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Table of contents
1.
Introduction
2.
What is AWS Secrets Manager?
3.
Key Features of AWS Secrets Manager
4.
What is Systems Manager Parameter?
5.
Key Features of AWS Systems Manager
6.
Similarities between AWS Secrets Manager vs Systems Manager Parameter
7.
Difference between AWS Secrets Manager vs Systems Manager Parameter
8.
Choosing between AWS Secrets Manager vs Systems Manager Parameter
8.1.
AWS Secrets Manager
8.2.
Systems Manager Parameter
9.
Frequently Asked Questions
9.1.
Can both sensitive and non-sensitive data be stored in AWS Systems Manager Parameter? 
9.2.
Do AWS Systems Manager Parameter handle secret rotation like Secrets Manager?
9.3.
Which service is more cost-effective for managing non-sensitive data?
10.
Conclusion
Last Updated: Mar 27, 2024
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AWS Secrets Manager vs Systems Manager Parameter

Author Dhruv Rawat
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Introduction

Managing sensitive information, such as passwords, API keys or any other important information, is a very important aspect of any application or infrastructure today. 

We all know that AWS is a leading cloud provider which offers several services to handle such things effectively. Two such services include AWS Secrets Manager and Systems Manager Parameter. 

Both are designed to store and manage secrets. However, they have distinct features. 

AWS Secrets Manager vs Systems Manager Parameter

Going forward in this article, we will see AWS Secrets Manager and Systems Manager Parameter with their key features, similarities, differences and FAQs. So let's get started.

What is AWS Secrets Manager?

AWS Secrets Manager is a fully-managed service that allows us to store, rotate, and retrieve secrets effortlessly and securely.

AWS secrets manager also supports a wide range of secret types that includes database credentials, API keys, OAuth tokens, and many more like that. They also provide an option for automatic secret rotation, which means it automatically generates and manages new credentials periodically, which helps to enhance security.

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Key Features of AWS Secrets Manager

Let's see some of its Key features:

  • Automatic Rotation: Secrets Manager can automatically rotate secrets on a regular basis. This helps to escape the load of manual rotation and provides security
     
  • Integration with RDS and Redshift: It can integrate with Amazon RDS and Redshift. This feature enables the direct injection of secrets into these services. This means that you can store your database passwords in Secrets Manager and then use Secrets Manager to inject those passwords into your RDS or Redshift instances. This eliminates the need to store passwords in plain text in the application code.
     
  • Access Control with IAM: Secrets Manager uses IAM (Identity and Access Management) policies in order to control access to secrets, which ensures that only authorised users can retrieve them
     
  • Auditing and Monitoring: This service can log all the secret-related activities. This provides an audit trail for compliance purposes

What is Systems Manager Parameter?

AWS Systems Manager Parameter is a service within AWS Systems Manager. It is a collection of tools for managing AWS resources. It can also be used to store secrets. However, it doesn't have the advanced features of Secrets Manager such as automatic rotation. 

It is a good option in case we want to store simple secrets that do not need to be rotated often. Its main feature is to store configuration data and parameters that can be shared across multiple instances or containers.

Key Features of AWS Systems Manager

Let's see some of its Key features:

  • Secure storage: Secrets Manager stores secrets in a secure and encrypted format. This helps in keeping the secrets protected from unauthorised access.
     
  • Automated rotation: Secrets Manager automatically rotate secrets on a regular basis which helps in keeping the secrets protected
     
  • Parameter Policies: parameter policies are also supported in it, which provide fine-grained control over who can access specific parameters
     
  • Cost-Effective: Parameter is a cost-effective way to store parameters. The cost of Secrets Manager depends on the number of secrets that you store and the frequency with which you rotate your secrets.

Similarities between AWS Secrets Manager vs Systems Manager Parameter

AWS Secrets Manager and Systems Manager Parameter both provide secure ways to store data on AWS. Both services use encryption to protect the data from unauthorised access. They can also be integrated with other AWS services, so we can use them to store data that is used by other AWS services.

They also allow you to control the access to the data. We can create IAM permissions that allow specific users or groups to access the data. This is important for security purposes because it ensures that only authorised people can access sensitive data.

Finally, both services allow versioning features, which means that we can track changes to the data over time. This can be helpful if we need to return back to a previous version of the data.

Difference between AWS Secrets Manager vs Systems Manager Parameter

Secrets Manager is used for storing and rotating secrets like passwords and other confidential information. 

It also has a built-in feature for rotating secrets automatically, which is important for security and Secrets Manager can generate strong passwords.

While in contrast, Parameter Store is focused on storing settings and configurations for the applications. It uses a hierarchical structure for organising the settings, like folders, to keep everything neat and tidy, which makes it easy to keep track of everything.

Below is the table that summarises the key differences:

Feature

AWS Secrets Manager

Systems Manager Parameter 

Automatic rotation

Yes

No

Integration with Amazon RDS and Redshift

Yes

No

IAM integration

Yes

Yes

Auditing and monitoring

Yes

No

Hierarchy and versioning

No

Yes

Parameter policies

No

Yes

Cost

More expensive

Less expensive

Choosing between AWS Secrets Manager vs Systems Manager Parameter

Here are some of the conditions when choosing between both services:

AWS Secrets Manager

We can consider it when we need to store:

  • Database passwords for any application
     
  • API keys for a third-party service
     
  • OAuth tokens for mobile apps

Systems Manager Parameter

We can consider it when we need to store:

  • Configuration data for any development environment
     
  • Feature flags for any web application
     
  • Non-sensitive data, for example, product key

Frequently Asked Questions

Can both sensitive and non-sensitive data be stored in AWS Systems Manager Parameter? 

Yes, we can store both of the data as it supports both secrets, such as passwords and non-secrets, such as configuration settings. 

Do AWS Systems Manager Parameter handle secret rotation like Secrets Manager?

No, because it does not provide automatic secret rotation like the secrets manager. It is more suitable for static configuration values which do not require frequent changes.

Which service is more cost-effective for managing non-sensitive data?

Systems Manager Parameter is more cost-effective, especially if an automatic secret rotation feature is not required, then it is ideal for managing non-sensitive data.

Conclusion

Congratulations, you did a fantastic job!!. This article covered AWS Secrets Manager and Systems Manager Parameter with their key features, similarities, and differences. At last, some frequently asked questions were discussed.

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