This AWS monitoring guide will cover how to make your applications, infrastructure, and cloud costs more visible.
Migrating to the cloud provides cost, scalability, performance, maintenance, and other engineering and IT benefits. Today, Amazon Web Services (AWS) stands out as the most popular cloud platform, offering an advanced public cloud with robust services that are easy to integrate with your existing workflows.
While AWS strives to keep its tools simple to use, many users still require deep expertise to get their AWS environment set up properly and running smoothly. Yet, to discover what's working well and what needs improvement, you must first have a solid eye on how your environment operates.
It is here that AWS monitoring services, tools, and best practices come into play. This AWS monitoring guide will cover how to make your applications, infrastructure, and cloud costs more visible — and the tools and best practices you can use to make it happen.
Table Of Contents
AWS monitoring consists of systematically observing, inspecting, and tracking the progress and quality of various AWS resources over time. Additionally, it involves being able to observe, in real-time, dynamic environments on the AWS public cloud.
As part of this monitoring, you implement a set of services on an ongoing basis that verify your AWS assets are functional, secure, and perform at an acceptable level.
Monitoring AWS resources involves generating, tracking, logging, and querying various metrics (covered further below). Monitoring and logging requires skill, time, and money to implement with confidence and success. So is it really worth the trouble to monitor your AWS resources?
It is beneficial to monitor AWS for several reasons. The most important is to make sure your cloud environment works properly. You can examine your infrastructure, regulatory compliance, complexity, metrics, inventory, logs, and events.
Then there is the AWS Shared Responsibility Model.
Amazon is responsible for the platform's security under the agreement. In short, AWS is responsible for securing elements such as physical servers in its physical data centers as well as the hosting operating system and virtualization layer.
You take care of everything else within the cloud service, from network traffic security and server-side encryption to client security.
That’s not all. Here are ten reasons why AWS monitoring solutions and best practices are worthwhile.
Also, remember that you can only improve what you measure. Monitoring your cloud can prevent your infrastructure from overloading and scaling unnecessarily, thus reducing performance degradation.
Ultimately, implementing monitoring best practices can reduce your AWS bill while increasing your return on investment.
There are a ton of AWS resources you can and should monitor. AWS metrics and logs are available from over 200 Amazon web services, including these popular ones.
But these are services; not the basic compute metrics that make them up. AWS's Well-Architected Framework pillars can help you understand the right metrics to monitor and avoid overwhelm.
Those pillars are:
In this image, you can also see some key AWS metrics, logs, and events to monitor:
Here are some AWS resources your engineers will want to monitor based on those guiding principles.
These metrics could indicate a potential security breach is imminent.
You can also add custom metrics to monitor things that are not covered by native AWS monitoring solutions. CloudWatch, for instance, does not show memory utilization metrics by default. However, it supports additional AWS monitoring scripts to help with that.
Scripts allow you to report a combination of various metrics such as memory used/available/utilization, disk used/available/utilization, and swap space used/utilization.
Now that you know some of the metrics to keep an eye on, here are some best practices for monitoring AWS resources to mitigate risk and maintain optimal performance.
Identify which AWS components are essential to monitoring. Your engineers should prioritize the alerts that pertain to critical operations to protect them. Monitoring policies can help engineers distribute their time and effort both during an emergency and during normal operations.
Your plan will also need to define:
Having a clear monitoring plan will guide engineers and empower them to take the right actions as needed.
Don't let anything slip by. It is crucial to have full visibility into your AWS environment. You will be able to detect, troubleshoot, and debug multi-point failures more quickly if you collect data from all of your AWS services.
If you follow this next best practice, it won't seem so overwhelming.
It is difficult to concentrate on everything when you are implementing multiple services at once. This is not what you want when setting up monitoring services.
You can begin monitoring AWS by activating native AWS services such as CloudWatch, CloudTrail, and VPC Flow Logs. This will give you space and time to digest how various data flows in and out of your AWS environments. Then you can roll out a phased implementation, prioritizing critical apps.
You simply cannot monitor all of AWS’s data-rich and dynamic services using manual labor. Consider automating AWS monitoring so you can capture, analyze, and report as much data as possible, in the shortest amount of time possible, and from as many sources as possible.
Organizations often set up AWS monitoring and neglect it when they should proactively engage the monitoring metrics they collect. An active monitoring system allows engineers to detect anomalies so they can prevent costly service interruptions and breaches before they occur.
Some examples of potential security issues may include:
These could indicate a potential security breach down the line.
You can increase accountability by tagging the users who create instances in your organization. One way to accomplish this is to write a Lambda script that attaches owner tags to all instances. The script will have the instance creator’s value as IAM user-name and key as owner.
In the event of an incident, the setup will create a notification with the following details:
You can configure the setup so that you get other kinds of details as well.
You can then create a Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed (RACI) Matrix that will enable you to gather the responsible people and troubleshooting engineers quickly.
Organizations that make code changes without monitoring how change affects their cloud spend, run the risk of accruing a high AWS bill or exhausting their AWS budget. From Snap to Twitter to Adobe, have all, at one point, created software that is cost inefficient or foot unexpected AWS expenses every quarter.
Instead, using a credible AWS costs optimization tool to monitor how your engineering decisions impact cloud costs can help you take the right steps to reduce your AWS spend well before you run through your budget.
Logging is the process of tracking and storing data to support application availability. In addition, it provides insight into how state transformations impact an app's performance. Monitoring, on the other hand, involves tracking metrics to alert engineers to system-related issues.
However, capturing logs can help monitor compliance and troubleshoot performance issues.
You can capture and display logs with CloudWatch and CloudTrail. But if you want better search capabilities or aggregate and analyze logs from any source, use a log analysis tool such as Loggly by SolarWinds.
Various AWS resources and services can be monitored both natively and through third-party tools. Using monitoring solutions can save you time, money, and talent needs by automating monitoring processes.
Monitoring tools powered by AI can also help you monitor any app or stack, at any scale, and anywhere. Tools with well-organized dashboards make it easier to track and manage cloud resources in one place.
Here are some of the best AWS monitoring tools for engineers who want greater visibility into their AWS environment.
Amazon CloudWatch is a monitoring and management service that you can use to provide data for your AWS, on-premises, and hybrid cloud applications and architecture. CloudWatch is Amazon's observability service for developers, DevOps engineers, IT managers, and site reliability engineers (SREs).
It collects metrics, logs, and events from services, applications, and other resources running on the AWS platform and on-premises servers. With CloudWatch, you can monitor anomalous behavior, visualize metrics and logs side-by-side, set alarms, troubleshoot issues, and take automated actions so that your workflow isn't disrupted.
CloudZero is a cloud cost intelligence platform that provides deep visibility into your AWS cloud spend in the context of your business — even if you use Kubernetes, microservices, or multi-tenant architecture.
CloudZero lets your engineering team to drill into cost data from a high-level down to the individual components that drive your cloud spend — and see exactly what AWS services cost you the most and why. Automated cost anomaly alerts also notify your team of any important cost fluctuations so can prevent expensive cost runs.
Ultimately, CloudZero empowers engineers to monitor changes to the cost of their work, explore, and become literate in their cloud cost without specialized knowledge.
AWS Security Hub provides a central place for aggregating security alerts and data from the entire range of AWS security services and apps.
It can, for example, pull insights from AWS GuardDuty, Amazon Macie, and Amazon Inspector. You can then use a custom dashboard to organize and prioritize what needs to be done.
DataDog may be an appropriate solution if you need an all-in-one monitoring tool for AWS and Azure. It can monitor servers, apps, metrics, clouds, and even teams across full DevOps stacks. DataDog can also monitor security, network, performance, and real users, as well as incidents.
AppOptics by SolarWinds is a solid performance monitoring solution for applications and infrastructure.
AppOptics provides continuous visibility into your serverless, host, and container environments. Besides custom AWS metrics, it can monitor Windows, Linux, .Net, Kubernetes, and IIS performance. It also offers dozens of AWS services for monitoring your AWS account. SolarWinds also provides database and server monitoring solutions.
With PRTG Network Monitor, you can monitor any device, system, app, or traffic across all your IT infrastructure. You can also monitor your local network and all cloud services from anywhere, determine how much bandwidth the apps are using, and identify sources of bottlenecks. It can integrate with a variety of monitoring technologies and comes with great visuals to boost productivity.
Your engineers can predict AWS performance, eliminate bottlenecks, and optimize your AWS spend by monitoring your AWS services, applications, and architecture.
This is not an exhaustive AWS monitoring checklist. But using the best practices and tools shared here can help your team solve issues before they become problems. Engineers have difficulty predicting monthly costs associated with CloudWatch, for example.
CloudZero can help. CloudZero's cost intelligence platform enables engineering teams to measure and monitor cloud spend across all AWS services in real-time and in the context of business values such as cost per team, customer, unit, or product.
CloudZero also automates cost anomaly alerts and notifies engineering teams so they can address any issue before they cost thousands of dollars. to see how CloudZero captures and displays rich insights that matter to your organization.