What is cloud monitoring? Best practices for your startup’s cloud monitoring strategy

Having a cloud-based business without a robust cloud monitoring strategy is like steering a ship without a compass. Cloud risks like system downtime, data breaches, and resource misallocation have the potential to sink your startup.

A sudden spike in traffic might overwhelm your servers, resulting in poor user experience or complete service disruption. Undiscovered vulnerabilities can expose your system to cyberattacks, jeopardizing sensitive data and customer trust. Unchecked resource allocation can lead to inefficient usage and inflated costs that directly impact your profitability. In the absence of a cloud monitoring strategy, these issues can go undetected until they cause serious business, technological, and financial damage.

An efficient cloud monitoring strategy is a non-negotiable for ensuring system efficiency, data security, cloud cost optimization, and overall business success. This article will discuss the ins and outs of cloud monitoring, the best cloud monitoring tools on the market, and best practices for implementing a cloud monitoring strategy that anchors your business firmly on the path to success.

What is cloud monitoring?

Cloud monitoring is a systematic approach to reviewing, managing, and controlling the performance, availability, and security of cloud-based infrastructure. The goal of cloud monitoring is to ensure that all cloud-based resources like servers, databases, storage, networks, and applications are working optimally. This involves collecting and analyzing data from various sources to identify and resolve issues before they impact the end user.

Effective cloud monitoring takes a proactive approach including real-time analytics to enable troubleshooting, enhance security, optimize resource allocation, and maintain high system performance.

Your company’s cloud monitoring should include the following components:

  • Database monitoring. Monitor your cloud database resources by measuring metrics like query performance, index usage, lock statuses, and availability metrics.
  • Virtual machines and infrastructure monitoring. Monitor CPU usage, memory usage, Disk I/O, and network usage.
  • Web services and applications monitoring. Keep tabs on response times, error rates, and throughput.

Public vs private vs hybrid cloud monitoring

Different cloud models require different monitoring strategies. While public, private, and hybrid clouds all aim to provide scalable and efficient computing resources for businesses, their operational characteristics differ, necessitating different monitoring approaches.

Public cloud monitoring

Public cloud monitoring involves overseeing services hosted by third-party cloud providers like DigitalOcean, AWS, or Google Cloud. These providers offer their own monitoring tools (e.g. DigitalOcean Monitoring, AWS CloudWatch, Google Cloud Operations), but third-party tools can provide additional coverage. Key considerations include resource utilization, scalability, cost optimization, and maintaining security.

Private cloud monitoring

Private cloud monitoring focuses on infrastructure owned and operated by an organization itself. In this case, in addition to performance and resource usage, attention must be given to hardware health, capacity planning, and maintaining stricter security and compliance controls. For private cloud monitoring, it’s important to understand your company’s private cloud infrastructure, its operations, potential points of failure, and how to analyze and respond to collected data.

Hybrid cloud monitoring

Hybrid cloud monitoring involves the oversight of both public and private environments. The challenge lies in seamlessly integrating monitoring across these diverse environments, and maintaining visibility into all operations. Hybrid cloud monitoring requires attention to interconnectivity, data transfer, and security across interfaces.

The benefits of cloud monitoring

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Cloud monitoring is a strategic enabler, using powerful cloud tools to improve efficiency, enhance user experiences, and manage risks. A strong strategy provides granular oversight and control over cloud resources, yielding a slew of business benefits:

  • Maximize efficiency with optimized resource utilization. By monitoring server load, memory usage, network performance, and more, cloud monitoring allows for fine-tuning your company’s resource allocation. This leads to increased operational efficiency, preventing over-provisioning and underutilization.
  • Achieve cost efficiency with automated monitoring processes. Automation in cloud monitoring reduces the need for manual tracking, resulting in reduced labor costs for your business. It also provides real-time data for predictive analysis, enabling proactive rather than reactive maintenance, saving costs from potential downtime and data loss.
  • Maintain high system performance for a better user experience. Continuous monitoring helps ensure systems are running optimally, reducing lag and preventing crashes. This directly leads to a smooth and reliable user experience, helping to retain customers and maintain a strong brand reputation.
  • Make better-informed decisions with real-time analytics. Real-time analytics provided by cloud monitoring tools offer valuable insights into the functioning of your cloud infrastructure. This data-driven approach facilitates strategic planning, assists in decision-making, and provides a clear understanding of where improvements can be made.
  • Improve incident response management. A robust cloud monitoring strategy allows for the immediate detection of anomalies and potential issues, triggering instant alerts. This rapid response mechanism allows your team to swiftly respond to incidents, minimizing system downtime and mitigating potential damage to your business.

Cloud monitoring strategies for your business

Maintaining visibility and control over your cloud infrastructure is critical. In the section ahead, we’ll explore key strategies for effective cloud monitoring that can help you optimize your resources, improve response times, and ultimately drive your business toward its strategic objectives.

1. Set cloud monitoring goals and targets

Establishing clear goals and targets is critical to any effective cloud monitoring strategy. Work with your technology team to establish a baseline of normal performance, define what success looks like for your organization, set measurable objectives, and identify key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help you assess progress.

While KPIs may vary depending on your business goals and objectives, here are a few potential areas to watch:

  • Infrastructure availability. Measure the uptime and availability of your cloud resources.
  • Performance metrics. Monitor metrics like latency, request rate, and error rate.
  • Cost efficiency. Analyze your cloud usage and costs to identify wastage or overprovisioned resources.
  • Resource utilization. Track CPU, memory, disk, and network usage to understand if your resources are being effectively utilized.
  • Incident response time. Measure the time taken to detect, respond, and resolve an incident.
  • Mean time to recovery (MTTR). Track the average time it takes to restore a system after an outage
  • Change failure rate. Document and track how often changes result in failure as an indication of the health of your deployment process.
  • Security metrics. Track unauthorized access attempts, and the number of vulnerabilities detected to maintain a secure environment.

2. Employ automated cloud monitoring

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Organizations can use automated monitoring software to track and analyze data from their cloud services, eliminating the need for manual tasks. Given the scale and complexity of modern cloud infrastructures, this approach allows companies to keep a close eye on their cloud services and infrastructure, helping to identify issues quickly.

Here’s how automated cloud monitoring can support your team:

  • Monitor your KPIs. Automated cloud monitoring solutions can continuously check the performance of your cloud services against a set of predefined KPIs, alerting your team when deviations occur.
  • Analyze logs and events. Modern cloud environments generate an endless stream of data. Automated tools can analyze it, providing insights from these logs to help your team identify trends or issues. They can also help you prevent resource utilization issues from turning into production bottlenecks by identifying them early.
  • Respond to incidents. Automated monitoring can trigger responses to certain incidents, like autoscaling when demand pears or automatically restarting a failed service.
  • Perform security monitoring. Tools for automated cloud monitoring can check for potential security threats and respond to them, providing an essential layer of defense.
  • Monitor compliance. In regulated industries, like healthcare or fintech, automated monitoring can help ensure that your cloud services continuously meet necessary compliance requirements.

3. Add in manual audits

In isolation, manual audits have their limitations—they can be costly to your business and cannot be performed as frequently as automated monitoring. However, in tandem, the two methods can provide the oversight you need to keep your cloud safe. Manual audits allow your business to systematically review and assess your cloud environment to identify potential issues that automated tools might miss, verify compliance, and confirm that best practices are in place.

For instance, a manual assessment of security can inspect areas that might have been overlooked, such as redundant permissions, unused accounts, or suspicious user behavior. A manual review of performance can reveal where performance might be improved, such as underutilized resources, inefficient configurations, or bottlenecks in your architecture. Similarly, manual audits are an opportunity to find unused or underused resources that can be turned off or downscaled to save costs.

4. Choose the right cloud monitoring tool

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Selecting the right cloud monitoring tool is a critical decision that will impact the operational efficiency, security, and growth of your cloud-based business. The right cloud monitoring solutions will offer visibility into your entire cloud infrastructure, while also providing actionable insights to optimize performance and security.

Explore a range of built-in monitoring tools that come with your existing cloud provider, as well as add-on cloud monitoring tools for heightened monitoring abilities. Popular tools include the following: DigitalOcean Monitoring, AWS CloudWatch, Microsoft Azure Monitor, Google Cloud Operations, Datadog, AppDynamics, New Relic, Prometheus, Dynatrace, PagerDuty, and Splunk.

Here are key considerations when selecting a cloud monitoring tool:

  • Coverage. Opt for a tool that provides comprehensive coverage of your entire cloud ecosystem—from cloud applications and infrastructure to network and security components. Depending on your configuration, it should be able to monitor public, private, and hybrid cloud environments.
  • Integration. Choose a cloud monitoring tool that integrates well with your existing system’s tools.
  • Scalability. As your business grows, so will your cloud monitoring needs. The tool should be able to scale to accommodate increasing data volumes and complexity, without impacting performance—whether you’re creating a small startup or a large enterprise.
  • Cost. The price of the tool should align with its value. Consider both the initial price and ongoing costs, including any upgrade expenses. Some monitoring tools such as DigitalOcean Monitoring for Droplets are available for free, which helps you keep your monitoring costs low, even when you’ve deployed a large fleet of virtual machines.
  • Real-time monitoring. Seek out a tool that provides real-time monitoring alerts, helping you identify and address issues before they escalate.
  • Analytics. The tool should be able to analyze collected data and provide actionable insights. Explore features like AI for predictive analytics and anomaly detection.
  • Security features. Look for robust security features, including encryption, secure access, and compliance standards.
  • Support and documentation. Good customer support and well-documented resources are valuable for troubleshooting and getting the most out of your monitoring tool.
  • Ease of use. Opt for simple-to-use software that gives you complete visibility into your infrastructure and lets you build dashboards with ease.

5. Set up automated alerts and notifications

Automated alerts and notifications can help you quickly identify and respond to potential issues in your cloud-based systems. Set up alerts for key metrics like downtime or server utilization to ensure your startup’s operations are running smoothly.

Most cloud monitoring tools offer the ability to set up automated alerts and notifications via email, SMS, and messaging platforms like Slack. This allows you to stay informed about the health of your cloud environment, wherever you are.

6. Ensure integration across different systems

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Your cloud monitoring tools should be integrated with other systems across your company—from your ticketing system to your incident management platform. This ensures that when an issue is identified, the right team members are quickly notified and can take action to resolve the issue.

Integration with other systems also allows you to track issues and incidents over time, identifying patterns that allow you to make informed decisions about how to improve your cloud environment.

7. Train your team on cloud monitoring best practices

Your monitoring strategy is only as effective as your team’s ability to implement it. Ensure that your team members are properly trained on cloud monitoring best practices and understand the ins and outs of your monitoring tool.

Here are a few additional topics your training should cover:

  • Alert configuration and management. Cover how to configure alerts accurately, reduce false positives, and prioritize alerts based on their impact on business operations. Create a playbook for alerts based on their priority, assign ownership, and define clear actions for each one.
  • Interpreting monitoring data. Train your team to effectively interpret collected data to derive actionable insights. Provide an overview of understanding patterns and anomalies.
  • Integration with other systems. Your team should understand how your cloud monitoring tools integrate with other systems like CI/CD pipelines, ITSM tools, and communication platforms for effective operations.
  • Performance baseline settings. Guide your team to understand how to set and adjust performance baselines to reflect normal operating conditions, helping in the early detection of anomalies.
  • Continuous improvement practices. Training should emphasize the importance of continual refinement of monitoring strategies based on changing business needs, system upgrades, or changes in the cloud landscape.

8. Continuously optimize your cloud monitoring strategy

A successful cloud monitoring strategy is not a one-time effort. Instead, it requires ongoing optimization and improvement. Regular review of your cloud monitoring strategy can help you identify areas where you can improve efficiency, reduce costs, or better align with your business goals. Your business needs will inevitably change over time, and your monitoring strategy should adapt to those changes. As you consider new products, services, or business models, be sure to take into account how they might impact your cloud monitoring strategy.

For instance, if you’re planning to launch a new product that is expected to generate high traffic, you may need to adjust your monitoring strategy to ensure that you can handle the load. Similarly, if you’re planning to expand your business to new regions, consider how this will impact your monitoring strategy, such as adjusting your monitoring locations to ensure that you are adequately monitoring all relevant regions.

By continuously improving your strategy, you can ensure your cloud-based systems are performing optimally and that your business is well-positioned for growth.

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