Home Tech Cloudtrail vs Cloudwatch: The Definitive Comparison Guide

Cloudtrail vs Cloudwatch: The Definitive Comparison Guide


You may have heard of the various ‘Cloud’ services available on Amazon. If you haven’t, on Amazon, there are CloudSerach, Cloud9, CloudWatch, CloudTrail, CloudFront, Cloud Map, CloudEndure, and CloudHSM. 

You should know in-depth two of the significant ‘Cloud’ services that Amazon has provided fortis users: the CloudTrail and the CloudWatch. You may have heard or used them before due to their popularity in performing essential changed records to functions. 

We will focus on and explore the major components of the AWS CloudTrail vs CloudWatch with explanations for why the Metrics, logs, alarms, and events available are used.

Ever wondered about the differences between CloudWatch vs CloudTrail? This post will take you on a journey where your understanding of CloudTrail vs CloudWatch will be broadened.

What is CloudWatch?🤷‍♂️

The AWS Cloudwatch is a combination of monitoring tools that are built in a central AWS service. In situations where you want to track a particular metric on EC2, CloudWatch is the more appropriate service to use. Its number one priority is to monitor performances. 

CloudWatch is used to gather and monitor log files, set alarms, track metrics, and will react to changes made to any of your AWS services. 

Cloudtrail vs Cloudwatch

A great way to notice the performance of your Amazon S3 is by using CloudWatch. The CloudWatch can also be used to track your Amazon DynamoDB performance and a lot of others. It helps you to gather lots of default metrics from more than 70+ services on AWS. 

The CloudWatch is one of the leading monitoring tools in the cloud industry. Apart from the default metric CloudWatch offers its users, it has custom metrics that help you get the metric of something important you are trying to achieve.

A good example is, if you want to find out how people are using your application, you could just customize your ‘user activity metric to track the key information you need to find out. This feature is best utilized for customizing important searches.

Amazon CloudWatch: Complete Visibility of Your Cloud Resources and Applications

Features of CloudWatch:-

CloudWatch Logs:- this is a central collection of systems and application logs. These logs are useful to search for anomalies which are great to prevent errors.

With this, you can analyze logs that have been there for a long time to look for trends that you can use to optimize your business. These insights are important to keep track of upcoming trends which in turn will help boost your business.

CloudWatch Alarms:- its services allow you to perform more than one action solely based on the value of the metric. 

CloudWatch Events:- this allows for real automation processes that are triggered based on changes in the state of AWS resources. One example is the S3 log that is automatically updated every time a Lambda function is used.

CloudWatch can be used to make your everyday life easier in ways that you do not anticipate. The only limitation to the CloudWatch service is your imagination. If it is limited, then services you could access on CloudWatch are little.

To sum it all up, CloudWatch is basically for monitoring performance purposes, the automation of alarms, storing information in logs, and collecting metrics. 

Now that we have been able to cover the foundational aspect of CloudWatch let us explore CloudTrail.


For AWS CloudWatch users, there is a free plan option even though this will come with some limitations. After the free version, you can then start using the paid version where you will be charged at the end of the month.

Dashboard:- you have $3 per dashboard for up to 50 metrics monthly.

Metrics:- You have the basic monitoring metric running at a 5 minutes frequency with 10 detailed monitoring metrics running at a 1-minute frequency. Then you have one million API requests.

Alarms: – it has ten alarm metrics.

Events:- every single event is included with the exception of custom events.

Logs:- ingestion, archive storage, and data scanned by Logs Insights queries (5GB)

Synthetics:- about 100 canary runs monthly.

Contributor Insight:- CloudWatch has a one contributor rule for each month.

What is CloudTrail?🤷‍♂️

The AWS CloudTrail is used for auditing every API activity that happens in your Amazon environment. We often associate auditing with the yearly taxation situation that is indeed very stressful. That is not what we are referring to here. The AWS CloudTrails isn’t for that purpose.

What we mean by CloudTrail is used for auditing APIs is that it keeps a record of every activity going on in your AWS account. It goes ahead to save the time the activity took place and by whom.

Cloudtrail vs Cloudwatch 1

With CloudTrail, you can search for, view, and download recent activity carried out by your account and checked if the actions taken were out of place. This is the core service CloudTrail provides.

CloudTrail provides services that enable compliance, governance, operational, and risk auditing within your AWS account. CloudTrail helps you continuously monitor logs and enables you to keep records of actions done in your AWS resource. 

It also provides you records of events that have been carried out in your account which is not limited to actions carried out via the AWS SDKs, command-line tools, the AWS Management Console, and all other AWS services.

The event history is simplified for you to use for security analysis, troubleshooting, and resource change tracking.

AWS CloudTrail: Simplify Security Analysis, Resource Change Tracking, and Troubleshooting

In CloudTrail, every call is an activity that is written in batches to an S3 bucket.

CloudTrail is deployed as a means of tracking management and data events. 

Management events:- it logs in the different changes to have taken place in your AWS environment. If an entire DynamoDB is created or if it has been deleted, this will notify you of the change.

Data events:- this keeps track of API activity. For example, if an item has been created or deleted in a DynamoDB table, data events will keep this record for you.


AWS CloudTrail pricing is free is when you set up to offer one trial of event management. At no additional cost, management events on CloudTrail can be filtered, downloaded, and access to data stored for over 90 days is possible.

Furthermore, if Analytics is accessible on your Trail, AWS CloudTrail Insights can be used. Charges on the AWS CloudTrail Insights are per the number of events you have used in each of those regions.

The prices are as follows:-

Data Events: – you are charged $0.10 for every 100,000 events.

Management Events:- $2.00 for every 100,000 events.

CloudTrail Insights:- $.35 / hundred thousand write management events.

It tracks the person or application that has changed your AWS environment and keeps them in an encrypted log. The encrypted records are then stored in S3 for the user to check and analyze in order to make better decisions on how best to use the cloud environment.

You may like to read our guide on 11 Best Amazon S3 Alternatives To Try Out.

CloudTrail vs Cloudwatch: My Comparison👌👌

CloudTrail is a web service that holds a record of the API activities in an AWS account. CloudTrail is known as an auditing system as opposed to CloudWatch, which is a monitoring service that uses performance system-wide monitoring resources. Both CloudTrail and CloudWatch are essential monitoring tools in AWS.

By default, CloudWatch offers its users free basic monitoring for resources. These include RDS DB instances, EC2 instances, and EBS volumes. When a user creates an AWS account, there is a possibility that CloudTrail would be enabled by default too.

The collection and tracking of log files, metrics, and the setting of alarms can be done with CloudWatch. In contrast, users’ information logging regarding requests made can be done with CloudTrail.

CloudTrail tracks the services the user used, the action the user performed, the parameters of the performed action, and the response elements are given by the AWS service the user used. Logs on CloudTrail are saved in an S3 bucket or a specified CloudWatch log group.

With CloudTrail, an event can be delivered with 15 minutes of the API call while the first 5 minutes in CloudWatch is for the delivery of metric data.

The metric data is usually for basic monitoring and an extra 1 minute for a detailed monitoring service. The logs agent in CloudWatch sends logs by default every 5 seconds.

For an extra cost, CloudWatch enables you to use a detailed monitoring service from your AWS resources to send metric data more often. CloudWatch helps you adhere to the compliance and regulatory standard made by AWS resources.

The logs on CloudTrail give you the exact information on what happened in your AWS account, while logs on CloudWatch are solely on the application logs.

It is fair to say CloudWatch is the equivalent of a real-time system event stream that notifies users of changes made to your AWS account. CloudTrail is focused on calls that are AWS API made in your AWS account.

For every region, CloudTrail gives a free copy of event management logs. These management events are comprised of management operations done on your AWS account. For example logs on when your account was logged into. There are charges for these log-in data given to you by CloudTrail.

Cloudtrail vs Cloudwatch FAQs

Q1: Can CloudWatch logs be kept in S3?

Answer: CloudWatch has a policy that enables you to transfer log data to your AWS S3 bucket.

Q2: Can CloudTrail be used by anyone?

Answer: Yes, as long as you want to answer simple questions about user activity, track changes made to your resources, troubleshoot, demonstrate compliance, or perform security analysis.

Q3: Can I enable AWS CloudTrail by default?

Answer: All customers can now enable AWS CloudTrail by default. This will provide visibility to activities that have taken place for the past seven days without needing to configure the trail.

Q4: How can I access my CloudWatch?

Answer: You can access AWS CloudWatch via API, AWS SDKs, command-line interface, and AWS Management Console. 

Q5: Within my account, does CloudTrail event history show all account activity? 

Answer: It will only show the event history of the present region you are viewing for over the past 90 days with the support of the AWS found. You may have to configure a CloudTrail trail for a complete record of account activity (data events, management events, and read-only activity).

Q6: What access management policy can I use for CloudWatch?

Answer: AWS CloudWatch integrates with Access Management (IAM) and identity. This is done so that you can tell the specific CloudWatch action a user can perform in your AWS account.

An example of such activity is, you can make an IAM policy that grants permission to certain users in your company to use the GetMetricStatistics. The action can then be used to get back data about cloud resources.

For some resources, you cannot use the IAM to control the access to CloudWatch data. When permission is granted using IAM, it covers all the cloud resources you can use with CloudWatch command-line tools. 

Q7: To view my account activity on CloudTrail, what search filter can I use?

Answer: You can use the time range and one of the following features: User name, Resource Name, Event Name, Event ID, Event Source, and Resource Type.

Q8: What platform can I use for CloudWatch Log Agents support?

Answer: The following support CloudWatch Logs Agent: Amazon Linux, Ubuntu, CentOS, Windows, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. These agents support the monitoring of individual log files on the resource.

Q9: What happens when a trail is applied to all regions?

Answer: When a trail is applied to all regions, a new trail is created by CloudTrail by reproducing the trail configuration. The log file where all the activities of the account were performed will be recorded, processed, and delivered to an S3 bucket and a single CloudWatch Logs log group. 

If an optional Amazon Simple Notification Service is specified, SNS notifications for all actions will be sent to a  single SNS topic.

Q10: What is an AWS CloudWatch ServiceLens?

Answer: The CloudWatch ServiceLens is a feature that lets you analyze the performance, health, and availability of your app in a single place. The ServiceLens helps you detect blockage in performance, and find out the root of the application problem.

CloudWatch ServiceLens gives you insight into three major areas of your application. They are; transaction monitoring (understanding resources dependencies using traces), infrastructure monitoring(understanding resource dependencies that support your apps using metrics and logs), and finally, end-user monitoring (monitoring endpoints using canaries. This will notify you when a degraded end-user experience is detected).

CloudTrail vs CloudWatch: Final Thoughts

Amazon CloudTrail vs CloudWatch can be used together. AWS CloudWatch focuses on activities offered by AWS services and resources and reports on their performances. CloudTrail is a record of all activities that have been carried out in your AWS account. 

Let me know in the comment section the AWS service you would love to use.