Last updated on October 16, 2020 by Dan Nanni
A syslog server represents a central log monitoring point on a network, to which all kinds of devices including Linux or Windows servers, routers, switches or any other hosts can send their logs over network. By setting up a syslog server, you can filter and consolidate logs from different hosts and devices into a single location, so that you can view and archive important log messages more easily.
On most Linux distributions,
rsyslog is the standard syslog daemon that comes pre-installed. Configured in a client/server architecture,
rsyslog can play both roles. As a syslog server,
rsyslog can gather logs from other devices. At the same time, as a syslog client,
rsyslog can transmit its internal logs to a remote syslog server.
In this tutorial, we cover how to configure a centralized syslog server using
rsyslog on Linux. Before we go into the details, it is instructive to go over syslog standard first.
When logs are collected with syslog mechanism, three important things must be taken into consideration:
Let's take a look at how the configuration is defined in more detail.
The facility levels define a way to categorize internal system processes. Some of the common standard facilities in Linux are:
The severity (priority) levels are standardized, and defined by using standard abbreviation and an assigned number with number 7 being the highest level of all. These levels are:
Finally, the destination statement enforces a syslog client to perform one of three following tasks: (1) save log messages on a local file, (2) route them to a remote syslog server over TCP/UDP, or (3) send them to
stdout such as a console.
rsyslog, syslog configuration is structured based on the following schema.
Now that we understand syslog, it's time to configure a Linux server as a central syslog server using
rsyslog. We will also see how to configure a Windows based system as a syslog client to send internal logs to the syslog server.
To set up a Linux host as a central log server, we need to create a separate
/var partition, and allocate a large enough disk size or create a LVM special volume group. That way, the syslog server will be able to sustain the exponential growth of collected logs over time.
rsyslog daemon comes pre-installed on modern Linux distributions, but is not enabled by default. To enable
rsyslog daemon to receive external messages, edit its configuration file located in
Once the file is opened for editing, search and uncomment the below two lines by removing the
# sign from the beginning of lines.
$ModLoad imudp $UDPServerRun 514
This will enable
rsyslog daemon to receive log messages on UDP port
514. UDP is way faster than TCP, but does not provide reliability on data flow the same way as TCP does. If you need to reliable delivery, you can enable TCP by uncommenting the following lines.
$ModLoad imtcp $InputTCPServerRun 514
Note that both TCP and UDP can be set on the server simultaneously to listen on TCP/UDP connections.
In the next step we need to create a template for remote messages, and tell
rsyslog daemon how to record messages received from other client machines.
/etc/rsyslog.conf with a text editor, and append the following template before the
GLOBAL DIRECTIVES block:
$template RemoteLogs,"/var/log/%HOSTNAME%/%PROGRAMNAME%.log" * *.* ?RemoteLogs & ~
This template needs a little explanation. The
$template RemoteLogs directive (
"RemoteLogs" string can be changed to any other descriptive name) forces
rsyslog daemon to write log messages to separate local log files in
/var/log/, where log file names are defined based on the hostname of the remote sending machine as well as the remote application that generated the logs. The second line (
*.* ?RemoteLogs) implies that we apply
RemoteLogs template to all received logs.
& ~ sign represents a redirect rule, and is used to tell
rsyslog daemon to stop processing log messages further, and not write them locally. If this redirection is not used, all the remote messages would be also written on local log files besides the log files described above, which means they would practically be written twice. Another consequence of using this rule is that the syslog server's own log messages would only be written to dedicated files named after machine's hostname.
If you want, you can direct log messages with a specific facility or severity level to this new template using the following schema.
Direct all internal authentication messages of all priority levels to
Direct informational messages generated by all system processes, except mail, authentication and cron messages to
If we want all received messages from remote clients written to a single file named after their IP address, you can use the following template. We assign a new name
IpTemplate to this template.
$template IpTemplate,"/var/log/%FROMHOST-IP%.log" *.* ?IpTemplate & ~
After we have enabled
rsyslog daemon and edited its configuration file, we need to restart the daemon.
$ sudo service rsyslog restart
$ sudo systemctl restart rsyslog
We can verify that
rsyslog daemon is functional by using
$ sudo netstat -tulpn | grep rsyslog
The output should look like the following in case
rsyslog daemon listens on UDP port.
udp 0 0 0.0.0.0:514 0.0.0.0:* 551/rsyslogd udp6 0 0 :::514 :::* 551/rsyslogd
rsyslog daemon is set up to listen on TCP connections, the output should look like this.
tcp 0 0 0.0.0.0:514 0.0.0.0:* LISTEN 1891/rsyslogd tcp6 0 0 :::514 :::* LISTEN 1891/rsyslogd
To forward a Windows based client's log messages to our
rsyslog server, we need a Windows syslog agent. While there are a multitude of syslog agents that can run on Windows, we can use
Datagram SyslogAgent, which is a freeware program.
After downloading and installing the syslog agent, we need to configure it to run as a service. Specify the protocol though which it will send data, the IP address and port of a remote
rsyslog server, and what type of event logs should be transmitted as follows.
After we have set up all the configurations, we can start the service and watch the log files on the central
rsyslog server using
tailf command line utility.
By creating a central
rsyslog server that can collect log files of local or remote hosts, we can get a better idea on what is going on internally in their systems, and can debug their problems more easily should any of them become unresponsive or crash. For information about setting up a syslog client, refer to this guideline.
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