What is Amazon CloudWatch?

What is Amazon CloudWatch?

Amazon CloudWatch is an observability and monitoring service offered by AWS. It allows you to gather and track metrics, collect and monitor log files, set alarms, and respond to changes in your CloudWatch in AWS resources. 

AWS CloudWatch is an essential service for managing and monitoring your AWS resources efficiently. With proper CloudWatch implementation, you can improve the reliability, performance, and cost-effectiveness of your infrastructure and applications. 

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Features of CloudWatch

CloudsWatch in AWS has many unique properties. CloudWatch provides the following features:


CloudWatch can collect metrics data and provide charts and graphs to visualize that data. Metrics can be collected for AWS resources like EC2 instances, RDS databases, Lambda functions, etc.


CloudWatch lets you set alarms that notify you about a certain threshold for a metric. This allows you to monitor your application and resources proactively.


CloudWatch can collect log files generated by your resources and applications that are running on AWS. It provides storage and dashboards to visualize the log data.


CloudWatch Events allow you to trigger actions in reaction to changes in your resources or applications.


CloudWatch provides fully customizable dashboards where you can add widgets with metrics and log data. This gives you a single view of the health and performance of your applications.

How Amazon CloudWatch Works? 

CloudWatch works by accumulating metrics and logs from your AWS resources, analyzing that data, and providing visualizations and alerts. It consists of 3 main components: the monitoring and metrics collection part which collects data from resources, the long term storage of that data in CloudWatch, as well as visualizations and alarms based on the stored data.  

At a high level, CloudWatch works as follows:

  1. You want to enable collection of metrics and logs for your AWS resources. This can be done from the CloudWatch console or AWS CLI.
  2. CloudWatch Agents can also be installed on EC2 instances and on-site servers to collect custom metrics and send them to CloudWatch.
  3. CloudWatch collects the metrics and log data and stores them. It saves the metric data with 1-minute granularity for free for up to 15-months.
  4. The CloudWatch console gives you dashboards where you can visualize these metrics and log data using graphs and charts.
  5. You can create alarms based on metric thresholds. When an alarm is triggered, CloudWatch can send notifications via SMS, email, or to Amazon SNS.
  6. CloudWatch Events allows you to set up rules that trigger actions when event patterns match. This could trigger a Lambda function, step function, or API call.
  7. CloudWatch provides over 100 different metrics for 30+ different AWS services like EC2, RDS, ElastiCache etc. You can also define your very own custom metrics.
  8. Log data stored in CloudWatch can be analyzed using AWS services like CloudSearch,  Athena, and Kinesis Firehose.

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Amazon CloudWatch Alarms       

CloudWatch alarms let you guard the thresholds and get notified when breached. You can define alarms based on these three factors:

1. Static thresholds

2. Percentage change  

3. Statistical functions

These Alarms essentially have 3 states - OK, ALARM, and INSUFFICIENT_DATA.    

Amazon CloudWatch has a number of concepts and terminologies to effectively monitor your AWS resources. The key ones are:


Metrics are the base data unit that CloudWatch collects. Some examples of metrics are CPUUtilization, CPUCreditUsage, NetworkIn, NetworkOut, etc.  


Dimensions are here to categorize metrics to increase more insights. Common dimensions are InstanceId, AutoScalingGroupName, LoadBalancer, ImageId etc.


Since CloudWatch collects data at 1-minute intervals, it gives many raw data statistics like Average, Sum, Minimum, and Maximum. You may choose the relevant statistic for your needs.   


Alarms are notifications triggered when a metric breaches a defined threshold. They alert you so that you can take corrective and immediate actions. Alarms can notify with three possible states: ALARM, OK and INSUFFICIENT_DATA.


Percentile is a figure that shows the value below which a known percentage of observations falls. For example, a 95th percentile of 500ms means that 95% of requests took 500 ms or less.  

CloudWatch Dashboard

It provides a single view of metrics, visualizations, charts and graphs pertaining to your AWS resources. You can customize dashboards as per your requirements.

CloudWatch Agent

The agent can be installed on EC2 instances or on-premises servers to collect custom metrics and logs and push them to CloudWatch. This expands CloudWatch monitoring beyond native AWS services.  

CloudWatch Events

Events allows you to set up rules that trigger an action when a certain event pattern or metric threshold is met. This can invoke a Lambda function, step function or make an API call.

CloudWatch Logs

Provides long term storage and query capabilities for log data generated from your resources. Logs can be analyzed using services like Athena and Kinesis Firehose.   

Advantages of Amazon CloudWatch

Easy to Use

CloudWatch is a simple and intuitive console interface that can monitor your AWS resources.

Low latency access

CloudWatch gives near real-time access to metrics and log data for fast visibility into your infrastructure.


you only pay for what you use as CloudWatch pricing is based on the metrics and logs collected.


Insights alarms use machine learning to detect anomalies in your metrics and alert you proactively.


CloudWatch can be scaled to monitor thousands of resources, all while collecting a high volume of metrics and logs data.

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Amazon CloudWatch Dashboard  

CloudWatch dashboards can visualize metrics and log data in a single view. It allows you to add multiple widgets showing graphs, stats, and lets you list views of metrics and logs.

You are also able to create multiple dashboard views tailored to different personas, share dashboards within your organization, and view historical data and monitor in near real-time.

AWS CloudWatch Pricing

AWS CloudWatch pricing is based on three elements:

  1. Number of metrics collected per second
  2. CloudWatch logs stored and retrieved
  3. Number of alarms in use.

AWS CloudWatch vs CloudTrail?

While AWS CloudWatch refers to Monitors and providing visibility into resources, CloudTrail records and stores logs of actions taken within an AWS account.

Benefits/Advantages of AWS CloudWatch

There are several benefits of CloudWatch:

  • Better Insights into system performance. 
  • Reliability is improved manifold.
  • Quick to detect and resolve issues.
  • Operational costs are reduced.
  • Efficiency is enhanced.

Challenges/Disadvantages of AWS CloudWatch

There are a few drawbacks of AWS CloudWatch, however:

  • steep learning curve
  • limited metric storage
  • limited visibility into custom metrics
  • delayed reaction to sudden spikes 
  • additional costs for high metric volume.

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AWS CloudWatch Use Cases

Here are a few cases where AWS CloudWatch is used:

  • Infrastructure monitoring  
  • Application performance monitoring
  • Anomaly detection  
  • Cost optimization
  • Security monitoring
  • DevOps

How to Start Your AWS Career?  

To have a successful career involving CloudWatch, here are a few things you can do:

Gain hands-on experience

Practice setting up CloudWatch, collecting metrics, viewing dashboards and creating alarms. This will build your practical skill set.

Learn other related AWS services like EC2, S3, Lambda, etc. 

CloudWatch is used along with many AWS services, so a wider knowledge will help.   

Obtain AWS certifications like Cloud Practitioner, Solutions Architect, etc. 

This will validate your skills and knowledge to employers.

Develop CloudWatch monitoring strategies

Think of best practices for monitoring different AWS resources and applications.   

Build complex dashboards and rich visualizations

This demonstrates your ability to provide useful insights from metrics data.

Create automated monitoring systems

Use CloudWatch with services like Lambda, SNS, and Step Functions for real-time response.

Focus on insights, not just data

Learn to analyze metrics trends, anomalies, and patterns to optimize performance.     

Keep upskilling yourself

As AWS evolves, keep learning new services and features so your skill set remains relevant.

Build a portfolio

Projects you've worked on that demonstrate your AWS expertise can help you get better job opportunities.

Gain experience

Try to get work experience using AWS and CloudWatch in a professional capacity. This will make your skills industry-ready.

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AWS CloudWatch is a powerful yet easy-to-use monitoring service that forms an integral part of the AWS platform. With proper implementation and management strategies, it can enhance the performance, reliability and cost optimization of your AWS environment.

If you are interested in enhancing your AWS knowlesge, we would highly recommend you to check Simplilearn's AWS Solutions Architect Certification Training Course. This course can help you hone the right skills and amke you job-ready in no time.

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1. Why do we need AWS CloudWatch?    

To keep an eye on the health and performance of AWS applications and resources.

2. What is CloudWatch vs CloudTrail?

While CloudWatch monitors, CloudTrail audits.

3. What are the 3 states of CloudWatch?


4. Is CloudWatch a PaaS or SaaS?

CloudWatch is a PaaS.

5. What is CloudTrail used for?  

To capture API calls and changes on your AWS resources for auditing and compliance.

About the Author

Akshay BadkarAkshay Badkar

Akshay is an experienced content marketer, passionate about education and technology. With a love for travel, photography, and cricket, he brings a unique perspective to the edtech industry. Through engaging articles, he shares insights, trends, and inspires readers to embrace transformative edtech.

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