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Discover exactly what cloud monitoring is, its benefits, what you should monitor, and best practices for effective monitoring.
Cloud computing offers several undeniable benefits to businesses. Some of the biggest ones are agility, cost savings, data recovery, and developing new apps and services to meet changing customer needs.
Despite these benefits, the cloud can be complex, demand specialized skills, and require companies to follow up-to-date cloud security best practices. Why is that a problem?
A 2020 report shows that 68% of companies cited misconfiguration as their biggest cloud architecture challenge going into 2021. If engineers do not configure their cloud environment properly, it becomes vulnerable to cyberattacks, performance issues, and cost implications.
Other issues have persisted for several years now. As an example, companies struggle with:
So, how do you overcome these observability challenges to take full advantage of your cloud environment? Enter cloud monitoring and its best practices.
In this guide, we’ll cover exactly what cloud monitoring is, its benefits, what you should monitor, and best practices for effective monitoring. We’ll also cover specific cloud monitoring tools you can use to get started, no matter what metrics you need deeper visibility into.
Table Of Contents
Cloud monitoring is the process of observing, evaluating, and managing the health, performance, and availability of cloud-based applications, architecture, and services.
Monitoring cloud computing often involves using automated or manual techniques and tools to determine if your cloud infrastructure is performing as expected.
Cloud monitoring is a vital component of cloud security and management. This process often involves observing your cloud environment in real-time and continuing to identify any issues that may affect service availability.
However, experienced engineers can do more.
Through cloud monitoring, engineers can:
With proper execution, cloud monitoring capabilities can yield powerful, practical, and sustainable benefits for engineers and the entire organization.
Overall, cloud monitoring provides engineers with a greater level of visibility into their cloud environment. Further benefits include the ability to:
How does cloud monitoring help with all of these?
Different cloud environments require unique monitoring methods. However, the basic principles remain the same.
Still, the complexity of a cloud environment makes it difficult for some engineers to execute a structured cloud monitoring strategy. Start by assessing these five different types of cloud monitoring.
Each type of cloud monitoring focuses on a specific component of cloud architecture. Monitor the following components and areas:
Those five areas are important to experienced cloud engineers, but what kind of insights do they look for?
Engineers can use various metrics, logs, and events to see how their cloud infrastructure is performing. In fact, using a third-party cloud monitoring tool can help you reduce Mean Time To Detection (MTTD) in deployment by 28% and Mean Time To Recovery (MTTR) by 22%, according to the 2020 State of Database Monitoring.
Aspects worth capturing and analyzing include:
One of the top concerns for engineers and CTOs today is the possibility that their organization will experience a cyber attack.
The 2020 Cloud Security Report found that over half of respondents were concerned about account hijacking, insecure interfaces, and unauthorized access to their cloud environments.
Monitoring your company's cloud security can help you identify suspicious activity before it becomes an all-out attack.
These observations may indicate an impending security breach, for example:
You'll also want to keep an eye on how your cloud architecture decisions affect your budget.
One of the most common goals for companies moving to the cloud is to reduce costs. Sadly, many businesses do not have adequate mechanisms to observe costs in a way that makes sense to their businesses.
Because most companies do not know where, when, and how their cloud budget was used, they are unlikely to optimize cloud costs.
But with a solid cloud cost monitoring platform, both engineers and finance teams can gather the insights they need to avoid overspending on their cloud infrastructure projects — and even improve COGS, cost per customer, and other important unit cost metrics.
Setting up a robust APM tool with monitoring and analytics capabilities can easily understand the logs, metrics, and alerts that cloud infrastructure generates. These include DevOps monitoring metrics that can track the performance of the underlying infrastructure.
Performance issues in the cloud can range from disk utilization to latency and scalability challenges. Modern APM tools allow you to track these aspects in real-time so you can take a proactive approach to application performance optimization in the cloud.
This is especially important for companies that use the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model. As your application depends on cloud-based servers to fulfill user requests, monitoring the health of your SaaS environment and components is vital to ensure issues like overloading do not impede service delivery.
Cloud-based services are typically highly integrated so that they depend heavily on other services to function. So when a cloud infrastructure component is not monitored, it can lead to availability issues in many other parts of the cloud.
Cloud infrastructure best practices include monitoring virtual machines, Kubernetes, storage, databases, and their health and dependencies. Monitoring will help you observe, track, and react to changes that could affect your environment’s security, performance, availability, and cost.
By using solutions such as CloudZero, you can also find out which services, teams, products, features, and customers you spend the most on, why, and whether they are eating into your gross margins.
The following best practices can help you to improve your cloud monitoring strategy:
So, what are some of the best cloud monitoring tools available today to use with these best practices?
More than two dozen tools provide cloud monitoring as a service. Cloud monitoring tools offer many similar features, but some will offer features that are more tailored to your organization's monitoring strategy than others.
Let's take a look at the top cloud monitoring tools available right now.
Sematext is a comprehensive infrastructure monitoring tool designed for DevOps teams to view all of their logs, metrics, and events in one unified dashboard. Sematext can monitor everything in real-time, including applications, servers, networking, and real-life users. It also keeps a history of your stack's metrics.
In addition, now that Sematext has been open-source since 2018, you can better integrate it with your technology stack. Several sources are available for collecting metrics, such as REST APIs, JMXs, and SQL databases.
Sematext offers anomaly detection and alerting for hybrid, private, and on-premises environments so that you can stay ahead of failures everywhere.
Dynatrace also offers full-stack monitoring, including app, cloud, and hybrid environment monitoring. You can also monitor real-user behavior on your online assets with it, so you can tailor your digital strategy to provide more fulfilling customer journeys.
Dynatrace also shows real-time and historical logs and events for microservices, containerized, application, services, serverless, and Kubernetes.
With Dynatrace's open source project support on GitHub, you can easily connect it to your stack and improve cloud observability using over 400 integrations. Dynatrace is available as both a SaaS offering and as an on-premises solution.
For running cloud-based applications and services in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) ecosystem, CloudWatch is a great place to start. It provides a big picture view of AWS services, metrics, logs, and events, such as Amazon EC2, Amazon RDS DB, and Amazon EBS Volume instances.
CloudWatch was developed to respond to customer complaints about lack of visibility, particularly into AWS resource utilization. You can therefore expect it to offer proactive resource utilization.
One of the best SolarWinds features is it provides a unified visual monitoring dashboard for various components. The interface makes it simple to follow, zoom in and out of specific areas, or view how a cloud component affects the rest of your technology stack.
SolarWinds is also interesting in that you can use it as an all-in-one cloud monitoring platform or monitor specific items with one or more of its tools.
SolarWinds offers comprehensive networking monitoring tools within and across clouds, such as Azure and Google Cloud.
Datadog may suit you if you want to do large-scale application performance monitoring (APM) and boost visibility into your infrastructure with end-to-end tracing. Additionally, Datadog can also track, view, and analyze logs, metrics, and events from networks, containers, databases, third-party tools, services, and more.
In addition, you can monitor synthetics, security, and real users in real-time. You can also set up alerts using its incident management tool to tell when your cloud environments aren’t functioning correctly.
For those who do not need a comprehensive tool, but need performance, availability, and security capabilities for their database, Redgate can help. Redgate is compelling for DevOps teams that use .NET, Azure, and SQL Server environments. You can use Redgate in the cloud or on-premises.
With Regate, your engineering team can run realistic database tests, monitor entire databases, and quickly secure sensitive data.
Then again, if you want to monitor more than your databases, here are a few more cloud monitoring tools you can use.
New Relic is a modern, top-to-bottom, and visually stunning tool for monitoring your mobile, web, cloud, and on-premises environments. It also supports real-user, synthetics, logs, distributed tracing, and multi-cloud monitoring.
New Relic offers elegantly visual insights with Grafana Dashboards. It also displays the specific method calls for different app sizes to help discover incidents’ root causes.
The tool provides one of the most powerful querying languages (NRQL), as well as a comprehensive free plan to test it in a live environment before you subscribe.
Azure Monitor is a native monitoring tool for workloads running on the Microsoft Azure Cloud. It also supports custom metrics for external monitoring. With it, engineers can collect, analyze, and use telemetry-based insights to optimize Azure and on-premises environments.
You can expect a platform well-specced for gathering insights about infrastructure, apps, and services. The tool also monitors your application’s networking layout, services, and activity and will alert you when something is off. If you enjoy BI support, you'll be pleased to see that it is included here, along with powerful workbooks for dashboarding.
With Sumo Logic's cloud monitoring tool, you can capture and analyze all three types of telemetry (events, logs, and transaction traces) for security, operations, and business intelligence.
Sumo Logic can collect indicators of compromise (IoC), machine learning analytics, and real-time user activities so you can identify any security or operational issues before they affect your end-users. Its ability to analyze over 200 petabytes of data and complete over 20 million searches daily makes Sumo Logic ideal for enterprises or fast-growing startups.
The solution has multi-cloud support, and while it doesn't offer as many integrations as the likes of New Relic, AppDynamics, and Datadog, it still provides enough to meet most needs with more than 150 integrations.
AppDynamics provides robust monitoring and analytics for cloud-native environments. Like several other tools here, it is also a cloud monitoring tool and can be used on-premises.
Check it out if you're interested in application performance management (APM), infrastructure health data, and enterprise-grade business analytics. You can also use it for monitoring Internet of Things (IoT) environments, web apps, mobile devices, and synthetic monitoring.
But AppDynamics goes even further to show DevOps engineers and executives the connection between their entire technology stack and actual business transactions. Expect it to support all the popular cloud providers, including Azure, Google Cloud, AWS, and on-premises workloads.
The vast majority of cloud monitoring tools track performance, security, networking, and dependency issues. But many don’t show how an item's metrics, logs, and events relate to specific areas of your business and how they directly affect your bottom line.
This is where CloudZero comes in.
Using CloudZero's cloud cost intelligence platform, you can detect, observe, and track changes in your cloud environment and see how those changes affect your cloud costs. Additionally, CloudZero allows organizations to see spend in the context of their business, such as how much specific customers, products, features, teams, and more, cost their company.
CloudZero’s automated cost anomaly alerts also help companies control their cloud budget and prevent cost overruns by detecting cost issues before they spiral out of control.
Ultimately, CloudZero gives organizations the visibility they need to monitor, control, optimize, and reduce their cloud spend — while also translating cloud costs to business metrics they care about, like unit cost, COGs, cost per customer, feature, product, and more.
Request a demo today to see how CloudZero can give you holistic visibility into your cloud and AWS costs.
This blog post was written and reviewed by the CloudZero team. Combined, our team has more than a quarter century of experience in the cloud cost space. Every blog post is extensively researched and reviewed by several members of our team for accuracy and readability.
CloudZero is the only solution that enables you to allocate 100% of your spend in hours — so you can align everyone around cost dimensions that matter to your business.