Technology

Three Strategies to Keep Cloud Spending in Check

By / May 20, 2019 (lukutin77/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

It’s surprisingly easy to spend way more than you expected on cloud services. But with a careful reading of your bill and a willingness to change things up, you can keep the expense under control.

Cloud computing is increasingly important to how modern organizations work. Among its many attributes, the cloud is often touted as  a great way to save money on functions that were previously handled in-house. But if you’ve looked at your bill from Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, or another service lately, you may have wondered, “Why does this cost so much?”

Long story short: You may not be using your cloud offerings in the most efficient way possible. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are things you can do to optimize your association’s cloud spending. A few examples:

Get a better understanding of your bill. When you’re literally paying by the bit, odds are good that the detailed bills you get are going to be confusing. A recent CIO piece cited the example of the software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider AvePoint, which found its bill so confusing that it actually built its own cost management tool—and ended up cutting its monthly costs by more than a third. “We wanted to know if our spend aligned with the revenue targets of our organization,” said John Hodges, the firm’s vice president of product strategy, in comments to the magazine. “That’s a surprisingly hard question for many cloud vendors to answer when their quarterly or month-to-month bills arrive.”

Shut down offerings you’re no longer using. This week, in a Digiday story about business challenges at Salon, it was revealed that the news outlet was greatly overspending on its hosting services, including ad servers and the paid version of Google Analytics. By moving to the free version of Google Analytics and dropping other services it wasn’t using, Salon cut its hosting costs by more than six figures while decreasing site load times. This approach also translates when you’re dealing directly with cloud vendors. CIO, meanwhile, reported that the Broad Institute, a nonprofit research organization funded by federal grants, created a tool to turn off cloud servers that were no longer being used, allowing it to cut its costs and resource use.

Build (and keep building) for efficiency. Often, a tool is state of the art when you first build and use it—but five years down the road, newer techniques have emerged, patches to your existing structure have slowed things down and added costs, and your organization hasn’t adapted to those needs. Another approach: Build tools that are meant to adapt from the outset.

The 2019 State of the Cloud Report, from the firm Flexera [registration], noted that some companies (a minority) were taking steps to cut their costs—whether using lower-cost cloud offerings or eliminating inactive storage—in an automated fashion instead of relying on more manual strategies that take time and must be planned for. But “very little progress has been made from 2018 to 2019 in increasing the use of automated policies,” the report explains. “This represents an opportunity for increased efficiency and increased savings, since manual policies are difficult to monitor and enforce.”

If you build software with future cost and speed efficiencies in mind, you’ll have better luck avoiding some of the pitfalls that come with a cloud infrastructure.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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