Free Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solutions have significant benefits, providing visibility into security environments and enabling proactive vulnerability management for many small and mid-sized organizations. However, these tools often come with limitations that will lead security teams to consider commercial options. How do you know when it’s time to upgrade?
When your organization expands
Growth is one of the first indicators that you need to migrate to a commercial SIEM tool. Freeware may have limited functionality that worked when you were first starting up, but you may find the benefits offered in an enterprise version are better suited for your organization as it grows. Alternately, freeware may offer full functionality for a limited number of assets. As an organization grows, the number of devices and applications naturally increases. Since a SIEM is strongest when it’s centralizing everything in the environment, outgrowing the freeware is a good indicator that you’re ready for the full commercial version.
When you're ready for support
While free SIEM tools have their benefits, they usually offer only documentation for support. It may take a bit longer to get up to speed, but once you've gotten comfortable with the SIEM solution, this will typically not be a problem. But any more complex questions or issues will go unanswered or take much longer to solve without the assistance of support personnel who are skilled specialists on the product. Good support resources provide stability, vital expertise, and peace of mind that can be as valuable as the product itself.
Open source tools may not even have official support people or documentation, so support options have to be found elsewhere—through forums or from other open source users. Additionally, while open source SIEM solutions allow you to develop them further, customizing a SIEM tool so extensively is quite the undertaking. If you have someone maintaining and continuing to develop custom coding, this is a large investment in terms of time and skills, so open source can’t really be considered free.
Finding the right commercial SIEM software
If your organization is facing any of these issues, it might be time to migrate to a paid SIEM solution. Commercial tools can easily scale, streamline troubleshooting, and get the support you need when you need it.
A majority of SIEM tools are intended for huge organizations, with many more features than a small to mid-sized organization wants, and a price point that is far out of range. Thankfully, there are mid-range SIEM solutions that are intuitive to use and provide better value than some of the heavy-weight options—while still providing all the critical functionality you need as a growing business.
When you're looking for a tool, make sure you find one that offers:
- Real-time monitoring: The sooner you can see a threat, the sooner you can eliminate it. Real time monitoring allows you to investigate and begin remediation quickly.
- Tailored prioritization and escalation: Threat prioritization saves security teams from having to sort out critical threats from the mundane. The ability to fine tune what constitutes a real threat for each asset creates an even more effective filter.
- The ability to monitor every type of device: For maximum effectiveness, your SIEM should be able to easily monitor any type of data, be it a standard operating system like Windows or a customized feed like a legacy application or homegrown database.
- Data normalization: With so many types of applications and devices whose data is streamed through a SIEM, the language and formatting of the log information can vary broadly. Normalizing this data it into a common format and giving it meaning streamlines the process considerably.
- Integrations: Every organization requires multiple security solutions, so the ability to integrate data from other enterprise applications, like antivirus software, saves time and provides a holistic picture of your environment.
- Long term event storage: Compliance and analysis may require long term storage of data. An effective SIEM allows you to specify exactly what types of data you want to store, excluding data that you know is harmless.
- Reporting capabilities: Logging all event and incident response activity not only provides valuable performance data, it also proves adherence to multiple industry standards and regulations to inquiring auditors.
In addition to finding the right features and doing a SIEM pricing comparison, other factors should be taken into account, like licensing models or deployment methods. It’s helpful to develop a requirements checklist to evaluate the various offerings on the market and how they line up with what you need. The right SIEM solution will centralize your security, and as your organization continues to grow, this will provide stability for your security team, keeping your infrastructure safe through every transition.