cloud-native container-based applications built over a microservice architecture produce logs in abundance. Managing and monitoring all these logs using traditional on-premises logging tools is challenging. Moreover, system and application logs are instrumental in finding answers to a range of issues, and at times the rising complexity of hybrid cloud environments makes them inaccessible.

Cloud log management offers a reliable approach to managing and analyzing logs. With a cloud-based centralized logging solution, you can easily correlate data and metrics from different applications, servers, users, CDNs, and more. The centralized management increases reliability and helps understand key trends and anomalies, which otherwise remain hidden in the esoteric log streams. In this article, we discuss the benefits of cloud log management and best practices for log management in the cloud.

Why Use a Cloud-Based Log Management Solution?

As discussed, managing the scale and complexity of logging in a modern IT setup is a challenging task. You can employ open-source tools like Elasticsearch (JSON-based search engine), Logstash or Fluentd (log collectors), and Kibana (visualization tool) to build scalable log management and analytics solutions. However, not all organizations have the time and resources to configure and make these tools work in tandem.

This is where cloud-based log management solutions offer significant advantages. Most of these logging tools can be set up with minimal effort. You just need to connect log sources and destinations using preconfigured integrations. In addition to quicker provisioning, cloud logging tools like SolarWinds® Papertrail offer transparent pricing, easy scalability, and advanced log analysis features with a lower total cost of ownership (TCO).

Best Practices for Managing Logs in the Cloud

Control Log Volumes

The cloud is well-equipped to handle massive log volumes; however, this doesn’t mean everything should be logged. Logging without a strategy can pose compliance risks, like logging users’ personally identifiable information or financial transactions concerning data without proper security checks. The main objective of using cloud logging tools is to reduce complexity and increase operational efficiency. It can be counterproductive to keep logging everything. While logging applications in a live environment has its obvious benefits, teams should carefully analyze the tradeoff for collecting logs from testing and development environments.

Increase Usability

Log analysis gets increasingly challenging with the rise in log volumes. It’s not easy for teams to continuously monitor text logs and extract useful information. Many teams now use the verbose logging technique to create a meaningful log message instead of creating some esoteric error code. This helps save time and energy during troubleshooting. However, ensure the log verbosity is checked.

Using structured logging formats like JSON can further simplify log parsing and analysis. Most modern log analyzers support JSON and offer automated log parsing as a standard feature. Further, you should assign unique identifiers (logging session IDs, API tokens, etc.) or trace IDs to track sessions or user activity. Such identifiers streamline analysis, as you can easily filter and view events of interest in a few simple clicks.

Ensure Security and Reliability

While it’s a good practice to manage logs centrally, secure them properly as you ship them to a cloud logging solution. Logs collected from customer-facing systems and applications may contain personally identifiable information, data from financial transactions, users’ web activities, and more. You need to adhere to laws concerning such data and ensure they’re anonymized and encrypted. Using TLS or HTTPs encryption on the client- and server-side can help transfer your logs to log management servers safely. Further, stay on top of log retention, storage, access, and archiving policies. Cloud-based log management solutions offer higher flexibility in enforcing and making changes to all such policies without any provisioning worries.

Get Real-Time Awareness

When a network or application is under attack, it abruptly changes the volume of logs. Hackers may also delete some logs to hide their footprints. It’s critical to ship your logs to a secure and centralized cloud-based server in real-time, so such logs remain uncompromised for forensic analysis. You can also monitor the logs using the live tail feature, which helps track events in production environments. Moreover, set threshold-based and event-based alerts to mitigate threats and prevent business disruption. You can reduce your Mean Time to Resolution (MTTR) by integrating log management solutions with project management tools and notification systems.

Correlate Your Logs

Monitoring individual logs with log viewers can only convey so much. To differentiate normal patterns from potential threats or identify bottlenecks in a sea of logs, teams need to correlate logs from different servers, services, applications, devices, and more. In fact, event correlation is an essential component of security information and event management practices and tools. Further, modern cloud and microservices-based applications require distributed tracing for debugging and optimization of applications. Connecting your distributed traces to associated logs can further improve your MTTR.

Extract Business Intelligence

In addition to meeting security and compliance mandates along with troubleshooting application issues, logs can provide significant business intelligence. Cloud-based logging solutions simplify log monitoring and analysis, enabling users with limited technical knowledge to extract valuable information from their logs. You can create visual reports and dashboards to get a quick overview of important business metrics. These insights help in capacity planning to proactively manage your IT environment and ensure critical applications stay live without any disruption in user experience.

Conclusion

As discussed, cloud log management requires scalable tools capable of handling massive log volumes and streamline log analysis. To get the most out of your cloud logs, you should evaluate SolarWinds Papertrail, a cloud-based log management solution. The solution is easy to set up and helps you get started quickly. With Papertrail, you can scan all your logs for anomalies and get real-time alerts and reports to stay on top of your system activity and application performance. You can use the live tail feature to monitor real-time logs using an intuitive event viewer, which reduces noise and helps you focus on events of interest with minimal effort. The event feed is presented in an infinite scroll in the viewer, which lets you pause and resume at any moment, scroll up and down, and skip to a specific time to find the root cause of any error. To evaluate the features and capabilities of the solution, you can sign up for a free trial and later customize a plan for your organization’s needs.