AWS Config Vs AWS CloudTrail – Which one is right for you?

aws cloudtrail and aws config

AWS Config Vs AWS CloudTrail – Which one is right for you?

About AWS

AWS or Amazon Web Services is a magnificent universe consisting of over 100 cloud services. The product is designed for rugged and reliable use, giving you an effective cloud computing experience. There are many of these services that are quite similar to each other, there are databases, logging services, computing services, and other such tools which makes AWS a unique tool.

There are mainly two of these AWS tools that come under the management and configuration section, and they are a bit similar to each other as well. If you are a new entrant in AWS, then it might confuse you a lot. These tools are AWS Config and AWS CloudTrail namely.

But if you are pro in AWS and know your way around it, they would be able to relate to the description given above. In essence, both are very different from each other and they have very different specifications and feature sets. Let us take a look at some of the vital points on the same in the following sections.

AWS Config – An Overview

AWS Config is a service that enables you to set up some configuration rules that your AWS resources would follow. It would also keep track of your resources that are following these rules. If a resource is changed at any point in time, AWS Config would keep a record of it in the S3 bucket. A screenshot of the system would be taken at specific time intervals configured by you. All of the pre-existing and historical records in the S3 would be shown via the overview section along with the existing configurations on a seamless dashboard.

AWS CloudTrail – The Lowdown

AWS CloudTrail is basically a record-keeping service thereby recording all of the API calls towards any of the AWS services. All of the call details would be kept track of and details like, the user or the application that initiated the call, the exact time of it and the source IP Address of the call would be recorded. Amazon Web Services also has a similar service called CloudWatch Logs, but it only records general application logs as compared to CloudTrail which gives you an overview of the usage of AWS Services.

Similarities between CloudTrail and Config

There are a lot of similarities between Config and CloudTrail. First things first, they are both tracking tools keeping track of the total usage of AWS services. All of the possible changes and historical data with respect to the resources would be monitored. Both the tools are utilized for identical purposes, and they are for agreement and administration purposes, surveying, safety policies and so on and so forth. If there is any issue that is being faced for the AWS tools, then it would be visible in both the tools.

Differences between CloudTrail and Config

Even though both of these tools keep track of similar kinds of incidents, the purview and viewpoint is completely the opposite. AWS Config keeps tabs on what all changes have taken place, whereas CloudTrail reports on the individual who made the changes, and which location was it specifically done from. AWS Config focuses on the configuration front of all of the AWS resources as well as reports with screenshots of every one of them. AWS CloudTrail would be focusing its attention on the API calls or any of the events which enable them to make these changes. The entire focus of CloudTrail would be with respect to the user, applications, and tasks carried out on the system.

CloudTrail and Config – How do they function together?

CloudTrail and Config amalgamate very much with each other. It is preferable to use AWS Config to get to know the status of the AWS resources. You would get a better outline of the usage when you take out the CloudTrail records as well. All of the changes can be coordinated with respect to the timeline of events that took place with respect to CloudTrail.

AWS Config would merely be used for observing and reporting the instances, and it doesn’t allow any changes to the resources being made. Config can then be integrated with IAM for setting up the permissions on what the users would or would not be able to execute in the resource. CloudTrail provides you with excess control on this owing to CloudWatch integration.

If a security violation occurs and the hacker has made multiple changes over a limited time period, then Config would not be able to make any changes. Only the latest and vital changes carried out to the resources would be recorded, and any changes that seem recurring would not be taken into consideration. All of this is done so that the system is kept receptive to the end-user instead of delaying after every change has occurred until it gets logged into the S3. AWS CloudTrail on the other hand logs every bit of data in itself. It also contains an integrity corroboration attribute to check if the hacker has illegally exploited any of the API logs for covering up their stuff. This becomes an important feature while checking out for any possible breaches.

Both of these tools and equally important when it comes to the implementation of self-serve IT policy. AWS Config also operates well with AWS CloudFormation so that templates can be created for every possible AWS resource. The templates can then be shared with the developers for accessing resources with no IT approvals. Suppose if employees make changes to any template during the creation of resources, AWS Config would record that change and notify the respective department of the breach. The respective departments can even use CloudTrail to dig deeper into the details about the possible identity of who made these changes.


Both CloudTrail and Config are powerful assets to every organization if companies want to secure applications on the AWS cloud. It would ensure increased performance, meeting up with the possible compliance standards, and swifter troubleshooting of the issues. It would not be prudent to say that the services are distinctly different, but their individual tracking functionalities give organizations much to hope for, thereby making AWS one of the leading services there is.