SIEM logging: A comprehensive guide for MSPs

| By:
Rizwan Qureshi

If you are struggling to secure your clients’ data amid the rising tide of cyber threats, you’re not alone. 

A comprehensive, strategic cybersecurity posture is no longer a luxury or afterthought; it’s a necessity. And as a managed service provider (MSP), you’re responsible for safeguarding the data of multiple organizations simultaneously.

Enter SIEM—security information and event management

SIEM technology isn't just another tool in your cybersecurity toolbox; it's the control room. SIEM logging is the eyes and ears of your cybersecurity strategy, continuously monitoring and recording activities across your network.

Why is this so crucial? SIEM helps you detect abnormal patterns and potential threats before they escalate into a full-blown crisis. It's not just about collecting data; it's about making sense of it. And that's easier said than done in today's complex digital landscape.

Establishing sound SIEM logging best practices can mean the difference between identifying a threat in time or explaining a data breach to your clients. In the coming sections, we'll dissect how to implement SIEM effectively, the challenges you likely face, and how to overcome them.

What is SIEM logging? 

SIEM logging involves using security information and event management tools to collect, aggregate, and analyze log data from various sources within an IT infrastructure. This centralized platform enables security analysts to review and make sense of the data.

SIEM logging enhances your cybersecurity posture. It serves as a centralized hub for log data, making monitoring activities across your IT environment easier. This is crucial for identifying potential security threats, investigating incidents, and ensuring compliance with various regulations.

These tools can work in tandem with firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and antivirus solutions. This integration allows for real-time analysis and log data correlation, making identifying and responding to security incidents more manageable.

Here's how SIEM plays a pivotal role in various aspects of cybersecurity:

  • Threat detection: SIEM tools equip algorithms to identify suspicious activities, like repeated failed login attempts or unusual data transfers.
  • Incident response: In the event of a security incident, SIEM provides detailed information that can be crucial for effective investigation, response, and remediation.
  • Compliance: For organizations that must adhere to regulatory guidelines like those set forth by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), SIEM helps automate the compliance reporting process.

How does SIEM logging work? 

You're knee-deep in cybersecurity and considering implementing SIEM for your clients or your operations. Understanding how SIEM works is crucial. They’re your first defense in the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity threats.

Let's break it down:

  • Data collection: The first step is all about gathering data. This can come from various sources like firewalls, endpoints such as desktops and servers, and even applications. Each reference provides a unique set of data essential for painting a complete picture of your security landscape.
  • Data normalization: Once you've collected the data, the next step is to convert these diverse logs into a common format. This process ensures that you can easily compare and analyze logs from different sources. It's a cornerstone in making your security measures more effective.
  • Detection and correlation: This is where SIEM tools shine. They sift through the aggregated data to identify patterns or anomalies. For example, the system could flag multiple failed login attempts from a single IP address as suspicious behavior.
  • Alerts and reporting: The final step involves the SIEM system generating real-time alerts for identified threats. But it doesn't stop at alerts. You can also create customizable reports invaluable for compliance and deeper analysis.

By understanding these key components, you're well on setting up a SIEM system that meets your and your clients' needs. 

SIEM logging best practices

You're already aware of the importance of SIEM in cybersecurity. But how can you make the most out of it? Here are some best practices to guide you:

Choose relevant data sources based on the organization's security requirements

Selecting the right data sources is crucial for effective SIEM logging and removing security blindspots. Whether firewalls, endpoints, or applications, each source offers unique insights that can be invaluable for your cybersecurity efforts.

Tailor your data collection to align with the specific security needs of your organization. For instance, prioritize logs from firewalls and authentication servers if you're concerned about unauthorized access.

SIEM tools often aggregate log files from multiple systems and hosts, focusing on indicators of compromise (IoCs). This makes choosing the right data sources even more critical. Selectivity improves the quality of the data you're analyzing and makes it easier to spot anomalies and potential security threats.

Define a data retention policy that aligns with compliance regulations and business needs 

Data retention isn't just about storage but compliance and utility. Establishing a data retention policy that meets regulatory requirements and your analytical needs is non-negotiable.

Compliance with regulations like GDPR or HIPAA often requires specific data retention periods. You can't afford to overlook this, especially with the potential for severe noncompliance penalties.

But it's about more than ticking boxes. A well-thought-out data retention policy also serves your analytical needs. For example, keeping logs for an extended period allows you to conduct long-term trend analysis, which can be invaluable for identifying subtle, ongoing threats.

As you refine or establish your SIEM strategy, define a data retention policy aligning with compliance regulations and your business needs. 

Use secure and scalable storage solutions for log data 

Storage isn't just a technical requirement; it's a security imperative. When implementing SIEM logging, choosing a storage solution that's both secure and scalable is essential.

Why? Secure storage keeps your sensitive log data confidential and tamper-proof. You don't want unauthorized access, do you? On the flip side, scalable storage means that as your organization grows, you can adapt. You won't find yourself scrambling to accommodate an increasing volume of log data.

What should you look for? Opt for storage solutions that offer robust encryption and multi-factor authentication (MFA). Also, consider the scalability factor—can the storage quickly expand without requiring a complete overhaul?

Normalize logs to a consistent format for easy analysis

Consistency is key when it comes to log data. Normalizing logs to a uniform format is necessary.

Why does this matter? Logs from various sources are often in different formats. This can make analysis a real headache. By normalizing the data, you're streamlining the process for easier threat detection and quicker decision-making.

Here's a quick tip: Use a centralized SIEM logging management system that automatically normalizes logs from multiple sources. This way, you're not just collecting data but making it actionable.

Use automated tools to analyze logs in real time 

Automation is your friend when sifting through vast amounts of data. Real-time analysis can be a game-changer in identifying threats early. 

By leveraging automated tools, you can sift through logs in real time and detect anomalies and potential security threats as they happen.

Automated tools can also correlate data from different sources, making pinpointing the root cause of any suspicious activity easier. This saves time and increases the accuracy of your threat detection mechanisms.

Why wait for a manual review when you can get immediate insights? Real-time analysis is not just a nice-to-have—it's a must-have in today's fast-paced cybersecurity landscape.

Implement cross-source correlation for identifying complex attack patterns  

Cross-source correlation is your go-to strategy for unmasking complex attack patterns that might otherwise slip through the cracks.

Why does this matter to you? Well, you're likely juggling logs from various sources—firewalls, servers, applications, you name it. Analyzing each record separately won't give you the whole story.

Here's the deal: By correlating data across these diverse sources, you can spot coordinated attacks that would be easy to miss otherwise. Don't just collect logs. Make them work together to provide a comprehensive view of your security environment.

Customize alerts and reports to match specific security objectives 

Customizing alerts and reports is necessary if you're serious about meeting your specific security objectives. It's a fundamental aspect of SIEM.

You're already aware that each client's security landscape is unique. That's why generic alerts won't do. You need to focus on what matters: key performance indicators directly tied to your clients' security postures.

How do you make this happen? First, identify the metrics most relevant to your security objectives. Once you've got those in hand, tailor your alerts and reports to focus on these metrics. This ensures you're collecting the right data and turning it into actionable insights that genuinely improve security outcomes.

Customization isn't optional. It's the key to transforming your SIEM system from a data collection exercise into a powerful tool for proactive security management.

Integrate SIEM logs with incident response workflows 

To maximize the effectiveness of your SIEM logging strategy, integrate it directly with your incident response workflows. Integrating SIEM logs with incident response means you're not just detecting threats but setting the stage for immediate action. 

This is crucial for MSPs responding to security incidents in real time. The benefits are clear: faster response times, more effective mitigation strategies, and a streamlined detection and resolution process.

This isn't just about technology and security management. It's about optimizing operational efficiency.

Set up real-time monitoring to detect and respond to threats promptly  

Real-time monitoring is a non-negotiable component of SIEM logging best practices. The moment the system detects a threat, it needs to alert you. The faster it alerts you, the quicker you can act to neutralize the risk.

Here's some key benefits:

  • Immediate threat detection via automated alerts: Instantly identify unusual activity and receive immediate alerts for swift intervention.
  • Regulatory compliance: Many industry standards mandate real-time monitoring, making it essential for compliance.
  • Resource optimization: You free up valuable time and resources for other critical tasks by automating the detection process.
  • Enhanced decision-making: Real-time data on network vulnerabilities enables prompt, informed responses to cybersecurity incidents.

Incorporate real-time monitoring into your SIEM strategy. Proactively managing your security posture is a must in an environment where threats can emerge at any moment.

If you're seeking a SIEM solution that aligns with your cybersecurity goals, consider checking out our eBook, Choosing the Right SIEM Solution for Your Cybersecurity Practice. It offers valuable insights to help you choose a SIEM platform that meets your needs.

Conduct regular audits of SIEM configurations and rules

Conducting regular audits of your SIEM configurations and rules is a cornerstone of SIEM. These audits ensure your SIEM system effectively identifies and mitigates cybersecurity threats. 

As your network environment evolves, so do the types of threats you face. Regular audits help you adapt to these changes by fine-tuning your SIEM settings and rules to meet current security needs.

Here's why you should never overlook this step:

  • Identify gaps in security: Regular audits can reveal gaps or inefficiencies in your current SIEM setup, allowing you to make necessary adjustments.
  • Reduce false positives: Fine-tuning your configurations can help minimize false positives, making your alert system more reliable.
  • Compliance assurance: Regular audits ensure that you align with industry regulations and compliance standards, vital for protecting your clients' data and avoiding legal repercussions.
  • Optimized performance: Audits can help you identify redundant or outdated rules affecting your SIEM's performance, enabling you to streamline your operations for better results.
  • Proactive threat management: By regularly updating and auditing your SIEM, you're not just reacting to threats but proactively managing them, strengthening your overall cybersecurity posture.

To make the most out of your SIEM system, consider using specialized auditing tools like those available in ConnectWise SIEM. Our platform automates the auditing process for greater accuracy and time savings. Experience it firsthand by registering for a live demo of ConnectWise SIEM today.


SIEM logging strengthens cybersecurity by collecting and correlating security data in real time. By doing so, it offers a holistic view of network activities, helping to pinpoint potential threats early and allowing for timely responses. Continuous log monitoring also means better insights into the network's security health, promoting proactive vulnerability management.

Yes, SIEM logging detects advanced threats using specialized algorithms and machine learning. With this tech-savvy approach, SIEM can identify patterns suggesting advanced persistent threats, zero-day attacks, or even insider threats. This layered security approach ensures reaction to known dangers and proactively identifies emerging threats.

One primary SIEM challenge is handling vast amounts of data, leading to alert fatigue and false positives. The large data volumes can obscure real threats. Furthermore, the intricacies of setting up and updating SIEM rules demand specialized knowledge, as these rules must be continuously refined to tackle new threats.

SIEM gathers logs using agents or collectors on network devices and applications. The SIEM system receives the collected data for comprehensive analysis. By pooling data from diverse sources, SIEM spots security anomalies or patterns more effectively.

Log aggregation in SIEM refers to the unified collection of log data from different network points. Centralizing this data streamlines monitoring and analysis. A combined data view aids in correlating events, spotlighting security concerns more readily. It's a cornerstone of SIEM, bolstering security service efficiency.