Cloud Monitoring: The Engineer's Guide

Cloud monitoring is creating a lot of buzz in the IT world. The exponential increase in data generation has propelled several businesses to make a shift to the cloud. But what does it mean to run an organization in a cloud-based environment? What do organizations have to do to ensure that their data is well managed, monitored, and safe? In this article, we will address these questions and give you a head start on the technicalities and processes of cloud monitoring.

Here's what you will learn about:

    1. Why cloud monitoring is important

    2. Different types of cloud computing models

    3. Types of cloud monitoring

    4. Key metrics

    5. Logging

Why bother with cloud monitoring?

The IT industry is highly dynamic and evolving at a rapid pace. For a business to survive in such a fast-paced environment, it has to constantly evolve, release new applications, improve customer acquisition rates, investigate points of improvement, ensure availability of sufficient resources, scale rapidly, and much more. How does cloud monitoring fit into this picture?

Cloud monitoring enables organizations to manage and monitor their data, storage, resources, applications, websites, and tools in a web-based environment. The process entails assessing and evaluating the underlying workflow and technology stack by providing insightful performance metrics. These metrics not only provide a means to monitor the current state of applications and websites, but they also help you foresee any potential risks or issues through predictive diagnostics.

How you monitor the cloud and filter the types of metrics you need to extract depends on the type of cloud computing model your organization runs on. The following section will briefly introduce the types of cloud computing.

Different types of cloud computing

Here are three main cloud computing models and what each of them have to offer:

Public cloud

Organizations that do not typically own or invest in on-premises IT infrastructure and servers are drawn to public clouds. The organization's data (along with infrastructure that may be offered as a service) is stored in a public cloud that is shared by other customers. Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM Cloud, and Alibaba are examples of public cloud service providers. Such models are easily scalable and cost effective, perfect for dynamic organizations. The drawback is the lack of ownership and control of data and infrastructure. Moreover, public clouds are shared by hundreds of customers, which makes them more vulnerable to security threats.

Private cloud

As opposed to the shared environment (multiple tenants) of the public cloud, the private cloud is a service offered to a single organization. Organizations utilizing this model thus enjoy ownership and full control of the infrastructure and computing resources. Since this type of model is restricted to one organization or one group, it is difficult to scale if the need arises. The organization will have to invest in the hardware and changes in the infrastructure needed to house more computing resources. This makes it more expensive and less flexible.

Hybrid cloud

The hybrid cloud computing model is a mixture of public and private. Thus, it houses multiple cloud environments that are connected through VPNs or WANs as a single environment. Hybrid computing has the advantage of the scalability of a public cloud and the security that comes with a private cloud. It's good to note that hybrid systems are not typically built from scratch (that would be very expensive). Rather, most organizations decide to shift to the cloud while already having an on-premises environment.

Now that you know the different cloud computing models, let's dig deeper into monitoring.

Private cloud and on-premises monitoring

On-premises private cloud monitoring includes the monitoring of infrastructure, hardware and firmware (bare-metal), abstraction layers (virtual machines), and the private cloud housed within the environment. Since the organization has its own infrastructure (or uses infrastructure provided by a third-party private cloud service), it must supervise and manage the operations and maintenance associated with the computing infrastructure. This may include configuration and installation, monitoring the condition of all hardware equipment, monitoring resources, and much more.

Monitoring on-premises and private cloud environments means that you have to think long term. If the organization wants to scale up, it must take into account the long-term expenses, the amount of extra storage needed, and how to adapt all of its infrastructure to meet the needs of the scaled environment. It must also monitor other computing layers built on top of the infrastructure and the private cloud. Note that based on the agreement the organization signs with the private cloud service providers, the burden of monitoring can be reduced through built-in apps.

Public cloud monitoring

Organizations that subscribe to public clouds typically use the infrastructure and bare-metal servers of the cloud service provider. Thus, monitoring in such an environment is completely different from monitoring private clouds. The focus is on the higher abstraction layers, i.e., virtualization layers that house the organization's applications. So one must monitor the usage and capacity of VMs and examine how to allocate resources to different applications. Keeping an eye on database access requests and the overall performance (availability, responsiveness, traffic flow, and cost) is crucial.

Hybrid cloud monitoring

There are a lot of factors at play when it comes to hybrid cloud monitoring. Most organizations will use different systems and applications for monitoring private and public cloud environments separately. However, this is not a good way of monitoring. This approach makes monitoring disjointed and less synchronous.

A reasonable alternative is to gradually extend the existing monitoring system. For instance, if the organization has a well-established on-premises monitoring system, the next step would be to gradually incorporate some parts of cloud monitoring into the same system.

Therefore, it's better to build a unified monitoring system that contains all the data from on-premises infrastructure as well as the cloud. This is also crucial when trying to solve and track any problems. In a unified system, both the on-premises and cloud expert teams can cooperate and solve the issue instead of blaming each other.

Now that you have an idea about how to monitor different cloud paradigms and what that entails, take a look at the kind of metrics you should extract and how you should decide to proceed.

Identify key metrics

It's often a good idea to proactively narrow down the metrics your organization extracts. The reason is because having too many metrics can make it confusing to understand what's important for the organization. Assume that your business sells an IT service online. You want to attract more customers and drive sales as well as add value for your customers. The metrics you collect must depend on the type of business and the goal you have. Your first step should be to list these metrics. If sales have dropped, you want to understand why. Some key metrics that can help you understand this are website load time, database responsiveness, bounce rate, traffic flow, and so on.

Don't forget about logging

With cloud computing, the quantity and types of logs have both increased massively, which makes it a challenge to manage and interpret them. For instance, apart from the underlying on-premises infrastructure layer, there are abstraction and virtualization layers that house tons of applications. Each of these applications generate their own logs. Processing, storing, and analyzing so many logs is expensive and time-consuming.

An effective strategy is to automate the collection and aggregation of logs and to store them in a single location. Moreover, given the dynamic nature of cloud applications, collecting real time logs is crucial. They help you see any issues and give instant feedback about the health of your applications.

Finally, make sure your organization knows what it logs. Customer data is crucial, and parsing any logs related to sensitive data can get your organization into trouble. Make sure you have the access and permission to do so.


Monitoring cloud systems, distributed systems, and hybrid systems can be a challenge. It's easy to miss key metrics when there is too much to account for. Each organization is different and complex in its own way. Site24x7 helps IT and DevOps teams of all shapes and sizes break down the complex relationships between their IT infrastructure, applications, customers, and businesses. It provides an all-in-one monitoring platform to keep up with all aspects of your business. Make sure to check it out here.

While cloud monitoring can be difficult, if done correctly, it can make all the difference in your organization's growth.

Author Bio

This post was written by Zulikah Latief. Zulikah is a tech enthusiast with expertise in various domains such as data science, ML, and statistics. She enjoys researching cognitive science, marketing, and design. She's a cat lover by nature who loves to read—you can often find her with a book, enjoying Beethoven's, Mozart's, or Vivaldi's legendary pieces.

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