Azure cost management – how to get your budget under control

Organisations are always looking for ways to cut costs. For some this might be looking to migrate to the public cloud. For Windows users, especially, PAAS Azure is an attractive option, eliminating not just the costs of running hardware but also all those individual license costs for the various Windows products. For existing Azure users, however, thoughts might be turning to how to reduce cloud spend that has grown out of control.

How can costs spiral on Azure public cloud?

As a pay-per-use public cloud provider, it feels like your Azure bills should be straightforward and predictable. Sadly, many people find this not to be the case – and this isn’t because they are being deliberately misled, but rather because their cloud usage is often not as simple as they expected it to be.

1. Miscalculations at the outset

Azure offers a cost calculator tool that aims to help users predict what their costs will be according to their usage. The intention is to be helpful, but in all honesty the calculator is complex and designed to be used by people with the knowledge and experience to fill it out correctly. The same is true for the Azure ‘shopping cart’, where you select the services and compute capacity you need. Mistakes at this early stage will result in an inaccurate picture of both usage and costs, which will come back to bite you within months of your migration being complete.

The trouble is, with migration itself taking many months (if not years) to complete, it is very difficult to summon the energy – let alone the time and money – to change your mind and repatriate workloads elsewhere. (Even though, in some cases, this would be the best course of action.) Instead, users get locked in to their public cloud provider, partly by the complexities of the provider and partly because leaving is hard work.

And even if you’re initial calculations are correct, costs will change over time, even if you’re cloud usage isn’t growing. If you remain entirely static on your cloud consumption, cloud providers like Microsoft can still rise the price of their services. So even if you migrate to Azure based on a cost-effective analysis, you may still find costs creep up over time regardless.

The Solution: If you’re at the early stages of the process, getting in someone experienced to help consult will help avoid these mistakes. If you’re already mid- or post-migration, then it’s still not too late to update your cost projections. Equipping yourself with more accurate costs will allow you to better plan for the future, and figure out if your plans need to change at all.

2. Poor understanding of usage

We’re constantly told we can’t manage what we don’t measure. Herein lies another problem for Azure users faced with unexpected costs. When usage isn’t properly understood, it is very difficult to prevent costs from spiralling out of control. For example, if the bulk of the cost is coming from a particular behaviour – such as downloading files to work on offline – it is important to know this.

The Solution: Azure offers cost analysis and budgeting tools, as well as the ability to raise alerts when usage is high. Azure Cost Management is a free tool that can enable you to reduce your usage costs significantly, simply through understanding where these costs are coming from. And educating users about the impact of their usage and encouraging them to reduce (if it’s possible without disrupting their ability to work) will help avoid data egress charges.

3. Anomalies in activity

Sometimes unexpected costs are the result of user error. For example, someone might have added a VM unintentionally, or neglected to shut down a VM that is no longer being used. As VMs are charged by the second, any anomalies need to be spotted quickly to avoid spiralling costs.

The Solution: Again, Azure Cost Management includes features to help detect anomalies – but better yet, education will help users understand how these mistakes can impact costs, and what effect that has on the wider business. In terms of reminders, little and often is better than one annual workshop that is forgotten within weeks.

Feeling supported to get the most out of Azure for your business

Using Azure public cloud for the right workloads can certainly offer numerous benefits, so long as you are also using the Cost Management and other tools to monitor usage and act against anomalies.

To level up your Azure cost optimisation, reach out to our Azure experts today. We can help you take your savings to the next level without extra effort or time, becoming an extension of your trusted team.

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