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system manager

Best Practices for Using AWS Systems Manager

As newer users adopt the AWS cloud, it can be difficult to watch for issues and resolve them as needed. AWS Systems Manager grants better visibility over the AWS environment by clustering resources, providing legible and usable data based on performance, and actions to take that abide by AWS compliance requirements and best practices. This service provides everything management needs to evaluate the cloud and ensure continued functionality.

Fully Optimizing with Systems Manager

Management will need to continuously monitor and adapt AWS infrastructure to security and compliance requirements.  Data will be aggregated to a single console from a variety of other insight services and third-party tools.  Through automation, resource changes can be simplified whether they’re on-premises or in the cloud and issues can be diagnosed and remedied long before they impact end-users.  There are a variety of features and AWS best practice methods that should be considered in how they are applied to an environment.

Using Automation

When operating at a greater scale, basic tasks such as maintenance can start to eat up more time.  Using automation to simplify more common, simple tasks such as generating backups, patching individual instances, deploying applications across multiple instances, and traffic control will accelerate maintenance and ensure that such tasks are carried out consistently.  For example, the Patch Manager makes sure security intelligence updates are rolled out.  This provides extensive configuration controls on how updates are conducted and how to ensure instances are consistently kept updated per the users’ preferences.  All the same, while most operations can be automated, keep a close eye on the health and resource use of an environment to react to encroaching problems faster.

 

The Parameter Store and State Manager

AWS Systems Manager Parameter Store is a central repository for configuration data, ideally database connection strings, API keys, and other important information critical to the security of cloud infrastructure.  Along with managing configuration data securely, it also provides secure access from multiple instances.  This works well in conjunction with the State Manager. The state manager Continuously monitors and verifies that instances under the System Manager’s controls are configured correctly and adjusts settings if needed.  Everything from security settings to network settings and individual application settings are tracked in the instance configuration.

Fully Optimizing with Systems Manager

Management will need to continuously monitor and adapt AWS infrastructure to security and compliance requirements.  Data will be aggregated to a single console from a variety of other insight services and third-party tools.  Through automation, resource changes can be simplified whether they’re on-premises or in the cloud and issues can be diagnosed and remedied long before they impact end-users.  There are a variety of features and AWS best practice methods that should be considered in how they are applied to an environment.

Using Automation

When operating at a greater scale, basic tasks such as maintenance can start to eat up more time.  Using automation to simplify more common, simple tasks such as generating backups, patching individual instances, deploying applications across multiple instances, and traffic control will accelerate maintenance and ensure that such tasks are carried out consistently.  For example, the Patch Manager makes sure security intelligence updates are rolled out.  This provides extensive configuration controls on how updates are conducted and how to ensure instances are consistently kept updated per the users’ preferences.  All the same, while most operations can be automated, keep a close eye on the health and resource use of an environment to react to encroaching problems faster.

 

The Parameter Store and State Manager

AWS Systems Manager Parameter Store is a central repository for configuration data, ideally database connection strings, API keys, and other important information critical to the security of cloud infrastructure.  Along with managing configuration data securely, it also provides secure access from multiple instances.  This works well in conjunction with the State Manager. The state manager Continuously monitors and verifies that instances under the System Manager’s controls are configured correctly and adjusts settings if needed.  Everything from security settings to network settings and individual application settings are tracked in the instance configuration.

aws systems manager

The Principle of Least Privilege

Setting IAM (Identity Access Management) policies to follow the principle of least privilege means that each user role will only have access to the resources that are necessary to complete their tasks.  Should an account become compromised, the amount of damage the hijacked account can do will be significantly reduced and minimize the risk of unauthorized access to crucial resources.  Access logs will track suspicious activity to better discover which accounts in an AWS organization have been compromised.

 

Stick to a Good Naming Convention

Using a standardized method of naming resources will make those resources much easier to find and identify.  The AWS Systems Manager does come with a tagging system to help categorize everything.  This also works with properly allocating costs and properly tracking what services are using environmental resources for accounting and cost optimization purposes.  Items with similar tags can then be placed into Resource Groups.  These are groups of similar resource types so sourcing the right resources is much easier.

Managed Instances

Managed Instances are instances specifically located outside of an environment’s VPC running either in another environment or in a customer’s data center.  Typically, this is more for front-end requirements where customers will need to have access to certain resources and can help in simplifying how instances are managed across environments.

The Principle of Least Privilege

Setting IAM (Identity Access Management) policies to follow the principle of least privilege means that each user role will only have access to the resources that are necessary to complete their tasks.  Should an account become compromised, the amount of damage the hijacked account can do will be significantly reduced and minimize the risk of unauthorized access to crucial resources.  Access logs will track suspicious activity to better discover which accounts in an AWS organization have been compromised.

 

Stick to a Good Naming Convention

Using a standardized method of naming resources will make those resources much easier to find and identify.  The AWS Systems Manager does come with a tagging system to help categorize everything.  This also works with properly allocating costs and properly tracking what services are using environmental resources for accounting and cost optimization purposes.  Items with similar tags can then be placed into Resource Groups.  These are groups of similar resource types so sourcing the right resources is much easier.

Managed Instances

Managed Instances are instances specifically located outside of an environment’s VPC running either in another environment or in a customer’s data center.  Typically, this is more for front-end requirements where customers will need to have access to certain resources and can help in simplifying how instances are managed across environments.

aws infrastructure

Inventory Management and Resource Use

The metadata on all active instances and applications is retained in the environment’s inventory.  Everything from resource use and access logs is kept here with extensive details for review.  These should be used extensively for evaluating environmental efficiency and identifying potential security issues that need to be remedied.

 

AWS Infrastructure and Maintaining Control

Systems Manager is a very comprehensive set of tools that grants significant oversight over an environment and the options for how to change the environment to be efficient, meet best practices, and mitigate risk as much as physically possible.  Whether for development teams building their first project on AWS or companies who are long-time users of the Amazon Cloud, it’s an essential service that should be considered in the maintenance process.   For more on AWS best practices, check out our guide on objectives and services that can help provide a sustainable AWS environment.

Inventory Management and Resource Use

The metadata on all active instances and applications is retained in the environment’s inventory.  Everything from resource use and access logs is kept here with extensive details for review.  These should be used extensively for evaluating environmental efficiency and identifying potential security issues that need to be remedied.

 

AWS Infrastructure and Maintaining Control

Systems Manager is a very comprehensive set of tools that grants significant oversight over an environment and the options for how to change the environment to be efficient, meet best practices, and mitigate risk as much as physically possible.  Whether for development teams building their first project on AWS or companies who are long-time users of the Amazon Cloud, it’s an essential service that should be considered in the maintenance process.   For more on AWS best practices, check out our guide on objectives and services that can help provide a sustainable AWS environment.

What is Configuration Compliance?

Configuration Compliance refers to the process of ensuring that the settings and configurations of your managed instances are in line with the desired and expected state. With AWS Systems Manager, you have the capability to verify both patch compliance and configuration consistency across your AWS accounts and Regions.

Using this service, you can effortlessly collect and aggregate data from multiple accounts and Regions, giving you a comprehensive view of compliance across your infrastructure. By drilling down into non-compliant resources, AWS Systems Manager allows you to identify and address any configuration inconsistencies, enabling you to maintain a secure and reliable environment.

The service provides default statistics on patching and associations, offering visibility into the compliance status of your resources. Additionally, you have the flexibility to personalize the service according to your specific needs by creating your own compliance categories. This customization feature allows you to tailor the assessment process, ensuring that it aligns with your organization’s unique compliance requirements.

Overall, Configuration Compliance with AWS Systems Manager empowers you to effectively monitor and enforce desired configurations and patching levels, contributing to the overall security and stability of your managed instances.

What is Distributor?

Distributor is a feature in AWS Systems Manager that provides a secure solution for storing and distributing software packages throughout your organization. It offers control over the lifespan of these packages on your instances by working seamlessly with other Systems Manager tools such as Run Command and State Manager. With Distributor, you can efficiently manage software distribution and ensure that the right packages are available on the right instances at the right time.

What types of data can be stored in AWS Systems Manager?

AWS Systems Manager provides a comprehensive solution for storing various types of data, encompassing both plain-text information and sensitive credentials. This includes the capability to securely store configuration data, such as database connection strings and other plain-text values. Additionally, AWS Systems Manager allows for the storage of crucial secrets, such as passwords and other sensitive information, ensuring their protection and accessibility in a centralized repository.

How does AWS Systems Manager help segregate code from secrets and configuration data?

AWS Systems Manager provides a comprehensive solution for storing various types of data, encompassing both plain-text information and sensitive credentials. This includes the capability to securely store configuration data, such as database connection strings and other plain-text values. Additionally, AWS Systems Manager allows for the storage of crucial secrets, such as passwords and other sensitive information, ensuring their protection and accessibility in a centralized repository.

How does AWS Systems Manager help segregate code from secrets and configuration data?

AWS Systems Manager is designed to assist in segregating code from secrets and configuration data in a secure manner. It serves as a centralized repository for storing all configuration data, including sensitive information such as passwords and database strings, in a plaintext format. By separating code from secrets and configuration data, it provides enhanced security and control over access to these valuable resources.

Parameters in AWS Systems Manager can be conveniently labeled and organized into hierarchies, making it easier to manage and handle them. This hierarchical structure allows for logical grouping of parameters based on their respective purposes or environments, such as development, production, or testing.

For example, the same parameter name, such as “?db-string,” can be used, but with different hierarchical paths like “?dev/db-string” or “?prod/db-string” to differentiate the values based on the specific environment they belong to. This practice helps maintain separation and avoids potential confusion between different instances of a parameter.

Moreover, AWS Systems Manager seamlessly integrates with AWS Key Management Service (KMS), which enables automatic encryption of the data stored within the system. This integration ensures that sensitive information, such as passwords and secrets, are protected, even if they are stored in plaintext format within the repository.

By leveraging AWS Systems Manager, organizations can effectively enforce a separation between code and sensitive information, maintaining a higher level of security and control over their configuration data.

What is the benefit of linking AWS Key Management Service (KMS) with Systems Manager?

Linking AWS Key Management Service (KMS) with Systems Manager offers the valuable advantage of automating data encryption. By integrating these two services, you can ensure that the data you store on AWS is automatically encrypted. With KMS, you have the ability to manage and control the encryption keys, while Systems Manager provides a centralized location for managing, configuring, and operating your AWS resources. This combination empowers you to enhance security by seamlessly encrypting your sensitive data within the AWS environment without the need for manual intervention.

How can AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) be used with parameters in Systems Manager?

AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) offers a solution for managing user and resource access to parameters in AWS Systems Manager. By utilizing IAM, you can efficiently control who has the permission to access parameters within the Systems Manager. IAM allows you to define fine-grained access policies, granting or revoking access based on specific user roles, groups, or individual users.

In addition to controlling user access, IAM also provides the ability to manage resource-level permissions. This means you can set restrictions on which resources, such as Amazon Elastic Container Service, AWS Lambda, and AWS CloudFormation, can reference the parameters. By configuring IAM policies appropriately, you can ensure that only authorized resources are able to access and utilize the parameters within Systems Manager.

Overall, leveraging AWS IAM in conjunction with parameters in Systems Manager provides a robust and secure approach to managing user and resource access, enabling you to have granular control and a higher level of security in your AWS environment.

Dolan Cleary

Dolan Cleary

I am a recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin - Stout and am now working with AllCode as a web technician. Currently working within the marketing department.

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