• Elasticsearch For quicker search results
  • It is beneficial to organizations using large data volumes
  • ES has many uses cases
  • Security is simple and fast
  • It fastens response to user queries

When a customer searches for a product, he/she is expecting an instant answer. They are looking for the reason that’ll influence a decision to buy or not. It’s usually frustrating to wait for long hours before getting important product information. This is why many organizations lose potential customers and clients. If your company can’t boast of good user experience for potential customers who search for its products, you can’t be surprised that your competitors are garnering more patronage than you. This is why it’s a huge error to depend on a relational database. This type of database does not improve user experience due to the ways by which data is stored and the slow speed at which data is retrieved. On a relational database, data are stored on multiple tables. This method of storage delays the retrieval of important information for users when they need it.

This is why many organizations whose products involve search engines are migrating to engines that ensure good user experience when it comes to the retrieval of information. So, if your business operates with a huge amount of data that customers must search to find the information they need, it’s best to get a data-storing engine that enhances quicker retrieval such as Elasticsearch.

What is Elasticsearch?

This is a full-text search engine that allows for storing, analyzing, and retrieval of large data in the shortest time possible. The speed at which Elasticsearch operates makes it highly suitable for applications that feature complex requirements and search features. Elasticsearch software is both licensed as an open-source license and source-available license. It is developed in java and offers a distributed system. It uses a REST API, which is based on JavaScript Object Notation (JSON). The software also offers a distributed system on top of Lucene StandardAnalyzer that enables indexing & automatic type-guessing.

One of the good points of Elasticsearch is that the setup is easy. It comes with impressive defaults and also encourages user-experience as beginners can set it up without difficulties. It uses some defaults in the data indexing and doesn’t have a fixed data structure. This means that by mastering the basics, a beginner can change the available data structure and set up the software.

Why Elasticsearch?

The reason for the rise in recognition and application of Elasticsearch is that it allows users to store data in JavaScript Object Notation (JSON). Then send a query to retrieve the data. Moreover, every Elasticsearch feature appears as a REST API. For instance, there is

  • Index application program interface (API) for documenting the index
  • Get API retrieves the document
  • Search application program interface submits the query and retrieves the result
  • Put Mapping API overrides the default and defines the mapping.

Concepts of Elasticsearch

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Some of the important concepts of this software which you must know include the following:

  • Index

Documents that have the same characteristics are called index. For example, a business may have an index for their product information, another for a particular customer, or different data types and identify them with a unique name when carrying out an indexing search or when deleting operations or updating the database. A user can define many indexes in one single cluster, and that’s one of the components of Elasticsearch.

  • Cluster

This software works with a cross-cluster replication and sometimes uses a secondary cluster as a backup. It holds all your data in a cluster and offers federated indexing & search capabilities.

  • Document

The unit of information in which Elasticsearch indexes is called a document. It expresses the document in JSON, which is a data-interchange format found everywhere on the internet.

  • Shards

This is the subset of documents of a particular index. One index can be divided into multiple shards. This is one of the capabilities available in Elasticsearch. You can subdivide an index into many pieces known as shards.

  • Mapping Type

This software uses a database table in RDBMS

When to use Elasticsearch

There are several cases that necessitate the application of Elasticsearch. Some of them include:

  1. Textual Search; enables you to search through available data with a specific phrase lifted from a lot of texts. You can get the answer you seek with Elasticsearch
  2. Product Search; you can identify the product you seek once you input the name and the properties.
  3. Data Aggregation; Elasticsearch provides users with aggregated data depending on the query they sent
  4. Geo-Search; you can use this engine to geo-localized any product as fast as possible.
  5. JSON document storage
  6. Auto Suggest; a user can type only a few characters only to have many suggested queries from the engine
  7. Automatic completion of text based on what a user has searched before on the engine.

There are many use cases made possible by this search engine. A user can append little log-line documents, indexing large documents and maximizing indexing throughput.

Benefits for users

There are many reasons to secure Elasticsearch for every organization. Apart from the obvious which is facilitating quick information retrieval, you can benefit in such areas as:

  1. Big data management

Elasticsearch stores and manages a massive amount of data and ensures that customers get the answers to their queries in 10 milliseconds. Using the traditional Structural Query Language (SQL) systems takes more than ten seconds to respond to the user’s query.

  1. Scalability

Here is another reason to use Elasticsearch. The engine is scalable since it has a distributed architecture that allows it to handle petabytes of data. Instead of managing the complications in a distributed design, a customer will use a system where everything has been automated.

  1. Fast and direct access to documents

Elasticsearch stores data close to the corresponding metadata in its index. With this kind of arrangement, the number of reads will greatly reduce, thereby ensuring that users get a fast response to the searches.

As Elasticsearch continues to evolve, many new features will be added, and better benefits will be recorded. But now, you can enjoy the optimal performance it offers on search engine results.

Securing Elasticsearch

After storing a large volume of data in an engine, the next step is to secure the data against unauthorized access. There are many dangers to leaving your data storehouse open to hackers. Competitors and miscreants might commit industrial espionage to the detriment of your company. So, it’s best to maintain data integrity. One of the ways to do that is to encrypt the communication process between nodes. Also, you have to create an audit trail to identify actions on your data. The good news is that Elasticsearch security is designed to cover authentication, encryption, and data backup.

The first thing we’re going to divulge here is the plan of action required in the event of security breaches. Afterward, we’ll familiarize you with the simple prevention methods against a future data security breaches.

  1. Port Scanning. The simplest way to minimize exposure to this includes:
  • Avoiding the default port 9200
  • Putting Elasticsearch behind a firewall
  • Also, close Kibana port
  1. Data theft; as soon as you notice the theft, try and secure access to Elasticsearch by doing the following:
  • Lock HTTP API with an authentication
  • Encrypt every communication using SSL/TLS
  1. Data deletion; to prevent an unwanted loss of data due to mistaken delete action, set up your backup immediately by backing up your data.
  2. Manipulation of Log File; you need to audit and alert the log by sending them to a remote place and prevent hackers from manipulating or deleting the system log files. That way, you’ll be sure of early discovery when there is an intrusion.

Now that you know the actions to take against some cases of a data breach, let’s show you the six steps you need to take for Elasticsearch security.

  1. Lock Down the public ports

Make sure you close the port to the internet. Don’t forget to close Kibana since it serves as an Elasticsearch proxy. Once you’ve closed the ports, you’re sure that no one will access Elasticsearch via the internet. But then, you have to bind the search engine port to private IP addresses. You can do this by changing the elasticsearch.yml configuration.

  1. Integrate private networking between the engine and client services.

You can use free and open source solutions that offer Elasticsearch access authentication, or you can do it with Nginx. That way, it will be simple and quick. Afterward, accessing Elasticsearch will be through the SSH tunnel from client machines.

  1. Set Up access authentication and SSL/TLS using Nginx

You can generate a password file and also generate a self-signed SSL certificate in the absence of the official ones. Now add the proxy configuration with SSL and then activate basic authentication to /etc/Nginx/nginx.conf. Afterward, restart Nginx and try accessing your search engine through https:localhost/_search.

  1. Install plugins

Another approach to securing Elasticsearch is by installing free plugins. The process is to install the plugin and configure one to activate authentication. Some available ones are ReadonlyREST plugin, SearchGuard, Open Distro

  1. Maintaining audit Trail and setting up alerts

You need to monitor the system by watching the logs and monitoring all the metrics. Collect all the logs and send them to a real-time service for log management. You can use a third-party SaaS and prevent attackers who’ll want to cover their activities.

  1. Backing up and restoring your data

You can use Elasticdump to backup and later restore your data when you need it.

Bottom Line

Elasticsearch is the best search engine for a business whose customers must search for information amid a large volume of data. If you want to retain your customers, generate new ones, and win their loyalty, Elasticsearch is the way to go. Don’t forget to secure the engine to protect your data from hackers.

REFERENCES

  1. https://github.com/sscarduzio/elasticsearch-readonlyrest-plugin
  2. https://sematext.com/blog/search-guard-security-for-elasticsearch/
  3. https://www.elastic.co/blog/security-for-elasticsearch-is-now-free
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elasticsearch