Using Best Practices checks with CloudCheckr

In the next couple of articles I will be writing I am going to be looking at Resource Control, Cost Optimisation and Best Practice features provided by CloudCheckr (cloudcheckr.com) and how I hope to use them in managing a deployment in Amazon Web Services.

Once you have registered for your CloudCheckr account (see https://deangrant.wordpress.com/2013/09/13/receive-extended-free-trial-of-cloudcheckr-pro/, for an extended trial) and performed the initial creation of a project and collection of your deployment, you can now start to take advantage of the various reports generated from your project.

The first report I will be looking at is the Best Practice report, which takes a detailed look at your deployment to ensure your infrastructure is configured as per each best practice check and provides a status.

The results are categorised into four sections; Availability, Cost, Security and Usage and may be filtered by importance and/or tag.

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The items in your report will be categorised with icons and colours to the severity of the status, as below:

  • Red = High
  • Orange = Medium
  • Yellow = Low
  • Blue = Informational
  • Green = No issues found

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Each issue generated allows you to either export the information to a CSV file, ignore the issue (maybe I have no DynamoDB clients and do not wish to report this status) or  to check the details of that particular alert.

Checking the details of the issue is really useful and provides a drill through interface to view each issue for that particular alert. For example, for EBS volumes without a snapshot I can not only view each snapshot reporting this status but further investigate the Volume ID to view the details such as Status, Cost Per Month, Availability Zone and the Instance this is attached to.

There are over 100 best practice checks performed and therefore far too many for me to mention in this article.

Also, a feature I do like is the email notification service which will notify you or any new issues discovered since the previous day and provide those details. Previous, best practice tools I have used generally produce static information with no previous history or comparison.

So which alerts did I find most useful?

Ultimately, the question I get asked is how much is this costing and how can we reduce the monthly spend? If you are using your deployment for Development it can become quite easy to have a number of instances and volumes that become idle or unused.. The best practices report will identify these resources and produce a 30 day trend for those idle instances.

One common mistake can also be creating under utilised resources, the usage report will help to identify any under utilised EBS volumes and EC2 instances and allow you to drill through to the resource and display a number of metrics as well as cost to help you determine the correct resource type to select.

The security checks provide a good detailed list of best practices to follow, this will detail information such as security groups that allow traffic from any IP address, all ports and potentially dangerous ports exposed. There are also a number of IAM security checks, such as password policies and mult-factor authentication configuration issues.

Availability alerts can provide a list of EC2 volumes that currently have no snapshots (previous 7 days) which in my case can highlight volumes that have not been configured correctly as snapshots are performed based on tagging of the resource. Also, if you protect instances with termination protection those instances without this option enabled will be highlighted.

In terms of providing high availability within your deployment a number of availability alerts can help to identify issues such as unhealthy instances within Elastic Load Balancers and Multi Availability Zone distribution.

For more detailed information, in regards to using the best practice reports see http://support.cloudcheckr.com/best-practices-detail-report/.

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