IT Services

Your Cloud Money Saving Strategy

Bill shock? Unexpected outgoings? Thought the cloud was going to be cheap? Well, the truth is that cloud services can often be cheaper and not that expensive. It just feels that way because your current bill is 20% higher than the previous one, but why? We take a look at some of the ways you can go about understanding your current costings and finding some simple ways to quickly reduce that bill and keep the boss happy. We will use Microsoft Azure and 365 as our example to provide some context but a similar approach can be taken to your Amazon and Google environments.

1. Educate yourself

What else would we have started with? It is important to get a good understanding of how Microsoft structure their pricing and what those costs are. You might be on an EA or CSP billing model, but pricing isn’t going to swing too much from Microsoft’s publicly available price list. Two easy sites to start with are the Microsoft Azure Price Calculator and Office 365 Licence Comparison. If your tenancy is managed by a service provider, then a good exercise could be to use these tools to create a build based on your own cloud environment. That way you will get a better understanding of how Microsoft structure their pricing and can allow you to score some quick wins by targeting overpriced or underutilised services.

2. Gather Analytics

Now that we have a better understanding of what we have and how our consumption is billed, it is time to start gathering some analytics to find out what we are paying for.

Azure Cost Management

  • Use the customisable charts to drill down on what you really need to see
  • Apply tagging to your resources with names such as project_ or department_ to discover who is consuming the most and if it is necessary
  • Set a budget to get an estimate on when you will consume your limit
  • Review Azure Advisor for some potentially quick and easy wins

Monitor & Analyse Logs

Use monitor to apply metrics and alerts based on resources such as cpu to better understand workload use

Use application insights in your PaaS solutions to apply metrics and alerts based on resources such as queue length to better understand workload use

Use Azure Monitor Logs (formerly log analytics) to interactively analyse the logs to gain further understanding of resource usage

And of course, there is PowerBI for those additional dashboards you may want to create and display proudly on screen. The advantage you have from completing the above is that we can now see at any point in time what the costings are and why. This removes that process at the end of the month where you try to understand the bill you just received from your service provider or Microsoft.

3. Right Size your Environment

The analytics are in and its time to start doing something with those numbers. Initially, you may find that some services just aren’t in use anymore as they were for testing that were never deleted. This is why tagging is so important so you can quickly find out the who, what and the why. Furthermore, we can use this information to optimise both our spending and solution performance. 

For example:

Steady usage throughout the day but nothing after hours means you could enable auto shutdown to save cost on unused compute

Heavy usage at consistent times during the day or week with low use outside of those hours? Enable auto scaling to keep your running costs low and scale out when needed

Services only ever 50% utilised? Drop your plan down

If you are seeing lots of testing configurations in your tenancy, then take a look at Azure DevTest labs to gain further control

Right sizing isn’t all about reducing your current spend. What you may find is that some actions keep your costings the same but performance\resiliency has dramatically improved. Time well spent if you ask me! Of course, we can go further down the rabbit hole by changing storage types and moving to serverless but that’s another conversation for later.

4. Licencing (hybrid\RI)

But wait…theres more! You may be spending money that you dont have to. You may also be spending it because you had to during your initial move to the cloud but since then things have changed. Using your new found knowledge along with understanding of existing business requirements, some of these may be of use to you:

Reserved Instances: Save up to 72% on your existing or new Azure IaaS deployments when you commit to 1 or 3 years. Unfortunately for some, this is paid upfront but savings are significant

Azure Hybrid benefit: Save 40% on your server costings for those with software assurance. Standard edition customers can apply these savings either on premise or in cloud but not simultaneous. Datacentre customers with software assurance can use server on premise or in cloud

For customers with SQL Server Software Assurance. Deploy the SQL (BYOL) VM image to save on your consumption bill

Utilise Azure DevTest for further discounts across the DevTest offerings. For example, Microsoft do not charge for software on virtual machines.

Review, review, review

You have done all this hard work and managed to reduce your company’s cloud bill by a significant amount to become the IT hero. Its not often we get our time to shine but don’t get complacent. This entire process you just went through will need to be done on an ongoing basis so set a schedule for complete review that best meets your business requirements.

  • The education process continues as cloud costings and services change
  • Analytic dashboards will need to be monitored, acted upon and tweaked along the way
  • Right sizing will need to be performed again as your services are used more (or less) often
  • Licencing structures are changing all the time so look out for updated you can take advantage of. Subscribe to your providers blog, read their emails and check in with your account manager to find this information

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