Are you in "the cloud"? Are you thinking about migrating your business to cloud services?
For many businesses, running their software as a cloud service is the next logical step to becoming a scalable success. After all, doing so allows any sized business to grow to whatever size they need at the flip of a switch.
Unfortunately, what they often fail to take into account are the high costs associated with the convenience of that. Instead of having to purchase hardware and hire in-house employees to manage them, you're paying a cloud service provider to handle your software management, storage, and transfer costs. And those costs can add up quickly.
With perceived predatory pricing practices, including the so-called "denial of money" attack, so commonplace, it is no surprise that this aspect of cloud growth has become a meme and has even been jokingly referenced on the television show Silicon Valley. It is almost a rite of passage for developers to carefully monitor their monthly cloud service bills and dedicate time each month to call customer service for refunds when something has gone awry.
But that's all about to change.
This week, Microsoft announced at their annual Ignite conference that they acknowledge this is a problem, and they will be the ones to change it.
Earlier this year, they acquired the Israeli company Cloudyn for a reported $50 million. It's an "innovative company that helps enterprises and managed service providers optimize their investments in cloud services," according to a Microsoft blog post. By pairing Cloudyn's services with Microsoft Azure, customers will be able to "optimize their cloud service usage and costs via automated monitoring, analytics, and cost allocation."
But what if you're not using Azure?
With some due diligence, you can make sure you don't end up with spiraling costs of your own.
When you create a cloud instance, you're essentially creating the tool you want to use for the job. Think about it like you're trying to turn a screw--what size screwdriver do you need? If it's too big or too small, it won't turn. Get it just right and your cloud bill will hum along.
Not sure what size you need at the start? You can choose to auto-scale instead, and your instance will automatically add or remove power and storage from what is needed.
With cloud storage providers, you're using things called "Instances" instead of "Servers." If you use a "Reserved Instance" as opposed to an "On Demand Instance," your "machine" will only be turned on when you need it. This way, you won't have to pay for the power draw and other associated hardware costs, as the majority of the time your "server" is running someone else's instance.
It's always a great practice to keep backups--but in a cloud service, you get charged for them when they're turned on. And they can add up quickly. Ensure that anything you have running is essential, and archive or shut off anything else.
An alternative: Amazon AWS has its Glacier option, which gives you an extremely low-cost cloud backup option (think pennies a month) for storing high amounts of what you're not using.
If you don't have access to something like Microsoft's Cloudyn, you're going to have to watch that cloud service bill like a hawk. If something goes awry, make sure you get on the phone with customer service immediately to work out what is causing it so you can not only get refunded but also stem the bleeding before it gets worse.
Microsoft isn't the only company doing this: You can also use services like ParkMyCloud to ensure your instances are only running when needed. All in all, thanks to recent advancements in transparency, navigating the cloud has gotten a bit less foggy.