Logs hold crucial importance for a wide range of security information and event management (SIEM), application performance management (APM), AIOps, DevSecOps, and other IT administration-related tasks. Several available tools build upon core log management capabilities and offer advanced features for log analytics. However, in this wide ecosystem of tools, it’s not easy for beginners to make the right choice for their IT setup. In this article, we’ll discuss and compare SolarWinds® Papertrail™ vs. LogDNA. Both tools are highly recommended for log management. We’ll compare their features to help understand their best use case scenarios and strengths. Before we start with the comparison, let’s have a brief overview.
Papertrail is a cloud-based log management tool by SolarWinds, which is known for its comprehensive set of IT infrastructure management software. The tool is simple to set up and doesn’t have a steep learning curve. IT administrators comfortable with traditional search, tail, and grep utilities can use its powerful command-line client or can choose its more intuitive web interface.
Like Papertrail, LogDNA is a highly scalable log management solution, which helps aggregate, index, and analyze a wide range of log data. The solution offers flexible deployment options and supports quick search over large volumes of data. It comes with a clean web user interface and supports common and advanced log analysis features.
Both tools offer flexible pricing and have plans to suit the pricing needs for organizations of all sizes.
Papertrail vs. LogDNA
Some of the most common features of Papertrail and LogDNA for log management and real-time monitoring are discussed below.
In log management, log aggregation or collection is one of the most basic steps. Organizations need to monitor logs from different networking and security devices, servers, workstations, and applications to be on top of their environment. IT admins prefer tools that assist in centralized log management without adding any overheads.
LogDNA offers and recommends its agent to collect logs. The agent can be installed on Windows, MacOS, and Linux. While this can make log collection easier, it’s an additional piece of software for IT teams to manage. On the other hand, Papertrail doesn’t offer an agent but makes log collection simple with its extensive help documentation. Teams can use simple scripts to configure their apps or service to forward log messages to Papertrail. The approach is highly recommended for modern applications, which, once configured, can reliably send logs to set destinations, regardless of their deployment.
Every log has three important fields: the timestamp, the message, and the log level.
With log parsing, teams can slice and dice data into these and other fields to reduce noise and focus on information of their interest. Teams setting up logging for their apps and services for the first time should ensure their log management solution can recognize their log formats. A supported log format can be easily parsed and help in capturing information from the logs. Both LogDNA and Papertrail support the most common log formats. However, you should use a standard log format like JSON for efficient parsing and quick log analysis.
Search and Real-Time Monitoring
Papertrail offers search experience supporting regular expressions and Boolean syntax. You can simply search for a program by its name, or find log messages by IP address, an error string, and more. You can also save a critical search and set alerts typically within a few clicks. This helps in proactive monitoring and alerting for quicker resolution of issues. Papertrail offers a real-time event viewer where you can live tail logs. The event viewer updates incoming logs in the infinite, auto-scrolling window, and you can pause the feed or seek-by-time to find specific logs easily.
LogDNA also offers a search box at the bottom of the window in the LogDNA web app. You can perform searches in conjunction with filters and time queries. Additionally, you can specify a log level or timeframe using proper syntax. While the search feature in LogDNA isn’t too complex, teams need to get accustomed to field search operators for compound search, where certain queries are case sensitive. It also supports live tail and provides quick results for troubleshooting in live environments.
Both LogDNA and Papertrail support common integration with third-party tools for log ingestion and alerts. These include New Relic, OpsGenie, PagerDuty, Librato®, HipChat, Slack, Amazon CloudWatch, AppOptics™, and more. However, Papertrail also allows linking of logs to an external dashboard without API integration. Further, with the Papertrail REST API for provisioning and search, developers can control most of their Papertrail account settings and integrate log search into their apps. This allows developers to make HTTP requests to Papertrail to tail log messages.
Teams can evaluate free versions of both these tools to get familiar with their features and interface. However, in our review, we found the Papertrail user interface is very simple to use, justifying the company’s claim that it’s a tool built “by engineers, for engineers.” In terms of pricing, both tools offer various flexible plans for different organizational needs. LogDNA plans start at $1.50 USD per GB/month. Most Papertrail plans are priced between $0.25 and $1 USD per 1 million log messages, making it an affordable and straightforward choice for log management and real-time log monitoring. Further, the unique log filtering feature in Papertrail (not to be confused with search filters) allows teams to make efficient use of their logging quota by filtering log messages.