Managing and monitoring cloud services
80% of the clutter in most homes is due to disorganisation, not a lack of space. According to a 2006 study, 76% of respondents reported losing time as a result of disorder. Humans can be a messy bunch, and while the impact of losing your keys may not be so severe, losing track of your cloud infrastructure can amount to serious consequences.
The monitoring and management of cloud services extend to the following areas:
- Infrastructure. This refers to monitoring the underlying physical or virtual resources that support the cloud services, such as servers, network devices, and storage systems. It involves tracking key performance metrics, such as CPU usage, memory usage, network traffic, and storage capacity to ensure that the underlying infrastructure is performing optimally and can support the cloud services running on top of it.
- Network. Network monitoring refers to the process of monitoring the performance and availability of the network infrastructure that supports cloud services. It can help detect potential issues, such as network congestion or equipment failures.
- Application. Application monitoring includes monitoring the performance and availability of software applications running on the cloud infrastructure. This, in turn, involves tracking key performance metrics, such as response time, transaction rate, error rate, and resource usage, to ensure that the application is performing optimally and delivering the best possible user experience.
- Security. Here we are tracking key security metrics, such as login attempts, access control violations, and security policy violations, to identify potential security threats and vulnerabilities. It can also involve monitoring for signs of unauthorized access, data breaches, and other security-related incidents.
Cloud services have to be constantly monitored and managed to keep your cloud infrastructure operating optimally, to keep your information and users safe, and to ensure that you stay within budget. But those aren’t the only reasons.
So why is managing and monitoring cloud services so important?
To further explain why keeping track of cloud services is so important, we can focus on a few key points affected:
Even with a single website, knowing when your site is experiencing performance issues or when it goes down is vital. When your infrastructure includes multiple sites, apps, and other services, this feature of managing and monitoring your cloud services is even more important.
Your cloud services need to perform optimally to meet user expectations. Even if you’re just running a website on a cloud server, you still need to ensure that its operating environment is capable of supporting visitor expectations. This doesn’t just relate to resources, but also software components. Newer versions of PHP, for example, are capable of delivering better performance than their older counterparts.
Scalability refers to meeting performance demands, the requirements of which can only be known when you have a finger on the pulse of your cloud infrastructure. The latter is typically achieved by monitoring loads, while the former (scaling capacity) is achieved with tools that help manage your infrastructure.
I’ve written about this previously: cloud sprawl, which refers to running unnecessary cloud infrastructure, is one of the main reasons why cloud computing can cause budget overruns. Of course, it’s not just cloud sprawl that can drain your budget. Unnecessary resource usage due to poor performance optimisation, for example, can also have a negative impact.
This, I’m sure, requires little explanation. Monitoring and managing cloud services can help ensure that security policies are in place, identify and respond to security threats, and protect sensitive data and resources. Many regions now have regulations that seek to enforce a minimum level of security which, when not adhered to, can result in severe penalties.
Many industries have regulations concerning various aspects of hosting, including data storage and protection, and overall security. Monitoring and managing cloud services is an integral part of remaining compliant since it includes deciding where you’re going to store some or all of your data, and how you’ll protect your data and users.
Key challenges in managing cloud services
By far, the biggest challenge associated with managing and monitoring your cloud services is the associated complexity. It can require a plethora of tools, and more often than not also specialist operating system knowledge. This complexity grows in direct proportion to your cloud infrastructure; more moving parts mean more things to keep track of and manage. But there are other challenges as well:
I’ve written extensively about online security in the past. As time passes and new technologies are released into the wild, the number of attacks and their sophistication increases. This necessitates iron-clad security policies that include identifying and responding to threats and protecting sensitive data and resources requires expertise and resources.
I’m risking repetition, but it’s one of the biggest reasons organisations are repatriating back to on-premise data centres. To ensure that cloud delivers the cost savings it promised, strict oversight is needed, particularly in dynamic environments where resource usage can change rapidly. Identifying underutilised resources, optimising usage, and controlling costs require careful monitoring and analysis.
If you have a single server or multiple servers with the same cloud provider, vendor management is likely to be pretty straightforward. But we’re living in an increasingly multi-cloud era where organisations mix and match different services from different cloud service providers to tailor their cloud infrastructures to their needs. The downside is that this often requires managing different contracts, adapting processes to match vendor requirements, and ensuring service level agreements are met.
Cloud services need to perform optimally to meet user expectations. Identifying performance issues and bottlenecks, optimising systems and resources, and ensuring that services are performing optimally require specialised knowledge and expertise.
Developing comprehensive cloud management and monitoring policies
Although there are various approaches to develop a cloud management and monitoring strategy, they all tend to follow a few recommended best practices.
Needless to say, monitoring is a foundational requirement for effective management policies. Here the metrics monitored should align with the objectives of the infrastructure. For example, in an online gaming scenario server performance and network latency will be big factors capable of influencing the user experience. When you have a busy and fast growing website, you’ll want to prioritise server resources and connectivity.
Monitoring important metrics will help you establish performance baselines for your cloud infrastructure to better understand what normal performance looks like, and make it easier to recognise abnormalities.
Monitoring can be complemented with alerts that notify about potential issues with your chosen set of metrics and security incidents. This can help you identify and resolve issues before they escalate.
Speaking of security, it’s strongly recommended to Implement security best practices such as identity and access management (IAM), data encryption, and network security, to protect your cloud services and data from unauthorised access and cyber threats. I’ve written about cloud security best practices here and here.
Automation is popular nowadays, and will get even more prominent as AI finds its way into the tools we use. Automation can be used to help streamline cloud management tasks, improve consistency, and reduce errors. The range of existing automation tools is quite extensive, and can help with provisioning, deployment, scaling, and monitoring.
Automation can also be used to help with regular audits of your cloud infrastructure. These audits should be used to determine whether you’re staying on course in terms of infrastructure management, to identify resource under or over utilisation, and to identify potential security vulnerabilities, compliance issues, and cost optimization opportunities.
Of course, to put these best practices into practice takes skill, a handful of tools, and time. Where some or none of these exist in sufficient quantities, you always have the option to offload your cloud monitoring and management to your cloud service provider.
At storm, for example, all of the above-mentioned functions are included in our managed cloud services. We can also help manage a multi-cloud infrastructure where you may also have services running in Azure and AWS. This doesn’t just extend to the technical aspects of your infrastructure, like security, performance, and similar metrics, but also to keep you within budget.
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