Three ways to avoid cloud bill shock

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bill-shockBill shock costs businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. People often equate bill shock with mobile phone bills where data charges can be as high as $20,000 per gigabyte. Ouch! But the ease of provisioning cloud computing services also opens the door for incurring unintended expenses. In this post I’ll look at three ways to avoid unexpected or unnecessary cloud computing expenses.

1. Lock it down

Self-service is a great feature of cloud computing. With a few clicks you can have a virtual machine (VM) up and running in a few seconds, and it only takes minutes to create a new account in a full-blown enterprise-capable customer relationship manager (CRM) system.  But this also makes it very easy to create lots of services that aren’t needed or initiate services with a lot more resources than are needed. For example we could choose the Mega Giant Expensive VM when the Tiny Small Cheap VM  would will suffice.

Because it’s so easy to create these services, it’s a good idea to put some restrictions around who has access to add and modify your cloud services. Remember that most of your IT staff will only need access to the VMs or cloud services themselves, rather than higher-level access to the cloud computing provider’s management console. So restrict management console access to a select few individuals and put in a process that routes requests for additions and modifications through to these people.

2. Use the monitoring tools

Most cloud systems will provide you with some sort of monitoring tools to monitor the resources used and the number of accounts. You should assign someone the regular task of monitoring the VMs, resources and accounts in use to ensure that they are still required.

For software as a service (SaaS) systems I would recommend that you periodically get the list of all the users and check that they still work in the organization, and that they still need access to the system.

If your cloud service provides monitoring alerts then it can also be a good idea to enable these alerts so that you know when thresholds are being exceeded. These types of alerts could be the results of your website or mobile app being wildly popular, or they could be the result of some errant code which is consuming a large amount of resources in error. So you’ll still need to investigate high usage and usage spikes to separate real issues from false positives.

3. Review your bills

If you deploy a large number of workloads to the cloud then it follows that your billing will become more complex. I recommend that on a regular basis you should review your cloud computing bills to:

  • verify you are only being charged for the services you are using
  • check that the usage charges look reasonable
  • check for signs of excessive usage

Reduce the shock

I’ve suggested that you restrict access to your cloud management system, regularly monitor your cloud usage and set usage alert thresholds, and regularly verify your cloud bills. If you follow these three steps then you should significantly reduce the chances of getting unexpected bill shock from your cloud computing expenses. And this should keep both you, and your finance department, very happy.

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Ethann Castell

About Ethann Castell

Ethann has a broad IT background which includes project management, strategic consulting, solutions architecture and software engineering. Always the innovator, he has founded and lead two different IBM business partners and has successfully brought several commercial software products to market. Ethann’s qualifications include an MBA, PMP, Scrum Master and Six Sigma Green Belt. He is an IBM Cloud Ambassador and is fluent in several programming languages. Away from work, you’ll most likely find Ethann hiking in a remote location or supporting his local Rugby Union team. He lives in Sydney, Australia.
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