Civil structures are important for any society and it is necessary to monitor their health condition in order to mitigate risks, prevent disasters, and plan maintenance activities in an optimized manner. Structural health monitoring (SHM) recently emerged as a branch of engineering with a great potential for addressing the above mentioned challenges. In spite of its importance and promising benefits, SHM is still relatively infrequently used in real structures. A possible reason for this is a lack of understanding of the SHM process, which is often considered to be a supplemental activity that does not require detailed planning. However, the opposite is true - only proper and detailed development and implementation of each SHM step can ensure its successful and maximal performance. The aim of this paper is to present the SHM process through more than 350 projects. Basic concepts are introduced, and the purpose, requirements and benefits of SHM are discussed. The importance of monitoring over a life span is highlighted. Core activities such as creating monitoring strategy, installation and maintenance of hardware, and data management are presented and discussed. The involved parties are identified and their interaction with the monitoring process is analyzed. Finally, important SHM challenges are identified.