Logs play a crucial role in any service as they provide tons of information about the wellbeing of your service. For example, logs can contribute important data to metrics, such as the incident rate, retry rate, latency rate, or even the number of issues a user experiences. Logs are also useful for monitoring the health of your service. For example, a high error rate indicates you need to improve the quality of your service to make it more reliable for users.
However, to get the most value from your logs, you need to set up and manage them correctly. Incorrect log management makes it harder to retrieve valuable information from your application logs. It can even provide incomplete or inaccurate information that complicates troubleshooting.
To avoid this, there are six key principals to keep mind when designing your log management program :
- Know what to monitor
- Aggregate your logs
- Don’t try building your own log management system
- Manage access to your logs
- Integrate log management with your teaming tools
- Futureproof your logs
1. Know What to Monitor
The log management process starts with knowing what to monitor. Avoid starting in a rush without having an actual plan. It’s important to first have a good understanding of what data you can monitor. When you know what data can be monitored, you can then decide what to monitor based on the importance of the log data.
Don’t try to monitor all data at once. Too much data is hard to manage, so try keeping things simple. To start, I recommend you implement monitoring for your critical services. This data can give you insights into the performance and reliability of those services. It also helps with identifying other dependent or interrelated services to include in your logging program.
It’s a fine balance, however. You want to avoid logging too little information. If you lack data, it can create blind spots, making troubleshooting a complicated task. If there’s data missing, you’ll have to guess what happened with your code instead of making an informed decision based on log data.
Key learning: Log management is about finding the logging sweet spot. Too much logging creates extra overhead, while too little logging creates blind spots.
2. Aggregate Your Logs
Log aggregation is an important concept when dealing with multiple connected services. Especially for a microservices architecture, log aggregation is a must. Every service in your architecture produces logs. However, to debug a request that passed multiple services, it’s hard to find all relevant logs from different services.
Log aggregation helps you collect those logs and make them easily searchable. The ability to quickly search for relevant logs is a major benefit for your development and DevOps team. This will likely contribute to faster bug resolution and less time spent debugging.
Another trick is attaching a random ID to each request. The ID will be passed along the different services, and you can use it for logging important actions. This way, you can easily track the flow of a request by looking up all logs for a specific ID.
Key learning: Log aggregation helps make logs easily searchable, reducing troubleshooting time.
3. Don’t Try Building Your Own Log Management System
Building a log management system requires a lot of resources and time: it increases project costs and can pull resources away from more critical systems. As the old saying goes, don’t try to reinvent the wheel.
There are many powerful and affordable log management solutions already available. In the long run, the cost compared with building a system yourself will be drastically less.
Log management tools, like SolarWinds® Papertrail™, were designed by engineers just to do one thing really well—logging. They have spent years optimizing log ingestion, parsing, and storage and provide fast searching over mega volumes of log data.
Key learning: Avoid building your own log management system. Implement an off-the-shelf solution to keep costs down and ensure optimum performance.
4. Manage Access to Your Logs
Many organizations forget about the security of their logs. They treat logs as just another data source and often forget logs can contain tons of important or sensitive information.
Log security matters, and you need to manage who has access to your logs to prevent security issues. Role-based access control (RBAC) helps organizations create an audit trail of who has access to which logs, and which users can edit, delete, view, or share log data. This information can be useful to quickly identify how an attacker got access to data in the event of a data breach.
Key learning: Treat your logs as a valuable piece of information that deserves appropriate security measures such as role-based access control.
5. Integrate Log Management With Your Teaming Tools
Integrations with teaming tools is a common innovation theme in many developer forums. Getting information quickly into the right hands increases responsiveness and allows you to shorten communication delays.
Before we had fancy tools, developers were notified about problems via email. This paradigm has changed completely. Nowadays, almost every service integrates with teaming tools like Slack, so developers can see live status updates about their services and log management. The major benefit of this approach is developers can access alerts from multiple different services all from one tool.
In other words, it allows developers to seamlessly integrate event monitoring into their everyday workflow. This means they don’t have to access other tools for receiving alerts or messages, and it allows the entire team to be aware of issues and troubleshoot them collaboratively. This leads to streamlined communication and faster resolution time. Furthermore, it also ensures your team doesn’t miss important alerts.
Key learning: Teaming tool integrations allow team members to access event logs and alerts in tools they’re already using and encourages a collaborative approach to troubleshooting issues.
6. Futureproof Your Logs
Lastly, logs take up space. The growing need for more storage space can become costly, especially with on-premises servers. To avoid the complexity of managing a large number of logs, a cloud-based log management solution can scale up quickly, reduce management challenges, and help you contain costs.
Storing logs in a cloud-based log management solution is much cheaper, and eliminates the hassle of maintaining on-premises servers. For example, you need to have a backup generator in place to provide your servers with power in case of an outage, manage service updates, create offline backups, and other resource-intensive tasks. These little things add up and can exponentially increase the cost of hosting logs on your local servers.
Key learning: Save your organization time and effort by outsourcing log management to the cloud.
A few simple tricks can get your log management off to a good start. Don’t try to build a log management solution yourself or manage logs through on-premises servers. You can easily avoid those costs by choosing an affordable cloud-based log management solution. In the long run, you’ll save time and effort, which you can dedicate to more important tasks such as creating exceptional applications.
If you’re looking for a simple cloud-based log management solution, give Papertrail a try. Built by engineers for engineers, SolarWinds Papertrail provides an intuitive search syntax for combing through your logs from a central interface. If you want to see it for yourself, sign up for a trial or request a demo.
This post was written by Michiel Mulders. Michiel is a passionate blockchain developer who loves writing technical content. Besides that, he loves learning about marketing, UX psychology, and entrepreneurship. When he’s not writing, he’s probably enjoying a Belgian beer!