You can add alarms to CloudWatch dashboards and monitor them visually. When an alarm is on a dashboard, it turns red when it is in the ALARM state, making it easier for you to monitor its status proactively.

Alarms invoke actions for sustained state changes only. CloudWatch alarms don’t invoke actions simply because they are in a particular state, the state must have changed and been maintained for a specified number of periods.

After an alarm invokes an action due to a change in state, its subsequent behavior depends on the type of action that you have associated with the alarm. For Amazon EC2 Auto Scaling actions, the alarm continues to invoke the action for every period that the alarm remains in the new state. For Amazon SNS notifications, no additional actions are invoked.

You can create both metric alarms and composite alarms in CloudWatch.

  • A metric alarm watches a single CloudWatch metric or the result of a math expression based on CloudWatch metrics. The alarm performs one or more actions based on the value of the metric or expression relative to a threshold over a number of time periods. The action can be an Amazon EC2 action, an Amazon EC2 Auto Scaling action, or a notification sent to an Amazon SNS topic.

  • A composite alarm includes a rule expression that takes into account the alarm states of other alarms that you have created. The composite alarm goes into ALARM state only if all conditions of the rule are met. The alarms specified in a composite alarm’s rule expression can include metric alarms and other composite alarms.

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