How to Monitor Your AWS Infrastructure

The AWS cloud platform has made it easier than ever to be flexible, efficient, and cost-effective. However, monitoring your AWS infrastructure is the key to getting all of these benefits. Realizing these benefits requires that you follow AWS best practices which constantly change as AWS regularly expands and reconfigures.

The practice of monitoring your infrastructure has been a part of your workflows and routines since the time you entered the world of IT.  Infrastructure monitoring has moved on from the tracking of temperatures, power consumption, and neat cabling and racks, but capacity, computing resource, and security are still our responsibility.

In this post, we look at AWS monitoring best practices that leverage the tools provided by both AWS and their trusted third-party technology partners from all angles so that your move to the cloud can be as fruitful and constructive as you want it to be.

Why do we need to monitor our AWS infrastructure?

  • Monitoring is entrenched in the Well-Architected Framework (WAF)

Most users have heard about the five pillars of the AWS Well Architected Framework. Just like any other infrastructure technology, old or new, mistakes can be made and confusion felt when it comes to making the right decisions for your organization.  This is why AWS created the framework in the first place. Monitoring your AWS environment is a constant best-practice theme across the pillars as it’s only through auditing and understanding your resources that you’ll be able to use them to their fullest ability.

From a security perspective, it’s never been more important to have the tools and practices in place to know your environments. Data and security breaches are consistently making the headlines as hackers are using brute force. The effects on reputation and corporate wallets can be immense. With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into effect last year, the financial consequences of a breach or even a potential one, up to €20m or 4% of annual turnover, whichever is greater — is undoubtedly top of mind for many CFOs and CSOs.

  • Efficiency & Optimization

As touched on before, the Well-Architected Framework gives you the guidelines to help make the right infrastructure choices for your needs, while ensuring you stick to best practices. The best practice extends to efficiency and optimization and through monitoring, helps you find out how well your stacks are running. Monitoring allows you to utilize resources to their fullest while keeping costs low as well as ensuring you have enough capacity should incidents happen. For example, as you add more workloads, you could be slowing down your compute or overlooking other readily available assets already in your environment.

Who should monitor it and how often?

Developers, SREs, and systems operators, to name a few, who have access are the ones who should be monitoring your AWS infrastructure. With many monitoring tools today, alarms are triggered should a check be violated. However, it’s down to personal preference and priority as to how often the checks themselves should be run. For test or dev accounts, a daily check should be enough as there shouldn’t be any critical workloads involved, however for live or prod environments with particularly sensitive data or resources, real-time monitoring is recommended. Access levels are needed so that changes can then be made once an alarm is received.

How does AWS help with this?

Given that it’s ingrained into their best practice, AWS helps with monitoring. Here are a few of those different services: 

AWS CloudWatch is a tool that connects with many other AWS logging services to monitor and provide data around your environment(s). By setting up automated CloudWatch Events and CloudWatch Logs, you’re able to see when changes have been made and set up patterns and targets to rectify them. The data and insights the tool provides can also help when it comes to Incident Response and conducting an investigation to work through to identify the root of the fault.

AWS Trusted Advisor helps to optimize your environment’s performance, security, and costs through a series of checks. There are more than 60 checks for AWS trusted advisor available, but the number you’re able to access depends on the type of AWS plan you have. Trusted Advisor serves as a good starting point for monitoring simple environments without sensitive or critical resources.

AWS Security Hub was announced at 2018’s re:Invent in Las Vegas, where it takes security and compliance to a higher level than Trusted Advisor. AWS has stated this tool is better suited to more complex environments that demand high levels of security monitoring and critical compliance status maintenance. Its dashboard aggregates results and incorporates many AWS services so that automated checks are run and the results can be actioned. If you’d like to learn more about the AWS Security Hub you can check out our blog post.


About Cloud Conformity

Cloud Conformity was created by our founders from their own first-hand learnings when it came to large AWS migrations and keeping on top of the infrastructure with a prevent, detect, correct, attitude across the entire deployment pipeline.

Our entire ethos and platform has been built to make AWS infrastructure as secure, efficient, and optimized through a simple but thorough list of over 475 checks. The AWS best practice as set out in the Well-Architected Framework and for each service can be easily implemented without the need to manually check each box or regularly update your own knowledge of it.

Cloud Conformity provides customization on multiple levels so that any monitoring is changeable to suit the needs of your organization and environment. As standard, the Conformity bot runs on a daily or hourly schedule or can be manually triggered, which suits dev environments. However, for any accounts with sensitive data or resources, the Real-Time Monitoring tool is available so alerts are triggered as soon as high-risk checks have failed. To go one step further, the auto-remediation function means that some of those high-risk failures trigger a lambda function to auto-correct themselves without any manual involvement.

The integrated communication channels can also be customized so that personnel receive alerts specifically relevant to them and their responsibilities. Currently, Cloud Conformity is integrated with seven different channels including Slack, Jira, and ServiceNow so there is plenty of flexibility to fit with your existing processes and workflows.  

The alerts triggered include remediation steps so that you’re not simply left in the dark with a failure, whilst also providing some guidance behind the check in the first place. The platform also incorporates various compliance standards, for example, CIS and GDPR, so you can easily run checks to see how compliant you are against these critical tests.

Announced during re:Invent 2018, is the CloudFormation Template Scanner in beta which gives you all of these checks and customization features before deployment of your CloudFormation templates. Monitoring during a build is a game-changer which can save so much of that heart-stopping panic and means that only the cleanest and secure code will make it to your understandably precious infrastructure.

Take 3 minutes to connect one of your AWS accounts to Cloud Conformity’s free trial, here.

Paul Hortop

Written by

Paul Hortop

17 years experience in IT security, compliance and risk management. Proven experience building security reference architecture on AWS. DevSecOps coach promoting automation, integration, and deployment. Implementation experience with enterprise security solutions such as forensics, WAF, IPS, and SIEM.

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