Budgeting for IT has always been a problematic topic of discussion when planning an organization’s total budget. Organizations typically want to buy cutting-edge security solutions at the lowest cost possible. But we all know there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Since log management solutions significantly improve forensic investigations, they’re very important for identifying and containing threats. So, great care needs to be taken when selecting which log management solution to use in your organization. However, it isn’t easy to find a solution that saves your organization from falling victim to the never-ending onslaught of security threats, and the hefty fines imposed by governments for not adhering to industry regulations, while also going easy on your wallet.

Knowing what to look for can help you make smart choices and stay within your budget. That’s why we’ve come up with a list of six features to look for when choosing a log management solution.

1. Log collection

As part of regulatory compliance standards, organizations are required to collect all logs from every source in their network. For example, an organization has to collect and aggregate logs from operating systems, business-critical applications, intrusion prevention systems, firewalls, network access control servers, remote access, third-party network connections, pluggable external devices, and wireless access points.

The challenge here is that logs types vary, and they all contain sensitive information. Logs should be properly secured in a centralized location for analysis. Since logs are evidence of network activity, any kind of tampering with them may lead to improper deduction of events or loss of data when conducting forensic analyses.

2. Custom log parsing

As mentioned before, logs come in various types and you need different information from each log type. But they can’t be defined with a common pattern, and using flat log formats cannot extract all fields from them. This is where a custom log parser can play an important role. A custom log parser lets you index additional fields to extract more information from your logs. Some solutions, like Log360, let you create custom log fields without manually writing patterns.

3. Log analysis and forensics 

Consider a situation where you have someone attempting to log on to an account more than fifty times in under a minute. Or a user who doesn’t have the rights to view a document, but they somehow have the permissions to do so—who exactly gave this user administrator rights?

Events such as these are signs of anomalous activity on your network. Typically, a log management solution should be able to identify these events. But just collecting logs and extracting details from them isn’t sufficient to qualify as an effective log management solution. Any log management solution should also be able to identify these unusual events and shed light on their root cause.

4. Real-time alerts

What good is identifying anomalous activities in your network if you’re never notified about them? A good log management solution should send out real-time alerts whenever critical events occur. Alerts need to be instant because any delay in discovering breaches can cost your organization money, data, and reputation. However, false positive alerts can trick you into thinking all alerts are bogus, which may cause you to miss actual security breaches. Therefore, it is necessary to choose a solution that is capable of sending informed, accurate alert notifications.

5. Correlation

The letters “brea,” when followed by “th,” are completely different when compared to the same set of letters followed by “ch.” When these individual letters are strung together, they form two completely different words, even though there are only slight variations in their formation. Correlating network events is much like this. Individually, some events can be passed off as innocent activity, but when put together they could spell out the game plan of a serious security breach. This is why log management solutions need to have powerful correlation techniques built into them, to connect scenarios that follow patterns, understand that those patterns may point to a threat or attack, and notify you immediately.

6. Log archiving

Archiving log data should not just be considered a compliance mandate. Log data is important because it contains sensitive information and should be archived because breaches or tampering of log data can result in serious problems.

Some solutions offer to encrypt log data before archiving it to ensure that log data is secured for future forensic analysis, as well as compliance and internal audits. Other techniques such as hashing, time stamping, reports on archived logs, and configurable log-archiving intervals help keep track of logs.

Be sure to attend our webinar “Auditing 101: Stay compliant and secure your enterprise with SIEM” to effectively secure and manage your network.

Also, attend our webinar “A comprehensive walk-through of Active Directory auditing in 40 minutes” for insights into auditing Active Directory objects.