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AWS CloudWatch and CloudTrail are two of the most important cloud services by Amazon and in this blog, we will try to understand what both these services are about, their offerings, the key differences between them along their respective benefits.

Amazon CloudWatch is a set of monitoring tools encompassed into one AWS service. It focuses on the activity of AWS services and resources to monitor their health and performance. It has all the answers to “What is happening on AWS”.

Amazon CloudTrail on the other hand is a governance and management tool in the AWS console. It has a log of all the actions that happen in the AWS environment and tracks API usage for risk, auditing, compliance, and monitoring. The service caters to “Who did what on AWS?”.

CloudWatch Offerings

  • CloudWatch is used in exploring and analyzing logs to identify issues and address improvement areas for enhanced application performances. Also, when resources fail, CloudWatch helps determine what and why of the incident by referring to logs.
  • CloudWatch keeps a check on some of the EC2 metrics like CPU utilization, memory usage, status check and network throughput. It provides insights into EC2 instance capacityto prevent application downtime or inferior performance.
  • CloudWatch helps optimize resources with the ability to highlight the consequences when a specific approach is fulfilled or not. For instance, terminate an EC2 instance if a condition is met else create additional instances to support the heavy traffic.

Some primary features of AWS CloudWatch include:

  • Events that can trigger actions based on events that are nothing but changes to the state of  AWS resources. For instance, define how, when, what action is to be triggered as an email in case of a resource failure via CloudWatch events.
  • Alarms sets the stage for defining a threshold, condition, and what is to be triggered based on value of a metric. The most popular scenario is triggering an alarm if the estimated bill charges are greater than the limits set.
  • Logs allow storage of all the log files for multiple sources such as EC2 instances, CloudTrail, and more that can be used to detect issues, leaks and patterns.

CloudTrail Offerings

AWS CloudTrail acts like an investigator who watches over the AWS account and environment to furnish information on what actions were taken by whom along with when and where was it performed. For example, if an S3 bucket is deleted unintentionally, AWS CloudTrail logs can call attention to when, where, and who deleted the bucket. Additionally, CloudTrail can provide an event history of AWS accounts coupled with measures taken through AWS management console, command-line tools, AWS SDKs, or other AWS services. The event history log simplifies the process of security analysis, troubleshooting, or resource change tracking, ensuring the business remains continuously monitored and compliant to regulatory standards and policies.

AWS CloudWatch v/s AWS CloudTrail

  • Features – CloudWatch is a service that monitors and manages application performance whereas CloudTrail takes care of governance, compliance, operational and risk auditing of AWS accounts.
  • Monitoring – CloudWatch performs system-wide monitoring of resources and CloudTrail audits API activities.
  • Coverage – CloudWatch monitors applications, logs, events, alarms and metrics. CloudTrail conducts audits, checks account activities, tracks resource changes and event history along with troubleshooting.
  • Intent – CloudWatch tracks resource and application performance while CloudTrail provides information on what is done in AWS, when and by whom.   
  • Data Storage – CloudWatch stores  data within dashboards (metrics and logs). CloudTrail has centralized logs from all regions and stores it in S3 buckets.
  • Alarms – Native alarm is built-in to CloudWatch whereas CloudTrail has no native alarms.


Enables to collect, access, and correlate large volumes of data in the form of metrics, logs, and events on a single platform from across all AWS resources, applications, and services.Simplifies compliance audits via automatic recording and storing of AWS account event logs. Also integrates with CloudWatch to access log data, identify out-of-compliance events, fasten incident investigations, and accelerate replies to auditors.  
Natively integrates with more than 70 AWS services and auto-generates detailed-1 minute metrics (that can be customized) with up to 1-second granularity for easy collection of AWS metrics.Enhances visibility into user and resource activities by capturing AWS Management Console actions and API calls. Enables to track from where, when, and by whom API calls have been made.  
Facilitates automated actions and alarm settings based on predefined conditions to capture irregular behavior improving operational performance and resource optimization.Helps identify and troubleshoot security and operational issues by recording the complete history of changes that occurred in the AWS account within a specified timeframe.  
Offers automated dashboards, unified view, real-time granular data, and historical references to derive detailed operational and utilization insights.By integrating with CloudWatch Events, AWS CloudTrail is able to define workflows that can detect and automatically respond to security vulnerabilities.  
CloudWatch Insights help analyzes logs and troubleshoots operational issues with ease. It scales with an increase in log volumes, can publish log-based metrics, create alarms, and can correlate captured data to dashboards for complete visibility.   
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