AWS CloudWatch vs AWS CloudTrail: Similarities and Differences


AWS Cloudwatch vs AWS CloudTrail

Typically, you are most likely to come across the two services CloudWatch and CloudTrail while studying AWS Management and Control. And unsurprisingly, it is fairly simple to mix up these two AWS services. You can use these two services together to identify security threats against your Amazon Web Services account, and then set up a governance framework for best security practices. While CloudTrail primarily tracks activity in your AWS environment, and CloudWatch primarily tracks performance. When trying to choose the best tool or feeling under pressure during certification tests, it can be quite simple to get confused between AWS CloudWatch and AWS CloudTrail.  

In a single day, thousands of API activities and gigabytes of data can be logged when you enable CloudTrail logs in your AWS account or enable CloudTrail for your Organization. The difficulty lies in developing an efficient monitoring and reporting system that can sort through API calls, produce insightful data, discover abnormalities, pinpoint security concerns, and then address those to reduce account/data security breaches.  

When an API request is performed to a resource or service in an AWS account, CloudTrail interfaces with the CloudWatch service to broadcast the information. The published event contains priceless data that can be used for your AWS accounts’ compliance, auditing, and governance. The functions listed in this article can be used to monitor API activity, analyze logs at scale, and respond to suspicious activity without having to provide your infrastructure.    

This article will do a comparative study to eliminate confusion between the two services. By the end of the post, it ought to be apparent what each service offers and how it differs from one another.    

With that said, let’s begin.     

What is AWS CloudWatch?    

CloudWatch is an AWS monitoring service for your AWS cloud resources and applications. It allows for monitoring of EC2 and other cloud services so that you can receive notifications when something goes wrong. Insights on your apps and AWS cloud resources are provided, allowing us to execute our application smoothly and effectively. A holistic view of operational health may be obtained with CloudWatch, which can also be used to detect unusual behavior, set alarms, examine logs, and take automatic actions. It provides free basic resource monitoring services, such as EC2 instances, EBS volumes, etc. CloudWatch offers two different kinds of monitoring services: –    

  • Basic monitoring: – It is a free service that offers polls every five minutes, ten metrics, and 5GB of data storage in addition to polls every five minutes    
  • Detailed Monitoring: This service is billed on a per-instance, per-month basis and includes polls every minute.    

AWS CloudWatch: Where Would You Use It?    

  • To analyze logs: To explore and analyze logs, CloudWatch is helpful. What would make you do that? You might identify your applications’ performance problems by looking through your logs. In addition, you can read the logs to find out what went wrong and why when a resource or service fails.    
  • Monitoring applications: You might, for instance, keep an eye on EC2 data like CPU usage, RAM usage, status checks, network throughput, and more. It provides you with information about your application so you can respond appropriately. For instance, if you see that an EC2 instance is almost full, you can add another one to prevent performance degradation or downtime.    
  • To make the most of your resources: You can specify what happens when a certain threshold is met or not with CloudWatch. For instance, stop an EC2 instance if a requirement is met. Or add more instances to handle increased traffic.     

AWS CloudWatch Monitoring Tools  

The following tools are also included in AWS CloudWatch    

  • Events: Based on an event, you can start an action. For instance, when a resource fails, we could design an event that sends an email to the administrator. You designate the steps and timing of an action. Next, decide what action should be triggered. So, CloudWatch events are quite helpful.     
  • Alarms: When using alarms, you must specify a threshold, a condition, and what should set them off. A billing alarm is the most common case. In other words, sound an alarm if the predicted charges exceed the predetermined level.     
  • Logs: CloudWatch Logs give you the ability to keep track of log files from numerous sources, including EC2 instances, CloudTrail, and many others. Then, using these logs, you may identify problems, leaks, patterns, and other things.    

CloudWatch Benefits 

  • One platform for observability 

Large amounts of data are produced in the form of metrics, logs, and events by contemporary systems, such as those built on microservices architectures. Your ability to gather, retrieve, and correlate this data across all of your AWS resources, apps, and services running on AWS and on-premises on a single platform with Amazon CloudWatch enable you to break down data silos for system-wide visibility and speedy problem-solving.   

  • Real-time metrics on AWS and on-site 

Using CloudWatch to monitor your AWS resources and apps is simple. More than 70 AWS services are natively integrated, including Amazon EC2, Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon S3, Amazon ECS, Amazon EKS, and AWS Lambda. It automatically provides minute-by-minute data that are in-depth as well as bespoke metrics with a granularity of up to one second, allowing you to delve into your logs for more information. By using the CloudWatch Agent or API to monitor your on-premises resources, you can also use CloudWatch in hybrid setups.   

  • Obtain operational information and visibility 

You require a unified operational perspective, real-time granular data, and historical references to maximize performance and resource use. Data with a one-second granularity, automatic dashboards, and storage and preservation of metrics for up to 15 months are all features of CloudWatch. To gain operational and utilization insights, you can also apply metric math to your data; for instance, you can aggregate consumption across a full fleet of EC2 instances.   

  • Obtain useful information from logs 

Investigate, examine, and visualize your logs to quickly identify operational issues. Logs Insights for CloudWatch charges only for queries that you execute. You get replies in a matter of seconds as it scales with your log volume and query complexity. For total operational visibility, you may also publish metrics based on logs, set alarms, and correlate logs and metrics in CloudWatch Dashboards. 

Last but not least, AWS CloudWatch is a great service you can use to keep an eye on the metrics and performance of your AWS-based resources and apps. You can enhance and scale your applications with its assistance. Additionally, it makes it possible for you to stick to a spending plan and avoid extra expenses. Think of CloudWatch as someone who keeps an eye on your applications to ensure that they are performing as intended and at the lowest possible cost.   

What is AWS CloudTrail ?  

With AWS CloudTrail, you can regulate and comply with the operational and risk auditing of your AWS account. Events in CloudTrail are the results of actions made by a user, role, or an AWS service. Events consist of operations carried out using the AWS Management Console, AWS Command Line Interface, and AWS SDKs and APIs. 

As soon as you create your AWS account, CloudTrail will be enabled. Every time something happens in your AWS account, a CloudTrail event is created to document it. Going to Event history in the CloudTrail console makes it simple to see recent events. Create a trail to keep a running record of events and activities in your AWS account. 

Security and operational best practices emphasize the importance of visibility into your AWS account activity. Across your AWS infrastructure, CloudTrail lets you browse, search, download, archive, examine, and react to account activity. To assist you in analyzing and taking action in response to activity in your AWS account, you may determine who or what performed whatever action, which resources were utilized, when the event occurred, and other specifics. To assist you in recognizing and reacting to unexpected activity, you can elect to enable AWS CloudTrail Insights on a trail. 

In short, AWS CloudTrail keeps an eye on your AWS environment and account. It includes services like   

  • Auditing work 

Keep track of, archive, and check the veracity of activity events. Easily create audit reports that are needed for compliance with both internal and external regulations. 

  • Make a list of security incidents 

Utilize the Who, What, and When details in CloudTrail Events to spot unwanted access. Respond with automated workflows and rules-based EventBridge alerts.   

  • Investigate operational issues 

Utilize machine learning (ML) models to continuously monitor API usage history in order to notice unexpected behavior in your AWS accounts and identify its fundamental cause.   

CloudTrail Benefits     

  • Using CloudTrail logs to demonstrate compliance with rules like SOC, PCI, and HIPAA will help your business avoid fines.   
  • You can keep your company out of trouble by using CloudTrail logs to show that you’re in compliance with laws like SOC, PCI, and HIPAA.   
  • Utilize an integrated, centrally managed platform to record and aggregate user activity and API usage from several AWS Regions and accounts.   

AWS Cloudwatch vs AWS Cloudtrail: What is the Difference? 

  • AWS applications and resources are monitored using CloudWatch. A web application called CloudTrail logs API activity in your AWS account. Both of them are practical AWS monitoring tools. 
  • By default, CloudWatch provides free basic monitoring for your resources, including EC2 instances, EBS volumes, and RDS DB instances. When you create an AWS account, CloudTrail is also automatically enabled. 
  • You may gather and monitor log files, check metrics, and trigger alarms with CloudWatch. The requester, the services used, the actions taken, the action parameters, and the response components given by the AWS service are all logged by CloudTrail, on the other hand. After that, CloudTrail Logs are kept in a log group in CloudWatch Logs or an S3 bucket that you select. 
  • Within 15 minutes of the API query, CloudTrail typically produces an event. In 5-minute intervals for basic monitoring and 1-minute intervals for detailed monitoring, CloudWatch offers metric data. Every five seconds by default, the CloudWatch Logs Agent will provide log information. 
  • To send metric data to CloudWatch more frequently, you can enable detailed monitoring from your AWS resources for a fee. Regulatory compliance and requirements are ensured with CloudTrail. 
  • While CloudTrail Logs give you detailed information on what happened in your AWS account, CloudWatch Logs report on application logs. 
  • CloudWatch Event is a stream of system events that updates your AWS resources in almost real-time. AWS API calls made in your AWS account are the main focus of CloudTrail. 
  • For each AWS region, CloudTrail provides one free copy of the management event logs. Management events are actions taken in your AWS account that are executed on resources, like when a user checks in. Data logging activities incur fees. The execution of Lambda functions or S3 object-level API activity are examples of resource activities that are conducted on or within the resource itself.   

Bottom Line   

Consequently, Amazon CloudWatch and CloudTrail can be used simultaneously. AWS services and resources are tracked by CloudWatch, which also generates reports on their functionality and health. In contrast, CloudTrail keeps a record of every action that has taken place within your AWS environment. As a result, we discussed the fundamentals of these two services and how to use them efficiently both separately and jointly. 

 Utilize AWS CloudWatch and CloudTrail with Webuters’ value-added solutions. With our experts’ assistance, businesses can integrate AWS services seamlessly into their existing workflows.