Amazon CloudWatch
Developer Guide (API Version 2010-08-01)

Monitoring Log Files

You can use Amazon CloudWatch Logs to monitor, store, and access your log files from Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances, AWS CloudTrail, or other sources. You can then retrieve the associated log data from CloudWatch Logs using the Amazon CloudWatch console, the CloudWatch Logs commands in the AWS CLI, the CloudWatch Logs API, or the CloudWatch Logs SDK.

You can use CloudWatch Logs to:

  • Monitor Logs from Amazon EC2 Instances in Real-time—You can use CloudWatch Logs to monitor applications and systems using log data. For example, CloudWatch Logs can track the number of errors that occur in your application logs and send you a notification whenever the rate of errors exceeds a threshold you specify. CloudWatch Logs uses your log data for monitoring; so, no code changes are required. For example, you can monitor application logs for specific literal terms (such as "NullReferenceException") or count the number of occurrences of a literal term at a particular position in log data (such as "404" status codes in an Apache access log). When the term you are searching for is found, CloudWatch Logs reports the data to a CloudWatch metric that you specify.

    To get started with CloudWatch Logs on an Amazon EC2 instance running Linux, see Getting Started with CloudWatch Logs.

    To get started with CloudWatch Logs on an Amazon EC2 instance running Microsoft Windows, see Sending Performance Counters to CloudWatch and Logs to CloudWatch Logs in the Amazon EC2 User Guide for Microsoft Windows Instances.

  • Monitor AWS CloudTrail Logged Events—You can create alarms in CloudWatch and receive notifications of particular API activity as captured by CloudTrail and use the notification to perform troubleshooting.

    To get started with CloudWatch Logs and logged events in CloudTrail, see Sending CloudTrail Events to CloudWatch Logs in the AWS CloudTrail User Guide.

  • Archive Log Data—You can use CloudWatch Logs to store your log data in highly durable storage. You can change the log retention setting so that any log events older than this setting are automatically deleted. The CloudWatch Logs agent makes it easy to quickly send both rotated and non-rotated log data off of a host and into the log service. You can then access the raw log data when you need it.


The terminology and concepts that are central to your understanding and use of CloudWatch Logs are described below.

Log Events

A log event is a record of some activity recorded by the application or resource being monitored. The log event record that CloudWatch Logs understands contains two properties: the timestamp of when the event occurred, and the raw event message. Event messages must be UTF-8 encoded.

Log Streams

A log stream is a sequence of log events that share the same source. More specifically, a log stream is generally intended to represent the sequence of events coming from the application instance or resource being monitored. For example, a log stream may be associated with an Apache access log on a specific host. When you no longer need a log stream, you can delete it using the aws logs delete-log-stream command. In addition, AWS may delete empty log streams that are over 2 months old.

Log Groups

Log groups define groups of log streams that share the same retention, monitoring, and access control settings. Each log stream has to belong to one log group. For example, a typical log group organization for a fleet of Apache web servers could be the following:, or

Metric Filters

Metric filters can be used to express how the service would extract metric observations from ingested events and transform them to data points in a CloudWatch metric. Metric filters are assigned to log groups, and all of the filters assigned to a log group are applied to their log streams.

Retention Settings

Retention settings can be used to specify how long log events are kept in CloudWatch Logs. Expired log events get deleted automatically. Just like metric filters, retention settings are also assigned to log groups, and the retention assigned to a log group is applied to their log streams.