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Amazon CloudWatch is a valuable tool for AWS SysOps Administrators. It enables real-time monitoring of AWS resources and customer applications run on Amazon infrastructure. With CloudWatch, administrators gain system-wide visibility into operational health and resource utilization. To achieve this, you can use the CloudWatch agent for collecting metrics and logs.

CloudWatch Agent

The CloudWatch agent is a software that can be installed on your servers to provide metrics and logs that report OS-level system metrics and application logs. Advanced capabilities of the CloudWatch agent include:

  • Collection of system-level metrics from both the host environment and the guest OS.
  • The ability to define and collect metrics from log files.
  • High-resolution metrics collection (as frequent as 1-second intervals).
  • Support for both EC2 instances and on-premise servers.

Installing and Configuring CloudWatch Agent

To ensure CloudWatch agent operates correctly, you need to first install, and then configure it. Let’s discuss the necessary steps you need to take:

Install the CloudWatch Agent

You can install the CloudWatch agent on either cloud instances or your own servers. AWS provides a Systems Manager documents (AWS-ConfigureAWSPackage) that you can use to install the agent:

aws ssm send-command --document-name "AWS-ConfigureAWSPackage" --document-version "1" --targets '[{"Key":"tag:Name","Values":["EC2-Instance-Tag"]}]' --parameters '{"action":["Install"],"name":["AmazonCloudWatchAgent"],"version":["latest"]}' --timeout-seconds 600 --max-concurrency "50" --max-errors "0" --region us-east-2

In this code snippet, AWS SSM send-command is used to install the latest version of Amazon CloudWatchAgent on all EC2 instances that have a tag “Name=EC2-Instance-Tag”.

Configure the CloudWatch Agent

Once the agent is installed, it needs to be configured to gather and send necessary metrics and logs:


When you run the CloudWatch agent configuration wizard provided in the command, it will ask a series of questions about your perimeters such as the location of log files, metrics collection intervals, and so on. The wizard then creates a configuration file based on your responses.

Sending Metrics & Logs with CloudWatch agent

After the installation and configuration, your servers will start to send metrics and logs at specified intervals. You can view and analyse these in the CloudWatch console.


CloudWatch is a powerful and versatile tool that offers AWS SysOps Administrators valuable insights into their systems’ operations, all thanks to the CloudWatch Agent. If you’re studying for the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate (SOA-C02) exam, getting to grips with CloudWatch, and its agent is crucial. These skills will help you optimize your responsibilities and enhance your performance in the SysOps role.

Practice Test

True or False: You can collect data and logs from Amazon EC2 instances and on-premises servers using the CloudWatch agent.

  • True

Answer: True

Explanation: AWS CloudWatch agent allows you to collect system-level operational data and logs, both from EC2 instances and on-premises servers to CloudWatch.

Which of the following is NOT a feature of AWS CloudWatch agent?

  • A) Collects system-level metrics
  • B) Collects data from on-premises servers
  • C) Acts as a firewall
  • D) Collects logs

Answer: C) Acts as a firewall

Explanation: While the CloudWatch agent provides capabilities to collect metrics and logs, firewall functionality is not one of them.

True or False: CloudWatch agent does not support encrypted channels to push logs and metrics data.

  • False

Answer: False

Explanation: CloudWatch agent uses Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol to protect the metrics and logs in transit.

In order to install and configure the CloudWatch agent, which permissions are required?

  • A) AmazonEC2ReadOnlyAccess
  • B) CloudWatchAgentAdminPolicy
  • C) AWSOrganizationsFullAccess
  • D) AdministratorAccess

Answer: B) CloudWatchAgentAdminPolicy

Explanation: This policy grants the necessary permissions required to install and manage the CloudWatch agent.

True or False: CloudWatch agent can run on both EC2 instances and on-premise servers.

  • True

Answer: True

Explanation: The CloudWatch agent can be installed on both AWS and on-premise servers to collect metrics and logs.

Which file does the CloudWatch agent use to specify which metrics and logs to collect?

  • A) agent.json
  • B) monitor.json
  • C) cloudwatch.json
  • D) all of above

Answer: A) agent.json

Explanation: The CloudWatch agent uses the agent.json file to specify the data to collect and where to send it.

You can update the CloudWatch agent’s configuration a) Manually by editing the JSON configuration file, b) Dynamically by using the AWS CLI, or c) both.

  • both

Answer: C) both

Explanation: You can manually modify the JSON file or use the AWS CLI to make changes dynamically without stopping the agent.

True or False: The CloudWatch agent collects detailed billing data by default.

  • False

Answer: False

Explanation: The CloudWatch agent does not collect detailed billing data by default; instead, it primarily collects system metrics and logs.

What command can be used to check if the logs from the CloudWatch agent are successfully making their way to CloudWatch Logs?

  • A) aws logs describe-log-groups
  • B) aws logs check
  • C) aws cloudwatch check-logs
  • D) aws cloudwatch verify-logs

Answer: A) aws logs describe-log-groups

Explanation: The “aws logs describe-log-groups” command lists the log groups defined for CloudWatch Logs from which you can identify your relevant logs.

True or False: CloudWatch agent can also collect system-level metrics from third-party applications.

  • True

Answer: True

Explanation: With custom metrics, the CloudWatch agent can collect and report on system-level metrics from third-party applications.

Which command is used to stop the CloudWatch agent?

  • A) sudo systemctl stop amazon-cloudwatch-agent
  • B) sudo systemctl stop amazon-cloudwatch-service
  • C) aws cloudwatch stop-agent
  • D) aws stop amazon-cloudwatch-agent

Answer: A) sudo systemctl stop amazon-cloudwatch-agent

Explanation: The command to stop the CloudWatch agent for Linux systems using systemctl is “sudo systemctl stop amazon-cloudwatch-agent”.

True or False: CloudWatch agent is capable of collecting metrics and logs from Docker containers.

  • True

Answer: True

Explanation: CloudWatch agent can also collect metrics and logs directly from Docker by using a StatsD and log driver.

Does CloudWatch agent automatically start collecting logs from AWS managed services?

  • No

Answer: No

Explanation: AWS CloudWatch agent primarily collects system metrics and custom logs; For most AWS managed services, you will have to set up CloudWatch Logs to collect logs separately.

True or False: You cannot modify the CloudWatch agent configuration once the agent is running.

  • False

Answer: False

Explanation: The CloudWatch agent’s configuration can be updated after it is started, either manually or dynamically using the AWS CLI.

Which of the following scripting languages is used for creating the CloudWatch agent’s configuration file?

  • A) YAML
  • B) JSON
  • C) Python script
  • D) Bash script

Answer: B) JSON

Explanation: The CloudWatch agent uses JSON for its configuration files. This file is used to specify what logs and metrics to collect.

Interview Questions

What is the primary purpose of the CloudWatch agent in AWS?

The primary purpose is to collect system and application performance metrics and logs from Amazon EC2 instances and on-premise servers so that you can review and monitor them in Amazon CloudWatch.

Can CloudWatch agent support both Windows and Linux environments?

Yes, Amazon CloudWatch agent is designed to support both Windows and Linux environments.

What type of data can be collected by the AWS CloudWatch agent?

The Amazon CloudWatch agent can collect both system-level metrics (like CPU usage, disk I/O, and network bandwidth) and application logs.

How is the CloudWatch agent installed on an EC2 instance?

The CloudWatch agent is installed on an EC2 instance via the AWS Systems Manager, by using AWS CLI, or by using an EC2 user data script that runs the necessary installation commands at instance launch.

Is it possible to collect custom metrics using the CloudWatch agent?

Yes, CloudWatch agent can be used to collect custom metrics from your applications or services, in addition to the standard system metrics.

What is the command to start the CloudWatch agent?

The command to start the CloudWatch agent is ‘/opt/aws/amazon-cloudwatch-agent/bin/amazon-cloudwatch-agent-ctl -a fetch-config -m ec2 -s’

What permissions are required for the IAM role to allow CloudWatch agent to access metrics and logs?

The IAM role needs to have permissions for CloudWatch:PutMetricData, CloudWatch:PutLogEvents, and EC2:DescribeTags operations.

What is the maximum retention period for data stored in CloudWatch?

The maximum retention period for data stored in CloudWatch is 15 months.

In what format should the log files be for the CloudWatch agent to collect them?

The CloudWatch agent can collect logs that are in text file format.

How can you specify which logs to collect when configuring the CloudWatch agent?

You specify which logs to collect in the agent configuration file, where you provide the file paths and names for your log files.

What happens when the CloudWatch agent is stopped or fails?

When the CloudWatch agent is stopped or fails, it stops sending data to CloudWatch. However, after you restart it, it resumes where it left off, so no data is lost.

Is it possible to monitor memory usage with CloudWatch without using the CloudWatch agent?

No, in order to monitor memory usage, you need to install the CloudWatch agent.

Can CloudWatch Agent be used with on-premise servers?

Yes, CloudWatch Agent can also be used to collect data from on-premise servers.

Can CloudWatch agent be used to collect EC2 instance-level metrics for instances in a VPC that doesn’t have a public IP address?

Yes, given AWS PrivateLink is configured, it allows communication between instances in a VPC and AWS services, including CloudWatch, without needing a public IP address.

When should I consider using CloudWatch agent versus AWS Systems Manager Agent (SSM Agent)?

While AWS Systems Manager Agent (SSM Agent) provides a wider set of operational functions such as patch management and systems management, consider using CloudWatch agent specifically when you need to collect custom metrics or logs from your EC2 instances or on-premise servers, and when you need to monitor memory and disk metrics.

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