Would Logging as a Service help your team?

How important is logging for your team?

Everyone who develops software knows logging is important. At least conceptually. Making mistakes and accommodating for imperfection is part of the development process. When something does go wrong, one of the first questions should be “have you checked the logs?”

Most development teams consider the possibility of mistakes when first implementing version control as well. Great care is taken into picking the right solution, from which system to use down to how the team will format commit messages. Investing in a solution is not seen as unusual either. Nobody will bat an eye at paying subscription fees to ensure their version control plan is solid.

But the same attention is rarely spent on logging, which is also an important part of mitigating mistakes. Version control will let you figure out mistakes before pushing to production. But if a mistake makes it to production anyways, you’re going to lean on your logging to solve the problem.

If you are part of a development team looking for better log management, a Logging as a Service solution can fill the functionality you are missing quickly and help you use your telemetry data in new ways. This article goes over how to decide if Logging as a Service would benefit your team and what features you should expect from one.

What are the logging needs for your team?

Different projects have different logging needs, and they will change over time. When you are first developing your project, it may only be local, and you can easily access every log on the hard disk. But, as applications move along in development, it will probably get harder to track where all your logs are located, and it will be increasingly difficult to access them.

On the flip side, when your application is deployed and off your developers’ computers, the logs will be much more valuable. Solving problems becomes much more important when you have thousands of users compared to just you or the development team. And those logs will contain important information about your users you can use for more than just resolving errors.

If you have a robust software deployment, chances are you can use a more robust logging solution. This is where Logging as a Service can become a powerful asset.

What is Logging as a Service?

Logging as a Service is a form of centralized logging. But instead of creating your own system to send logs to your own central server, you use a system configured by a service provider which then stores the logs on their cloud. LaaS systems also provide services other than log storage such as an advanced log viewer or log analysis tools.

The idea is to provide a powerful logging system that allows developers to use their logs more effectively without investing resources and time into building a system from the ground up. After all, your time should go into making your product great - the thing that your users will see. Logging as a Service lets you focus on what your customers directly value while a service provider sweats the details on providing you a great logging system.

How do you know if you should use a Logging as a Service solution?

It may be difficult to decide whether a logging service is right for you and your team. It is an added expense. Currently, you may be getting by without major investment in your logging solution.

But as your team works on more complicated products or as the expectations for those products grow larger, you develop different needs from your logs. What at one time was sufficient could be a current problem. You and your team will benefit from a Logging as a Service solution if any of the points below apply.

Do you have a centralized logging system?

If you do not have a centralized logging system, there are many benefits. If you have applications running in multiple environments across dozens of servers, centralized logging allows you to access the log data from all those machines in one location. Much better than trying to figure out where to find the right logs in an emergency situation.

A good way to transition to centralized logging is with a LaaS. Logging as a Service first and foremost offers centralized logging without the hassle of setting it up from scratch. The amount of effort you will need to put into implementing a LaaS will vary depending on your applications and the service. But the end product is that you will have centralized logging with a suite of additional features that will let you start benefiting right away.

Do you need a more advanced log viewer?

At some point, a text editor stops being a good plan for long term logging (likely after the first day of a project). Notepad may have been there for you in the past, but it lacks so many of the features of a modern log viewer.

Let’s break it down a bit further. A text editor like notepad may have a find function, but no way to hide certain information. So you end up looking through a wall of unformatted text, no coloring, no syntax or visual cues to help you process the information. Not exactly the ideal scenario when trying to troubleshoot an issue quickly.

The main reason which people use an editor like notepad is because it is the default program and often people are accessing the log right from the directory. This highlights another issue: this method has very limited ways to filter your logs and find specific information you need. A good LaaS solution will not only provide the viewer but also a better way to search all your logs with built in search parameters.

You can maybe “grep” or “findstr” your way to moderate success in finding logs for these parameters, but a system designed for this kind of filtering is going to make finding the right information much easier.

To wrap this up, a LaaS will provide a much more capable log viewer out of the box. Features like real time logging, automatic log formatting, advanced log searching, and many other features. The right logging service will have a consistent viewer, that is easy to read at a glance, and will work for your all your projects.

Do you require logging for multiple projects?

If your team creates multiple products, a logging service is a massive convenience for your DevOps team.

Logging for multiple products tends to make things difficult from an organization standpoint. One product may be in .NET while a different one is in Java. Even if they are in the same language, they still may use different logging APIs (potentially with different viewers). And we haven’t even taken into account that production may use different hosts, operating systems, or any of the differentiating factors that would make jumping from one program to the other difficult.

A LaaS solution won’t solve all the logistical overhead, but it will really smooth things out. With a LaaS, your team can switch between applications while using the same tool set. This way if you need to prioritize an emergency and move the team from app A to app B, they won’t have to deal with the shell shock of accessing the logs in a different location than they’re used to, or using a different log viewer.

Again, a LaaS won’t solve all the issues with maintaining multiple applications. But it will certainly be a huge help, especially in critical situations where you need your logs the most.

Do you require timely error notifications in and out of the office?

How much does downtime cost you? You may not have an exact number in mind, but you likely know how important uptime is for your applications.

If you’re measuring your uptime in nines, error notifications should be a priority for your team.

Irate customer emails or emails from your boss are unfortunate ways to learn about critical errors on your system. Worse, you can’t rely on them to be timely. Automated notifications are the way to go, but can be difficult to set up without the proper tools.

A good LaaS platform should have everything you need to set up sophisticated notifications on deployment. Meaning you can set up notifications based on these parameters:

  • Event type: a robust notification system can differentiate between critical errors, unique errors, warnings, or messages. This way you can balance staying informed without being overwhelmed with notifications.
  • Application: You may want different notifications for different applications, or versions of your applications. Getting critical error notifications for your flagship release on production is of course important, but certain developers may want warnings for unique errors as well and in the beta branch. Different members of the team may be more focused on one application over another and may want to adjust notification settings accordingly.
  • Notification Location: Some logging systems will give you the flexibility to choose where you are notified. For most teams, email notifications will make the most sense, but for teams that rely more on messaging applications such as Microsoft Teams or Slack, having the option to send notifications to those systems will improve the teams’ attention to notifications.

This is a feature that you will want to pay special attention to when researching a logging system for your team. It can really improve your reaction time for critical events. After all, your logs are only useful if you know about them.

Do you need log analysis tools?

If you are not using any log analysis tools for your applications, you are missing out. Most teams value their data highly, and there is no reason not to value the data collected through your logs highly as well.

The right LaaS solution will enable you to use your data in new ways both during troubleshooting and during other periods of development.

The use case for this analysis could range from graphing the instances of an error per machine to tracking user adoption of your latest release overtime. Log analysis tools should make it easier to get answers during troubleshooting as well as actionable, quantitative data you can use to measure overall application health.

Logging as a Service is more than the sum of its parts

In theory, it is possible to implement all of the features we’ve discussed yourself. You can centralize your logging with your own servers, find the right log viewer for your team, write your own error notification system, and devote time into analyzing your logs by hand.

But would you cobble together a version control system from disparate parts, or would you implement a mature, cohesive system? Using a LaaS is a great way to ensure you invest in a cohesive system that will grow with the needs of your team.

Where a LaaS solution really shines though is that it takes care of itself. You don’t need to struggle maintaining a logging system on your company infrastructure, which can become especially troublesome when that same infrastructure is having a problem. Moving your logging to a service means that when your system is breaking down, you will still have a stable platform to receive and view your logs. This way, you can actually solve the problem instead of staring at it.

Logging as a Service simplifies every step of the process, leaving you and your team time and energy to put into the applications. Or into thinking about how many characters should be allowed in a commit message. Using the time wisely is on you.

Looking for a logging solution for your team? Loupe Server is our LaaS solution for projects of all sizes and development teams looking to get more out of their logging. Try it out for free and see what Loupe can do for you.

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