For the past few years, there has been a recurring theme for those who have taken the steps to move to the cloud … how to optimise costs once you’re in. Many surveys point to this as the number one priority for cloud consumers and with cloud take-up continuing to increase, many continue to struggle with increasing cloud spend once they’re in.
Whilst the cloud promises unlimited capacity, instant scaling at a push of a button, and a pay-only-for-what-you-use pricing model, it has transformed how technology can be delivered. It is important to remember however that whilst the cloud took away some of the challenges with traditional IT, it did open a new role and responsibility not seen before… continuous IT cost optimisation.
The challenge with planning and estimating cloud spend
Any cloud professional or MSP working in the cloud ecosphere will tell you that planning and estimating for cloud spend is a dark art. With cloud vendors charging based on what and how you use your infrastructure, rather than a fixed cost – usage is variable, changing over time, up and down on a monthly, daily, or hourly basis. Combined with fluctuating exchange rates (with most vendors converting from USD to GBP monthly), the monthly bill will always be different from the last, normally trending upwards.
Cloud vendors, such as Microsoft with the Azure platform, have provided many different ways to view cloud costs with incredible granularity. However, the underlying billing information can be extremely technical, with the billing tools aimed at more financially minded individuals – a meeting of the minds is required from the finance and technical teams to dissect a bill and understand it. Given the frequency of change and usage in the cloud, this can become a complex workflow. Some third parties have entered the market with additional tooling in an attempt to bridge this gap with some success, but the challenge still remains.
Our pragmatic approach to controlling cloud solution costs
At Lanware, our approach to this is twofold; we aim for our technical people to become financially aware of the decisions they make when implementing or making changes to any cloud infrastructure, and we aim to communicate the bill to our clients in plain English, acting both as the technical role and financial role with the ultimate aim of ensuring the cloud solution is providing value.
There are a number of situations where this comes to light, such as when building or changing a cloud solution. There may be a technically perfect way of doing something, but it is likely the most expensive. Being cost aware allows our technical teams to be pragmatic with the solutions they develop, keeping costs to a minimum whilst still delivering a good service. We continue to take strides in automation with a heavy steer on cost optimisation by automation, thus ensuring when something isn’t being used we remove it or power it down automatically, further optimising for cost.
Our top 5 practical steps to keep your cloud costs down
For those looking for some practical steps in how to keep your cloud costs down, here are some top tips based on our experience over the years;
- Pay upfront – Where there is predictability in cloud usage, leverage the upfront payment plans to take advantage of heavily discounted cloud services in Microsoft Azure.
- Setup alerts – Set alerts for costs that exceed what you expect. Whilst this may not stop the costs, it will give you the ability to react before getting the bill.
- Adapt performance – If something is not needed or is not being fully utilised all the time, reduce its size or turn it off. This is where automation is incredibly powerful.
- Read the fine print – There are a number of “gotchas” with pricing that can only be found by carefully reading through Microsoft Azure product pages.
- Adapt your processes – For example, your IT change control processes should include an impact assessment on the costs of the cloud and attach any needed approval.
The advice in this article will help you take control of your Microsoft Azure costs. By following these steps, you can avoid overspending and get the most out of your Azure subscription.
Contact a Lanware Microsoft specialist for Financial Services if you need further Microsoft Azure guidance.