SIEM vs log management: What’s the difference?
Having advanced and comprehensive cybersecurity systems in place is critical for managed service providers (MSPs) trying to protect their clients' most valuable digital assets. One major cyberattack is all it takes to completely destroy a business and tarnish its reputation with its customers moving forward.
Without the right systems in place to protect against these types of attacks, critical and confidential client data could be leaked. This does not only happen to small businesses overlooking cybersecurity, either. In 2023, Capital One, one of the world’s largest financial institutions, suffered a cyberattack that left 494,969 people with compromised confidential data.
With each passing year, hackers become more sophisticated with their methods, and new types of attacks emerge. It is important to continually look to improve your clients’ cybersecurity systems. Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solutions and log management solutions have emerged as leading options for MSPs looking to make informed security decisions for their clients.
This article compares SIEM vs log management as both complementary and competitive solutions, exploring the benefits and drawbacks of each, empowering you to make the best decisions for your clients’ cybersecurity needs.
SIEM vs. log management: Understanding the basics
Understanding the differences in log management vs SIEM systems can be difficult, as they both deal with highly detailed, text-based records about what is happening within an operating system. These records are known as log files and are often referred to as event logs, audit records, or audit travels. SIEM and log management systems have several key differences that make them stand out as best-fit solutions depending on the individual needs of the business your client is running.
Log management solutions aggregate data from a variety of sources and types, allowing analysts to search through an entire network of log data with a single query. Conversely, SIEM solutions are typically slower and less scalable, but have a heightened cybersecurity focus, with best-in-class threat detection and response capabilities to ensure system security. Implementing some combination of the two is one way to create a comprehensive cybersecurity solution without suffering any technical trade offs but can be cost-prohibitive.
SIEM: Security information and event management
SIEMs provide MSPs with a holistic overview of their clients’ overall network activity. These systems typically consist of platforms like log analysis products, security event correlation (SEC), security event management (SEM), and security information management (SIM) to strengthen overall system security.
One of the major benefits and differentiators of SIEM systems is their real-time threat detection and incident response capabilities. Due to their complex algorithms, they can identify even the smallest indicator of system vulnerability and flag the potential threat before it can grow into a genuine attack or harm the organization.
To assist with selecting the correct SIEM solution for your client’s needs, check out our eBook, Choosing the Right SIEM Solution for Your Cybersecurity Practice, to take the confusion and mystery out of the SIEM selection process.
Log management systems (LMS) leverage software to gather, sort, and store log data and event logs from a variety of locations in one centralized hub. This type of system empowers IT and cybersecurity teams by establishing one singular point of access housing all relevant application, server and network data. This flexibility to search at scale is crucial to performing effective security incident investigations, as it is incredibly easy to search individual events and variables through a high value of stored data to help chain sequences of events when using a log management system.
Streamlining the storage of this data allows teams to effortlessly access everything they need to make highly informed decisions about cybersecurity, IT resource allocation, and overall network health. Log management can also help collect, organize, store, and actively manage the log data.
SIEM vs. log management: Key differences
SIEM solutions are, by design, security-focused, while log management is primarily used for log collection and broader systems analysis. Clients that prioritize protecting themselves against cyberattacks as a primary outcome will likely find SIEM to be a better fit, while log management may work best for businesses looking to store, compress, search, and analyze large amounts of data for forensic analysis and compliance.
Log management lacks many of the critical security features of SIEM but provides a centralized storage center for all the log data within a given organization and is much cheaper and less time-consuming to maintain. Analysts can then easily search through the entire database and quickly spot any trends or deficiencies within the system. However, due to the high volume of data coming in, data storage can become a costly problem, and many log management systems do not have tools in place that convert the data into a unified format, causing data variability.
SIEM offers three dedicated security-focused tools housed within one application (SIM, SEM, and SEC), making it the better choice for businesses prioritizing cybersecurity. Additionally, it is possible to automate most of a SIEM solution, but some personnel will always be required to configure and manage it based on your client’s needs.
That being said, log management and SIEM solutions can be paired together to mitigate the drawbacks of each while optimizing the strengths. Where log management struggles, SIEM excels, and vice versa. It does not always have to be a case of SIEM vs log management, but rather log management and SIEM working together. While this is likely not necessary for all your clients’ use cases, combining the two can be a winning solution for some.
Use cases and scenarios
One of the best and most common use cases for SIEM solutions is digital threat detection and prevention. In a case study conducted by Tata Communications, a SIEM solution was able to monitor 1 million cyber events and deal with 60 alarms daily across 300 devices within the system for a leading finserv firm.
Log management, on the other hand, has a variety of use cases, including crash analysis, experiment analysis, A/B testing, and lower latencies. Leigh Stewart, one of the main software engineers at Twitter who worked on their DistributedLog platform, a shared log management system that powers their distributed systems, spoke about the versatility of log management, saying, “Logs are a building block of distributed systems and once understand the basic pattern you start to see applications for them everywhere.” Businesses favoring flexibility of use and scalability are likely to prefer log management vs SIEM.
Of the two cybersecurity solutions, log management typically costs less than SIEM. This is largely because, despite its automation capabilities, SIEM almost always requires additional support to effectively maintain the system. There are, however, ways to lower costs. Some of these include limiting add-on software usage or moving from legacy SIEM solutions to more modern, next-gen options. One important thing to keep in mind in the cost conversation is that while going next-gen may seem more expensive at first, you can see long-term cost savings if you are cutting down on tedious tasks through automation.
While cost is, of course, an important factor, it should not be the only thing considered when deciding between a SIEM vs log management systems solution to implement for your clients. According to a study conducted by Cybersecurity Ventures, attacks from hackers and cybercrimes are expected to cost companies worldwide over $10.5 trillion by 2025, with no sign of slowing down anytime soon. As such, your clients (especially those storing significant, confidential client data) cannot afford to not have a robust cybersecurity solution tailored around their individual business needs.
Integration and compatibility
Seamless integration with the systems and applications that are already in place is one of the most important considerations when deciding on a cybersecurity solution. A new tool or software solution is only as good as its ability to interact nicely with the rest of your client’s systems and the stack of software tools you plan on implementing with it.
Many SIEM platforms come with integrations already built-in, allowing them to retrieve log data from a wide variety of systems. Third-party applications can integrate seamlessly with the cloud, log collector agents, API endpoints, and other external applications to perform specific tasks such as visualizations.
Data can be sent out of a SIEM solution by integrating webhooks into your system. For example, you could set it up so that a pre-written message is sent to your security team’s main communications channel whenever an issue arises that needs their attention.
Additionally, log management systems allow you to connect many third-party tools and specific solutions for your client’s individual use case. Some of the most commonly integrated tools include IT infrastructure monitoring, data consolidation, dashboard visualization, and advanced analysis, but there are many more options available on the market depending on your client’s needs and use case.
Scalability and performance
As log management solutions are designed to be inclusive of all data sources, they are highly scalable and have an architecture that is highly-performant in most environments. They are built to efficiently compress and store millions of events per second, providing users with the most comprehensive and simplistic way to search through large amounts of data coming from a wide range of sources.
Conversely, SIEM solutions often trade off speed in favor of complexity, automation, and a large number of additional features. Despite it being theoretically possible to include all data sources in a SIEM solution, it is often not advisable due to the additional costs of increased inclusivity. Additionally, SIEM systems tend to perform much better when working with more limited amounts of data in comparison to log management.
Compliance and reporting
It is much easier to demonstrate compliance with regulatory bodies with a log management system in place. When the time comes to prove that your client is in compliance with key regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS), having an easy-to-use tool that can search through all your log data at once saves an incredible amount of time.
Not only is this a great time-saving tool, but it also allows your clients to submit much more thorough reports and significantly reduces the likelihood of human error, as all of their data will be housed in a singular, centralized location rather than scattered across a complex system and multiple departments. This can be invaluable when trying to ensure regulatory obligations are being met consistently.
Considerations for MSPs
When choosing between log management vs SIEM solutions for your clients, it is important to closely examine what exactly it is that they are looking to get out of their new system and make recommendations based on these demonstrated needs.
Broadly speaking, clients heavily prioritizing system speed, the ability to store and analyze large amounts of data, and cost-effectiveness will prefer log management, while those looking for a solution with industry-leading cybersecurity would be better served by SIEM.
SIEM and log management: Making a choice
There is no universally correct choice when it comes to SIEM vs log management, but rather the best choice for your individual client and what they are hoping to get out of their new cybersecurity solution. What works for one client perfectly may be horrible for another; it is important to always keep this in mind and have a deep bank of knowledge of both solutions to pull from, so you know when to recommend each.
ConnectWise Cybersecurity Management offers advanced software and support solutions to strengthen your clients’ cybersecurity and protect their critical business assets from malicious hackers. Some of our most popular solutions include SIEM, risk assessment and dark web monitoring, and 24/7 threat monitoring services.
To learn more about how advanced solutions can help your team navigate the evolving threat landscape, sign up for a live cybersecurity software demo or visit our cybersecurity center for more resources for MSPs.