Network Monitoring for Beginners: How Log Analysis Works

With more cyber threats today than ever before, there are too many companies with unoptimized defenses. On average, it takes over six months for a company to discover a data breach. In recent years, network monitoring practices like log analysis, have become essential tools for detecting security and performance issues that network’s face every day.

What is Log Analysis?

In a network, every computer generates a log of information. A log is essentially a chronological record of events that take place on a device. Devices and applications provide log files to document events on a device so that a user can refer to them easily. These files detail system events and user actions like opening or renaming a file.

It is important to note that there are many types of logs, including event logs, audit logs, transaction logs, message logs, and error logs, which each tell you something different about your systems. Log analysis is the process of collecting, aggregating, and monitoring each of the log types generated by the devices and applications connected to your network.

Logs are a goldmine of information and include valuable records on your IT systems. By monitoring the log data of these systems, you gain greater visibility into your network infrastructure and insights that help you to manage performance more effectively.

You can open log files with a text editor or a log collector/log analyzer. A log collector is more efficient because it collects data from all of these devices, aggregates it, and stores it centrally so you can review it easily through a single tool.

Why is Log Analysis Important?

Log analysis is important because it allows you to troubleshoot performance issues and resolve problems faster. By having a log analyzer with a searchable record of device events at your disposal,  you can find the root cause of security events much faster. Faster discovery speeds up your time to resolution and decreases the risk and length of downtime.

By taking a preventative approach to managing performance issues, you can detect problems early on or before they happen. High-speed resolution prevents unnecessary downtime, cuts the cost associated with faulty infrastructure, and ensures your service stays available for your customers.

Using a log analyzer is also essential for demonstrating and maintaining regulatory compliance. If you’re working in an industry with auditing or security policy requirements, log analysis provides you with an audit trail you can use to verify that your IT systems are adequately protected.

How Log Analysis Works

Devices throughout your network create logs of information, which a log analyzer collects and stores for you to monitor. In one place, you can monitor the data taken from disparate sources with the help of graphical features like dashboards and graphs. Centralized log collection allows you to monitor performance events in real-time.

Many log analysis tools allow you to configure alerts that generate email or SMS notifications about important log or security events when they occur. Collecting and aggregating your log data with a log analyzer makes it much quicker to complete the troubleshooting process.

For example, if you discover your network is compromised, you can conduct forensic analysis on your log data to find out the attacker’s entry point, including which vulnerability they exploited. All of this data provides you with contextual information you can use to resolve the problem.

Log Analysis Use Cases

Logs are a versatile resource, and you can use them for monitoring in a variety of scenarios, including managing security events, optimizing performance, maintaining regulatory compliance, and troubleshooting. For example, you can use a log analyzer to monitor live traffic and detect threats like DDoS attacks.

When you’re not under attack, you can use log analysis to help you to optimize the performance of your IT infrastructure. Log analysis enables you to track your resource utilization so you can see how much storage is available. By doing this, you can see when your infrastructure is struggling to keep up with user requests and add new resources accordingly.

Performance optimization also has the benefit of reducing disruption to your customers. By addressing performance issues correctly, you minimize the chance (and inconvenience) of service outages and reduce the likelihood of alienating customers due to poor user experience.

Machine Learning and Anomaly Detection

One feature that many log analyzers offer is anomaly detection. Anomaly detection uses machine learning to detect performance anomalies in log entries taken from your network. These systems search for unusual events that indicate a performance problem or other malicious activity. The system then notifies the user to investigate further.

Anomaly detection is invaluable because it automatically searches through log data independently, and filters out irrelevant log updates. Adopting a log analyzer with machine learning is a very efficient way to manage performance concerns, which reduces the amount of manual monitoring you have to do.

Protect Your Systems with Log Analysis in 2020

Logs are an underrated resource. Deploying a log analyzer to collect performance data allows you to monitor network performance much more efficiently. Regularly analyzing logs will provide you with peace of mind that you’ve satisfied regulatory requirements and have the measures in place to protect the systems you rely on every day.

With an abundance of affordable log analysis solutions on the market, now is a great time for enterprises to diversify network monitoring strategies. In 2020, log analysis will be key for enterprises looking to maximize the mileage they get out of their infrastructure.