Originally published by New Context.
Monitoring is critical to the security and management of your cloud resources. Cloud security monitoring tools continuously assess your cloud data, applications, and infrastructure to ensure optimal performance and prevent breaches and downtime. These tools provide visibility into your cloud activities and resources, allowing you to better identify patterns and pinpoint vulnerabilities so you can prevent and mitigate security issues in an automated fashion. This means you don’t need an entire team of people dedicated to monitoring your cloud security and performance, saving you time and resources.
What to Look for in a Cloud Security Monitoring Tool
Many cloud platforms and infrastructure providers have built-in monitoring tools or add-ons you can purchase. Some of these tools are very good, but it’s still worth evaluating the features and functionality to ensure you’ll get full visibility on every piece of your cloud architecture. Some important things to look for in your cloud security monitoring tools include:
- Integration: First and foremost, you need to ensure your cloud monitoring tool will integrate with your current cloud platforms. In general, you want your monitoring tool to integrate with a wide range of platforms even outside of the ones you currently use, in case you transfer to or add another provider in the future.
- Scalability: While you primarily need your tool to be able to monitor your current cloud infrastructure, you also need to ensure it can scale up to accommodate your needs as your infrastructure and data volume grow.
- Visibility: You want your cloud monitoring tool to provide visibility on as many applications, user activities, and file behaviors as possible.
- Reporting: Your cloud monitoring software should provide detailed logs and reporting so you can analyze incidents after they occur and make compliance audits easier.
One additional thing to keep in mind is that you want your monitoring tools to track metrics beyond those that are strictly security-related. If you only focus on monitoring security logs and account activities, you could miss the warning signs or symptoms of a breach hidden among other types of data.
The Best Cloud Security Monitoring Tools
There are many great monitoring tools and applications that can provide you with the cloud security functionality you need. The following is not a comprehensive review of the absolute best cloud security monitoring tools, but rather a comparison of the most commonly used software and an evaluation of the features and drawbacks to look out for while you’re shopping around.
Amazon CloudWatch is a monitoring tool for cloud resources and applications running on Amazon Web Services (AWS). This cloud security monitoring tool gives you insight into your Amazon EC2 instances, EBS volumes, RDS DB instances, and any other AWS resources. You can use CloudWatch to set custom alarms, store and archive log files, and view graphs and statistics on common metrics. You can customize CloudWatch’s alarms to trigger in response to security events such as unauthorized API calls, network access changes, or the creation of unencrypted storage buckets. These customizable alarms can then automatically notify you or take automated remediation actions.
CloudWatch is conveniently built-in to AWS, so there’s no additional software to install. However, it does not provide any cloud security monitoring for services outside of Amazon’s ecosystem, so if you have multiple cloud providers you will need additional monitoring for them. You’re also essentially putting all of your eggs into one basket, as you could completely lose visibility on your Amazon resources if there’s a major AWS outage, as was the case in February of 2017.
Datadog is a cloud infrastructure and application performance monitoring service along the same lines as AppDynamics. It supports integration with hundreds of cloud platforms, systems, apps, and services and provides a wide range of features including log centralization and analysis, network and host monitoring, collaboration tools, and a highly customizable dashboard for the building of reports and visualizations.
Datadog offers a high level of monitoring and control over your cloud infrastructure, as well as powerful and flexible data analysis features. The downside is, once again, a steep learning curve that can be overwhelming for less experienced administrators. You also don’t get much in the way of pre-built dashboards and reports, so you’ll need to spend a lot of time creating and configuring these yourself.
Splunk is a data analysis and monitoring tool that allows you to capture and query data from a wide range of cloud services in addition to other sources like social media, web servers, network and infrastructure sensors, and databases. Splunk provides powerful data searching and analysis functionality to help you identify trends, calculate metrics, and create predictive visualizations.
Splunk is an extremely powerful tool for collecting and analyzing all kinds of data beyond the typical security monitoring. You’ll gain more visibility on your cloud infrastructure as well as your internal network architecture than with almost any other monitoring tool. The biggest drawback of Splunk is the high price tag, though many organizations think the cost is worth it for the level of control and security provided.
Zenoss is a cloud infrastructure monitoring tool that provides visibility on public, private, and hybrid cloud services. You’ll get access to common metrics on physical sensors, file systems, and network interfaces. Zenoss also allows the implementation of extensions called Zenpacks for additional functionality such as application performance monitoring, plus you can integrate Zenoss with other third-party monitoring services.
Zenoss is fairly easy to install and configure thanks to features like automatic discovery. Though the enterprise version of Zenoss is expensive and targeted mainly to larger organizations, you can also use the open-source community version of the platform for free with limited functionality. Without the addition of Zenpacks—some of which are free, but most aren’t—the capabilities of Zenoss are pretty limited compared to other cloud security monitoring tools.
AppDynamics, which has been owned by Cisco since 2017, is a suite of cloud-based application performance monitoring (APM) tools that provides visibility on a wide range of IaaS cloud platforms including AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Pivotal Cloud Foundry. AppDynamics provides robust, real-time monitoring and control of your cloud services with features including real and synthetic end-user monitoring, machine learning-supported anomaly detection, and business metric analysis and visualizations.
AppDynamics provides a lot of advanced features and a high level of visibility into applications and infrastructure, but that level of monitoring and control comes with a high price tag. Also, there’s a pretty steep learning curve for figuring out how to use those features and analyze the data.
Using Cloud Security Monitoring Tools to Save Time and Resources
Implementing the right cloud security monitoring tools will ensure that you’re able to maintain the performance and safety of your cloud infrastructure without needing to devote valuable time and resources to manually monitoring and analyzing logs. The key is to evaluate your current cloud infrastructure so you can choose the monitoring solution that fits your organization’s unique requirements.