4 Splunk Alternatives for More Affordable and Faster Log Management

Learning objectives

• Discover 4 alternatives to Splunk log management
• Learn about Splunk and what it does
• Identify factors of good log management tools

LogDNA-Learn-4 Splunk Alternatives for More Affordable and Faster Log Management

Splunk is one of the more popular solutions for log management, but it’s expensive and (like any solution) has some disadvantages. If you’re looking for an affordable alternative to Splunk, we collected four log management solutions that provide you with the analytics and monitoring advantages but cut down on costs.

What is Splunk?

If you’re looking for a log management solution, you’ve probably come across Splunk in your research. With the increase of cloud and on-premise infrastructure that supports enterprise users, log management is necessary to monitor, analyze, and investigate cyber-events. Splunk was founded in 2003, and many enterprises use it for infrastructure logging and monitoring.

What made Splunk popular was its ability to parse data and streamline network resource management. Take a look at the following Windows log events:



The above image is an example of a Windows server under brute-force attack on its RDP port. For every failed authentication request, an entry is made in Event Viewer. While logging is enabled, reading through every event would be tedious and time-consuming for administrators. They must search one by-one through each event, and the Event Viewer has limited tools to search and analyze events.

Splunk and other log management tools make raw event analysis much more efficient. These tools provide data visualizations so that a collection of events can be reviewed more effectively; instead of manually reviewing through potentially thousands of events, administrators can feed Splunk event data and receive meaningful output. Not only does Splunk turn unstructured events into visualizations, but it can also be used to alert administrators of anomalies and suspicious activity.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Splunk

For an enterprise environment, Splunk has numerous advantages compared to standard logging solutions. It can consume and process large volumes of networking, server, cybersecurity, and application events and display them for easy analysis. Splunk can monitor network traffic and alert administrators based on customized thresholds and settings, making it a full Security Incident and Event Management (SIEM) tool.

The most significant disadvantage, especially for small businesses, is Splunk’s cost. Pricing starts at $2000 per year for 1GB per day, so it can be out of reach for small and even medium-sized organizations. Some developers complain of slower speeds and complexity as two other disadvantages. To use Splunk, enterprise organizations must train the people using the solution, which means every new hire must be trained if they have no previous experience. Luckily, several alternatives have been developed since Splunk’s initial release, so if you feel tied to one solution, you can break out of Splunk’s limitations and integrate newer technology.


Important Factors to Look for in Log Management Tools

Before you find an alternative, it’s important to understand the factors of a good log management system. Every organization has its own requirements and goals, but a good log management solution has the following benefits and features:

  • Consumes large amounts of log events from different sources
  • Parses data stored in common formats or based on a structured format set by administrators
  • Allows filtering, searching, and indexing
  • Dashboards and reports that provide visualization of events and activity
  • Scales as the enterprise grows and more log sources are added
  • Cost effective and stays within budgets
  • Setup and configurations should be intuitive and easy
  • Deploys anywhere, including in the cloud

Alternatives to Splunk

Taking the above factors into account, here are four Splunk alternatives to consider.

LogDNA

Developers for LogDNA identified many of the challenges in Splunk and other logging solutions and made it their mission to provide an affordable and intuitive alternative. In addition to providing good value for the cost, LogDNA provides flexibility in its configurations, deployment options,filters, live tail searches, and exporting. For businesses with infrastructure spanning multiple sources, LogDNA will consume data from AWS, Docker, Kubernetes, Heroku, syslog, and more.

LogDNA is built on Elasticsearch so that searches are optimized for any scenario. Customized dashboards allow users to set up their own UI and input key field information so that analysts can have specific events visible at all times.

Unlike many log solutions with data caps, LogDNA is priced by usage with no data caps, and you pay for only what you use with plans starting at $1.50 per gigabyte per month. Administrators can set up a retention period of up to 30 days, which is standard for compliance. If compliance (e.g., HIPAA) requires longer retention periods, LogDNA can accommodate longer archiving and storage.

For a free 14-day trial, get started here.

Elastic Stack

Previously named ELK Stack, Elastic Stack is a collaboration of four separate open-source solutions, including:

  • Elasticsearch: a big data search and indexing engine
  • Logstash: a processing pipeline used for ingestion of log transactions
  • Kibana: a visualization tool for Elasticsearch
  • Beats: a background agent that sends data to Logstash

The open-source tool can be downloaded and customized by developers, but Elastic Stack is self-hosted and notoriously difficult to set up and integrate. In addition to its complexities, Logstash and Kibana services require third-party hosting such as Azure or AWS. Although Elastic Stack has several useful reporting, visualization, and alerting features, it’s expensive to host. For large enterprise scaling, self-hosting solutions can be costly for the hardware, the space to store the hardware, and the personnel to manage it.

Sumo Logic

Unlike other solutions, Sumo Logic is a full cloud-based solution and software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform. Because it’s cloud-based, scalability is not an issue, so organizations can work with terabytes of data without storage limitations. Dashboards show metrics that give administrators information about usage and performance to assess costs and optimization opportunities.

Sumo Logic has a marketplace similar to Splunk where administrators can find free plugins that enhance their logging platform. It’s not as large as Splunk’s, but administrators can find plugins that integrate Sumo Logic with AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Docker, and Kubernetes.

SumoLogic pricing starts at $270 per month, but it also offers a free trial to test out the software.

SolarWinds Loggly

Loggly, acquired by SolarWinds, is another cloud-based solution that stores events and then displays them in  customized dashboards available in a client’s browser. It parses several of the most common formats from sources such as AWS, Syslog, Heroku, Windows, Docker, and Linux. Administrators can also create custom parsing rules to consume proprietary formats.

The browser-based dashboard view can be used to view, search, export, and filter events important to the viewer. Logs can be viewed in real time with alerts to let administrators know when suspicious activity is found. With the way Loggly manages events, it’s important to ensure that your setup is secure and update files cannot be manipulated to include malicious code.  

SolarWinds Loggly is best for small businesses, especially with its starter pricing. Enterprise plans start at $279 per month, but small businesses with lower data usage requirements will pay $79 per month.

Conclusion

Both enterprise and small businesses have several options for logging solutions. Still, the right one is flexible, easily customizable, affordable, parses several data formats, and works with on-premise and cloud computing.

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