Baseball fans know about the various in-game statistics and actions requiring someone to keep them as records. From a player's overall performance at-bat to a game's final score at the bottom of the ninth, dozens (possibly hundreds) of different statistics are happening throughout a season. In Major League Baseball, these records are essential for the team owner, front office workers and coaches to figure out strategies on the diamond or how to distribute fair pay. And like anything else involving numbers, these statistics need to be logged into a type of database.
Switching gears to the (very different) topic of IT, network administrators and IT professionals must keep records of what activities and actions occur within their company's systems. These actions are called system logging or syslogging.
Like baseball, syslogs can encompass multiple actions and events requiring documentation or recording. Recording syslogs is crucial for any IT professional as it helps them understand the status of an active server.
There is a lot more to this topic than that. Syslog monitoring can be one of the most essential parts of an IT professional's daily tasks. Especially if they have an extensive, complex infrastructure with hundreds, if not thousands, of daily logs. What can you learn from syslog monitoring practices? Read on below.
What is Syslog?
Syslogs are a network protocol that allows network devices to communicate with a logging server. Those devices configured to communicate with the server will send a message in a standardized format. Applications and infrastructure components generate syslogs, which usually contain information regarding errors, warnings, system activities and any events that may occur. Syslogs can use one of many transport protocols, such as UDP or TCP, to be stored in a database or simple plain text files.
A notable characteristic of syslogs is they are almost OS-agnostic. While MacOS, Linux and Unix-based systems can generate these messages, Windows servers do not support syslogging out-of-the-box. However, that does not mean a user cannot download a third-party plugin or tools to enable a Windows device to communicate with the syslog server.
What is Syslog Monitoring?
If an organization has already configured its servers to read syslogs, it will start using syslog monitoring for the incoming messages.
Syslog monitoring is the internal process in which software obtains and records system log messages from devices connected to the network. In turn, these messages can be used to analyze what is happening with specific devices.
The Importance of Syslog Monitoring for IT Infrastructure
Okay, now that you know what syslogs and syslog monitoring are, you might be asking, "Why should I implement syslog monitoring?"
If you are an IT professional, consider your organization's infrastructure size. More specifically, think about how many network devices are connected simultaneously on a regular workday. Those devices are constantly sending messages to their servers. And if minor errors are occurring, these messages will be sure to have some details on what is happening. But, through syslog monitoring, IT and network professionals can access these messages and understand what is going on and what is causing these errors.
The above hypothetical but familiar situation illustrates why syslog monitoring is crucial. It provides visibility into how systems are operating and their overall performance. In turn, whenever errors arrive, syslog monitoring enables users to find when and where they happen.
Of course, while it would be ideal to say syslog monitoring is easy to implement and utilize, that would be a lie.
Common Challenges in Syslog Monitoring
One of the challenges involving syslog monitoring is the need for particular security protocols, such as an authentication one. Other security risks include how UDP transport can't be reliable to keep the syslogs in a server.
While most syslogs will have a standardized message component, the actual messages' formatting is inconsistent. This results in many log messages needing to be more readable to the user — or the messages may contain insufficient and unneeded information.
Benefits of Centralized Syslog Monitoring
Challenges with syslog monitoring are inevitable. Especially if you are utilizing it for the first time. But, with that said, deploying syslog monitoring can wield numerous advantages for your IT department and your business.
Syslog monitoring helps detect suspicious activity, potential anomalies or strange patterns within log messages. Suppose an unidentified device is connected to a network and is trying to access internal, important business resources. In that case, a syslog monitor can quickly identify it and immediately call attention to it.
Any process that gives IT teams visibility to their infrastructure is always a plus. Syslog monitoring will collect log messages from any device connected to a network, as well as details like where specific spikes in traffic or data are located on said network. This, in turn, enables users to see precisely where the patterns in suspicious activity are occurring.
Troubleshooting and Quickly Fixing Problems
Identifying network irregularities is helpful, no doubt, but having the ability to solve them is another. With syslog monitoring, a user can locate and find out the causes of network errors and then quickly mitigate them. If a system receives more than a few suspicious-looking log messages, then deploying syslog monitoring allows the user to see several unscrupulous devices looking to get into the company's network.
Nearly all regulatory compliance bodies have specific requirements for collecting, storing and analyzing log messages. Using a syslog monitoring tool, organizations can demonstrate their compliance by showing what activity is occurring on their servers and begin collecting and storing log messages.
How to set up Syslog Monitoring
Find out what devices can generate log messages that are currently connected to the network. This includes any and all networking equipment such as servers, routers and user devices, like a PC.
Double-check to see if those devices mentioned above are configured to send log messages to a centralized location, whether it's a specific server or a tool such as Progress® WhatsUp® Gold Log Management.
Setting up a syslog server on a dedicated machine or the cloud can collect and record the syslogs from the devices in a central location.
Next is more configuration, but it is with the syslog server, which needs configuration to receive log messages from the network-connected devices. But users can take a step further and set up which specific devices can send log messages and set up rules for how to filter them.
Lastly, begin setting up alerts and notifications by configuring the syslog server to send the necessary emails or text messages if your syslog monitor has this feature. Additionally, IT teams can utilize a separate tool to monitor the syslog server itself.
Progress WhatsUp Gold’s Log Management allows you to ingest and filter Windows Event Logs & Syslogs , we encourage you to contact us regarding any questions you may have about WhatsUp Gold.