Don’t let out-of-control cloud spend turn you into a punchline

 In AWS, Cloud

TV shows can often be unrelatable—how often do you meet a teenage werewolf, or fight off a horde of immortal ice zombies? But every once in a while, a TV show may throw you something so familiar you wonder if they’ve taken it from your own life. Maybe it’s a particularly complicated breakup, or a conversation with a teacher that really resonated with you. Or maybe it’s overspending on your allotted cloud budget, and scrambling to figure out what to do next.

That last one was a recent storyline on HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” one apparently familiar to enough viewers to warrant airtime. Just like the characters on the show, many companies struggle to control their cloud spend, and often aren’t aware of runaway costs until it’s too late. Unlike the characters on that show, you now have this blog post to help you figure out what to do about it.

The secret causes of unwanted cloud spend

One of the most frustrating things about cloud spend is that you may not know which activities incur a cost. For example, pulling data from the cloud to your on-premises servers can cost upward of $10,000. Similarly, moving from cool storage to hot storage can stick you with extremely high bills. Although you’re simply moving data from one area to another, many services charge expensive fees for these migrations—and many companies don’t realize this.

Resource forecasting can also cause billing issues. When estimating your annual cloud spend before adding Azure to your Microsoft Enterprise Agreement via a monetary commitment, your best bet is to remain conservative. As an example, if you overcommit $100,000 to your Azure monetary commitment, you lose that $100,000 if you don’t use it—no exceptions. Educating yourself on how licensing can change as you move to the cloud and how much cloud space you actually need is critical for not overdoing your cloud spend. Improper licensing can cost you in the long run.

Employee education is also critical. Make sure they know that moving data from one area to another costs extra. Clearly define employees’ responsibilities when it comes to the cloud, and limit their permissions to functions that can’t incur big bills.

Building your cloud spend toolbox

While cloud spend can certainly be frustrating to manage, tools exist to track and control it. The Azure portal, for example, lets you monitor specific VMs, examine disk reads and writes, look at CPU utilization, examine data inbound and egress, and even set up email notifications for threshold breaches and set up subsequent automation runbooks.

Real-time reporting is also available for running applications through Application Insights. While these tools may not actually stop you from spending money, they can help you figure out what is draining your budget, so that you can patch up that hole.

Azure also offers Azure Billing Alerts, which can create customized billing alerts and set quotas for your accounts by department. Third-party tools, such as CloudHealth, New Relic, and RightScale, can perform similar functions, if you’d rather Microsoft not monitor itself, or if you want all your cloud services on the same program.

Know your enemy

The best way to control overspending in the cloud is to understand how that spending happens. While it’s not the most glamorous of topics, cloud billing is hardly straightforward, and some education in how the process works can go a long way in saving money.

Over-licensing and shifting data can cost you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Most of these expenses are simple mistakes, but rolling them back can be nearly impossible. Preventative measures, such as workshops, consultations with cloud experts, and set guidelines, are your best bet for making sure your cloud spending doesn’t cross the line. In-the-moment tools, such as billing alerts and monitoring programs, can assist along the way.

Don’t let your cloud spending turn you into the crew from “Silicon Valley.” Talk to your SHI Account Executive to keep up-to-date on the latest cloud changes, the best ways to prevent overspending, and how to properly manage your cloud bills.

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