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The Top 6 Log Shippers and How to Choose One

Stanley Ulili
Updated on January 9, 2024

Logs serve as records that offer insight into the operations taking place within your system. When issues arise, they play a crucial role in identifying the root causes and facilitating their resolution. Centralizing logs streamlines the review process, enabling you to analyze information from various sources within a singular location, rather than navigating separate systems for log retrieval.

While it appears convenient to employ a logging library for funnelling logs to a central repository, this approach poses several challenges. As log entries accumulate, resource consumption will typically intensify which may result in performance degradation or application failures. Also, if the application crashes, the logging tool will fail alongside it leading to disruptions in log message forwarding. Furthermore, modifying your logging pipeline necessitates altering application code—a cumbersome endeavor. Adopting a log shipper is a prudent solution to circumvent these issues.

A log shipper serves as an independent tool that amasses logs from diverse origins and subsequently routes them to one or more designated destinations. Many log shippers can be strategically load-balanced to accommodate escalating system demands and integrate safeguards to mitigate log loss during network interruptions. Another benefit is that switching log shippers can be done anytime without changing your application code.

This article will explore five distinct log shippers in detail and help you choose the right solution for your next project.

Feature Vector Fluentd Fluent Bit Filebeat Logstash Rsyslog
Memory usage ~5 MB Around 30-40 MB ~1-3 MB ~42 MB ~2GB memory ~2-3 MB
Deployment Easy to deploy A bit challenging due to dependencies Easy Easy Complex due to dependencies like JVM Simple and is included in Linux systems by default
Plugins available Over 100 Over 1000 Over 100 Over 50 Over 200 Over 400
Dependencies Depends on only libc, which is already found in most systems Depends on Fluentd C Library No dependencies No dependencies Depends on JVM No dependencies
Easy of use Moderate Relatively straightforward Moderate Relatively straightforward Moderate

What is a log shipper?

A log shipper is a tool designed to gather, process, and transport log data from various sources to a specified destination. It can be envisioned as a pipeline that takes various logs (such as application logs, system logs, or database logs) as input, optionally transforms them in some manner, then forwards them to one or more destinations for storage or further processing.

The following are some of the workflows you achieve with log shippers:

  • Collect unstructured logs from a file → Transform them into a structured format (such as JSON) → Forward the transformed data to the Elastic Stack.
  • Collect logs from the standard output → Filter all levels lower than errors → send to AWS Cloudwatch.
  • Collect your PostgreSQL logs from a file → Redact any sensitive data → Send to a log management service like Better Stack.
  • Collect Docker container logs → Enrich the logs with metadata → Send to Better Stack.
  • Collect web server logs → Geolocate IP addresses → Send to Grafana Loki for visualization.
  • Retrieve compliance-related logs from various systems → Apply encryption to ensure security → Archive the logs in Amazon S3.

Log shippers typically run in the background, vigilantly observing data streams from configured sources. New data is captured, processed, and forwarded to designated destinations regularly. This ensures continuous access to the latest data, informing you about the system's ongoing activities.

Factors to consider when choosing a log shipper

When faced with the task of choosing a suitable log shipper, several factors warrant careful consideration. We'll examine some of the most important ones below:

1. Performance

A good log shipper must excel at collecting and processing large volumes of data without using a lot of resources, such as memory, CPU, or disk. Otherwise, there's a risk of degrading system performance or even causing outages due to resource overconsumption.

One important consideration for log shippers its performance and resource consumption. An insightful question to ask is: What is its peak throughput for your workloads on certain hardware? If your systems generate about 10,000 log messages per second, your chosen log shipper should adeptly manage this load and demonstrate room for further scalability.

Note that the programming language used to develop a log shipper significantly influences its performance. For example, log shippers crafted in languages like C, Rust, or Go will typically outperform those scripted in Ruby or Python.

2. Reliability

A log shipper that is very performant and memory efficient isn't worth a grain of salt if it constantly crashes under heavy load or lacks contingencies in the face of network disruptions. So it's essential to look for one that has safety measures in place to prevent data loss in the event of network failures.

Most shippers use buffers to store log messages in memory temporarily, and when the buffer memory is full, it writes the logs to a file on a disk. Though writing/reading logs to a disk is slower, it is useful when the log shipper exits unexpectedly. Upon recovery, it can read the file on the disk and pick up from where it left off.

Buffers also come in handy when the source sends more logs than the log shipper can handle or if the processing speed at the destination suddenly slows down. To ensure reliability, the log shipper must throttle the transmission to reduce back pressure on the destination.

3. Scalability

High-traffic sites use distributed systems, deploying numerous servers to handle the substantial user load. Naturally, a single log shipper instance cannot handle all the load. Therefore, the chosen shipper needs to be configurable for high availability to keep up with the data flowing through the system. For example, Fluentd can be configured for scalability as shown in the following diagram:


The log shipper here has been decoupled into two components to allow for horizontal scaling if the demand increases:

  • Log forwarders: instances on every node delivering the log messages to aggregators.
  • Log aggregators: daemons that receive logs, buffer them and forward them to their destination.

If you plan to run a log shipper on a single machine, it should be capable of using all available CPUs rather than being limited to one. This is important now more than ever since CPU clock speeds have plateaued, and the focus has shifted towards augmenting the number of CPUs. Given this trend, a log shipper should be able to take full advantage of the available CPU resources.

4. Community and extensibility

Log shippers with strong communities will have abundant instructional resources covering the tool. Beyond educational assets, an active community contributes new features, bug reports, and solutions to common problems through various channels.

Also, given the diversity of inputs and destinations that log shippers need to accommodate, a well-designed one will embrace extensibility through the incorporation of plugins so that you can easily add custom data sources, transforms, and destinations.

5. Vendor neutrality

While some cloud log management services offer their own log shippers, we generally don't recommend using them so that you're not locked into their service. You must anticipate scenarios such as:

  • Potential deterioration in the quality of the vendor's offerings.
  • Sudden price surges, necessitating cost-effective alternatives.
  • Misalignment of a vendor's direction with your evolving needs.

A good log shipper should be vendor-neutral, permitting effortless transitions between vendors as needed. This necessitates the capacity to interface with various sources and destinations, either through plugins or built-in functionality.

6. Monitoring

A good log shipper should be also be observable and offer a monitoring system that can help you understand its behavior. By exposing metrics such as queued messages, error count, uptime, HTTP errors, buffered events, and more, you'll be well equipped to identify potential problems and predict how much capacity is needed for your workloads.

Now that you're familiar with some of the crucial factors to consider when choosing a log shipper, let's delve into the top five shippers worth considering.

1. Vector

Vector is a lightweight, open-source, high-performance log shipper that collects, processes, and transmits logs, metrics, and traces (coming soon) to any destination you choose. It claims to be 10x faster than any other log shipper, and it provides strong data delivery guarantees. Its memory efficiency is a notable advantage, partly attributed to its implementation in Rust, a language acclaimed for its low memory footprint.

Despite being a relative newcomer in the log shippers space, Vector has rapidly garnered recognition, amassing over 14,000 GitHub stars over 100,000 daily downloads. Major industry players like Discord, Comcast, T-Mobile, and Zendesk are among its esteemed users. The largest Vector user is processing no less than 30TB of data daily.

How Vector works


Vector defines its data sources, transforms, and designated destinations using a configuration file. This file is located at /etc/vector/vector.yaml and its typically organized as follows:

    # source configuration properties go here

    # transform configuration properties go here

    # sink configuration properties go here

Let's look at what each component does:

  • sources: specifies the source data to be ingested.
  • transforms: specifies how the data should be processed.
  • sinks: defines a destination for the processed data.

You can have as many components are you like. For instance, to collect logs from three sources, you would have to create three sources components and ensure that each one has a unique id.

To visualize how Vector works, consider a scenario where it is employed to process an Nginx access.log file, transforming it into JSON format and subsequently transmitting it to a cloud-based log management service like Better Stack.

First, create the sources component and provide the path to the file:

    type: "file"
      - "/var/log/nginx/access.log"
    read_from: "end"

In the sources component, you define a access_nginx source that uses the file source to collects logs from files. The include option accepts the file path, and read_from specifies reading from the bottom of the file.

Once you've specified a data source, you can optionally use a transforms component to manipulate it:

      - "access_nginx"
    type: "remap"
    source: |
      . |= parse_regex!(.message, r'^(?<remote_addr>\S+) \S+ \S+ \[(?<timestamp>[^\]]+)\] "(?<method>[A-Z]+) (?<path>[^" ]+)[^"]*" (?<status_code>\d+) (?<response_size>\d+) "(?<referrer>[^"]*)" "(?<user_agent>[^"]*)"$')

The inputs option specifies the data source which can be the source ID, or a wildcard to transform data from all sources. The type property instructs Vector to use its remap transform, which modifies each log line using the Vector Remap Language (VRL), a Domain- specific language used for parsing and transforming observability data. The source encapsulates VRL code, executing regex-based parsing on the log message to extract the fields like remote_addr, timestamp, and others.

Once you've defined the transforms, you must specify the destination for the logs using the sinks component. In this example, they will be forwarded to Better Stack:

    type: "http"
    method: "post"
      - "nginx_parser"
    uri: ""
      codec: "json"
      strategy: "bearer"
      token: "<your_betterstack_source_token>"

The sinks component specifies the http sink which can be used to send data to any HTTP endpoint. Be sure to replace the token with your own.

Once you've completed your Vector configuration, you'll need to restart the service, and you should start observing the Nginx logs on the live tail page:


Supported sources, transforms, and sinks in Vector

Let's review some of the useful sources, transforms, and outputs that Vector supports. Here are some of the sources you can use:

When it comes to processing data, here are some of the transforms to be aware of:

  • Remap with VRL: a language designed to parse, shape and transform your data.
  • Filter: allows the specification of conditions for filtering events.
  • Throttle: rate limit log streams.
  • Lua: use the Lua programming language to transform log events.

For more transforms, review the relevant documentation page.

Finally, let's look at some of the sinks available for Vector:

  • HTTP: forward logs to an HTTP endpoint.
  • WebSocket: deliver observability data to a WebSocket endpoint.
  • Loki: forward logs to Grafana Loki.
  • Elasticsearch: deliver logs to Elasticsearch.

Vector advantages

  • Resource efficiency: Capitalizing on its Rust foundation, Vector gains two distinct advantages: remarkable speed and efficient memory utilization. Rust's inherent speed, coupled with its robust memory management capabilities, empowers Vector to manage high workloads while consuming minimal system resources.

  • Powerful language for manipulating logs: The Vector Remap Language(VRL)) is powerful and allows you to perform complex manipulations once you learn it.

  • Community: Thanks to its excellent documentation, getting started with Vector is easy. It also has a strong community of contributors thanks to heightened interest in the Rust language.

  • Emphasis on security:: Vector puts security at the forefront and has several defenses in place to protect your data.

  • Vendor-neutral: Although Timber Technologies (the company behind Vector) was acquired by Datadog, it remains vendor-agnostic.

  • Single binary: It offers a single static binary, depending only on libc, which already exists in most operating systems.

Vector disadvantages

  • Fewer plugins: Vector is less than five years old at the time of writing and has fewer than 100 plugins, less than most of its competitors.

  • VRL learning curve: Vector Remap Language is powerful, but it takes a while to get to learn it and understand how to use it effectively.

Learn more: How to Collect, Process, and Ship Log Data with Vector

2. Fluentd

Fluentd is another popular open-source log shipper that collects logs from multiple sources and provides a unified logging bridge between the sources and the destination. It was released in 2011 and is being used by many top companies in the industry, including Microsoft, Atlassian, Twilio, and others.

Both the C and Ruby programming languages underpin Fluentd's architecture. Although the incorporation of Ruby scarifies processing speed, this choice grants Fluentd access to the extensive Ruby ecosystem and reduces the barrier to entry for plugin development.

How Fluentd works


Understanding how Fluentd works is relatively straightforward. You create a configuration file and specify the log sources, transforms, and destinations to deliver the logs. Depending on how you install Fluentd, this file will be at either /etc/td-agent/td-agent.conf or /etc/fluent/fluent.conf. Regardless, its contents can be broken into the following directives:



The following is what the directives do:

  • <source>...</source: specifies the data source.
  • <filter>...</filter>: applies modifications to the logs.
  • <match>...</match>: defines the destination for the log data.

You can create as many directives as your project requires.

The source directive fetches logs from the given sources:

  @type tail
  path /var/log/nginx/access.log
  pos_file /var/run/td-agent/nginx.log.pos
  format nginx
  tag access.nginx

The @type parameter above instructs Fluentd to employ the tail plugin to read a file, akin to the tail -F command in Unix systems. The path parameter specifies the file to be read, and pos_file designates a file for Fluentd to track its position. To specify a unique identifier for this source, the tag parameter is used so that other directives can access the source data through this source.

Next, you can optionally define a filter to transform the data. This directive accepts a tag name and matches all incoming events generated from the source directive with the specified name:

. . .
<filter access.nginx>
  @type record_transformer
    hostname "#{Socket.gethostname}"

The record_transformer plugin is used here to enrich the log with a hostname property.

Following this, the match directive can be used to forward messages to a specific destination as shown below:

. . .
<match *>
  @type logtail
  @id output_logtail
  source_token <your_betterstack_source_token>
  flush_interval 2 # in seconds

This directive matches any incoming tags since it uses a wildcard (*). The type parameters specify the logtail plugin to forward the logs to Better Stack for centralized log management.

Supported inputs, filters, and outputs in Fluentd

Let's review some of the core input, filter, and output plugins that are available for Fluentd, starting with the input plugins:

  • in_tail: read logs from the end of a file.
  • in_http: provide input data through a REST endpoint.
  • in_syslog: gather logs from the Syslog protocol through UDP or TCP.
  • in_exec: runs an external program to pull event logs.

To filter or process your data, you can filter plugins such as those listed below:

  • record_transformer: used to add/modify/delete events.
  • grep: filters logs that match a given pattern. It works the same way as the grep command.
  • parser: parses a string and modifies the event record with the value that was parsed.
  • geoip: adds geographic information to log entries.

To send logs to diverse destinations, you can use any of the available output plugins:

  • out_file: writes log entries to files.
  • out_opensearch: deliver log records to Opensearch.
  • out_http: uses HTTP/HTTPS to write records.
  • roundrobin: distribute logs to multiple outputs in round-robin fashion.

There are several other types of plugins available, including Parsers, Formatter, Metrics, Storage, and more. A host of third-party plugins are also available and can be browsed here.

Fluentd advantages

  • Pluggable architecture: Fluentd was designed to be extensible with plugins. It currently has over 1000 plugins available, which provides flexibility for gathering, processing, and storing your log data.

  • Popularity: It is a popular and battle-tested technology that is relied on by many big players in the industry. A host of resources are also available for learning how to use it effectively.

  • Low memory footprint: Fluentd doesn't use a lot of memory, with its documentation indicating that a single instance typically occupies around 30-40MB of memory. If you require even less resource consumption, you can use Fluent Bit, a lightweight alternative with a memory footprint of less than 1MB and zero dependencies but has less than 100 plugins.

  • High availability support: It is well suited for highly available and high-traffic websites.

Fluentd disadvantages

  • Performance: While much of Fluentd is written in C, its plugin framework is written in Ruby which provides flexibility at the cost of performance. A Fluentd instance can only handle about 18,000 messages per second on standard hardware.

If you're interested in Fluentd, be sure to explore our comprehensive guide for more details.

Learn more: How to Collect, Process, and Ship Log Data with Fluentd

3. Fluent Bit

Fluent Bit is a lightweight, high-performance log shipper, serving as an alternative to Fluentd. Both tools were created by the same company, Treasure Data. Fluent Bit emerged in response to the growing need for an optimal solution capable of collecting logs from numerous sources while efficiently processing and filtering them. Notably, Fluent Bit excels in resource-constrained environments such as containers or embedded systems, with a small memory footprint of around 1MB.

In addition to its efficiency, Fluent Bit boasts powerful features like backpressure handling and SQL Stream Processing. Its pluggable architecture allows access to over 100 plugins, extending its capabilities in inputs, filters, and destinations. One of Fluent Bit's significant advantages is its vendor-neutral approach, making it a popular choice among major cloud companies such as AWS Cloud, Google Cloud, and DigitalOcean. Fluent Bit is licensed under Apache 2, enhancing its accessibility and usability in various applications.

How Fluent Bit works

Diagram illustrating the Fluentd observability pipeline

To use Fluent Bit, you define inputs, filters, outputs, and global configurations in a configuration file located at /etc/fluent-bit/fluent-bit.conf.





Let's examine these components in detail:

  • [SERVICE]: contains global settings for the running service.

  • [INPUT]: specifies sources of log records for Fluent Bit to collect.

  • [FILTER]: applies transformations to log records.

  • [OUTPUT]: determines the destination where Fluent Bit sends the processed logs.

In the configuration, you can have as many components as your project requires.

Let's now explore a practical example. To read Nginx log files and forward them to the console, here's how you should do it:

    Flush        1
    Daemon       off
    Log_Level    debug

    Name         tail
    Path         /var/log/nginx/access.log
    Tag          filelogs

    Name         stdout
    Match        filelogs

The [SERVICE] section contains global settings. The Flush parameter specifies Fluent Bit's flush intervals. When Daemon is set to off, Fluent Bit runs in the foreground. Log_Level configures the severity levels Fluent Bit uses for writing diagnostics.

In the [INPUT] section, the tail plugin reads the Nginx access.log file. The Tag option allows you to tag log events for Fluent Bit components such as [FILTER] and [OUTPUT], enabling precise filtering of the logs.

For the [OUTPUT] section, the stdout plugin is employed to forward all logs to the standard output with the filelogs tag.

Supported inputs, filters, and outputs in Fluent Bit

Fluent Bit offers a diverse range of input plugins tailored to different log sources:

  • http: captures logs via a REST endpoint.
  • syslog: gathers Syslog logs from a Unix socket server.
  • opentelemetry: fetches telemetry data from OpenTelemetry sources.
  • tail: monitors and collects logs from the end of a file, similar to the tail -f command.

When it comes to transforming logs, Fluent Bit offers various filter plugins:

  • grep: matches or excludes log records, akin to the grep command.

  • record_modifier: modifies specific fields or attributes within your logs.

  • modify: changes log records based on specified conditions or rules.

  • lua: alters log records using Lua scripts.

To efficiently dispatch logs to different destinations, Fluent Bit provides a versatile array of output plugins

  • http: pushes records to an HTTP endpoint.
  • file: writes logs to a specified file.
  • websocket: forwards log records to a WebSocket endpoint.
  • amazon_s3: sends metrics logs directly to Amazon S3.

Fluent Bit Advantages

  • Resouerce Efficiency: Fluent Bit is engineered for optimal performance in resource-constrained environments like containers and embedded systems, using a mere 1MB of memory per instance.
  • Rich Community and Documentation: Fluent Bit benefits from many resources, including tutorials and guides. Its vibrant community actively contributes to the software, providing valuable insights and support.
  • Powerful Features: Fluent Bit boasts robust capabilities, including the Fluent Bit stream processor, enabling real-time data analysis using SQL queries. This allows users to perform record queries while logs are in transit.
  • Pluggable Architecture: Fluent Bit's flexible architecture can be extended using plugins. These plugins support additional inputs, filters, and outputs, enabling tailored configurations and integrations.

Fluent Bit Disadvantages

  • Limited Plugin Ecosystem: Unlike FluentD, which offers over 1000 plugins, Fluent Bit currently provides around 100 plugins. This limitation affects its support for various inputs, filters, or outputs, potentially restricting its applicability to specific use cases.t
  • Challenging Plugin Development: Creating plugins for Fluent Bit can be daunting due to the requirement of writing them in C, a language known for its complexity. Writing efficient code in C poses challenges, making plugin development a task requiring significant expertise and effort.

To delve deeper into Fluent Bit, explore our comprehensive guide.

Learn more: How to Collect, Process, and Ship Log Data with Fluent Bit

4. Filebeat

Filebeat is a log shipper that gathers logs from servers, containers and delivers them to diverse destinations. It's designed to be an integral part of the Elastic Stack (formerly ELK Stack), which comprises Elasticsearch, Kibana, Beats, and Logstash. Filebeat is part of the Beats family, including Metricbeat, Packetbeat, and Journalbeat to mention a few. Each beat was created to ship different types of information, and Filebeat's primary goal is to collect logs and forward them to Logstash or directly to Elasticsearch for indexing.

Filebeat is highly extensible through the use of modules, which allow it to collect logs from many sources and destinations, such as MySQL, Kafka, AWS, NATS, Apache, and more. It is also written in Go and offers a single binary file for straightforward deployment. Notably, Filebeat excels in handling substantial data volumes while using minimal resources.

How Filebeat works


Understanding how Filebeat works boils down to the following components:

  • Harvesters: a harvester reads the contents of a file line by line. It is also responsible for opening and closing a file.

  • Inputs: are responsible for managing the harvesters and finding all sources to read from.

The information for the inputs resides in the /etc/filebeat/filebeat.yml config file and can be broken down into the following components:

  . . .
    . . .
   . . .

The inputs section contains the path to the file sources, processors mutates the log entry, and output specifies the target destination for the log records.

For example, here's how to define an input with a path to the Nginx access.log file:

- type: filestream
  enabled: true
    - /var/log/nginx/access.log

Next, use processors to add a custom field to the log message:

. . .
    - add_fields:
        target: ""
          mutated: "true"
. . .

Finally, send the logs to your preferred destination, such as an auto rotating file like this:

  path: "/tmp/filebeat"
  filename: filebeat
  rotate_every_kb: 10000
  number_of_files: 7
  permissions: 0600
  rotate_on_startup: true

For a detailed guide check our Filebeat article.

Supported inputs, outputs, and modules in Filebeat

Let's explore some of the inputs, processors, and outputs that are available in Filebeat. The following are some of the inputs:

To forward the logs to one or more destinations, some of these outputs can be valuable:

  • Elasticsearch: forward logs to Elasticsearch via its HTTP API.
  • Logstash: deliver logs directly to Logstash.
  • Kafka: sends log entries to Apache Kafka.
  • File: writes log events to files.

Filebeat also supports modules which provide a quick way to process common log formats without writing huge configuration files. A few of the available modules are listed below:

Filebeat advantages

  • Resource efficient: Filebeat is lightweight and capable of handling substantial data loads without using up too many resources, such as memory and CPU.

  • Simplified deployment: It offers a single binary that supports both server and container deployments, and it does not require external dependencies.

  • Extensible: Filebeat functionality can be extended using modules that simplify gathering, parsing, and forwarding logs.

Filebeat disadvantages

  • Limited data processing: While Filebeat possesses processing capabilities, they are comparatively basic when contrasted with more powerful log shippers that offer sophisticated languages for intricate log entry transformation.

  • Vendor-lockin: With the release 7.13, Elastic modified Filebeat to stop sending logs to non-Elastic versions of Elasticsearch like OpenSearch. To avoid this issue, you need to use Filebeat 7.12 or lower, a decision that will have you miss out on enhancements, security fixes, or bug fixes in newer versions.

  • Lack of monitoring features: Filebeat lacks built-in monitoring features that can provide health insights on Filebeat instances. However, you can use the Elastic Stack monitoring features, which collect observability data from Filebeat. Unfortunately, this means that it would be difficult to monitor Filebeat's health if you are not using the Elastic Stack.

Learn more: How to Collect, Process, and Ship Log Data with Filebeat

5. Logstash

Logstash is a free data processing pipeline used to gather logs from multiple sources, transform and enrich the data, and then forward them to any destination. Like Filebeat, it was created by Elastic and seamlessly integrates with the Elastic Stack. Often, you will find Filebeat being used to collect logs and forward them to Logstash for processing. From there, Logstash can send logs to Elasticsearch for indexing and be analyzed with Kibana.

Logstash is widely used and has a wealth of plugins that extend its functionality, allowing it to support many other data sources and destinations. Apart from logs, Logstash can also work with other observability data, such as metrics and traces.

How Logstash works


The Logstash pipeline consists of the following:

  • input: retrieves data from sources and creates an event.
  • filter: optionally used to transform, mutate or enrich data.
  • output: sends data to the specified destinations.

The configurations for Logstash reside in the /etc/logstash/conf.d directory. And a typical configuration file has the following structure:

input {

filter {

output {

Here's an example that reads Nginx's access.log file and forwards it to a log management service:

input {
    file {
        'path' => '/var/logs/nginx/access.log'
        'type' => 'nginx'
        'start_position' => 'beginning'

filter {
    grok {
        match => { "message" => "%{IPORHOST:remote_ip} - %{DATA:user_name} \[%{HTTPDATE:access_time}\] \"%{WORD:http_method} %{DATA:url} HTTP/%{NUMBER:http_version}\" %{NUMBER:response_code} %{NUMBER:body_sent_bytes} \"%{DATA:referrer}\" \"%{DATA:agent}\"" }

    mutate {
        add_field => {
            "mutate"=> "true"

output {
    http {
        url => ""
        http_method => "post"
        headers => {
          "Authorization" => "Bearer <your_betterstack_source_token>"
        format => "json"

The input section uses the file plugin to read logs from an Nginx access.log file and constructs a log event. It then sends it to specified filter plugins to process the data. The grok plugin parses and structures the data, while mutate also adds a new property to the log. Finally, the output section uses the http plugin to forward the logs in a JSON format to Better Stack for centralization.

Supported inputs, outputs, and filters in Logstash

Logstash has a massive ecosystem of input, output, and filter plugins. The following are some of the input plugins you can use:

  • Beats: collect logs from the Beats framework.
  • HTTP: receives log events over HTTP.
  • Unix: read log entries via a Unix socket.
  • Redis: read log events from a Redis instance.

When it comes to outputs, some of the packages here may come in handy:

  • Elasticsearch: sends log entries to Elasticsearch.
  • S3: sends log entries to Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3).
  • WebSocket: delivers logs to a WebSocket endpoint.
  • Syslog: forward logs to a Syslog server.

To transform data, you can use some of the filter plugins listed below:

  • Grok: used to parse and structure data.
  • Geoip: adds geographical information.
  • I18n: removes special characters.
  • JSON: parses JSON logs.

Logstash advantages

  • Highly customizable with a large community: It has abundant educational resources that lessen the learning curve. It also has plenty of plugins you can use in your projects and you can create your plugins as needed.

  • Scalability: Logstash can be configured for high availability through load balancing and has failovers in place to prevent data loss.

  • Exposes monitoring APIs: Logstash provides an API that exposes pipeline metrics, node information like process stats, JVM stats, and plugin information.

  • Advanced transforms: Logstash filters can quickly perform robust data transformation, largely due to its powerful plugins that can parse and modify logs.

Logstash disadvantages

  • Resource intensive: Logstash uses much more memory than the lightweight log shippers we've examined in this article. It recommends a JVM heap size between 4GB and 8GB, which is a lot for most servers or containers.
  • Vendor-lockin: when Logstash 7.13 was released, it came with a breaking change that prevents Logstash from sending logs to non-Elastic versions of Elasticsearch, such as OpenSearch. However, there are workarounds available through the use of plugins.

Learn more: How to Collect, Process, and Ship Log Data with Logstash

6. Rsyslog

Rsyslog is one of the oldest open-source log shippers known for its high performance, modular design, and security features. Rsyslog implements the Syslog protocol and extends it to support a wide range of inputs, outputs, and filters.

It can forward log messages to local destinations or over the network through TCP, TLS, or RELP (Reliable Event Logging Protocol). It also supports multithreading and can be load balanced to handle high data volumes. According to its documentation, it is capable of delivering more than one million messages per second to local destinations when limited processing is applied.

How Rsyslog works


The Rsyslog pipeline is made up of the following directives:

  • input: collect logs from specified sources.
  • template: modifies the log message.
  • action: forward logs to destination.

You can define your configuration file in the etc/rsyslog.d directory, and the most typical outlines look like this:


# collect logs

# Modifies log
template(name="<template_name>") {}

# redirect logs to the destination

Here is a sample configuration that converts Nginx access logs to JSON and stores the result in a separate file:

module(load="imfile" PollingInterval="10""/var/spool/rsyslog")


  type="list") {
      constant(value="\"@timestamp\":\"")     property(name="timereported" dateFormat="rfc3339")
      constant(value="\",\"message\":\"")     property(name="msg" format="json")
      constant(value="\",\"sysloghost\":\"")  property(name="hostname")
      constant(value="\",\"severity\":\"")    property(name="syslogseverity-text")
      constant(value="\",\"facility\":\"")    property(name="syslogfacility-text")
      constant(value="\",\"programname\":\"") property(name="programname")
      constant(value="\",\"procid\":\"")      property(name="procid")

if $syslogtag == 'nginx_access' then {
    action(type="omfile" file="/var/log/nginx-json.log" template="nginx-json-template")

In the first line, the imfile module is loaded and used to read logs in the var/logs/nginx/access.log file. Next, a template that converts the records to the JSON format is defined, and finally, the omfile plugin forwards the processed logs to the /var/log/nginx-json.log file.

Supported inputs, outputs, and modification modules in Rsyslog

Rsyslog supports a wide range of modules, which can be categorized into inputs, message modifications, and output.

The following are some of the inputs you should be familiar with:

  • imfile: reads standard text files and converts them into a Syslog message.
  • imdocker: collect logs from Docker containers using the Docker Rest API.

  • imjournal: import system journal messages into Syslog.

  • imhttp: receives plaintext messages via HTTP.

You can modify log messages with message modification modules such as the following:

  • mmanon: anonymizes IP addresses.
  • mmfields: extracts fields from log entries.
  • mmkubernetes: adds Kubernetes metadata to each log entry.
  • mmjsonparse: provides support for parsing structured logs.

Rsyslog also has output modules for forwarding log messages:

Rsyslog advantages

  • Documentation and community: Rsyslog has a plethora of resources, such as documentation, tutorials, and active communities on platforms such as StackExchange, which comes in handy if you're just learning how to use it.

  • Modules: It supports a wide variety of modules for extending its functionality.

  • Installation and deployment: In most cases, you won't have to install Rsyslog since it is included in most modern Linux distributions. Installing Rsyslog is also straightforward if needed.

  • Performance: Rsyslog is capable of handling an high volume of log data per second in a high-traffic environment.

Rsyslog disadvantages

  • Complex configuration: Its configuration is more difficult to understand when compared to other log shippers.

  • Documentation: The documentation is hard to navigate especially if you're new to the tool.

Learn more: How to Collect, Process, and Ship Log Data with Rsyslog

Final thoughts

In this tutorial, we discussed five log shippers: Vector, Fluentd, Filebeat, Logstash, and Rsyslog. Each tool possesses its unique set of advantages and constraints, and our exploration reviewed several key considerations pivotal in the selection process. You should now be fully equipped to choose the right log shipper for your project.

As a recommendation, Vector, with its features, performance and efficient resource utilization, stands out as the strongest contender for consideration provided the available plugins suffices for your needs. Fluentd, renowned for its extensive plugin library, also presents a compelling option although its performance is less impressive. Rsyslog is also an excellent alternative that can also provide centralized log management.

Thanks for reading, and happy logging!

Author's avatar
Article by
Stanley Ulili
Stanley is a freelance web developer and researcher from Malawi. He loves learning new things and writing about them to understand and solidify concepts. He hopes that by sharing his experience, others can learn something from them too!
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