At Sunshower.io, we talk to a lot of people about their cloud infrastructure usage. In our professional lives, we’ve dealt with the confusion caused by different cloud vendors, including confounding billing methods, lack of insight into the infrastructure you’ve built, and just throwing hardware and money at the current problem and hoping it’ll fix it. Understandably, the question we’re most frequently asked is the one that’s most mission-critical: How did my cloud bill get like this and how do I get it down?

1) You Forgot About Some Infrastructure

“Cloud sprawl” is extremely common, and happens when you’re running more cloud instances than necessary. It’s easy to see how this can happen—running workloads that you’ve forgotten about and unused and idle workloads are all key culprits. In a complex cloud ecosystem, it can be tough to keep watch over everything running in the cloud. Monitoring and controlling those workloads is key to making sure you’re not over-spending on the cloud. If your company isn’t using auto-scaling, you might be running instances 24/7 that aren’t always performing a necessary function. Running instances that you’re not using is essentially throwing money away—like going away for the weekend and leaving all of your lights on.

2) You Bought Too Much “Just In Case”

Overprovisioning refers to buying more cloud compute resources than you typically need. It’s important to tailor what you buy to actual usage, because it really adds up. The first step is figuring out what you’re actually using, which monitoring and cloud cost optimization tools can help with. If this process is overwhelming, there are vendors you can work with to help you sift through your options and make the best possible choices. Without good cloud monitoring tools, it’s impossible to see what you’re wasting. Only then should you start looking into what to buy instead.

3) You Drank The Vendor Kool-aid

The custom services provided by cloud service providers are tempting, but the cost can really add up. Even worse, it removes your ability to migrate to other cloud providers, so it’s hard to pivot to more cost-effective solutions over time. As you build your cloud strategy, try to avoid locking yourself into a relationship with a single cloud service provider. Don’t tie yourself to a single vendor because it’s convenient—make sure that you’re allowing yourself the flexibility to change providers and adapt new strategies when costs start to increase.

Setting Yourself Up For Future Success

When it comes to cloud costs as a whole, think about it this way: When you build a snowman, you start with a tiny ball. As you roll it around, it picks up more and more snow until the ball is eventually so big you can’t even move it. No way are you picking that guy up—he’s staying right where he is until the inevitable destruction by meltdown. Cloud costs can incrementally build up (and melt down) in much the same way. Not everyone has a full-time IT department or the expertise to be able to game the system and make sure their cloud infrastructure is as optimized as possible.

Cloud optimization is an ongoing challenge, and a vital part of any cloud management system. The good news is, there are tools out there to put you on the path to reducing your cloud costs today. The trick is choosing the right solutions—ones priced for the size of your company that simplify your life on the cloud, rather than complicate it. Choosing the right tools to help avoid sprawl, overprovisioning, and overspending are vital parts of a company’s survival. Make it a priority to understand how you use the cloud today, and you’ll be in a better position to reduce cloud spending tomorrow.

This post was originally published as a guest post for Fort Collins Startup Week: http://bit.ly/2SDr9gl

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