Every device, application, server or service that is connected to a network generates logs. And to a network admin, these logs serve as a significant source of network performance insights. It’s the key to diagnosing the cause of various issues in your network but most importantly, log data analysis can help you prevent the problems from arising in the first place.
But as you would imagine it’s impossible to deal with this data manually. The sheer volume of log files being generated every minute is enough to overwhelm you. On top of that, the log data is mostly generated in an unstructured format which is very hard to understand, analyze and visualize. And this is what brought about the need for a dedicated log management software. A need that Splunk was able to quickly and “Adequately” fulfill. Ask any Network admin the top three log management software and Splunk is sure to come up.
The tool can ingest terabytes of data generated from any device regardless of whether it is structured or unstructured. It will then index the data for easy filtering and also to facilitate easy access through searches. Splunk comes with excellent analytic functionality that enables it to monitor the log data for abnormal activities and send automatic alerts when needed. The tool can also be used to create pie charts and graphical visualizations of the data which is much easier to understand. So then why would you want to stop using Splunk? Or why would you not want to use Splunk?
Why You Need a Splunk Alternative
Well, the first and probably the major reason is the cost. Which I understand may not be a big problem for big businesses. Yet isn’t it great to know you can save a significant amount of money without compromising the quality and depth of your log analysis? As you will see later in the post, we even have completely free tools you can use.
Moreover, Splunk is not the most user-friendly log management tool to use. The configuration processes are a little complex and if you are a rookie it will involve a lot of learning and getting used to. So in this post, we have compiled a list of 5 log management software you can use instead of Splunk to overcome its various shortcomings.
1. SolarWinds Loggly
Loggly is, without doubt, our top recommendation as a Splunk alternative. But what else do you expect from SolarWinds who have firmly positioned themselves as industry leaders in the Network monitoring and management niche? The SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor may be their most successful product but no one can dispute the integrity of their other products.
And one of the standout feature of Loggly apart from great pricing is that it is hosted on the cloud. The remote logging of data means that you don’t have to deal with some of the most common logging challenges such as the ever-increasing volume of logs. It also translates to less time taken to search and analyze the logs.
Something else to note is the various technique employed by Loggly to reduce the amount of time taken to troubleshoot and fix issues with your components. For instance, it’s very easy to jump from an alert or metric to the related logs. All logs are then displayed on the tool’s dashboard for easy access. This is further reinforced by the support of broad language when searching for logs. Additionally, the tool can create visualizations to help you quickly interpret the data and determine the root problem.
Loggly also combines log collection with analytic functions to help you focus only on the relevant data. It checks for logs that are variating from what is the set normal and prioritizes them.
Moreover, if you are working as a team then you will enjoy the shared dashboards complete with log visualizations which allow you to collaborate in the management of logs with your team members.
Loggly is one tool that you can trust to grow with your business. It has been designed to ingest large volumes of data while also retaining this data at a satisfactory rate to facilitate proactive analysis. It also comes with a really strong search engine that can process the large amounts of data and produce required results.
2. Sumo Logic
Sumo Logic is another cloud-based tool that has been continuously trusted by System admins and DevOps in the management of logs from their devices and applications. What makes it so effective is the real-time monitoring approach it takes.
The tool is driven by high-level analytics and can quickly identify anomalies in the log files which may be indicators of an issue. It will then alert you of the problem so that you can handle it before it escalates. The quick problem identification is further reinforced by the tool’s ability to create a visual representation of past and present log events.
Also, since Sumo Logic can store historical logs, it can also create a baseline logging pattern which it uses to determine when your network host is behaving abnormally.
In addition to troubleshooting, Sumo Logic can also play a big part in the business decisions you make. This is thanks to its real-time analytics platform that can be used to predict and analyze customer behavior.
This tool is also great for collaboration with team members and allows you to regulate access levels based on the role of each team member. And since it’s is a cloud-based solution, you don’t have to worry about your data growth outdoing Sumo’s capacity. The tool will automatically scale to your needs.
Sumo Logic is also quite flexible in its functionality. It allows the addition of more features through the various add-ons that are accessible from its market place. Splunk boasts of a richer market place in terms of add-ons but it’s still a feature worth noting.
Sumo Logic also has a great pricing plan that is based on your needs. It starts from a free plan that offers 15GB of data goes upwards based on your data volume. The tool does not have an on-premise offering.
As usual, our list can never be complete without an open-source software. Mostly this is because they come at no cost which makes them perfect for people with a tight budget. But the other great thing about open source software is their flexibility. They can be used with any operating system and can be modified to suit your business needs by updating the source code. Suffice to say you will have to be really good at programming to execute the latter.
Alternatively, you can make use of the numerous extensions that are usually available on the software’s community. In the case of Fluentd, you will have access to over 500 plugins that you can use to extend its functionality.
In itself, Fluentd is just a data collector. It acts as the middle man between the log data sources and the log processing tools you decide to add to it. Elasticsearch is a great tool I recommend for searching and analyzing the logged data. And then use Kibana for visualizations. But first, you need to store the logs somewhere. Which is why Fluentd supports integration with various Databases such as MongoDB and MySQL. Before forwarding the data to the databases, FluentD tries to convert it to JSON format which is easier to process than raw data.
Fluentd has a really small footprint which means it does not demand much of your system resources. The setup process is also straightforward and takes about 10 minutes or less. However, this does not factor in the various plugins that you will have to install to make the software a complete log management tool.
As I always say, open software are better left to the seasoned pros. If you are starting out, you are better off with the commercial products that hold your hand through the setup and management process.
LogDNA is yet another excellent alternative to Splunk that offers real-time log management and can log any volume of data from any platform. But what really stands out for me with this tool is its flexibility. It is available for deployment either as a cloud-based software, on-premise, private cloud, or hybrid cloud.
It also uses both agent-based and agentless log collection method where data is sent directly from the applications or from platforms such as AWS, Docker, Kubernetes, and Syslog. The cloud-based solution is the easiest to set up and can be implemented in about two minutes.
The other impressive feature about LogDNA is the advanced search functionality. It indexes the logs immediately allowing you to find them easily by filtering or searching them using specific keywords. This will be critical in quickly identifying problems before they can become issues to the customer.
The other features worth mentioning include custom parsing, smart alerting, and role-based access controls. All the logs file are encrypted during transfer and LogDNA also implements other security policies so that they are in compliant with the various IT standards.
All the data is viewed from their web-based interface which also lets you sort the log files based on their sources. The tool also lets you create custom charts and graphical visualization of the log data for a better understanding.
In terms of pricing, LogDNA deviates from most of the other tools by allowing you to pay only for what you use. So if you log only 5GB of data on a given month then that is all you pay for. Most of the other tools give you a data cap to use for a given period of time.
GrayLog is also an Open source log analysis software and is therefore completely free for the user. That is unless you prefer their Enterprise version which comes at a cost. GrayLog features a very user-friendly interface and has impressive processing powers. It can handle data amounting to terabytes and offers the option to scale further via your data center, cloud or both.
GrayLog can also handle logs from any source regardless of their format. On top of collecting the log messages from the various sources this software allows you to add the log data yourself by channeling system reports into a file. The stored logs are presented on the software’s dashboard in the form of pie charts, histograms and other visualizations that enhance better analysis.
GrayLog allows you to make custom alert conditions and create scripts on how to respond to the alert conditions. For instance, you could set it to notify the responsible engineer so that they can act accordingly. But like I said with any open source software always be ready to do some configuration work.