Whether you’re trying to troubleshoot a problem, defend against attacks, or simply optimize your environment, event logs are your best source of information.

More than that, not logging or ignoring your logs is like not checking your blindspot when you’re changing lanes—sooner or later you’re going to seriously regret it because the effects will be disastrous.

Centralized logging, where all of your network devices send data to a central server, is far more advantageous than logging your systems locally. With central logs, you have one complete view of your environment. Here are 5 ways a centralized view makes you better, faster, and more efficient at your job.

1. Centralized logs are indispensable to troubleshooting

Logs are indispensable when it comes to pinpointing problems and determining their causes. They’ll let you identify issues based on hard data, not guesswork.

During or after an incident, some logging tools with real-time graphing, filtering, comparisons, and alerting features can give you access to data correlated from multiple sources across your systems, helping you narrow down the incident cause.

You get a complete before-and-after picture of what happened, showing the effects on all the systems in your environment from one interface. In a locally logged environment, you’d need to go from system to system, open multiple windows, and attempt to piece things together. That’s time-consuming and you might miss critical correlations.

2. Centralized logs help you proactively manage your network

Once you’re collecting data, log review and analysis should become part of your daily or weekly regimen, depending on the size of your environment.
Constant analysis means you can be proactive instead of reactive, nipping problems in the bud before they even occur. For example, if you see memory or disk size creeping up or giving errors you can address the issue before it causes failure.

There’s a huge difference between scheduled and unscheduled downtime when it comes to maintaining user trust and keeping repair costs low, so any proactive maintenance you can do is a big win.

3. Centralized logs help you deliver greater value

Once you’ve accumulated enough data, you can perform a lot of different types of analysis on it to better understand your network and your users. For example, you might complete a comparative analysis using daily, monthly, quarterly, or yearly data to identify changes that have occurred on your network—for better or worse.

Trend analysis, whether day over day or year over year, can be used to quickly find anomalies, such as a sudden spike in log frequency. Once you’ve identified the change, you can dig into why it happened and address it.

The business intelligence you extract from your analysis can be used to find efficiencies, improve network design, and provide an overall improved experience for the business. Ultimately, that makes you a more valuable team player.

4. Centralized logs reduce the risk of losing data

A centralized logging system removes the individual server from the equation. If the server you’re trying to troubleshoot is down, local log files won’t be accessible, rendering you blind. Centralized logging (with proper system backups) ensures you always have a place to view the logs and diagnose the issue.

5. Centralized logs improve your network security

By centrally logging user activity, you can analyze for activity trends and notice any unusual behavior. When a system is compromised you can no longer trust its logs. Centralized logs give you the forensic ability to determine what happened right before the compromise, including any user activity. This data is instrumental in preventing a recurrence.

If a system is under attack via brute force, you’ll quickly be able to see this in the logs. Even if the attack is spread across multiple systems and there’s a more subtle correlation, you can still see the attack in the logs and respond to it. By comparison, detecting a multi-system attack by looking at local logs would be extremely difficult.

Whether log events point to issues with hardware, applications, capacity, or security, they contain the data you need to quickly find and solve problems that have a direct impact on business operations. This ability to zero in on issues, be proactive, and react intelligently is invaluable. Even discovering obscure edge cases that occur periodically is often only possible by analyzing centralized log data.

In other words, a properly used centralized logging system is both necessary and beneficial for any network.