Evaluating Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) Solutions: The Pros and Cons of Freeware
With data breaches causing seemingly endless damage, from record breaking numbers of exposed records to millions spent on remediation, it’s clear that organizations must build stronger security portfolios than ever before. Security Event and Information Management (SIEM) solutions enable you to manage potential vulnerabilities proactively using centralized security management and real-time information, making it a vital tool in avoiding devastating data breaches caused by both insider risks and external threat actors.
But with so many different types of SIEM solutions out there, how do you know which one to choose? When evaluating your options, perhaps the question you should start with is whether you should even pay for a SIEM. Read on to find out the differences between free solutions, their pros and cons, and considering enterprise options.
Evaluating Your Requirements
Before you get too far, create a requirements list. This might include the number of assets you need monitored, what compliance requirements you have, and the types of assets your environment has and would like integrated.
Additionally, consider your budget. Organizations have to focus on creating a robust security portfolio, so exploring free options can oftentimes be the only option. Enterprise SIEM solutions are primarily designed with large organizations in mind, so it’s important to find options available for every size organization and price point.
What Do You Mean by Free?
Simply calling a tool “free” does not provide enough information. There are several types of free tools, including:
- Always free: These tools are created with no intention of having a paid version. This means you will get the complete version of the product.
- Open source: Open source solutions come from source code that is made available for users to adopt and modify as they wish.
- Free but limited: You have access to a modified version of the enterprise version that does not have all of the same features. The product can be used throughout the environment, but you’ll need to upgrade to the paid version for added functionality.
- Free for a set number: Like our free version of Event Manager, this tool provides access to the enterprise version for a limited number of assets or set capacity. You will have all of the features of the enterprise version, but will need to upgrade to monitor more or an unlimited amount of assets
Free SIEM Tools: Pros and Cons
Of course, the greatest advantage of free tools is the obvious one—getting a security event management tool without having to pay for it safeguards your environment from damaging, costly breaches without even affecting your budget.
Each type of free solution has advantages. Always free SIEM solutions can be straightforward, simple, and provide exactly what an organization—particularly small businesses or startups—needs from a SIEM.
Open Source solutions take a decentralized approach which allows for community driven development and often results in multiple versions and independent add-ons.
Free but limited tools–which are free for a set number of systems or have a limited amount of functionality—provide you with solutions from reputable companies that heavily invest in their tools. Some of these free tools offer sufficient coverage and functionality that you won’t need to upgrade. Other times, using free tools, especially those that give you full functionality for a set capacity provide a good opportunity to evaluate if the tool is a good fit. At the very least, you can make sure the tool meets your IT requirements.
Since there are several types of free software, each type has slightly different disadvantages as well. Tools that are always free may or may not offer the kind of stability and functionality you need. Even if you like how the tool works, there is no opportunity to upgrade for additional features. These free SIEM tools often don’t come from well known providers, so CISOs or other decision makers may be uncomfortable implementing a solution that is difficult to validate.
Open source solutions may not technically cost anything, but that doesn’t really make it free. They require a heavy time investment from security teams and sys admins. Additionally, they don’t offer centralized, full time support, and often their documentation is not centralized or complete.
Software that’s free but limited, or free for a set number of devices can be great for smaller environments, but as organizations grow quickly, their security needs grow with them. Further devices will need coverage, and more robust features start to become more of a necessity. Additionally, support is usually very limited. Having someone to call to troubleshoot any issues, and answer questions can save enough time and hassle that it can be more financially savvy to find a solution that provides these benefits.
Considering Enterprise SIEM Tools
Robust features, ease of use, and support are the standard items that make enterprise solutions stand apart from their free SIEM solution counterparts. However, enterprise SIEM solutions can be very different from one another and tend to prioritize different needs or audiences, so conducting a SIEM software comparison is always necessary.
Since SIEM solutions focus on streamlining alerts, many SIEM solutions are complex tools intended to suit the needs of massive organizations that get thousands, even millions of notifications daily. Many of these organizations never bother with free versions, since they could never fit their needs.
Others, like Event Manager, focus on scalability and evolving with an organization. Using the free version can help acclimate and train security teams about using SIEM tools. The free version of Event Manager can provide plenty of security while it remains small, as well as the ability to integrate third party and home-grown applications common in small to medium sized businesses. From there, a business can smoothly transition into the enterprise edition, providing ample features and unlimited capacity without overwhelming you with more functionality than you need at a price point that you can’t afford.
Of course, deciding on an enterprise SIEM requires just as much research as finding a free security management tool, making it all the more important to take advantage of a free-to-get-started solution, so you can get a feel for how the tool works.
Ultimately, finding a product that meets your IT requirements is what’s most important. Taking the time to research, evaluate, and even implement some free solutions is worth the time that it takes in order to feel confident in the SIEM solution that you choose.
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