Not so long ago, plain-text log management was a widespread, grueling, and lengthy process. Plain-text data isn’t without its uses—in fact, under certain circumstances, it can be of great value—but it can’t replace a sophisticated log management solution when it comes to complex analysis and gaining advanced insight into infrastructure. If you want to optimize your code quality, then you’ll benefit significantly from investing in a suitable log monitoring tool.
Tools used for monitoring and logging vary immensely in 2020. The market is saturated with competitors, each claiming to offer a unique take on log file monitoring and alerting. Some will prioritize usability; others will choose quantity of features over quality, or perhaps aspire to technological sophistication at the expense of user-friendliness. To help you make the right choice for your business, I’ve put together this list of the best monitoring and logging tools available this year.
In ranking these programs, I’ve considered the range of features, the quality of the features, and ease of use. I have also considered the fact that some tools will be better suited to certain businesses than others. To accommodate a range of requirements and budgets, I’ve included several free tools, although the bulk are paid, as premium tools tend to offer more features, better interfaces, and, importantly, professional support.
Feel free to jump ahead to the products review.
I consider SolarWinds Security Event Manager (SEM) to be the best log monitoring tool available. This event log reporting software and log monitoring tool is for everyone, from small to large enterprises, having been cleverly designed to combine advanced functionalities with an easy-to-use interface. Of all the tools used for monitoring and logging, SEM is the most surprising, because it manages to hit the rare sweet spot between being sophisticated and modern, but also beginner friendly. It’s scalable and is proof software complexity can coexist with ease of use.
12 Best Log Monitoring Tools and Event Log Reporting Software
The benefits of employing a log monitoring tool are substantial. The right tool can boost productivity, make meeting regulatory compliance requirements easier, inform marketing strategies, assist with troubleshooting, optimize security, and help you analyze your business processes. This section of the guide looks at the best paid software on the market. At the end of this guide, you’ll find my list of the best free tools used for monitoring and logging.
SolarWinds SEM Review:
This event log reporting software is one of a kind. Event logs are highly valuable when it comes to gaining insight into security threats, but their value diminishes significantly when they’re kept in isolation. To identify threat patterns, event logs have to be compared and examined collectively. Security Event Manager features SIEM event correlation functionalities, which allow it to ingest logs sourced from hundreds of infrastructure origins. This includes firewalls, applications, network equipment, servers, databases, endpoint protection, and third-party cloud suppliers. Events are analyzed in real time, giving you visibility into patterns that could be indicative of an attempted or imminent attack.
The SEM user interface is easy to navigate. The application is split into nine main tabs, which are accessible in the top bar. The Events tab functions much like an email inbox and is pleasantly familiar, with subfolders and events split into the following columns: “Name,” “Event Info,” “Detection IP,” and “Detection Time.” You can view events according to “Overview,” “Security,” and “IT Operations,” with numerous subfolders for each. The number beside each folder indicates the number of events in the category—for example, unusual network events or firewall events.
Converting raw data into actionable insights is a complicated process and requires teams to connect the dots between hundreds of event logs. But by achieving this, IT professionals can make informed decisions regarding how to respond to threats and optimize IT policy. SEM automates event log normalization and correlation, and event correlation analysis. The SEM event correlation procedures are SIEM-driven and help eradicate the potential for human error with an active response functionality, which means the system can respond to threats automatically on your behalf.
SEM is a fantastic tool for regulatory compliance, because the SIEM correlation and normalization functionalities can be used to organize event log data and generate reports. It comes with multiple out-of-the-box reports, which make outlining security threats easy and facilitate the creation of informed prevention plans. You can use the built-in suite of reporting and security event correlation monitoring utilities to customize reporting templates and tailor them to your specific business needs.
The main dashboard is extremely well designed, with graphs, dials, and charts used to represent data in a dynamic and engaging way. SEM also features a built-in tool called Event Log Analyzer, which automatically collects and organizes log and event data. By centralizing event logs, navigating between log files becomes much more efficient. The Event Log Analyzer component drills down into specific events to give you in-depth insight into source and destination machines, ports, IP address, and much more. You can use predefined filters to navigate events, or create new filters, define conditions, and enable in-console notifications to investigate specific activities or equipment.
All in all, SEM is versatile, feature-rich, sophisticated, and beginner-friendly. It’s great for organizations of all sizes. You can get started with this log monitoring tool with minimal training or experience, take advantage of utilities conventionally associated with IT experts, and be up and running in a matter of minutes. If you want to give this program a try, a 30-day free trial of the full software is available.
SolarWinds SEM Cost:
- Free 30-day trial available
- Starts at $4,232
SolarWinds Log Analyzer Review:
Log Analyzer is another SolarWinds product, and although it offers impressive features, it has less scope of functionality than SEM. While SEM features wider SIEM components, Log Analyzer is more of a specialist log monitoring tool. It provides real-time log monitoring utilities, affording you constant and immediate insight. It covers syslog, SNMP traps, Windows event logs, and much more, giving you critical visibility into your infrastructure, which augments your troubleshooting efforts.
With log monitoring, consolidating, analyzing, and collecting capabilities, this tool assists in getting to the root causes of issues as quickly as possible. Like SEM, Log Analyzer lets you filter through your monitored log data once it’s been collected, refining the results with out-of-the-box filters. The program also features a powerful and intuitive search engine. This benefit is often overlooked, but a poorly designed search engine can make navigation much harder, so Log Analyzer’s intelligent engine is a notable advantage.
Log Analyzer was built to give you at-a-glance awareness, and it uses interactive charts and graphs to make the interpretation of data fast and efficient. You can visualize search results, log volume, and time frames in a colorful and logical way, clicking on graphical elements to gain a more detailed view.
Another benefit of Log Analyzer is it’s built on the Orion® Platform, so it can be integrated with other SolarWinds products. When integrated, collected data can be viewed in the Orion Platform console alongside system and network performance metrics. This affords you a wider view of your overall IT infrastructure and its health and performance. Moreover, Log Analyzer leverages the Orion alerts system, providing customizable alerts deliverable by email, through ServiceNow integration, and even by triggering an external script.
When searching, filtering, or examining logs, you can apply color-coded tags to your data, which assists with refining your search or investigation results. This is simple but effective.
A fully functional 30-day free trial of Log Analyzer is available.
SolarWinds Log Analyzer Cost:
- Fully functional free trial for 30 days
- Starts at $1,358
Logz.io is a log file monitoring and alerting tool with a different take on log management. It’s an software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform with a cloud-based back end powered by ELK Stack (Kibana, Logstash, Elasticsearch), an open-source log management tool provided as a fully managed cloud service. ELK applications are available to Logz.io users, who are afforded access to a free library of ready-made alerts, Kibana searches, and dashboards for various log types, use cases, and visualizations. If you use Logz.io, you’ll be able to save your favorite ELK apps and even contribute your own.
This log monitoring tool comes in three versions: Community, the free edition, limited to five users and 50 alerts; Pro, for unlimited users; and Enterprise, a customized solution. This review concerns the Pro version.
Logz.io Pro is extremely feature rich. It can help you identify recurring patterns in your log data, which streamlines troubleshooting procedures. It uses crowdsourcing and machine learning to uncover events that have been overlooked, features a chatbot utility to integrate data analysis into your Slack channels, creates accounts dedicated to storing key data for extended periods, lets you share Kibana objects with team members in the form of snapshots, and much more.
Here are some of my favorite Logz.io capabilities:
- Anomaly detection for spotting new errors
- Real-time live feed of your data streamed from multiple sources
- Built-in alerting engine to notify you of critical events via PagerDuty, Slack, and email
- Data optimization for aggregating and saving important data
- Subaccounts for segregating your Logz.io account, each with its own account token and data allowance
- Parsing as a service, with automated and manual parsing for making data readable
- Secure API for accessing data, letting you query data, create alerts, and more
- Volume analysis, so you can investigate how much data is being shipped
- S3 archiving, with logs backed up in AWS S3 bucket, to be retained or ingested
- Role-based access and permissions for your team
- Audit trail, which can be filtered and exported as a .CSV file
- User control, with the ability to add users, according to the limit designated by your plan type
- SSO, so you can access Logz.io with your organization’s own credentials
- Field mapping, which can be updated via a dedicated user interface
Logz.io is available on multiple cloud providers and across numerous regions. It even offers 24/7 in-app chat support. The drawback to this tool is it can be overwhelming—so much is going on, learning how to make the most of it takes a good deal of time and effort.
If you want access to all the Pro features but don’t want to commit yet, take advantage of the free trial. During the trial period, which has four days retention, you have access to up to 5GB of data per day. It features a live tail, is available in multiple AWS and Azure regions, and comes with pre-made ELK and Grafana dashboards.
- Free version
- Pro version starting at $89
- Enterprise version available on a custom quote
SolarWinds Papertrail Review:
Papertrail is another log file monitoring and alerting program worth considering. This log monitoring tool focuses on giving you complete control of your logs. It centralizes log management capabilities, making it easier to stay on top of your logs, despite the move toward microservices and distributed workloads making it increasingly difficult to do so.
The number of log-generating elements in a typical data center is growing exponentially, and to cope with the weight of demand, a log monitoring tool should be scalable. Papertrail does this very well. It can supply a truly enterprise-grade solution, built to manage growth. The single interface means you can access weeks of data, watch events in real time, and generate historical event archives. Because it’s centralized, navigation is simple.
In its commitment to maximizing control, Papertrail also allows you to manage who can access your logs. You can specify what SysAdmins, developers, and other IT team members can see and access. You can define the level of access for all or specific groups and establish whether a given user can or cannot purge logs. Under each individual’s profile, you can also enable or disable capabilities for that user. For example, you can allow or prevent them from managing users and permissions, changing plans and payment, and accessing logs.
In addition, Papertrail allows you to give individual users the ability to create alerts and searches, and to modify group details. With this tool you can group logs according to their origin or contents, or via a custom search.
Papertrail is useful for implementing infrastructure-wide policies. Achieving regulatory compliance, alongside compliance with company policy, is a difficult process. Papertrail lets you establish global log retention and log management policies. This can be done in just a few minutes, saving your team significant time and resources. Moreover, you can create your own automated cloud backups, to facilitate long-term archiving and storage. When you need to access past logs, they’re easy to find. You can export archives and consolidate them with one command.
This cloud-hosted log management program has a lot to offer. It delivers instant alerts—via email, Librato, Slack, custom HTTP webhooks, and PagerDuty—and is great for log analysis, because it allows you to load log archives into Hadoop or Redshift. Log velocity analytics are available, so you can view log throughput and rapidly identify patterns.
If control is the log management factor you value the most, then Papertrail is one of the best tools available. I recommend trying out the free version to get a taste of the software (see my writeup in the next section); however, do note Papertrail Free is very limited and not particularly suited for business use. The paid plans offer more data and longer search and archive periods. If none of these are suitable, you can customize a plan with the appropriate volume and duration, so you don’t end up paying for more than you need.
SolarWinds Papertrail Cost:
- Plans start at $7.00 per month
- Available customization—Pay for only what you need
SolarWinds Loggly Review:
If you want a log monitoring tool to prioritize speed and efficiency, then Loggly is a great option. The best thing about Loggly, besides its speed, is the interactive dashboards. Monitoring software tends to clutter information together, making it hard to navigate and interpret. Dashboards in Loggly are super clear and divided into distinct sections, and the data is represented graphically wherever possible.
These dashboards connect data across your web applications, devices, and infrastructure, giving you a centralized and unified view. The visual representation is flexible, offering a range of graphs—including dials, bar charts, and line graphs—and can be tailored to the specific data type. You can drill down into the graph data to view more details. Ready-to-use dashboards include key performance indicators and statistics.
The dashboards are more than a visual and navigational aid. They also boost collaboration efforts. You can share dashboards with other members of your team, or other departments, to gain varied insight into the data. You can also control who can access specific dashboards and who can edit them. Charts can be copied and modified, even when they’ve been created by peers, without requiring you to create new queries from scratch.
The reporting features are also collaboration friendly. Loggly allows you to turn any log dashboard into a shareable report. Formatted in PNG, these reports can be sent via email or systems like HipChat and Slack. This is a great way of getting stakeholders involved and keeping them informed.
One-click sync lets you set all your dashboard charts to reflect the same timeframe, making wider analysis of patterns easier. The library of charts also makes data interpretation easier. These are fully reusable and simplify the creation of your dashboard. You can choose to capture log event counts, percentiles, averages, and more—all in a dynamic, clear, and colorful way. Structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data can be used to create charts, with sorting utilities for both labels and values. You can also pin certain key performance indicators, so you can always see them.
Loggly can analyze data compiled from multiple sources. It’s available as a free 14-day trial, with no credit card details required.
SolarWinds Loggly Cost:
- Four plans available
- Loggly Lite: Free version, basic log search for starters
- Loggly Standard: Starting at $79 per month, supports three users and aimed at small businesses
- Loggly Pro: Starting at $159 per month, supports five users and is best for growing companies
- Loggly Enterprise: Starting at $279 per month, unlimited users for large organizations
Splunk identifies itself as the “data-to-everything” platform. It’s all about using data to inform every action, every decision, and every question, to create a more informed and unified environment. This focus on data influences everything about Splunk’s design, which emphasizes making data genuinely actionable. The tool gives you real-time insights and a comprehensive view of data across your entire organization, including systems, devices, and interactions.
The dashboard itself is user-friendly, being clearly divided into specific and relevant sections. Data is provided in the form of graphs and charts, so you can get at-a-glance awareness, with the option to drill down deeper into the details when needed. Although the dashboard displays a lot of information, and takes some getting used to, the interface is clean and uncluttered.
Splunk is compatible with mobile and augmented reality, reflecting an extremely modern take on log management and monitoring. This means the tool is likely to keep pace with advancing technologies, as it’s already ahead of the curve and embracing a data-driven future.
This log monitoring tool covers all aspects of log management, including searching, diagnosing, and reporting on any log-related events. The program was built to support log interpretation, regardless of log type, as well as indexing. Whether the data is structured, semi-structured, or unstructured, Splunk can manage it.
Splunk understands all types of machine data, including information gleaned from web servers, networks, servers, mainframes, exchanges, and security devices. It offers a flexible user interface, which makes the process of searching and analyzing data more intuitive and uses a drilling algorithm to identify anomalies and patterns. The dashboard output is visual and automated.
Overall, this is a seriously intelligent tool. My only issue is it can take a while to learn how to use all its utilities and where to access them within the dashboard.
There are numerous Splunk versions available, including Splunk Enterprise, Splunk Cloud, Splunk Investigate, Splunk Data Fabric Search, and Splunk Data Stream Processor. These are just the core packages. Splunk also has editions for IT operations, security, and Internet of Things. The Enterprise and Cloud versions offer free trials, good for 60 days and 15 days, respectively.
If you want to try Splunk before committing, you could also download the free version, though it’s quite limited: you can only have one user and scale up to 500MB of data per day.
- Free: 500MB data per day
- Splunk Cloud: Starting at $186
- Splunk Enterprise: Starting at $2,000
Cloudlytics is a SaaS program designed to improve the analysis of cloud services, billing data, and log data. It focuses on Amazon Web Services, including CloudFront and CloudTrail, affording users insights into data anomalies and patterns across those services and others. Its event monitoring utilities can also be applied to AWS RDS, AWS ELD, AWS VPC, Apache, Nginx, MySQL, Trend Micro, Linux, and Windows.
Cloudlytics features preconfigured security dashboards customizable to suit your needs and preferences. These dashboards are clear and easy to read, though they could be more dynamic. Some of the visual representations of data have been better designed than others.
This tool is feature-rich, boasting live event search, a set of preconfigured critical security alerts, preconfigured threat detection, user access controls, around-the-clock compliance monitoring, downloadable reports for compliance monitoring, compliance posture comparison, customized messaging for control suppressions, and remediation steps for failed controls. You can access a free trial here.
- Starts at $5/month
Scalyr is a fully unified data platform and covers your traces, metrics, logs, and signals all in one place. I find Scalyr’s approach to data representation particularly appealing. The graphs are visual, colorful, and arranged to optimize ease of interpretation. You can expand individual graphs to drill down into key metrics. This includes CPU load average, CPU usage, desk usage, memory usage, network bandwidth, disk request rates, disk request bandwidth, average disk request latency, and much more.
The Scalyr interface is nice and simple, with the top bar divided into five tabs: “Logs,” “Search,” “Dashboards,” “Alerts,” and “Docs.” The most notable thing about Scalyr is its scalability. It was built for the cloud, which means it can support machine data at massive scale. It’s also easy to set up and has barely any learning curve associated with it.
The main disadvantage of Scalyr is its focus on the cloud. When it comes to log monitoring for alternative environments, it isn’t as impressive. A live demo of Scalyr is available, as is a fully functional 30-day free trial.
- Three plans available:
LOGStorm is a SIEM-compliant log management solution, and it offers some sophisticated utilities. It focuses on security, giving IT teams the tools they need to identify breaches, threats, and violations before they have an impact on your infrastructure and systems. With this program, you’ll gain insight into how your data is behaving, why it’s behaving that way, and what to expect from it in the future.
LOGStorm boasts real-time threat analysis and uses a correlation algorithm to help give you insight into why events are occurring and whether a pattern is emerging. Logs are stored centrally, giving you quick access to event data, in addition to raw logs and records. LOGStorm comes with extensive device support, meaning it can integrate with more than a thousand systems, applications, and devices. This tool is easy to set up and configure.
If you’re looking for a super speedy program, with incident event data storage, instant alerts, remediation guidance, and a security focus, then LOGStorm might be a good choice. I’m a big fan of the security and compliance reports, which aid in incident investigation and documentation. These include reporting packages for SOX, HIPAA, PCI, GLBA, ISO, and FISMA. LOGStorm also offers zero-day attack identification, using behavior-based analysis to identify new attacks capable of bypassing signature-based countermeasures.
To give LOGStorm a try, check out the free trial or request a demo. Flexible pricing plans are available.
- Depends on included features
Free Log Monitoring Tools and Event Log Reporting Software
When it comes to free log monitoring and event log reporting software, a few tools are worth mentioning. Although they may be useful to those of you with low requirements, or who are new to log management processes, these free tools are not especially suited to enterprise-grade needs and expectations.
Event Log Consolidator is simple, free, but effective event log reporting software from SolarWinds. It allows you to view, consolidate, and dismiss event logs, and correlate any issues across multiple systems and environments.
For a free tool, Event Log Consolidator is surprisingly generous. You can consolidate logs from up to five Windows servers or workstations and graph events over time to assist with the identification of patterns and troubleshooting. The tool also features an effective alerts system, which delivers notifications to your desktop either under certain circumstances or when specific events occur. Alternatively, you can export events to a CSV file.
Event Log Consolidator is easy to navigate, with tabs for servers, event alerts and silencing, and custom filters located under Settings in the left sidebar.
The free version of SolarWinds Papertrail allows you to host, search, and parse your syslog messages. With this free syslog tool, you don’t have to remotely connect to servers to read log messages. You can consolidate and access logs from multiple sources, including firewalls, routers, workstations, servers, and other equipment. All your messages get stored in an Amazon S3 bucket, which certifies high availability without sacrificing security. This program supports rsyslog, syslog-ng, and syslogd, and other syslog functionalities.
This log monitoring tool scans, parses, and indexes log messages automatically and in real time, filtering syslogs by priority, facility, date, host name, message content, and process, according to your specific requirements. The search utility lets you refine searches according to hardware failures, application issues, and other critical events.
To stay informed, you can set up alerts to notify you instantly when something goes wrong. The tool allows you to search up to 48 hours of historical data and download up to a week of archived data to be analyzed on a long-term basis.
A centralized interface is a huge benefit to any monitoring program, which this tool provides. All your log data is in one place, and you can scan and search it without having to navigate between dashboards, pages, or programs. Device and service messages appear in real time and can then be graphed to reveal trends.
As a free tool, this has limited capabilities. To maximize functionality, and to achieve an enterprise-grade solution, give the full version of Papertrail a try.
GoAccess is an open-source web log analyzer that shows log data in real time. This program can be run through your browser, or via Unix terminal systems. GoAccess offers a rapid logging environment with an interactive viewer. As an open-source program, it’s not ideal for business use, and it comes with a bit of a learning curve if you want to make the most of its features. However, for those of you who like the flexibility of an open-source program built by a community of users, GoAccess is a good choice.
GoAccess is about as real-time as a program can get, giving you updates down to the millisecond. It supports almost all web log formats, including Amazon S3, Nginx, Apache, Elastic Load Balancing, and CloudFront. If you’re only interested in the tool’s more basic utilities, then it’s easy to use. Just set the log format and run it against your log. However, there are lots of other more sophisticated utilities offered by GoAccess, including incremental log processing, the ability to track application response time and view metrics per virtual host, and the overall color scheme can be customized.
The drawback of GoAccess is the dashboard is cluttered and has the tendency to overwhelm with information.
Why Do I Need Monitoring and Logging Tools?
A log monitoring tool is the alternative to sifting through infinite text-file loops spanning your entire infrastructure. It saves time and resources and helps you pinpoint the root cause of application and software errors. Log management is of critical importance to the success of big data solutions, and its benefits are far-reaching.
Here are just a few of the things you might use log data for:
Resource Management: Log data can assist in the management, maintenance, and troubleshooting of your IT systems. You can gauge system health by monitoring real-time inactivity and anomalies, identifying configuration or performance issues, and drilling down into data to perform root cause analysis on failures, in addition to detecting specific log events and log data patterns. Log data can even assist with meeting SLAs and achieving operational goals.
Application Troubleshooting: Log data can help your IT personnel investigate the details of application issues. It assists with pinpointing poor performance areas, assessing and troubleshooting application health, and diagnosing the root cause of run-time errors and installation issues.
Business Analytics: Log data is a source of numerous and critical business insights. You can use a log management or monitoring solution to derive key business information from log data, and to configure alerts to notify you when certain goals are achieved. Log data can help you understand business process health, customer SLAs, revenue per hour, and transactional data like transactions per second.
Marketing Insights: Marketing professionals can use log data to examine how a campaign is affecting conversions, traffic, sales, and overall visibility. Log data can also help with identifying new areas where SEO could be optimized, because log files can reveal how bots are crawling your site. You can gain insight into which pages are useful and which aren’t, in addition to which pages Google crawls. When used correctly, log monitoring tools can improve marketing forecasting, allow you to monitor sites more effectively, and deliver alerts on key patterns and events.
SIEM: Log monitoring tools can automate the collection, analysis, and correlation of data across numerous security systems, boosting efficiency and streamlining your IT processes. Security information and event management (SIEM) tools are essentially log management solutions with added utilities for real-time analysis, alerting, correlation, and workflow. SIEMs allow for data non-event-centric data to be imported, which affords you a more comprehensive view of your security and weaknesses. Sources of SIEM data include Azure equivalents, HIDS and NIDS systems, firewalls, and AWS Config. A SIEM tool will usually include the collection of log and contextual data, normalization and tagging utilities, data correlation, event prioritization, reporting, a workflow engine, and alerts.
Regulatory Compliance: HIPAA, SOX, FISMA, PCI, and other regulatory requirements dictate access to systems containing regulated data be monitored and tracked. Logs provide you with an effective and practical way of meeting regulatory compliance requirements, because they contain the records of key events. These usually include system events, account management-related events, account logon attempts, policy changes, and access to service directories. Log management and SIEM both have a key part to play in achieving and maintaining compliance.
Best Log Monitoring Tools and Event Log Reporting Software
Hopefully, this guide has given you a good foundation for determining which log monitoring tool and event log reporting software is best suited to your needs. Overall, you can’t do better than Security Event Manager. With SEM, SolarWinds has truly succeeded in delivering a sophisticated, advanced, and scalable, but also user-friendly and interactive solution. Navigating the interface couldn’t be easier, and data interpretation is a breeze.
If you’re set on a free tool, I’d recommend Event Log Consolidator. However, I advise against using free tools for enterprise-level requirements, as they aren’t built to bear the load of business use.