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Log files: definition, types and importance


What is a log file?

A log file is an event that took place at a certain time and may have metadata that contextualizes it.

Log files are a historical record of anything and everything that happens in a system, including events such as transactions, errors, and intrusions. This data can be transmitted in different ways and can be both in a structured, semi-structured and unstructured format.

The basic anatomy of a log file includes:

  • The timestamp – the exact time when the logged event occurred
  • User information
  • Event Information – what was the action taken

However, depending on the type of log source, the file will also contain a wealth of relevant data. For example, server logs will also include the referenced web page, http status code, bytes served, user agents, etc.

Where do the log files come from?

Just about everything produces some version of a log, including:

  • apps
  • Containers
  • Data base
  • firewall
  • Endpoints
  • IoT devices
  • Networks
  • Waiters
  • Web Services

Sources of log files

The list is long, but the fact is that almost every infrastructure you interact with on a daily basis produces a log file.

Who uses log files?

Log files can provide almost any role in an organization with valuable information. Here are some of the most common use cases by function:


  • identify infrastructure balance
  • Manage workloads
  • Maintain uptime/outages
  • Ensure business continuity
  • Reduce costs and risks


  • CI/CD management
  • Maintain application availability
  • Detect critical application errors
  • Identify areas for optimizing application performance


  • Drive shared ownership on application development and security
  • Save time/money and reputational risk by identifying potential issues before deployment


  • Discover clues to the “who, when, where” of an attack
  • Identify suspicious activity
  • See spikes in blocked/allowed traffic
  • Implement methodologies such as the OODA loop

IT analysts

  • Compliance Management and Reporting
  • OpEx and CapEx
  • Business prospects

Types of logs

Almost every component in a network generates a different type of data, and each component collects that data in its own log. For this reason, many types of logs exist, including:

  • Event Log: A high-level log that records information about network traffic and usage, such as login attempts, failed password attempts, and application events.
  • Server log: a text document containing a record of activities related to a specific server in a specific period of time.
  • System log (syslog): A record of operating system events. It includes startup messages, system changes, unexpected shutdowns, errors and warnings, and other important processes. Windows, Linux, and macOS all generate system logs.
  • Authorization logs and access logs: Include a list of people or bots accessing certain apps or files.
  • Change logs: Include a chronological list of changes made to an application or file.
  • Availability logs: Track system performance, uptime, and uptime.
  • Resource Logs: Provide information about connectivity issues and capacity limits.
  • Threat logs: Contain information about system traffic, files or applications that match a predefined security profile within a firewall.

The importance of log management

Although there is seemingly an endless amount of information to be gained from log files, there are a few fundamental challenges that prevent organizations from unlocking the value that log data offers.

Challenge #1: Volume

With the rise of the cloud, hybrid networks and digital transformation, the volume of data collected by newspapers has exploded by orders of magnitude. If almost everything produces a newspaper, how can an organization manage the huge volume of data quickly realize the full value of log files?

Challenge #2: Standardization

Unfortunately, not all log files follow a uniform format. Depending on the type of log, the data can be structured, semi-structured, or unstructured. In order to absorb and derive valuable insights from all real-time log files, the data requires a level of normalization to make it easily analyzable.

Challenge #3: Digital Transformation

According to Gartner, many organizations, especially midsize enterprises and organizations with less mature security operations, have gaps in their monitoring and incident investigation capabilities. The decentralized approach to log management in their IT environments makes detecting and responding to threats nearly impossible.

Additionally, many organizations rely on SIEM solutions that are constrained by cost and capacity. SIEM licensing models are based on the volume or speed of data ingested by the SIEM, which often increases technology costs, making large-scale data collection prohibitively expensive (although many data management tools newspapers have similar pricing models). Additionally, as data volumes grow, SIEM tools can experience performance issues, as well as increased operating costs for tuning and support.

Record everything, answer everything – for free

Falcon LogScale Community Edition (formerly Humio) offers a modern, free log management platform for the cloud. Leverage streaming data ingestion to gain instant visibility into distributed systems and prevent and resolve incidents.

Falcon LogScale Community Edition, available instantly at no cost, includes the following:

  • Ingest up to 16 GB per day
  • 7 days retention
  • No credit card needed
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  • Indexless logging, real-time alerts, and live dashboards
  • Access our marketplace and packages, including guides for creating new packages
  • Learn and collaborate with an active community

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