Top Use Cases for Log Analysis

Learning objectives
  • Learn the main use cases for log analysis
  • See how log analysis helps troubleshoot and debug systems and applications 
  • Discover why log analysis is important for meeting compliance requirements  
  • Explore the functions of proper log analysis in engineering teams

Log management and analysis are essential practices for any technology company. All systems and applications produce logs, which act as a single source of truth for engineering teams. Log analysis is the process of using a tool or tools to make sense of these logs so that engineers can understand what’s happening at a given time, identify trends, troubleshoot, and debug issues. Log analysis includes aggregating logs, parsing them, searching and alerting on them, and visualizing them with graphs or other data visualizations. In addition to troubleshooting and debugging, logs can be used to monitor systems or to meet security and compliance requirements. In this post, we’ll discuss the role that logs play in these four use cases.

Using logs to troubleshoot and debug systems and applications

Logs are a powerful tool for identifying and resolving issues. Using a log management tool that alerts you on the presence or absence of certain log types or the volume of logs can help you reduce your mean time to detection (MTTD). Once you’ve identified that there is an issue, the next step is to find the root cause. For example, you may receive an alert telling you that a webserver is returning 5xx errors. From there, you can correlate your webserver logs with those from other services to see where the errors originate and debug that particular service to resolve your issue.

After a problem has been detected, log analysis also allows for ongoing monitoring of the issue to ensure that it doesn’t recur. 

Optimizing system performance

Even beyond smooth troubleshooting, log analysis helps to improve the general performance of a system. Engineers can use log data to detect problems and inform relevant parties before issues become full-blown incidents. Log analysis goes as far as identifying bottlenecks, identifying issues with load balancing, figuring out the problematic bugs, and generally providing information that helps optimize the system’s processing.

While some incidents can occur suddenly, system issues sometimes occur as a result of a consistent, long-term build-up of irregularities. Log analysis can help you detect these problems early and reduce their effect, ultimately improving system performance. 

Log analysis can protect against security threats

Protection against security threats is a very important use for log analysis. As a developer or an IT-focused business, maintaining a secure system is extremely important to the overall health of the business. A quality log analysis tool is essential for a company’s protection, and it goes beyond the historical firewall security model. Data such as terminal identity, system configuration changes, and security-related events need to be logged and analyzed so that they may be adequately protected.

Log analysis can help track down system requests and establish configuration parameters to protect a system from external threats. A good log management practice can help users investigate previous attacks, and get the information they need to prevent future security lapses.

Log analysis can assist with compliance requirements

As the security stakes continue to rise, compliance with industry requirements, like the data protection stipulation of the GDPR, is becoming unavoidable. Compliance issues range from regulatory compliance to security policy compliance and auditory compliance. 

To achieve and maintain compliance, businesses must retain their logs and make them available for potential audits. Many compliance requirements include using a log system, and trying to perform this via local or distributed logging can become a wild goose chase. Because it’s not a directive a user can overlook, considering the security and functionality of their system, centralized log management is essential. 

Archiving log files is also important for longer storage of data. While the GDPR doesn’t specify the retention period, the CCPA ranges from 24 months to as long as 4 years. If you need to meet compliance requirements, choose a compliant log management solution that allows you to store your logs via their UI for the required time and/or allows you to archive logs to an external storage solution like Amazon S3.

Log analysis helps teams meet compliance standards while increasing the likelihood that possible issues will quickly be discovered and resolved quickly.

Conclusion

Log analysis is an essential function for troubleshooting and debugging, monitoring, and meeting compliance requirements. Modern engineering teams should ensure that they choose a  log management and analysis solution that allows them to receive alerts, easily search their logs, create data visualizations, and archive logs for long-term storage.

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