Businesses generate huge quantities of logs, making manual log analysis a tedious task. There are many kinds of logs, including application logs, event logs, and security logs, and each one has a wide range of uses, from performance monitoring to troubleshooting to security issue detection. By implementing the right tools, you’ll streamline the process and get more value out of your logs.
This guide ranks the best log file analysis tools on the market. My top picks go to SolarWinds tools: SolarWinds® Papertrail™ comes out on top, followed by SolarWinds Loggly™, SolarWinds Security Event Manager, and SolarWinds Log Analyzer. But before getting into the rankings, we’ll take a look at why log analysis is important.
If you want to skip this part, chose link below and move ahead to the product review:
- SolarWinds Papertrail
- SolarWinds Loggly
- SolarWinds Security Event Manager
- SolarWinds Log Analyzer
What Is Log Analysis and Why Does It Matter?
Log analysis is the process of checking through computer-generated log files, a kind of record. Logs are generated by programs or devices, such as networking devices, operating systems, and applications. When an event occurs in one of these devices or programs, a log is created to record the activity, the time it occurred, and other details about the event. Either these logs are viewed in real time (and often organized by priority, so the person reviewing them only sees the most important ones) or they’re stored in log files to be reviewed later.
It’s important to perform regular analysis, because it can flag security issues and provide important insights into how the system and network are functioning. When you examine logs, you need to ensure they contain all the messages they’re supposed to and the messages are interpreted correctly in context. For example, an otherwise normal-looking log may be unusual if it’s repeated hundreds of times in quick succession.
Log elements need to be normalized across devices, so you can understand everything on the same level and in a coherent pattern. For example, you don’t want to have one system using the log term “warning” and another using the word “critical” to mean the same thing. Normalization reduces error and ensures your statistics are meaningful.
With cleaned and organized log data, you can analyze the logs to detect network patterns, determine performance, and flag issues. Log analysis assists in spotting security incidents, troubleshooting where a network or device problem began, and conducting forensics if you need to go back and investigate a historical issue you’ve recently discovered. Logs are also important for understanding user behavior, monitoring the user experience related to your services or applications, and for meeting internal compliance requirements, such as showing you complied with security measures, or how you responded to and dealt with an intrusion.
Best Log Analysis Tools
Papertrail is a cloud-hosted log management tool allowing you to consolidate numerous kinds of logs, including syslog, text log files, Apache log files, Windows event logs, cloud hosting, and MySQL. You can also filter and search through your logs to look for issues and receive alerts when unusual logs appear.
The logs can be exported to Redshift or Hadoop for analysis and queries, so you can dig down deeper into issues and identify problems. The dashboard also includes information on customer problems, error messages, app requests, slow database queries, config changes, and other information. All of these tools allow you to gain instant visibility into your logs—and into your systems, as a result. You can apply them to real-time log analysis, and consolidate all of your logs in one place for quick and easy log management.
A free version of Papertrail is available, or you can pay for a larger plan to allow more storage space and longer historical search times.
Loggly is a SaaS offering allowing you to view app performance and detect unusual activity and to keep track of overall system behavior. You can analyze and monitor applications, whether on an Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure infrastructure, a hybrid cloud environment, an IoT setup, or a microservices arrangement.
With Loggly, you can easily identify the root cause of issues with the help of log data coming from across the stack and from third-party connected services. It also includes DevOps tools, and can integrate with Slack, HipChat, GitHub, Jira, and PagerDuty.
Loggly has good visualizations to help you track SLA compliance, view performance trends, and to track and report on KPIs. Your log analytics and insights can also be easily shared by using the tool integrations mentioned above.
You can try Loggly free for up to 14 days.
Security Event Manager (SEM) is another powerful tool from the team at SolarWinds. It incorporates dedicated firewall log analysis tools alongside other kinds of log analyzers, including a Microsoft IIS server log analysis tool. The focus is primarily on security.
You can use SEM to collect logs and events from firewalls in real time, and then pair those logs with network logs. With this centralized approach, you can improve your firewall and security log analysis management and see whether any configuration changes have worked—or caused problems. SEM also allows you to use event correlation to set effective security response actions, rules, and policies.
Real-time monitoring helps you to pinpoint and prevent cyberthreats before they harm your business. The alerting system also flags whether any issues have arisen.
In addition, SEM contains specific Microsoft IIS server log analysis tools allowing you to see how users are accessing your web server. You can use SEM to collect, normalize, and parse your IIS log data, which can help you to track suspicious activity on the web server, see abnormal traffic patterns, detect abuse, or detect new errors potentially caused by a configuration change or new update.
These security-specific tools come alongside a range of general log management and monitoring capabilities, which makes this a particularly useful tool for a large organization needing to keep tabs on its logs in a comprehensive manner.
You can access a free trial of SEM for up to 30 days.
Log Analyzer is designed to provide analysis and collection for syslog, traps, and Windows and VMware events.
Log Analyzer allows you to keep track of real-time information on hardware and software issues, and network logs. With flexible data searching, you can also filter monitored log data. The tool includes out-of-the-box filters to help save you time and are designed to provide in-depth log analysis through visualizations.
Log Analyzer includes visualizations for log volume and search results, and interactive charts showing the time frames in which the logs have been collated. The visualizations provide color-coded information and highlight which logs you need to examine in further detail, so you can get to the root of the problem and gain clear insights into infrastructure performance.
One of the notable features of this tool, which sets it apart from the other SolarWinds options, is it integrates fully with the SolarWinds Orion® Platform. This allows you to combine it with other SolarWinds tools to create a comprehensive solution with a single dashboard. The alerts provided through the Orion integration let you know when a security or performance issue has come up, so you can start troubleshooting.
A free trial of Log Analyzer is available for up to 30 days.
Logentries is a basic log monitoring tool allowing real-time log monitoring and search. It also includes easy-to-use and nice-looking visualization and analytics tools, so you can monitor longer-term trends and see how events are correlated across your systems. And with real-time alerting, any issues will be flagged, so you can resolve them before you end up with a security breach or a disrupted end-user experience.
This is a solid basic log analysis tool worth trying out. A free trial is available.
Stackify is primarily an analysis tool for developers, and as such it’s a good option to look into if you have a development team needing log analysis software. It combines log analysis tools, application performance management, integrated errors and logs, and code profiling in one package. This makes it a versatile option for log analysis as part of a larger development process.
Stackify offers a 14-day free trial.
My final pick is Graylog, which comes in two versions: one for enterprise use, and one that is open source and free. The free version could be useful if you’re looking for a lightweight solution not for enterprise use. You can search, analyze, and integrate logs in real time, and use multi-threaded data retrieval tools to save on time.
Enterprises will benefit from Graylog’s scalability and user-friendly front-end interface. This is a centralized solution offering easy search functionality and fault tolerance. Unlike the free version, it’s compliance ready and offers tech support.
Choosing the Right Log Analysis Tool
Choosing a log analysis tool may seem daunting. Hopefully, after reading this guide, you have a sense of your options and which might suit your organization. All the tools on this list offer free versions, allowing you to try out a range of options before you make a decision.
I’m a big fan of the SolarWinds product line. Whether you ultimately opt for Papertrail, Loggly, Security Event Manager, or Log Analyzer, you’ll benefit from high-quality log analysis with easy setup. And with Log Analyzer, you can integrate it with other tools on the Orion Platform for added functionality. This is a user-friendly and comprehensive log analysis tool, and it becomes even more useful when implemented in conjunction with other SolarWinds software in an enterprise environment. Test drive a demo to see for yourself.