Set it, and forget it!” When inventor and pitch person Ron Popeil uttered those words, he was referring to the Ronco® Showtime Rotisserie & BBQ. Since then, the phrase has been applied to everything from investment strategies to marketing strategies. The idea is that you establish a way of doing things. You then leave it alone with the expectation of positive results in the end.
Although some cloud services providers (CSPs) will say otherwise, this approach doesn’t work in terms of the cloud. It would be great if you could set up a cloud environment and expect your workloads to run smoothly and without security or performance issues. However, things don’t work that way ─ even with the AWS Cloud.
Granted, AWS makes it easy to start on its cloud platform with an extensive array of resources. Nonetheless, performance issues happen in the cloud. They can range from those resulting from network latency or application processing delays to poorly designed APIs and infrastructure configuration problems.
Security issues arise as well. Cybercriminals are relentless. They constantly seek out new attack vectors and vulnerabilities. Their tactics for breaching even the most hardened cloud environment continue to grow in sophistication and frequency. Human issues come into play as well, from lax attitudes towards timely patching to cloud configuration errors.
The fact is nothing about the cloud is static, which is why continuous monitoring of it ─ including monitoring delivered as a managed service ─ is critical.
The Trifecta of Monitoring
Cloud monitoring covers three areas:
On the performance front, cloud monitoring provides visibility into speed, reliability, uptime, and the general health of cloud infrastructure and cloud-powered applications. It’s generally performed as part of an overall cloud management strategy, enabling IT administrators to review the operational status of cloud-based resources. It also provides a holistic view of cloud metrics, customer flow, log data, and more.
Identifying security issues is the specific focus of cloud security monitoring. It continuously assesses data, application, and/or infrastructure behaviors for potential security threats. This minimizes the risk of costly data breaches and helps assure that the cloud infrastructure and platform function optimally. Advanced cloud monitoring solutions analyze and correlate gathered data for anomalous activity, alert designated parties, and enable incident response.
A company’s resource usage and computing demands can also be monitored to help control cloud services-related spending. For example, cloud cost management software can help companies reduce waste by alerting users of lowered demand or automatically scaling usage to optimal rates. Cloud cost monitoring and management solutions often provide reporting features to outline waste and redundancies.
Reasons to Consider Cloud Monitoring
The reasons for cloud monitoring seem obvious but just as a reminder, doing so offers:
- Data security. Monitoring helps ensure data security by alerting you or your provider to potential threats that can result in lost or stolen data. Most services encrypt data traffic between monitored endpoints and hosted management infrastructure.
- Greater insights. Depending on the solutions used, you can get important data on system performance and utilization to help in planning, budgeting, resource allotment, and other tasks.
- Lower, more predictable costs. With monitoring from a service provider, you’re getting the monitoring and management services from a team of experts for a predictable monthly rate with no capital investment required. That alone makes a strong case for outsourcing.
- Streamlined support. Monitoring tools help your service provider accomplish more tasks remotely. The technician can use a remote monitoring and management (RMM) tool to access a system and address an issue without having to come onsite. That facilitates faster service and reduces the cost-of-service time. These tools also provide technicians with valuable information with basically a click of a button, further enhancing service delivery.
- Time and cost savings. Monitoring tools can automate numerous maintenance tasks, such as applying patches and updates to operating systems and software. That saves valuable time and can help keep your users productive. Patches and updates can also be scheduled and applied systematically at less disruptive times, so there’s less risk for downtime.
There’s an abundance of manual and automated tools, most available as Software as a Service (SaaS), that enable internal teams to monitor their cloud environments themselves. This do-it-yourself (DIY) option empowers IT staff to stay on top of potential IT issues and be more proactive in preventing problems. That translates into greater efficiency and more productivity.
There are several downsides, however. There’s limited visibility into public clouds, and CSPs don’t grant customers direct access to shared infrastructure. Traditional monitoring infrastructure, in many cases, won’t work in the cloud.
While CSPs may provide customers with cloud monitoring tools, customers must purchase other monitoring software. The other issue with CSP-provided tools is that, in the case of hybrid environments, they may not integrate well with private cloud monitoring tools. Learning how to optimally use these tools – CSP-provided or purchased – can take time.
The sheer number of monitoring tools and technologies also makes it difficult for internal IT teams to select the right ones if they’re going the DIY route, as well as successfully integrate them. Dealing with monitoring also takes staff members away from their many other IT responsibilities.
Cloud monitoring can also be provided by a CSP or a managed service provider (MSP). Security-specific monitoring can as well, but is also available from managed security services providers (MSSPs).
Outsourcing Cloud Monitoring
One of the biggest benefits of outsourcing the monitoring function is that it frees up internal IT staff so they can focus on other responsibilities such as strategic, revenue-generating initiatives. There’s also the benefit of in-depth expertise that many in-house teams can’t afford to build or maintain. Third-party companies, such as MSPs and MSSPs, often specialize in providing monitoring services so they’re more likely to invest in the latest tools and technologies.
They also invest in and continuously train their in-house monitoring experts, and can offer 24/7/365 monitoring and support. In the case of performance and security monitoring, they have the expertise to prioritize incidents and alerts and respond accordingly. In terms of cost performance, they’re experienced in the various strategies for cost and usage optimization. And their customers benefit from the lessons learned.
When we drill down to the AWS Cloud. In particular, those MSPs and MSSPs that specialize in AWS have extensive experience using its various monitoring resources and tools. There are a lot of them, including Amazon CloudWatch, AWS Security Hub, and AWS Budgets. Using the right ones can make a difference in terms of cloud performance, security, and cost optimization.
AWS metrics and logs are available from over 200 Amazon web services, but these are services. They’re not the basic compute metrics that comprise them. Here again, it’s the MSPs’ and MSSPs’ familiarity with AWS, including AWS’s Well-Architected Framework pillars, which can help ensure the right metrics are monitored in the most efficient, cost-effective way.
In addition, MSPs and MSSPs typically stay on top of the latest releases, updates, and best practices. They earn the various AWS certifications and competencies that prove their capabilities and successes. Few internal IT teams have the time to do that.
In terms of AWS Cloud security, the AWS-centric MSPs and MSSPs are also familiar with the AWS Shared Responsibility Model, and are well-positioned to help their customers abide by it. In that model, AWS is responsible for the platform’s security, including the physical servers in its physical data centers as well as the hosting operating system and virtualization layer. Customers take care of everything else within the cloud service, from network traffic security and server-side encryption to client security. MSPs and MSSPs know which monitoring tools to use – along with the other required tools – to ensure everything is covered.
The ClearScale Advantages
Technically, ClearScale isn’t considered an MSP or MSSP although it offers both managed services and managed security services. What makes ClearScale an ideal provider for these kinds of services – particularly for cloud performance, security, and cost monitoring? We’re a dedicated provider of professional and managed cloud services.
The cloud is our business ─ the AWS Cloud in particular. We continually leverage deep technical expertise to provide innovative cloud solutions customized for each client. We’re an AWS Premier Tier Services Partner, with 11 competencies and 9 service delivery designations, and more than 100 AWS technical certifications. In terms of managed services, we offer 24/7/365 support, management, and monitoring to optimize your applications and infrastructure on the AWS platform. It’s the ideal combination of expertise and services to ensure the best cloud monitoring possible.
You can also learn more about the benefits of managed security services, including monitoring, from third-party companies in ClearScale’s free eBook: Next Generation Cloud Security for Your AWS Environment.