What is an Application Log?

How to Get the Most Value Out of Application Logs

How to Get the Most Value Out of Application Logs?

Application logs offer detailed insight into how an app is functioning, helping ops teams detect issues before they become more serious issues.

Consolidation is key when it comes to making information valuable, which means collecting incoming data and then organizing it so it’s easy for customers to find.

What is an Application Log?

Application logs offer valuable insights into how applications are performing and functioning, as well as early warning signals of problems and help tech pros troubleshoot issues more efficiently. For instance, an unexpected increase in SYN requests from specific IP addresses could indicate a DDoS attack or something else completely unexpected is occurring.

Application log files differ from system logs in that they are generated and managed directly by software programs themselves, with details that vary from program to program, making interpretation more challenging for IT professionals.

To understand application log data effectively, it’s essential to become familiar with its various logging levels. Each level carries with it specific meaning that can help IT teams prioritize and categorize messages; for instance an ERROR message might signal an urgent error that requires immediate attention while an INFO message might simply be ignored.

The most efficient way to handle application logs is with a centralized log management tool equipped with an alerting system. Select an application logging solution that integrates seamlessly with your team’s preferred messaging platform so you can receive instantaneous alerts when problems arise. Furthermore, look for solutions which enable dynamic dashboards featuring multiple datasets and time-based dimensions so your IT team can quickly drill down into specific areas of interest.

Application Log Types

Application logs contain an abundance of data that provides insight into how an application is being utilized by its users. Such details could include date and time of an event, identity of user who requested access (for instance by username or network ID) as well as actions taken on apps/websites like how long people spent viewing an image or clicking an article link.

Application logs might also include status codes that reflect whether an event is normal or requires action from system administrators, with status codes including informational, warning or critical being indicated by their presence in an application log. Common Event Format (CEF) provides a standard message format enabling devices and software platforms to communicate over Syslog.

Businesses rely on various in-house applications for core functions. These apps generate log data that is essential for security and performance monitoring purposes. Some events can be captured outside the application using infrastructure logging solutions or operating systems; others must be tracked solely via application logs in order to spot and correct problems before they become major security risks.

What Does an Application Log File Include?

Application logs contain detailed records of user and application activity that can help identify performance issues, fix bugs, and understand why something happened. Each line in an application log file provides timestamp and event-related details about an event.

Dependent upon the type of log you’re exploring, you could also discover a wealth of additional data in that same file. For instance, an error log might include messages from a database while system logs typically record users who accessed files or applications on the host machine.

Monitoring these logs not only allows you to detect application errors, but can also give valuable security insights. For instance, if one or more network users try downloading malware from an infected website, using an application log management solution enables you to monitor this activity and thwart it immediately.

Alert Logic offers an efficient method of gathering application logs. Simply set up a log collection configuration using tag and topology-based asset scoping in the Alert Logic console before choosing flat file format (which is commonly used by Web servers and server software) as the collection point to collect all your logs.

Where to Find Application Logs

Application logs contain detailed data that IT teams use to diagnose issues and analyze application performance. Unfortunately, their cryptic alerts may be difficult for non-technical staff to interpret or understand; to maximize your logging efforts and maximize value you should look for software that makes this process simpler and faster.

No matter your business analytics needs, or application troubleshooting requirements, an ideal log management solution should enable you to filter incoming events and quickly identify relevant information with simple search syntax. Papertrail also supports live searches so you can detect issues on the network quickly before taking action on them.

Logs not only help troubleshoot errors and operational issues, they can also identify security risks and ensure compliance with regulatory standards. When an error log identifies unhandled exceptions within an application library, this may indicate problems within it – you can then analyze these logs to locate their source and resolve it accordingly.

Benefits of Using Log Management Solutions

Log management solutions aggregate application logs from various systems and services that your applications rely upon, then consolidate them in one convenient location for easier access and analysis. A good log management solution may also include features designed to make troubleshooting faster and problem resolution more effective.

Logging solutions may also combine log events with APM slow traces and errors to quickly pinpoint the root cause of performance issues, and notify of critical problems such as fatal errors or suspicious activity; alerting users with critical notifications so remediation steps are automatically initiated when necessary.

An effective logging solution should also integrate seamlessly with other tools, such as Slack, HipChat and PagerDuty to facilitate collaboration, communication, visualization and more – helping your teams work more efficiently and effectively.

Good logging practices help ensure compliance with industry standards and regulations such as PCI DSS, HIPAA and GDPR. By closely examining your logs for potential threats in real-time and monitoring attacks early, log management tools provide cost-effective means of monitoring and troubleshooting applications more cost effectively.

How to Use Application Logs?

No matter if your company uses homegrown software or off-the-shelf business systems, best practices in application logging can maximize the value of event logs for maximum efficiency. Start by answering these questions:

What should be logged?

Consider how your application is used by teams from QA to support. Log identifiers such as user ID, time stamps and data fields which indicate business context (like API endpoint URL, request headers content author etc). Also log any errors messages warnings or informational events as appropriate.

Be clear and use informative message text when communicating error codes that might be confusing or difficult to read, particularly those with long lists of potential causes and solutions.

Utilize an application event log management tool that will enable you to rapidly identify potential threats and take necessary actions to resolve them. Such tools often feature search capabilities, interactive dashboards, and color coding – helping prioritize and focus on only the most critical application log events.

Your application event logs may contain confidential data that needs to be encrypted before transmission and storage. Choose a solution that adheres to industry security standards to protect the sensitive data held within your organization.

Why Is Application Logging Important?

Logs contain information that could assist with troubleshooting software issues, like DEBUG logs. DEBUG logs contain detailed diagnostic data which helps pinpoint what caused an error to happen and may provide clues for solving a persistent code bug that’s been plaguing it for an extended period of time.

By creating a standard log format (for instance by including timestamps and specific key-value pairs in timestamps), it becomes much easier for DevOps, SysAdmin, and SecOps teams to compare log files across services without manual effort required to compare logs manually, thus saving valuable time.

Proactive log management offers greater business intelligence, improving the performance of applications and infrastructure. When properly analyzed, logs can help avert operational issues while driving strategic business decisions that enhance business performance.

Gathering and analyzing application logs are key for diagnosing bugs or improving applications, whether to detect issues quickly when they arise or ensure continuity for customers who depend on your applications without interruptions. Many perceive logging as an additional task associated with software development; however, its inclusion should become part of its core functions to ensure swift problem resolution and uninterrupted service for your customers.

Sam is an experienced information security specialist who works with enterprises to mature and improve their enterprise security programs. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.