What is cloud monitoring?
Cloud monitoring is a set of strategies and practices that allow organizations to analyze, track, and manage the health, performance, availability, and security of their cloud-based services and applications. It helps administrators identify and address vulnerabilities issues as early as possible to prevent them from negatively affecting end-users’ experiences.
Cloud monitoring has become crucial for organizations that rely on cloud technology. It can be implemented as automated software that gives cloud administrators complete insight into the health and performance of the cloud.
With cloud monitoring, you can:
Monitor and track cloud data across distributed locations
Identify and eliminate potential breaches through granular visibility into files, applications, and users
Continually monitor the cloud to ensure real-time file scans
Conduct regular audits and reports to ensure security standards and regulatory compliance
Merge monitoring tools with different cloud providers
Why is cloud monitoring important?
The cloud has become pervasive for organizations across all industries. As use of the cloud increases and customers become used to smooth, seamless online services, organizations need a reliable way to continually ensure that cloud-based applications are performing as expected. Suboptimal cloud experiences can significantly affect your brand reputation, customer loyalty, employee productivity, and even bottom-line revenue.
Cloud monitoring is critical for organizations in the same way that regular health checkups are critical for human beings. If a problem is discovered during a checkup, your doctor addresses it. If issues are found during cloud monitoring, IT admins can resolve them or find workarounds to make sure the issues don’t reduce application performance, availability, or security. The ultimate goal of cloud monitoring is to maintain high-performing, reliable cloud services and applications to better serve customers and enable employees to stay efficient and productive.
With cloud monitoring, you can deliver superior customer experiences, identify vulnerabilities and address them before they cause real problems, avoid business downtime or operational disruptions due to application malfunctions, protect sensitive and confidential data, and stay compliant with security and privacy regulations.
How does cloud monitoring differ from traditional infrastructure monitoring?
Monitoring your servers, networks, systems, and processes, also known as infrastructure monitoring, is the process of analyzing and tracking operations across your entire physical infrastructure to make sure it’s running as it should. It’s as critical as cloud monitoring because you want to keep your physical hardware and network connections operating correctly at all times.
Cloud monitoring goes beyond traditional infrastructure monitoring in that you’re not monitoring physical infrastructure but cloud-based applications and services. You can gather a wide range of metrics on application data, performance, uptime, usage, and so on, to analyze and identify potential issues. Cloud monitoring also collects information on how your organization is using its cloud resources. That information can help you make better-informed decisions about cloud budgeting, performance, capacity, and more.
Cloud monitoring also differs from infrastructure monitoring because - depending on the cloud operating model you choose - you might not have any actual infrastructure to analyze. In the cloud, it’s entirely possible that you have no servers, switches, firewalls, storage-attached networks, or even hypervisors to worry about. If you are using an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) or platform-as-a-service (PaaS) model, the cloud service provider handles all management and maintenance duties for the physical hardware.
Some of the other differences between cloud monitoring and infrastructure monitoring include:
- Price – Cloud monitoring is usually less pricey than infrastructure monitoring because it doesn’t require monitoring software on each physical component.
- Setup time – Cloud monitoring is usually deployed quickly and easily; infrastructure monitoring can take days to set up depending on the monitoring solutions you are using.
- Scope of information – Cloud monitoring typically gives you a wider range of information because it’s not focused solely on physical hardware; it can go in-depth into applications down to metrics on transaction and coding.
Cloud monitoring services
While many organizations choose cloud monitoring to support and manage public clouds like AWS or Azure, there are different cloud services that can also benefit from monitoring. And while the following services can be monitored through application monitoring tools and services, cloud monitoring provides deeper insights and protection.
Below is a list of cloud services to include in a cloud monitoring checklist:
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions like Microsoft Office and Salesforce
Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solutions like Microsoft SQL
Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) servers hosted by public cloud providers
Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) serverless apps.
App hosting for services like Heroku
Types of cloud monitoring solutions
The cloud has many components that all must work together in concert to deliver the customer and employee experiences that people want. That means that there are many different ways to monitor your cloud deployments, with each focusing on one or a few of those distinct components.
The following are the most common types of cloud monitoring solutions:
- Database monitoring – Reviews availability, queries, processes, resource consumption, real-time usage data, and data integrity
- Website monitoring – Tracks traffic, user stats, availability, processes, security, and resource usage of websites hosted in the cloud
- Virtual network monitoring – Looks at virtualized networking components such as routers, load balancers, and firewalls
- Cloud storage monitoring – Analyzes storage resources, performance, users, databases, and processes
- Virtual machine (VM) monitoring – Focuses on VM performance, traffic, users, capacity, and operating status
- Application performance monitoring – Measures app availability, performance, usage, and security
- Cloud server monitoring – Tracks server performance and availability and correlates it with app performance
- End-user experience monitoring – Measures and tracks page loads, rate of network requests, traffic, crashes, user stats, links clicked, and so on
- Security and compliance monitoring – Analyzes security capabilities across cloud deployments and can alert you to potential vulnerabilities or areas where you might be out of compliance
How does cloud monitoring work?
To understand how cloud monitoring works, we must first examine the tools it uses. The first and most commonly used tools are in-house, delivered by the cloud provider. Many companies choose this option since it’s already packaged up with the cloud service, so no installation is required and integration can be done easily.
The other option is using independent tools delivered by a SaaS provider. This is also a viable option since SaaS providers are experts in managing the performance and cost consumption of a cloud architecture, but this can occasionally present integration issues and higher costs.
Regardless of the choice of cloud monitoring tools, both types perform the same function: they scan for problems in the cloud that might impede you from delivering a service or product to your customer. To achieve that, the tools offer data on the following behaviors:
Cybersecurity - As the number of cyberattacks rise, it’s important for cloud monitoring services to detect possible breaches, identify security gaps, and secure the network well before an attack happens.
Errors - Whether human- or machine-made, a cloud monitoring service should detect errors and fix them to maintain performance standards. As a result, these errors don’t become visible to the end user, and you can enjoy improved sales and customer retention.
Agility - Instantaneous troubleshooting and speedy product delivery are expected in today’s fast-paced market. To optimize your website and applications, cloud monitoring delivers valuable metrics and data regarding cloud speed.
Cloud monitoring tools
There are many cloud monitoring tools available to help you track and measure the health and performance of your cloud deployments. In fact, all of the most common cloud service providers, from AWS to Azure to Google Cloud Platform include out-of-the-box monitoring and logging tools. You can also choose one of many third-party vendors that offer cloud monitoring solutions. Because there are so many different types of cloud monitoring, the selection of solutions is extremely comprehensive. Many organizations use more than one solution, based on the specific metrics they want to measure.
When choosing cloud monitoring tools, be sure to look for solutions that provide automated, real-time monitoring and a dashboard that gives you in-depth information on the data you want to track.
Some common cloud monitoring tools include:
- Google Operations – If you use Google Cloud Platform, this monitoring solution helps you track, measure, and optimize application performance. It is a robust suite of tools for collecting logs, metrics, and other data across your cloud services and applications. It features convenient dashbaords, real-time log analyses, and alert configurations.
- Microsoft Azure Monitor – This solution allows you to collect and aggregate metrics and log a wealth of data across your Azure infrastructure, applications, and network resources. It even works across non-Azure tenants and subscriptions. It also features analytics and machine learning tools that you can combine with Azure Logic Apps and Azure Event Hubs.
- Amazon CloudWatch – This solution monitors your AWS cloud deployments to give you visibility into both cloud and on-premises applications and resources. It integrates with more than 70 AWS services and makes it easy to log data and collect and measure metric data. The solution also allows you to automate a variety of triggered actions and workflows.
- Nutanix Cloud Infrastructure (NCI) and Nutanix Cloud Manager (NCM) both offer a range of cloud monitoring tools that help you stay aware of the health of your cloud and on-premises infrastructure. Get detailed visibility into data flows, potential breaches or vulnerabilities, overall performance, and many other metrics. You can also automate optimization tasks to ensure that you’re making the most of your cloud operations and performance.
How cloud monitoring works with different cloud types?
While a cloud monitoring service is important for all varieties of cloud architectures, the way it performs its duty differs from one to the other.
By far, private clouds are the simplest architectures to monitor. Thanks to the control and visibility of an on-premises infrastructure, organizations maintain access to the systems and software. However, while there is better control with this model, cloud monitoring serves an important function by monitoring workload and network performance, providing cloud architects the information they need to configure or change cloud processes.
Public clouds offer far less visibility, so cloud monitoring is a non-negotiable necessity. And while the monitoring process may not be as effortless, cloud monitoring can still provide critical data on cloud resource consumption, the end-user experience, and providing better visibility and control over key metrics, logs, and data flows. This is especially important because public clouds are more likely to produce surprise fees as a result of poor visibility.
Finally, there are unique struggles a hybrid cloud architecture provides that a cloud monitoring tool can reduce. Because cloud data doesn’t reside in a single architecture, security and compliance issues can arise when users try to access data from either the public or private cloud. In this case, cloud monitoring can help administrators determine which data to store in which cloud, which data to asynchronously update, and portion data into smaller, manageable pieces.
Benefits of cloud monitoring
There are innumerable benefits to cloud monitoring. Even businesses that rely solely on a private cloud architecture can enjoy key cloud monitoring deliverables, including:
Improving the security of cloud applications and networks
Simplifying the implementation of continuity plans, enabling proactive (rather than reactive) risk remediation
Achieving and maintaining ideal application performance
Optimizing service availability, thanks to rapid issue reporting and rapid resolutions
Reduction of surprise cloud cost leaks, thanks to complete architecture visibility
Simple scaling in the event that cloud activity increases
Usability on multiple devices, ensuring cloud awareness at all times
Cloud monitoring best practices
As you implement a cloud monitoring service, keep the following best practices in mind to ensure you experience the full benefits.
Decide which activity (or activities) need to be monitored. Choose the metrics that matter the most to your bottom line.
Consolidate report data onto a single platform to eliminate confusion and complexity that arises from juggling multiple cloud services and infrastructures. Your solution should report data from various sources and present them in one platform, enabling you to calculate metrics comprehensively.
Keep track of subscription and service fees. The more you use your cloud monitoring service, the more pricey it will be. Choosing a more advanced service allows you to track how much activity is occurring on the cloud so you can determine costs from there.
Be aware of which users are using which cloud applications to track accountability. You’ll also need to know what these users see when they’re using certain applications, and you’ll want to monitor response time, frequency of use, and other metrics overall.
Automate rules with the appropriate data to account for activities that go over or below your thresholds, ensuring you’re able to add or remove servers to maintain consistent performance.
Separate your monitoring data from your applications and services, and centralize this information to ensure your stakeholders have easy access.
Always test your cloud monitoring tools at a regular cadence. While a service may seem operational, an outage or breach will truly put it to the test, so test your tools to ensure there are no surprises.