7 log management challenges and solutions

Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes famously said, "You see, but you do not observe." Collecting application logs exhaustively and interpreting them to support business objectives are two different things. Application logs, also called app logs, event logs, and audit trails, are automatically generated records of computational events in IT environments.

Benefits of logging:

Application logs record critical transactions for monitoring, security, and compliance and ensure IT products' overall effectiveness. App logs also serve as the memory lane for DevOps engineers, providing vital slices of information that help spot where and when anomalies occur and that fix, protect, and even future-proof IT infrastructure.

Logs lend comprehensive visibility into the performance and health of your IT infrastructure to help improve operations and ensure the best user experience for customers. In the larger context, app logs also contribute to mandatory record-keeping activities, which helps companies comply with software SLAs. Effective logging also helps you understand how systems operate and monitor malicious activities.

Here are the top log management challenges faced by IT teams today and ways to overcome them:

1: Cutting the clutter:

Logging demands even more importance in the hybrid cloud era; data explosion; microservices; and distributed, complex infrastructure tiers that work together to deliver software services. More log data is not always better. IT teams need context to conquer the glut of logs. The 2022 State of Observability and Log Management Report by Era Software states that log volumes are exploding. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said they ended up deleting logs entirely to cut cloud storage costs, risking their absence during critical troubleshooting.

Also, log clutter could cause cloud storage charges to skyrocket. When they do, many IT teams may purge vast chunks of log data as a knee-jerk reaction, which could wipe out vital log evidence. Unmanaged log clutter also increases real-time monitoring challenges and reduces operational efficiency. Further, log clutter causes aggregation issues, lack of clarity, and alert dilution. Adequate log storage, retrieval, processing, and correlation can be achieved through a comprehensive log management solution, such as AppLogs from Site24x7.

2: Problem-solving challenges:

When performance issues arise, it isn't easy to arrive at an immediate conclusion of the root cause if logs are not managed effectively. Since more than one parameter could have contributed to an error, the first step is determining whether an infrastructural glitch, a trace error or a transaction error caused it.

Also, a robust problem-solving approach would involve analyzing logs at the granular level. For example, suppose a website goes down. In that case, it is vital to determine immediately if the reason is the app server, the database server, or a CPU, memory, or disc utilization issue to precisely arrive at the root cause. To enable accurate log analysis to zero in on the root cause, you should study service maps to drill down to the exact component of its cluster or port level. An end-to-end, easy-to-operate log management solution with an experienced and trained workforce is needed to ensure precision and speed in root cause analysis.

3: Technical challenges:

Technical challenges in log management can be grouped under the categories of the 3Cs: context, correlation, and cloud. First is context, the challenge of deriving meaning from an extensive collection of logs, which needs human intervention.

Second comes correlation, the ability to make connections among logs to derive insights. The correct log correlation can be achieved with a comprehensive log analysis tool that can grasp systemic events and detect issues holistically. Also, log correlation helps avoid false positives, prioritize risk-based alerts, and better investigate the causes of failures.

For effective log correlation, IT teams must maintain optimal logs for a typical period of about 30 days or more, depending on the criticality of the business. Whenever required, logs need to be re-indexed (also called rehydration). Re-indexing is the process of retrieving old logs from archived storage and indexing them again to make them available for search.

Third comes the cost challenges of storing logs in the cloud, which are discussed in the next section.

4: Cloud cost challenges:

With various log sources to handle, IT teams today struggle with right-sizing their log storage needs, often requiring dynamic provisioning and deprovisioning. Logging is a storage-hungry process, with some large organizations storing petabytes of data logs. And, when you have excess data, it also increases complexities and makes problem-solving twice as complex. That's why an intelligent log management platform with analytical capabilities should be used to help observe large amounts of data intelligently to spot anomalies faster.

Use a cloud-based, centralized log management solution such as Site24x7 instead of disabling logs, deleting them prematurely, or purging them all on a whim, which may burn a hole in your observability. Adopt offline cold storage and open-source tools to store, process, and retrieve (rehydrate) when necessary. Ensure you have a minimum of a 30-day cache of searchable, immediately accessible log systems with a robust audit trail, and archive the rest.

5: Accessibility challenges:

IT teams should ensure that logs are auto-discoverable to capture and categorize them into a log management platform. To enable greater access, it is necessary to ensure good categorization, proper time-stamping, and indexing of logs. The centralized availability of a query-based search helps you sift through the stored logs.

6: Operational challenges:

Cross-linked data across distributed systems potentially contains a rich context. Dynamic components, such as containers, are discrete environments where processes are created and destroyed according to needs. The flux in data generation from complex IT environments makes it challenging to manage all logs in one place. It also makes it harder to spot particular logs during troubleshooting, which may have a cascading effect on the MTTR metric. Also, collecting logs in a live environment is even more challenging. That's why a comprehensive log management solution is essential.

7: Automation challenges:

Not everything automated can be entirely left without manual intervention, especially when it comes to log management. While much of log accumulation happens on auto-pilot already, you need context and discernment with the right human intelligence to deep dive into logs and achieve comprehensive monitoring to establish automated remediation. That's why a hands-free approach is detrimental to automation. Though ironic, automation with logs needs timely expert intervention and AIOps capabilities for the system to learn and perform better to avoid false alerts and up the accuracy levels.

Overall, logs are crucial for an IT team's success. Log analysis helps mitigate issues, improve processes, and offers unprecedented observability into the performance and health of your IT infrastructure. Basing critical decisions on this information can consistently improve your products and services. IT teams need an all-in-one cloud-based log management platform that brings the power of observability into the hands of IT teams in a few clicks.

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