Ankur Mandal

CloudWatch vs CloudTrail: A Detailed Comparison


Ankur Mandal

4 min read

Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers a variety of services to help businesses efficiently manage their cloud infrastructure. Among these services, CloudWatch and CloudTrail stand out for their monitoring and logging capabilities, each offering distinct features and benefits.

AWS CloudWatch excels at monitoring and optimizing the performance of your resources, providing real-time insights into metrics such as CPU usage, network activity, and application performance. On the other hand, AWS CloudTrail focuses on auditing, compliance, and security analysis, tracking user activity and changes within your AWS environment.

In this article, we'll explore CloudWatch vs CloudTrail, highlighting their unique functions and how they can complement each other.

What is CloudWatch?

CloudWatch website homepage

AWS CloudWatch is a real-time monitoring service that offers detailed insights into your AWS resources and applications. By collecting data from across your AWS environment, CloudWatch allows you to monitor metrics, track log files, set alarms, and automate actions based on predefined rules.

These real-time insights provide a comprehensive view of operational health, enabling you to proactively manage performance and address potential issues before they impact your services. CloudWatch's unified dashboard gives you a centralized perspective on your infrastructure, streamlining your monitoring process.

Features of CloudWatch

AWS CloudWatch offers a variety of key features to help you monitor and manage your AWS environment effectively:

  • Metrics Monitoring: CloudWatch allows you to collect and track metrics from your AWS resources, such as CPU usage, network traffic, and disk space. This enables you to assess the performance and health of your applications.
  • Logs Monitoring: CloudWatch Logs lets you monitor and store log files from various AWS services, including EC2 instances, Lambda functions, and others, in one centralized location. This simplifies log management and facilitates troubleshooting.
  • Dashboards: CloudWatch dashboards provide customized views of your metrics and logs, allowing you to visualize the health and performance of your infrastructure at a glance. This feature supports efficient monitoring and decision-making.


  • Seamless Integration: AWS CloudWatch integrates effortlessly with other AWS services, making it straightforward to set up and use across your AWS environment.
  • User-Friendly Interface: CloudWatch's intuitive design allows for easy configuration and integration, even for those new to monitoring services.
  • Scalable and Flexible: CloudWatch is adaptable to a wide range of monitoring needs, offering scalability as your infrastructure grows and changes.
  • Real-Time Monitoring: CloudWatch provides real-time insights into your AWS services, allowing you to quickly detect and respond to changes.
  • Log Management: CloudWatch helps you monitor and maintain logs for your AWS services, simplifying troubleshooting and audit processes.


  • Complex Setup for Beginners: Due to its variety of features and settings, setting up and configuring CloudWatch can be challenging for those new to monitoring services.
  • Limited Alarm Options: CloudWatch only supports basic text-based alarms and lacks support for advanced features such as aggregation alarms, which may limit the effectiveness of monitoring.
  • Integration Challenges: Integrating Amazon CloudWatch with other cloud service providers like Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Microsoft Azure can be difficult, potentially complicating multi-cloud monitoring.
  • Log Retrieval Issues: Retrieving logs from Amazon CloudWatch can sometimes be cumbersome, affecting log management and analysis efficiency.

What is CloudTrail?

AWS CloudTrail website homepage

AWS CloudTrail is a logging service that records all API calls made within your AWS account. It captures detailed information such as who made the call, the timestamp, the action taken, and the event's occurrence time.

CloudTrail is especially valuable for auditing. It provides a comprehensive activity history that can be used to troubleshoot issues and understand changes in your environment. It supports compliance by tracking and documenting API interactions, helping you meet regulatory requirements. Additionally, CloudTrail aids in security analysis by offering insights into user activities and potential security risks.

Features of CloudTrail

AWS CloudTrail provides several key features that enhance auditing, compliance, and security in your AWS environment:

  • Auditing and Compliance: CloudTrail helps you meet regulatory compliance requirements by maintaining a comprehensive history of API calls made within your account. This detailed log can be used for audits and ensuring adherence to industry standards.
  • Visibility: By tracking API activity, CloudTrail offers clear visibility into how your resources are being utilized. This allows you to identify suspicious or unauthorized activities, helping you maintain control over your environment.
  • Integrations: CloudTrail seamlessly integrates with AWS CloudWatch, allowing you to deliver log files for analysis. This integration enables you to create alarms and dashboards based on API activity, enhancing monitoring and alerting capabilities.
  • Security Analysis: CloudTrail logs provide valuable insights for security analysis, troubleshooting, and incident response. By reviewing these logs, you can assess the security posture of your AWS environment and take appropriate action when necessary.


  • Easy Setup and Configuration: CloudTrail is simple to set up and configure, allowing you to begin monitoring API activity almost immediately.
  • Centralized Log Storage: CloudTrail stores log events from all AWS services in a centralized location, making it easy to view and analyze logs across your environment.
  • Real-Time API Call Monitoring: CloudTrail provides real-time information on API calls, offering insights into the actions being taken within your AWS account.
  • Comprehensive Audit Trail: CloudTrail excels in documenting intricate interactions within an AWS environment, providing a strong audit trail that aids in analysis and compliance.
  • Smooth Integration with AWS Services: CloudTrail integrates seamlessly with other AWS services, which is particularly useful in regulated industries. This facilitates extensive monitoring and enhances user accountability and oversight.


  • Limited Customization Options: AWS CloudTrail offers limited flexibility for customizing log data. As your application scales, managing logs within CloudTrail may become more challenging.
  • Cost of Storing Logs: Storing logs can become expensive over time, as CloudTrail retains logs for only 90 days by default. Long-term storage requires additional costs and arrangements for archival services.
  • Reliance on Other AWS Services: Full functionality often requires integration with other AWS services such as CloudWatch. This dependency can complicate your architecture and limit options outside the AWS ecosystem.

Comparison Between CloudWatch And CloudTrail

While AWS CloudTrail monitors activities within your AWS environment, AWS CloudWatch focuses on monitoring your AWS resources. Though these services serve different purposes, integrating them enhances the management and oversight of your AWS setup.

By combining the strengths of both CloudWatch and CloudTrail, you gain more precise control over your AWS infrastructure, enabling proactive monitoring, logging, and auditing.

Now, let's have a quick look at CloudWatch vs CloudTrail:

1. CloudWatch is a monitoring and observability service that provides real-time insights into your AWS resources and applications. It allows you to collect and track metrics, monitor log files, set alarms, and automatically react to changes in your AWS environment.

CloudTrail, on the other hand, is a logging and monitoring service that records API requests made on your AWS account. It provides a detailed activity history, helping you track changes, troubleshoot issues, and meet compliance requirements.

2. CloudWatch allows you to set up automated actions responding to specific events or thresholds. For example, you can automatically scale your EC2 instances based on CPU utilization or stop and start instances at scheduled times. CloudWatch supports automation through CloudWatch Events and CloudWatch Alarms, allowing you to trigger actions based on predefined rules and thresholds. You can automate responses to events and alerts for efficient resource management.

While CloudTrail does not offer direct automation capabilities, you can use the recorded API activity to trigger actions through other AWS services, such as AWS Config, AWS Lambda, and CloudWatch Events. This allows you to respond to real-time security events or compliance violations. 

3. CloudWatch integrates with various AWS services, including EC2, S3, RDS, Lambda, and more. It also supports custom metrics and third-party integrations for extended monitoring capabilities.

CloudTrail integrates seamlessly with CloudWatch for monitoring and alerting. It also integrates with AWS Config, S3, CloudFormation, and other services for enhanced logging and auditing capabilities.

4. CloudWatch's basic monitoring feature lets you capture data at five-minute intervals. Its detailed monitoring feature lets you capture data at one-minute intervals. However, if you choose custom metric monitoring, data is captured at one-second intervals. 

Under CloudTrail, it takes 15 minutes within the API call to record and deliver events. 

5. CloudWatch allows for long-term analysis and trend monitoring by storing metrics data for up to 15 months. Additionally, it keeps logs for 30 days by default, with the option to keep longer if needed.

CloudTrail retains your API activity logs for 90 days in its S3 bucket by default, but you can increase that period to a year if necessary. This makes it simple to examine past data for security and compliance requirements.

6. CloudWatch's integration with IAM (Identity and Access Management) allows you to control who has access to your resources and metrics data.

Similarly, CloudTrail's integration with AWS IAM allows you to specify precise access controls for API activity logs. 

7. CloudWatch pricing is based on the volume of metrics monitored, logs ingested, and alarms set. A free tier is available for new customers, and pricing varies depending on the region and frequency of monitoring.

CloudTrail pricing is based on the number of API events recorded and the storage of log files. Like CloudWatch, there is a free tier for new customers, and pricing is determined by the region and volume of activity logged.

By now, we must have understood CloudWatch vs CloudTrail. Here is a quick look at their use cases:


  • Analyze the root cause: You can evaluate user requests, logs, analytics, and data to expedite debugging and lower the average time to resolution.
  • Track application performance: To identify and address the core cause of performance problems with your AWS services, you can visualize performance data, set up alarms, and correlate data.
  • Website Impacts Testing: It lets you view images, logs, and web requests at any given time to determine the precise moment and duration of any influence on your website.
  • Proactive resource optimizations: By scheduling activities to happen when thresholds are reached depending on your specifications or machine learning models, you can automate resource planning and reduce expenses.


  • Monitoring security-related activity within your AWS account: You can strengthen your security posture by logging user activities and events and using Amazon EventBridge to set up automated process rules.
  • Compliance and Auditing: Use CloudTrail logs to demonstrate compliance with SOC, PCI, and HIPAA standards and protect your company from penalties.
  • Operations: Use SQL-based queries, Amazon Athena, or dashboards in CloudTrail Lake to visualize patterns, assist with debugging, and look into problems such as rate limits. You can also investigate unauthorized changes to resources.

In short, if you are curious about how your application operates internally, you should always use CloudWatch. It will help you understand your application's overall health, errors, or comprehensive log statements. On the other hand, if you want to know which resource or user performed which API operation, you should always use CloudTrail. It helps you take an automatic audit log of your actions. 

Lucidity: For Storage Optimization!

While AWS CloudWatch and CloudTrail provide comprehensive monitoring and logging capabilities, covering computing resources such as instances, databases, and applications, their deployment across the complete environment is harder for storage monitoring. Neglecting storage optimization due to such difficulties can result in higher costs, as storage significantly contributes to the overall cloud bill.

According to Virtana's "State of Hybrid Cloud Storage in 2023" study, which surveyed 360 IT staff members, the rising cost of cloud storage is a concern for many IT executives:

  • 94% of IT executives stated that cloud storage costs are increasing.
  • 54% noted that the rate of increase in storage costs was faster than the overall cloud costs.

These statistics highlight the importance of focusing on storage optimization to avoid unnecessary financial burdens. By implementing efficient storage management practices, businesses can reduce costs and improve performance in their cloud environments.

Teams should focus on enhancing the buffer to ensure they have enough space to handle changing storage requirements in the cloud. However, this can be a laborious and time-consuming process that presents several challenges:

  • Manual Storage Management: Manual storage management can be complex and prone to errors. The process includes multiple steps, such as data backup, volume creation or modification, and removal of the original volume. These tasks require careful planning and execution, making them time-consuming and challenging.
  • Downtime: Shrinkage is not possible and also traditional storage management methods often require manual intervention, which can lead to downtime. In addition, businesses may neglect to set appropriate alarms or monitor agents, resulting in downtime and further delays.
  • Hyperbolized Storage: Many organizations overestimate the growth of their disks, leading them to overprovision resources rather than adjusting them according to changing demands. This practice results in wasted spending on underutilized or unused resources.

To avoid these challenges, teams should explore automated storage management solutions that streamline the process, minimize downtime, and optimize resource usage according to real-time demands.

This is where Lucidity can help you.

It offers an exceptional solution for block storage optimization that can effectively address the challenges of storage management in the cloud. With its Storage Audit solution, Lucidity expedites the optimization process, identifying overprovisioned resources and unnecessary usage without requiring additional software installation. 

By streamlining the assessment of disk condition and usage, Lucidity optimizes resource allocation and minimizes downtime. This ensures maximum performance and cost-effective cloud storage management, ultimately helping organizations maintain a lean and efficient cloud infrastructure.

Lucidity Storage Audit provides valuable insights that enable efficient optimization of cloud storage usage, including:

  • Comprehensive Optimization of Disk Usage: Gain a detailed understanding of the costs associated with disk usage and identify opportunities to reduce expenses by up to 70%. By analyzing spending patterns, you can make data-driven decisions to optimize resource allocation and maximize cost efficiency.
  • Analyze Disk Usage: Identify instances of overprovisioned and underutilized storage and other inefficiencies in disk usage. By pinpointing areas of resource waste, you can take proactive measures to improve resource utilization, resulting in significant cost savings and enhanced performance.
  • Mitigate Disk Downtime Risks: Detect potential risks that could lead to disk downtime and implement strategies to minimize the financial and reputational impact of service interruptions. By proactively addressing issues and implementing preventive measures, you can ensure the continuous availability of critical resources, safeguard operations, and enhance overall reliability.

Key Features of Lucidity's Storage Audit include:

  • CSP Integration for Data Collection: Lucidity leverages the cloud service provider's internal services to collect essential storage metadata, such as disk size and storage utilization percentage. This information allows for a comprehensive assessment of storage usage.
  • Zero Impact Optimization: Lucidity's Storage Audit ensures zero disruption to the customer's resources or cloud environment. This commitment ensures a smooth and secure optimization process without interfering with other operations.

Overall, Lucidity's Storage Audit provides actionable insights to help you manage your cloud storage more effectively, reduce expenses, and minimize risks, thereby increasing operational efficiency and performance.

Lucidity Bock Storage Auto-Scaler

As automation becomes increasingly necessary in managing cloud storage, Lucidity provides an innovative block storage auto-scaling solution that automates the shrinkage and expansion of storage resources. This process helps prevent overprovisioning and underprovisioning, ensuring optimal resource utilization and cost efficiency.

Lucidity Block Storage Auto-Scaler is the industry's first storage orchestration solution that automatically resizes storage capacity to meet changing demands with unmatched effectiveness. By dynamically adjusting storage capacity based on real-time usage patterns, it streamlines resource management and enhances overall system performance.

Features of Lucidity’s Block Storage Auto-Scaler

  • Simplified Deployment: Incorporate the Lucidity Block Storage Auto-Scaler into your storage environment with just three clicks. This easy deployment ensures prompt implementation and minimal disruption to existing workflows.
  • Responsive Scalability: The Auto-Scaler responds quickly to fluctuations in workloads or traffic by adjusting storage capacity to meet changing needs. Its responsive right-sizing capability allows both live expansion and shrinkage operations, preventing downtime and performance bottlenecks.
  • Optimized Storage: Instantly scale storage capacity while maintaining a 70–80% utilization rate to maximize cost efficiency. The Auto-Scaler dynamically adjusts storage capacity, ensuring effective resource utilization and minimizing waste, lowering costs.

With these features, Lucidity Block Storage Auto-Scaler allows teams to effortlessly automate and optimize their storage infrastructure, ensuring smooth operations, improved productivity, and cost savings.

Once over- or under-provisioned resources are detected, the Lucidity Block Storage Auto-Scaler offers several benefits:

advantages of Lucidity for block storage management
  • Automated Disk Scaling: Lucidity's Auto-Scaler can right-size the disk quickly, achieving live expansion and shrinkage. This rapid adjustment ensures seamless data management and improved performance.
  • Block Storage Cost Savings of Up to 70%: By automating storage adjustments based on actual demand, Lucidity's Block Storage Auto-Scaler can help organizations save up to 70% on idle resource costs. This dynamic scaling optimizes resource allocation and minimizes unnecessary spending, leading to substantial cost reductions.
  • Zero Downtime: Unlike manual provisioning methods that can lead to costly downtime, Lucidity's Auto-Scaler makes resource adjustments in minutes, ensuring continuous performance without any downtime.
  • Personalized Policies: The "Create Policy" tool lets you fine-tune variables such as buffer size and disk utilization for automated scaling. By tailoring policies to your business requirements and performance targets, you can maximize uptime reliability and optimize the efficiency of your storage infrastructure.
Lucidity custom create policy to ensure no downtime

Make the Right Choice for Your Cloud Management Needs

If you're still unsure which tool to choose, consider your specific requirements and objectives. CloudWatch is the right choice if you need to monitor performance and track metrics in real time, while CloudTrail is ideal for detailed logs of all API activity for compliance and security purposes.

Your use case and goals will determine whether you choose CloudWatch, CloudTrail, or both. Understanding the features and capabilities of each tool will help you make an informed decision that aligns with your unique needs. AWS provides powerful services to monitor and manage your cloud infrastructure effectively, so take advantage of them to ensure the reliability and security of your AWS resources.

If you're having trouble calculating cloud storage costs or optimizing storage resources, Lucidity offers automated solutions that can simplify your cloud cost management and maximize your storage savings. Consider booking a personalized demo with Lucidity to learn how their services can enhance your cloud storage experience.

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