Log management is a critical piece of your information technology and cybersecurity strategies, and a potentially required piece if your organization falls under any compliance regulations. Read more about why log management is important and how your organization could benefit.
Logging events seems like an obvious IT requirement for any network administrator to ensure the uptime of equipment, but aggregating and managing logs is essential for other benefits including analytics, fast response times, and the health of your infrastructure. Events are any activity performed on a server or application including authentication failures, errors, changes to environment variables, and resource utilization spikes. An enterprise environment could potentially have thousands of events in just one file, so log management is critical for organizing and analyzing events to identify issues that must be remediated before a system failure.
What is Log Management?
When you have just a single server on your network, a file that contains hundreds of events doesn’t seem like something that should be unmanageable but think about what happens when you have dozens of servers including computing resources in the cloud logging thousands of events every day. Without log management, events across multiple network appliances turn into a disorganized mess.
The first step in log management is aggregating events into one location. Log aggregation takes all events and consolidates them into one location. When events are in one location, they can be much more easily managed. Log aggregation is offered by several software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers to make it easier to implement a solution, so it’s often a solution for organizations unsure of where to start with log management.
Proper management of logs also improves the reliability and cybersecurity of infrastructure events. Because events are stored in a centralized location, administrators also reduce their attack surface. Security analysts suggest reducing an attack surface by limiting the number of potential compromise points available across the network. By keeping logs in one location, administrators just need to secure one location instead of multiple storage points across the network.
Reliability is also a factor when proper log management is implemented. With logs located in one location, any application used to consume and analyze events can be configured to retrieve them from a single storage point. Should events fail to store, administrators can quickly identify the one source failing to send events to the single location.
Why is Log Management Necessary for Developers?
Every application and infrastructure component should log events. Logs benefit developers in several ways. The primary reason for logs aggregated within an application is to track and monitor errors. Errors cause user frustrations and could result in a loss of the organization’s user base. Most users won’t complain about an error if they can simply work with another provider instead, so it’s critical for developers to know when their software throws errors and interrupts user workflows.
A few other reasons developers log events include:
- Determining if an error is handled so that users do not simply see an error message without instructions on what to do next.
- Prioritize issues so that critical crashes can be handled before dealing with benign warnings.
- Applications that consume events for analysis can be used to monitor performance and stability.
- Performance degradation can be monitored to determine if it’s caused by server resources or application coding.
Why is Log Management Important for System Administrators?
As a network grows, it’s difficult for administrators to track new resources added to the environment and manage resources retired and taken out of service. An administrator must be able to monitor all appliances installed on the network for performance, resource exhaustion, potential cyber-events, and uptime. Events related to these metrics are sent to log files that can then be consumed by applications used to display analytics to administrators.
Several other benefits of log management for administrators include:
- Analysis of potential issues with infrastructure, which can be remediated quickly before downtime.
- Detect changes to infrastructure configurations, which could cause downtime or indicate an ongoing cyber-attack.
- Determine if servers are running at peak performance.
- Identify any servers that need added resources for speed improvements.
- Locate storage that could be at capacity.
How Does Log Management Help IT Security?
Logs are typically used for monitoring hardware and applications, but security analysts also rely heavily on logged events to detect ongoing attacks, investigate events, and perform incident response. Most enterprise networks have a security operations center (SOC), and the people who staff the SOC rely on log management to conduct analysis on the environment’s cybersecurity.
A few other benefits of log management for IT security include:
- Logged events can be used to monitor the network environment 24/7 without requiring human reviewers.
- Send alerts to administrators and cybersecurity staff if a threat is detected.
- Locate security misconfigurations before the vulnerability can be exploited.
- Perform forensics and investigations after a cyber event to determine the vulnerability location.
- Provide analytics to administrators so that they can determine the cybersecurity health of the system.
How Do Administrators Read Logged Events?
Most network devices have an easy setup so that logs can be aggregated into one location and events are stored on one dedicated storage device. Storage can be located onsite or in the cloud provided all events aggregate into one location. Wherever you decide events should be stored, it’s important that the storage is properly secured. Some administrators choose to aggregate logs in the cloud, and this will work well too with analyst tools.
The benefit of managing logs in one location is that most applications used to analyze, query, and report on events will pull them from a configured storage device. It’s common for organizations to use a security information and event management (SIEM) platform to consume and analyze data. Reading thousands of line items in a log file is inefficient and unmanageable for administrators, but a SIEM will analyze data and display results in a dashboard. This dashboard helps administrators make informed decisions on reports.
The most important reason log management is important is its ability to organize data so that it can be consumable by analytical applications. These applications help administrators and developers identify issues so that they can be remediated faster. The reduction in downtime leads to lower revenue loss and keeps users across the network productive and allows customers to interface with the software with no frustration.
Managing a SIEM isn’t easy, and having the staff available 24/7 that has the skills to read and respond to an alert is a luxury many companies do not have. Cybriant offer 24/7 security monitoring for your SIEM tool. Let’s have a conversation and see if we may be a good match for your organization.