Logs are messy. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. But they can be very helpful for understanding what’s happening in your system. To get from “can be helpful” to “they are helpful,” you need to know how to use logs. Logs are raw records of events happening in your system. These records tell you who accessed your system, how someone interacted with it, when an event occurred, and a more.
Logs monitor different types of systems, including firewalls, servers, and applications. Let’s take Apache Server for example because Apache is among the most-used server software. If you have a web application running on this server, you could have hundreds to thousands of events occurring and getting logged per second. Here’s what a sample log file looks like:
This snapshot is of my local server, so the logs are just of my activity. The logs of a production server would look even messier. You can see how difficult logs can be to understand, analyze, and make meaning out of in their raw form. Therefore, there’s a big market for log analyzer tools.
Choosing the right tool for yourself is critical. And I’m going to save you some time in researching these tools. In this post, I’ll talk about the top log analyzer tools for Apache, highlighting what each of them offers.
SolarWinds® Loggly® is a cloud-based log management service. It’s a complete solution covering log collection to analysis to visualization. Loggly is agent-free, which means you don’t have to install and set up an application on your system. Along with Apache, you can use Loggly to collect logs from a wide variety of systems such as AWS, Angular, cron, Docker, Django, and IIS.
Network logs, syslogs, weblogs, event logs—Loggly can work them all for you. But log analyzers aren’t just about collecting logs. Loggly has excellent utilities to analyze the logs and convert them into graphs. You can pinpoint the data and graphs down to the minute, giving you visibility over what’s happening in your system.
Loggly also offers an alerting system to help you take quick action when required. You can set up conditions, and you’ll be alerted when those conditions are triggered. If you’re looking for a single solution to monitor logs in real-time, troubleshoot your system with log data, integrate with other stacks, or analyze and visualize data, look no further: Loggly is what you need.
GoAccess is a real-time log analyzer designed with speed in mind. It offers two interfaces. If you want a user-friendly interface, you can use it on a browser. Or you can use the terminal-based interface, which is helpful especially if you want to SSH into the server.
GoAccess has a detailed dashboard with customizable color schemes. Although the GoAccess default output is on terminal, you can generate reports in HTML, JSON, and CSV formats for further processing. Along with logs, you can also track various web metrics such as response time, bandwidth, and hits. If fast log analysis is your desire, GoAccess is what you need.
ManageEngine EventLog Analyzer is a dedicated log monitoring and management tool. You can either use an agent or agentless method for log analysis. EventLog Analyzer collects logs from various systems and parses them through a log parser. You can use the default or custom log parsers. Once done, logs can be analyzed, after which you can generate reports or alerts.
EventLog Analyzer focuses on security. Web servers are a common target for cybercriminals, and EventLog Analyzer has various algorithms and vulnerability scanners in place designed to increase the security of your system. It also helps you audit your systems and demonstrate IT compliance.
While most of the log analyzer tools are built for different kinds of systems, Apache Viewer http Logs Viewer is an open-source log analyzer tool specifically built for web servers. The http Logs Viewer tool is a great way to monitor, view, and analyze server logs. Its search and filter options make it powerful.
The http Logs Viewer tool gives you the option to translate IP address to country and search and filter columns based on IP, request string, data, referrer, etc. It uses simple and easy-to-understand charts to visualize data. It’s a good tool for geographical analysis and flexible filtering.
AWStats helps you analyze and visualize all possible information your logs contain. What’s impressive with this tool is its ability to analyze large log files quickly. AWStats uses a partial file to speed up the processing of large log files.
Filtering data is easy due to the simple interface. It also tries to recognize whether the visitor was a human or a bot. Log files contain details of the web server and where the request was made from. AWStats connects these dots and gives clear visibility over web traffic. It’s a great tool to understand the most about your visitors.
WebLog Expert is a simple, to-the-point log analyzer. It focuses on its task rather than appearance and does its job well. WebLog Expert gives you information about activity statistics, which tells you about visits and hits on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis; accessed files, which tell you which images, pages, or other files were accessed; paths through the site; and much more. It generates easy-to-read reports including text, tables, and graphs.
It can generate reports in typical HTML, PDF, or CSV format and allows you to generate dynamic HTML reports. If you don’t want to integrate it with a live system, you can use stored logs for analysis. WebLog Expert can read logs from GZ and ZIP compressed log files.
Logstash is an open-source server-side log analyzer designed to parse and transform data as it collects it. You have the flexibility to create and configure the pipeline for log management. It allows you to filter data without changing the original data, and the regex log parser helps in custom parsing and is impressive.
It provides several plugins to integrate with other systems. While using Logstash, you get clear visibility over the pipeline because it divides the pipeline into the input, filter, and output sections. You can make the most out of Logstash if you use it with Elasticsearch to store, search, and analyze data and use Kibana to visualize it. This combination is also known as the ELK stack.
Which Log Analyzer to Choose
If you Google search “Apache log analyzer,” you’ll see pages with different tools. With so many tools available, it can be difficult to understand which best suits your needs. Choosing a tool depends on different factors such as your budget, use cases, and technical expertise. But you want the best for your business. I’ve briefly explained some of the top log analyzers, but that still leaves a question: “Which should I choose?”
Based on my experience with servers, logs, and log analysis tools, I find SolarWinds Loggly pretty amazing. It’s a complete solution and has everything you need to manage and analyze logs. But don’t just take my word for it. Try Loggly and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
This post was written by Omkar Hiremath. Omkar uses his BE in computer science to share theoretical and demo-based learning on various areas of technology, like ethical hacking, Python, blockchain, and Hadoop.