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Log Monitoring vs Log Analysis: What’s the Difference?

log monitoring and log analysis

What is log monitoring and log analysis? Both are crucial parts of log management and related in many capacities, but by definition, the two actually have different core meanings.

Log monitoring is the act of reviewing collected logs as they are recorded. This typically involves the assistance of log management software. Log management software can be configured to listen for specific application-related events, and alert the proper people within a development organization when such an event occurs, among other benefits.

Log analysis, on the other hand, is a process typically performed by developers or other IT folks within an organization for various reasons — often related to troubleshooting issues within a system or application. Collected logs are used to diagnose and resolve issues within an application.

That’s the general summary of the difference between log analysis and log monitoring, but let’s dig deeper.

What is log monitoring and how does it benefit us?

To gain a full understanding of log monitoring, it is vital to understand the process of logging in general.

Logging is the practice of recording log messages to a file. Log messages are recorded for the operating system of a machine, and are typically for each application that runs on the machine.

Let’s take application logging, for example. With each event that occurs throughout the use of the application, messages are logged to give a developer/administrator a view into how the application is being utilized.

Log monitoring is the process by which we observe log messages, often through real-time processing and parsing of these files. This is easily completed with the assistance of log management software.

Log files are ingested by the log management software, where they can be parsed in an effort to allow the developer (or whoever may later need to analyze the log files) to gain some insight into potential issues within the system or application.

Some benefits of log monitoring include:

  • The ability to set up log alerts – Many log management products allow for alerts to be set up to notify the proper personnel when specific log messages or messages of a particular log level are written to the log file. This allows for instant notification of the development team in the instance of an error (or a number of errors) within an application.
  • Greater ease in searching log files – Log monitoring software can allow for log searching that can be very useful in filtering out the “noise” in application logs to allow those analyzing the application logs to narrow the search to only what they deem useful. In the instance of web server logs, this can mean searching for the actions performed by a particular IP address or searching for specific error codes.

Log analysis – putting the log files to use

Log monitoring involves aggregating log files and providing alerts/notifications for particular log messages and events. This is then followed by the process of log analysis when necessary. Log analysis refers to the use of these collected log files to perform one of several processes related to improving an application or resolving issues within an application. Log analysis can be performed in an effort to ensure application compliance with a particular set of standards, or simply in everyday application troubleshooting.

Let’s take a web application, for example. Web server logs can be analyzed to identify and resolve specific issues within a particular web application. Web server logs can assist a developer in discovering issues, such as those involving specific error codes indicating the failure of a page to load.

Often, a web application is configured to show the user a pre-configured error page in the instance of a page failing to load properly. This pre-configured error page may not indicate to a developer what exactly is going on with the application behind the scenes. In this scenario, a quick check of the log file will likely provide the developer with an error code and message that will then lead them to the cause and resolution of the issue in a timely manner.

Log management software such as that provided by LogDNA can assist in analyzing logs quickly and efficiently in an effort to resolve application issues in a timely manner.

Features such as creating views to revisit past queries against log files and the ability to isolate a specific timeframe to quickly examine the time period in question can help to save a developer’s time in researching a bug while also improving the speed at which an issue gets resolved.

Conclusion

Log monitoring and log analysis are two different concepts that work in conjunction with one another to save time in resolving issues with a system or application. Simply put, log monitoring refers to a frequently automated process of collecting logs and alerting the critical people in the organization when an issue comes to light. Log analysis is what follows — often involving the utilization of a log management system and its associated tools to quickly diagnose and resolve an issue with great efficiency.

Written by Scott Fitzpatrick

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