AWS Systems Manager : Manage your Entire Cloud Infrastructure from a Single Platform

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a cloud computing platform provided by Amazon that every organization or software developer will find very useful because it provides users with valuable tools for computing, data storage, networking, and content delivery services.

While AWS provides an access platform for organizations to handle their big data analytics and other web applications, the AWS Systems Manager provides a unified interface to manage your AWS resources.

This reduces manual efforts, saves time and improves the organization's overall operational efficiency.

The question here is how does the AWS Systems manager operate? That is where this article comes in. In this article, you will learn all you need to know about the AWS Systems Manager, how it works, and how to use it effectively for your organization.

What is the AWS Systems Manager?

AWS has a tool called the AWS Systems Manager which keeps track of your systems and software, keeps your systems up to date, and troubleshoots issues, all from a single place at scale.

The AWS Systems Manager helps you to streamline repetitive tasks, oversee patch management, and configure settings on multiple AWS resources in a centralized way.

This saves you time and reduces the risk of human error. You can picture it as having a control center for your AWS resources, which allows you to keep everything organized and running smoothly.

What are the key components of AWS Systems Manager?

  • Session Manager: 

    A facility that gives secure access to instances from a browser-based interactive shell.

  • Parameter Store: 

    A centralized store provided by the manager to separate your configuration data and sensitive data from your code.

  • Automation: 

    The part that simplifies setups and configuration of infrastructures for the AWS resources management.

  • Inventory: 

    The part of the AWS Systems manager that gathers information about your instances as well as the details of the software installed on them.

  • Run Command: 

    This feature is used to automate administrative tasks and configure changes.

  • Patch Manager: 

    A capability of the AWS Systems Manager that automates and manages your updates.

  • Compliance: 

    This feature scans your instances and manages nodes for patch compliance and inconsistencies in configuration.

  • State Manager: 

    This feature of the AWS Systems Manager updates services and enforces the application of policies.

  • Maintenance Windows: 

    This is part of the AWS Systems Manager where tasks are scheduled.

  • Resource Groups: 

    A collection that allows you to streamline and manage tasks on several resources at the same time.

How does the AWS Systems Manager work?

Access the AWS Systems Manager from the EC2 Management Console. You can create groups of resources if you want and manage them based on your needs.

With the centralized view provided by the AWS Systems Manager, you can manage your resources and have control over the operations. You can also choose the instances you want to manage and define the management tasks.

Let’s see further how the different components of the AWS Systems Manager work:

  1. 1

    The session manager enables you to commence a shell session on an instance, even if it is not accessible from the Internet. It enables you to audit and manage users’ access to instances through an interactive one-click browser-based shell or command line interface.

  2. 2

    The inventory helps you discover and understand the configuration of your system by collecting the AWS resources and configurations you have set up, such as instances, applications, and other assets.

  3. 3

    Automation provides automation functionalities that allow you to execute scripts and automate complex operational tasks, such as software deployment, instance management, and patch management.

  4. 4

    Run Command allows you to manage your instances while you are not logged in to your server. Administrative tasks can be streamlined across groups of instances with the Run Command.

  5. 5

    The Parameter Store provides a central archive to store and manage configuration data like passwords and other sensitive information.

  6. 6

    Compliance collects all relevant operational data from different AWS accounts and scans through Patch compliance data to reveal high-priority security alerts. 

    It displays updated compliance data about patching and associations. This feature allows you to customize your compliance based on the requirements of your business.

  7. 7

    The Patch Manager makes the process of managing software updates simpler. It patches your instances with the latest security updates. 

    This ensures that your software is updated and meets compliance policies. The patch baselines allow you to set rules that automatically approve selected categories of patches.

  8. 8

    The State Manager automates the enforcement of desired states, such as software configurations, for instances and applications. It helps you maintain a consistent configuration of your instances.

  9. 9

    The Resource Groups is a collection of all the AWS resources in your application that are managed and organized based on some custom criteria, such as tags and resource types. It allows instances to be grouped for better organization and management.

  10. 10

    The Maintenance Windows enables you to schedule maintenance tasks, such as software deployments, patch installation, and instance maintenance at a convenient time. 

    This prevents disruption of operation and ensures continuous reliability of services and applications.

AWS Systems manager also has features like the Change Manager, AppConfig, Incident Manager, OpsCenter, etc.

Tips to effectively use AWS Systems Manager to manage your infrastructure

Use these tips to effectively use AWS Systems Manager in managing your infrastructure:

  • Execute scripts on your instances and automate regular administrative tasks, such as software installations and updates using the Run Command feature.

  • Securely store configuration data and automate tasks for your infrastructure using the Parameter Store.

  • Use the Automation feature to automate complex tasks, such as server migrations, deploying software updates and configuring systems.

  • Configure and maintain the desired state configurations for your managed instances using the State Manager.

  • Use AWS Systems Manager OpsCenter to view and track your automation workflows and resolve operational issues.

  • Track and manage your resources, such as EC2 instances and S3 buckets. The inventory feature can help you achieve this. Also, gather information about the configuration and software installed on your managed instances using this feature.

  • Securely manage SSH and RDP connections to your instances using the Session Manager. You can also use it to remotely access your instances without the need for a bastion host or VPN.

  • Use AWS Systems Manager Distributor to distribute and manage documents and patches across multiple accounts and regions.

  • Monitor and troubleshoot your instances and systems using AWS Systems Manager's integration with Amazon CloudWatch and AWS CloudTrail.

  • Implement IAM policies to control who can access and manage resources in AWS Systems Manager.

  • Regularly review and update the policies and permissions for your AWS Systems Manager components to be sure that they align with your security and compliance requirements.

AWS Systems Manager pricing

AWS Systems Manager pricing varies based on the services you use and the number of managed instances. There are no upfront costs or minimum fees. You only pay for the service you use.

Some services are free, while others have an hourly or per-instance fee. There may be additional charges for data transfer and storage.

Some common services and their pricing as of 2023:

  • Run Command: No extra charge

  • Session Manager: No extra charge

  • Standard Parameter Store: No extra charge

  • Patch Manager: No extra charge

  • Incident Manager: $7 per response plan per month

  • Opscenter: $2.97 per 1,000 OpsItems, $0.039 per 1,000 requests

  • Change Manager: $0.296 per change request

  • Automations Playbook storage: $0.046 per GB per month

How to setup and use the AWS Systems Manager

To use the AWS Systems Manager, you must have an AWS account. The Systems Manager can be accessed in different ways. Two among them are:

  1. 1

    The Systems Manager Console: This is a browser-based interface to access and use Systems Manager.

  2. 2

    AWS command line tools:  AWS Command Line Interface (AWS CLI) is often faster and more convenient to use than the Systems Manager console. The command line tools also can be used to build scripts that perform AWS tasks.

How to use the AWS Systems Manager

Follow these steps to use the AWS System Manager:

  1. 1

    Sign in to your AWS account.

  2. 2

    In the AWS Systems Manager console, select your region.

  3. 3

    Click on the “Session Manager” in the left navigation pane or click on the menu icon if the navigation pane is not open to find the “Session Manager”.

  4. 4

    Click “Start a session”. This opens a new session.

  5. 5

    Choose the option button of the instance or managed node you desire, and then click “Start session”.

  6. 6

    A new window opens and you will be logged in to the instance.

  7. 7

    Type commands in the terminal window, and then press “Enter” to run them.

  8. 8

    To exit the session when you are done, close the terminal window.

Advantages of AWS Systems Manager

  • Centralized management: 

    AWS Systems Manager provides a central interface to manage multiple AWS resources, which makes the platform less complex and saves time.

  • Automation: 

    With AWS Systems Manager’s simple interface, you can easily automate complex administrative tasks, such as applying patches or installing software, across multiple AWS resources.

  • Inventory management: 

    AWS Systems Manager provides an inventory of all the managed instances and their configuration details, making it easier to track and manage resources.

  • Compliance: 

    AWS Systems Manager helps to maintain compliance by tracking configuration changes and ensuring that instances are running in a secure and compliant manner.

  • Cost savings: 

    By automating routine tasks, AWS Systems Manager helps to reduce the time and effort required to manage resources, leading to cost savings.

  • Secure Management: 

    Amazon CloudTrail records all actions taken by AWS Systems Manager. This allows you to review the changes made in the Systems Manager environment.

Drawbacks of AWS Systems Manager

  • Complexity: 

    Using AWS Systems Manager will be an overwhelming experience for inexperienced users. Its various features and functionalities require some professionalism.

  • Limited OS support: 

    AWS Systems Manager currently supports only a limited number of operating systems which limits its usage in some cases.

  • Dependence on AWS: 

    AWS Systems Manager works for AWS only. This means it cannot be used to manage resources running on other cloud platforms or on-premises.

  • Cost: 

    There may be additional costs for the use of AWS Systems Manager’s various features and functionalities.


AWS Systems Manager is an effective tool widely recognized in the IT world for its ability to simplify operations and enable IT administrators to manage and automate management tasks across AWS resources.

Its centralized platform makes it easy to manage and automate tasks across your AWS resources, simplifying operations and enabling you to manage your infrastructure more effectively.

Big businesses and organizations use AWS Systems Manager to automate their IT operations, reduce manual effort, and improve the efficiency of their IT systems.

Over to you

Would you consider using the AWS Systems Manager to manage the infrastructures of your organization?

About the author


Youssef is a Senior Cloud Consultant & Founder of

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