continuous monitoring

What is Continuous Monitoring?

Enterprises all over the world demand complete transparency into their business operations at any instance. This is important for enabling organizations to adapt to the modifications in the environment, legislation, and their structure. However, only a handful of companies have been able to achieve credible transparency into their business processes. Due to the lack of continuous monitoring, organizations are not able to identify, resolve, or understand key insights regarding certain risks.

In such cases, Continuous Monitoring or CM becomes an inevitable requirement for improving transparency into the project. With the help of CM processes, enterprises can identify and report discrepancies in development, compliance, and security proactively. The applications of CM as an integral process in DevOps drives the necessity for learning more about it. 

Check Now: Top 20 Cloud Monitoring Tools

DevOps brings lots of employment opportunities with it, and if you want to become a DevOps professional, you need to understand what is continuous monitoring thoroughly. The following discussion provides a brief guide on the definition of CM and its importance for businesses. In addition, the discussion would also reflect on the implementation of CM, along with the best practices for CM. The discussion would also investigate themes such as the complexity of CM and the precedents of risk management for ideal CM strategies.

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Definition of Continuous Monitoring

The foremost point in any introductory guide on continuous monitoring would be its definition. You can find various answers to ‘what is continuous monitoring,’ depending on the respondent’s perspective. Some consider CM as a part of risk management to identify and measure the security concerns of planned and unplanned changes in computing infrastructure.

Another definition of CM implies the use of analytics and feedback data for ensuring proper functionality, configuration, and design of an application. In addition, CM also uses analytics and feedback data for ensuring proper processing of transactions and identifying the underlying infrastructure of an application. 

It is evident that IT businesses face considerable issues in the security and optimization of cloud-based infrastructure and environments. The number of applications deployed in multiple cloud environments is increasing every day. Therefore, IT security analysts and operation analysts should collaborate effectively to obtain detailed insights on the performance and status of an application. Continuous monitoring emerges as a promising solution in such scenarios.

CM is the process that involves faster identification of security risks and compliance issues in the IT infrastructure. It is one of the significant tools that support the SecOps (Security and Operations) teams by providing information from various public and hybrid cloud environments. In addition, continuous monitoring also provides support for critical security processes such as root cause analysis, incident response, and threat intelligence.

Objectives of Continuous Monitoring

An observation of the objectives of CM could provide further clarity to its definition. Here are the primary objectives of CM.

  1. Increased visibility and transparency into network activity.
  2. Reduction of cyber-attack risks by identifying suspicious network activity and timely alerting system.
  3. Monitor the operational issues in the performance of the application.
  4. Tracking user behavior following new application updates for determining user experience.
  5. Providing real-time feedback and insights regarding performance and interactions on the network infrastructure for promoting operational, business, and security excellence.

Also Read: Top Reasons to Learn DevOps

Why is CM Essential for Businesses?

Now that we know clearly about the basic definition and objectives of CM, let us find out its importance for businesses. As we all know, technology is an inseparable aspect of all business processes in present times. The fast pace of changes in the world of IT may be difficult to keep up with.

Therefore, companies should always work towards the implementation of new security measures and recognize the insufficiencies in existing measures. The importance of continuous monitoring for businesses is also evident in its skeptical attitude towards potential threats. An ideal program for CM provides considerable flexibility and controls with higher effectiveness, reliability, and relevance for addressing potential threats.

A closer look at the different benefits of continuous monitoring can help you perceive its importance for businesses clearly. With the ability to monitor security controls and IT infrastructure in real-time, IT organizations could gain a competitive advantage over peers. Some of the notable benefits of CM for businesses are as follows.

  1. The real-time monitoring functionality in continuous monitoring helps SecOps teams obtain better visibility into the internal processes of IT infrastructure. The ability for aggregation, normalization, and analysis of data across the network through automated processes. Therefore, it is easier to monitor all crucial trends, events, and systems. 
  2. The advantages of CM for businesses also refer to the functionalities of faster incident responses. CM helps in taking away the latency between the first occurrence of an IT incident and reporting it to the incident response team. As a result, businesses can respond timely to operational issues and security threats. 
  3. The major aim of IT operations is limiting system uptime as well as performance. The benefits of continuous monitoring can help IT operations teams respond faster to issues in application performance. Therefore, enterprises can ensure that applications have the lowest latency possible. As a result, it is easier to ward off possibilities of system downtime.
  4. Finally, CM provides an effective and transparent monitoring of user behavior. So, businesses could be able to measure customer experience and optimize their offerings according to customer behavior.

The Complexity of CM

Many organizations are doubtful regarding the adoption of CM due to more than 800 controls recommended by NIST. However, if we can understand the controls, then it is easier to implement them. According to Dr. Ron Ross at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, no system is completely safe from impending security threats.

So, you need to follow an approach for adopting CM, which implies that risks are evident. Preparation of contingency measures for quick recovery can help bring systems back to previous versions alongside ensuring minimum loss of information. The focus on the capabilities of a CM program for system recovery can help in addressing the various complexities you may encounter. 

Vulnerability Management is the key concept of the continuous monitoring. Learn about Vulnerability Management which enables DevOps Automation for the Secure Cloud.

Best Practices for Continuous Monitoring

You can follow the best practices to implement continuous monitoring solutions for achieving the most promising outcomes. 

  • Defining the System

The first process to implement continuous monitoring is system definition. An IT organization should estimate the scope of its CM deployment, such as systems in the infrastructure. In addition, you should also estimate the systems that should be a part of the CM processes.

  • Risk Evaluation

The next step in the implementation of a continuous monitoring solution is risk assessment. An IT organization should implement a risk assessment for different assets that it wants to secure. In addition, IT organizations could also classify assets on the basis of risk and the estimated impact of a data breach. You have to implement stricter security controls for high-risk assets, and low-risk assets could serve as soft targets for identifying hacking attacks. 

  • Selecting and Implementing Security Control Applications

One of the notable continuous monitoring best practices in the selection and implementation of security control applications. After completing the risk assessment, an IT organization should identify the types of security controls applicable to each asset. Security control applications refer to passwords and various forms of authentication, such as antivirus software, encryption, and intrusion detection systems. 

  • Configuration of CM Software

The next important concern for continuous monitoring refers to the configuration of the CM software solution. The configuration is essential to obtain data from security control applications. The feature of log aggregation also involves the collection of log files from different applications deployed across a network. The applications, in this case, also referred to security applications for safeguarding information assets. The log files provide data regarding the events taking place in the application alongside detecting security threats. Log files also help in measuring the key operational metrics.

  • Continuous Auditing

The continuous audit is one of the supporting continuous monitoring of best practices that improve the overall process. Obtaining data from all aspects of the IT infrastructure of an organization is not the sole aim of CM. Users should evaluate the constantly emerging and centralized information every day on a consistent basis.

The primary objective of the continuous audit is the identification of security, business, and operational issues. Big data analytics technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence can help in the analysis of massive volumes of log data. Subsequently, it is easier to find out trends, patterns and deviations indicating abnormal network activity. 

Tools for Continuous Monitoring

Another notable aspect of this discussion refers to a DevOps tools list for CM. 

  • Git is one of the renowned additions to the list of CM DevOps tools. Git is a distributed source code management tool that tracks the progress of development work. Therefore, developers and operations teams can be on the same page with considerable transparency into the source code changes. 
  • Sensu is another addition to the DevOps tools list for CM. It is a telemetry and service health assessment solution with higher flexibility and scalability. Sensu helps in monitoring services, functions, servers, containers, connected devices, and functions. 
  • Nagios is another DevOps tool for CM, which is one of the oldest and introduced CM to many operators.

Git is a free and open-source continuous monitoring tool, popular among DevOps professionals. Learn the basics of Git, it’s core features, and basic workflow to manage the source code of your projects. Get started with this GitHub Certification online course.

Continuous monitoring tools form an important part of the list of DevOps tools. Check out these DevOps tools list to know more.

Risk Management for Successful CM Strategies

It is also essential to develop a risk management framework for ensuring a productive CM strategy. Developers should have a detailed risk management plan for analysis of compliance systems, risk, and governance. However, the selection of the appropriate risk management tools is very difficult due to varying requirements.

In addition, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach or tool for risk management. Therefore, the security teams in an organization should point out the reliable metrics for evaluating risk. Some metrics include the crucial risk-scoring values, consequences of breaches in particular information, and risk tolerance. 

Bottom Line

Therefore, we can clearly observe that continuous monitoring is not so difficult as many assume it to be. Knowledge about the basics of CM can help you get over the hurdles in the adoption of CM in your IT infrastructure. Most important of all, the emphasis on the integration of CM with continuous integration, continuous delivery, and continuous auditing.

The integrations are the best approach for obtaining maximum output from CM tools and techniques. Another helpful recommendation for using CM is the evaluation of features of different tools and their relevance to business objectives. On a concluding note, the benefits of CM present long-term opportunities for revising the IT infrastructure of an organization.

It is important to learn about top continuous monitoring tools for a DevOps professional. If you want to enhance your skills with CM tools, get started now with the Git Fundamentals and Nagios basics training courses to advance your DevOps career.     

About Dharmalingam N

Dharmalingam.N holds a master degree in Business Administration and writes on a wide range of topics ranging from technology to business analysis. He has a background in Relationship Management. Some of the topics he has written about and that have been published include; project management, business analysis and customer engagement.

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