Last updated 20/07/2021
Generally while studying AWS Management and Governance you come across the two services CloudWatch and CloudTrail. Many times people get confused between these two services. CloudWatch mainly monitors performance, whereas CloudTrail mainly monitors actions in your AWS environment.
In this blog, you will understand what is CloudWatch and CloudTrail, their benefits, their use cases, and what are the main differences between them.
Amazon CloudWatch is a monitoring and observability service built for DevOps engineers, developers, site reliability engineers (SREs), and IT managers. CloudWatch provides you with data and actionable insights to monitor your applications, respond to system-wide performance changes, optimize resource utilization, and get a unified view of operational health. CloudWatch collects monitoring and operational data in the form of logs, metrics, and events, providing you with a unified view of AWS resources, applications, and services that run on AWS and on-premises servers. You can use CloudWatch to detect anomalous behavior in your environments, set alarms, visualize logs and metrics side by side, take automated actions, troubleshoot issues, and discover insights to keep your applications running smoothly.
Modern applications such as those running on microservices architectures generate large volumes of data in the form of metrics, logs, and events. Amazon CloudWatch enables you to collect, access, and correlate this data on a single platform from across all your AWS resources, applications, and services that run on AWS and on-premises servers, helping you break down data silos so you can easily gain system-wide visibility and quickly resolve issues.
Monitoring your AWS resources and applications is easy with CloudWatch. It natively integrates with more than 70 AWS services such as Amazon EC2, Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon S3, Amazon ECS, Amazon EKS, and AWS Lambda, and automatically publishes detailed 1-minute metrics and custom metrics with up to 1-second granularity so you can dive deep into your logs for additional context. You can also use CloudWatch in hybrid cloud architectures by using the CloudWatch Agent or API to monitor your on-premises resources.
Amazon CloudWatch enables you to set alarms and automate actions based on either predefined thresholds, or on machine learning algorithms that identify anomalous behavior in your metrics. For example, it can start Amazon EC2 Auto Scaling automatically, or stop an instance to reduce billing overages. You can also use CloudWatch Events for serverless to trigger workflows with services like AWS Lambda, Amazon SNS, and AWS CloudFormation.
To optimize performance and resource utilization, you need a unified operational view, real-time granular data, and historical reference. CloudWatch provides automatic dashboards, data with 1-second granularity, and up to 15 months of metrics storage and retention. You can also perform metric math on your data to derive operational and utilization insights; for example, you can aggregate usage across an entire fleet of EC2 instances.
CloudWatch enables you to explore, analyze, and visualize your logs so you can troubleshoot operational problems with ease. With CloudWatch Logs Insights, you only pay for the queries you run. It scales with your log volume and query complexity giving you answers in seconds. Also, you can publish log-based metrics, create alarms, and correlate logs and metrics together in CloudWatch Dashboards for complete operational visibility.
CloudWatch collects monitoring and operational data in the form of logs, metrics, and events, and visualizes it using automated dashboards so you can get a unified view of your AWS resources, applications, and services that run in AWS and on-premises. You can correlate your metrics and logs to better understand the health and performance of your resources. You can also create alarms based on metric value thresholds you specify, or that can watch for anomalous metric behavior based on machine learning algorithms. To take action quickly, you can set up automated actions to notify you if an alarm is triggered and automatically start auto scaling, for example, to help reduce mean-time-to-resolution. You can also dive deep and analyze your metrics, logs, and traces, to better understand how to improve application performance.
Monitor key metrics and logs, visualize your application and infrastructure stack, create alarms, and correlate metrics and logs to understand and resolve the root cause of performance issues in your AWS resources. This includes monitoring your container ecosystem across Amazon ECS, AWS Fargate, Amazon EKS, and Kubernetes.
CloudWatch helps you correlate, visualize, and analyze metrics and logs, so you can act quickly to resolve issues, and combine them with trace data from AWS X-Ray for end-to-end observability. You can also analyze user requests to help speed up troubleshooting and debugging, and reduce overall mean-time-to-resolution (MTTR).
CloudWatch alarms watch your metric values against thresholds that either you specify, or that CloudWatch creates for you using machine learning models to detect anomalous behavior. If an alarm is triggered, CloudWatch can take action automatically to enable Amazon EC2 Auto Scaling or stop an instance, for example, so you can automate capacity and resource planning.
Monitor your applications that run on AWS (on Amazon EC2, containers, and serverless) or on-premises. CloudWatch collects data at every layer of the performance stack, including metrics and logs on automatic dashboards.
Explore, analyze, and visualize your logs to address operational issues and improve application performance. You can perform queries to help you quickly and effectively respond to operational issues. If an issue occurs, you can start querying immediately using a purpose-built query language to rapidly identify potential causes.
AWS CloudTrail is a service that enables governance, compliance, operational auditing, and risk auditing of your AWS account. With CloudTrail, you can log, continuously monitor, and retain account activity related to actions across your AWS infrastructure. CloudTrail provides event history of your AWS account activity, including actions taken through the AWS Management Console, AWS SDKs, command-line tools, and other AWS services. This event history simplifies security analysis, resource change tracking, and troubleshooting. Also, you can use CloudTrail to detect unusual activity in your AWS accounts. These capabilities help simplify operational analysis and troubleshooting.
With AWS CloudTrail, simplify your compliance audits by automatically recording and storing event logs for actions made within your AWS account. Integration with Amazon CloudWatch Logs provides a convenient way to search through log data, identify out-of-compliance events, accelerate incident investigations, and expedite responses to auditor requests.
AWS CloudTrail increases visibility into your user and resource activity by recording AWS Management Console actions and API calls. You can identify which users and accounts are called AWS, the source IP address from which the calls were made, and when the calls occurred.
With AWS CloudTrail, you can discover and troubleshoot security and operational issues by capturing a comprehensive history of changes that occurred in your AWS account within a specified period.
AWS CloudTrail allows you to track and automatically respond to account activity threatening the security of your AWS resources. With Amazon CloudWatch Events integration, you can define workflows that execute when events that can result in security vulnerabilities are detected. For example, you can create a workflow to add a specific policy to an Amazon S3 bucket when CloudTrail logs an API call that makes that bucket public.
CloudTrail captures actions made directly by the user or on behalf of the user by an AWS service. For example, an AWS CloudFormation CreateStack call can result in additional API calls to Amazon EC2, Amazon RDS, Amazon EBS, or other services as required by the AWS CloudFormation template.
AWS CloudTrail makes it easier to ensure compliance with internal policies and regulatory standards by providing a history of activity in your AWS account. For more information, download the AWS compliance whitepaper, “Security at Scale: Logging in AWS.”
You can perform security analysis and detect user behavior patterns by ingesting AWS CloudTrail events into your log management and analytics solutions.
You can detect data exfiltration by collecting activity data on S3 objects through object-level API events recorded in CloudTrail. After the activity data is collected, you can use other AWS services, such as Amazon CloudWatch Events and AWS Lambda, to trigger response procedures.
You can troubleshoot operational issues by leveraging the AWS API call history produced by AWS CloudTrail. For example, you can quickly identify the most recent changes made to resources in your environment, including the creation, modification, and deletion of AWS resources (e.g., Amazon EC2 instances, Amazon VPC security groups, and Amazon EBS volumes).
You can detect unusual activity in your AWS accounts by enabling CloudTrail Insights. For example, you can quickly alert and act on operational issues such as erroneous spikes in resource provisioning or services hitting rate limits.
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