Don’t you hate it when you’re given overcomplicated solutions to simple problems? It’s almost as bad as being surprised by a sky-high bill out of nowhere.
That’s why we’re going to show you the 7 best cloud cost management solutions in this post.
As part of our ongoing series on cloud cost management, we’ll break down exactly why you need a cloud cost management solution, what problems you should be solving with them, and which solutions to use. We’ll keep things simple, and our list doesn’t include every piece of expensive, overly-engineered software under the sun.
If you want to jump ahead, here’s an overview of this article:
- What is cloud cost management?
- What you need from a cloud cost management solution
- Top 7 cloud cost management solutions
- Don’t leave your costs up to Lady Luck
Let’s dive right in.
What is cloud cost management?
As we discussed in detail in our previous post, cloud cost management is a set of strategies, tools, resources, and practices centered around taking control of the costs associated with your cloud computing ventures. This can take the form of anything from a full budget with forecasting how new projects and changes to current ones will affect your bills, to simply keeping an eye on your costs to make sure that everything seems to be running as expected.
Cloud cost management is thus a massively important piece of your cloud computing efforts. Without it, you won’t know anything about how your setup is performing versus the amount it’s costing you, and you won’t have any hope of being able to optimize your operations.
Plus, let’s face it, cloud computing is rife with pitfalls for you to ring up excess bills.
Whether you accidentally create a recursion loop that causes billions of requests to retrieve data (at a cost for each instance) or simply forget about an instance that you’re no longer using but still paying for, it’s all too easy for cloud costs to rack up without actually creating any value for you in return.
Thus we’re brought back to cloud cost management solutions, which is what the rest of this post will cover in detail.
It’s worth noting that by “solutions” we’re not specifically talking about software. In fact, next week’s post is all about the best pieces of cloud cost management software, so be sure to check that out too! Instead, we’re going to be talking about the techniques you need to employ (with a few tool suggestions here and there) in order to have a comprehensive approach to cloud cost management.
What you need from a cloud cost management solution
Before we can let you in on the best cloud cost management solutions, you’ll need to have a good grasp on what exactly you’re looking for in each of them. That is, you have to know what problems these techniques and tools are the solutions to in order to effectively use them.
The primary issues that need to be addressed by your solutions are thus:
A single cloud cost management solution by itself won’t be able to address all of these requirements. You might as well ask for a goose that lays golden eggs - it’s a fairytale solution to a complex issue. Instead, each of these elements needs to be understood in order to have a full grasp of how you’re going to tackle them.
Visibility is your first and, arguably, biggest requirement. You need to be able to see what the current situation of your cloud computing costs is before you can do anything about them. There are a few ways to do this depending on what architecture (and host) you’re using, but the main thing that matters is that you can see your bill in as much granular detail as possible. If you can get everything down to line item costing, all the better.
Accountability is next. Here we’re talking both about making sure that there is some kind of accountability in your team for your costs and that the costs are being attributed to their sources. You need to be able to see what everything is costing you in order to see whether those costs are worth continuing, and someone needs to ultimately be responsible for them (and for monitoring them) to make sure that nothing gets forgotten or out of hand.
If you’ve effectively made sure that your costs are accountable to their sources then it should also be easy to verify whether or not they’re at the levels that you’re expecting. In an ideal world you’d never be incorrectly charged but it’s always useful to have the ability to easily check that your bills line up with your actual usage figures. If they don’t, there’s the potential for some savings right there!
Transparency is achieved through tools and team practices alike. On one hand, you need the stats and context surrounding your cloud management costs to be easily accessible so that you can present them to others if necessary. On the other, it’s useful to have a way to translate that information into something that’s easily understood by other members of your team (especially those that aren’t necessarily developers). Knowing your stats is half the battle - if you can’t justify your costs to the finance department and upper management then you’re going to have to fight for what you need every time the bills come in.
Accessibility and control are kind of a package bundle when it comes to most cloud cost management solutions. The same strategies and tools which give you the access that you need in order to fully track and manage your cloud costs will also typically allow you to control the aspects you need at the same time. Whether this means limiting access to certain dashboards or allowing you to make certain changes to your cloud setup from the same place, most of the time it’s easy to find a solution that makes your cost information accessible and gives you full control over it at the same time.
Finally, you need to have a solution to forecast your costs. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy - if you’re experienced and your bills are consistent enough then you could even do this yourself. The important part is that these forecasts need to be as reliable as possible.
There is some slight variation on how you can go about forecasting figures depending on whether you’re trying to predict your regular ongoing bills or if you’re adjusting your operations and want to pre-empt the effects of that, but the latter is usually where you’ll need some software to supplement your abilities.
So, those are the main problems that you’re trying to solve with your cloud cost management solutions. It’s time to dive into the main course!
Top 7 cloud cost management solutions
As stated above, these cloud cost management solutions will include techniques, tips, and software aimed at tackling what you need to accomplish with your cloud cost management. Let’s get into them.
Cloud cost management solution #1: Use AWS Invoice Management Software
The first thing you need to do when it comes to cloud cost management is to gain visibility over your operations. You need to know what you’re spending, where these costs are coming from, and be able to verify that you’re being charged for what you’re actually using.
Aimably’s AWS Invoice Management Software does all of this and more.
By interpreting the nightmare that is AWS’ Cost and Usage Reports, we provide you with an easily understandable overview of your costs without any of the jargon that AWS usually sinks in. Whether you're looking to summarize your costs for a budget, work with your finance department to verify invoices, or just generally clear up the visibility, accountability, and verification issues posed by cloud computing costs, this is the perfect tool to get you started.
Cloud cost management solution #2: Download your Cost and Usage Reports (CURs)
If you’re utilizing AWS to take care of your cloud computing needs, the only way to natively get your cost and usage data is via your CURs. These are reports which break down your cost and usage data in a spreadsheet, and they’re exceptionally useful for getting an accurate picture of your operations.
Unfortunately, if you aren’t already experienced with interpreting CURs, this solution won’t be particularly helpful.
Despite being the only way to natively view your AWS cost and usage data, that information is presented practically in its raw form. This makes it difficult to understand the report at the best of times unless you’re already a veteran of AWS with the time available to decode it yourself.
CURs make this list because of their potential usefulness and their accessibility. However, we recommend tools like our AWS Invoice Management Software above to solve more than the visibility issue while also reducing the headache of understanding the reports themselves.
Cloud cost management solution #3: Optimize your instances
Cloud cost management isn’t just about understanding your bills; it’s equally as important to act on that understanding to optimize them wherever possible. Hence why you should be reviewing and optimizing your instance usage wherever possible.
We’ve gone into detail about the different EC2 instance types and instance pricing in other posts, but the short version is that you should be running the instances which are best suited to your needs that also best fit your budget. Taking advantage of things like Spot Instances and savings plans can go a long way to reducing your costs and even boosting performance.
Cloud cost management solution #4: Familiarize yourself with your host’s features
Whether you’ve rented servers from a private host, you’re utilizing AWS, Google Cloud or Azure, or you have another cloud computing setup entirely, you need to know your options and what features are available to you inside and out.
This will usually mean diving into your architecture and getting to grips with the limits of what you can and can’t do. How easily can you change your instance types? Does your app’s infrastructure require a specific setup or could you switch to a cheaper plan? Are you being charged for data transfers? Can you set up other users to have access to relevant areas without giving them full control over the entire account?
It’s all too easy to dive into setting up your architecture without fully testing out what you can do with it, but in the long run the knowledge of what’s possible can open many doors into cost optimization.
Cloud cost management solution #5: Don’t silo your stats
One of the main issues with cloud cost management is how hard it can be to justify your costs to the rest of your team, especially if they aren’t experienced engineers or have a cloud computing background. That’s why you need to be as open with your stats and costs as possible (at least, internally).
By broadcasting the information to as many as possible and making sure that the situation is understood by all relevant parties from finance and upper management, you can set realistic expectations. Everything from what your operations are costing, how much value the company is getting in return, and how much room there is to cut costs without affecting performance needs to be visible and understandable to anyone and everyone relevant to your operations.
Cloud cost management solution #6: Look into a cost reduction assessment
We’ve mentioned several times how painful it can be to try and cut your costs. That’s why it’s sometimes better to call on the experts and get an outside opinion on key areas where you can make changes to save money.
Aimably’s AWS Cost Reduction Assessment is perfect for this.
We’ll review your costs in relation to your business and the value of what you’re paying for, then produce a prioritized list of actions you can take to reduce your costs. You’ll see roughly how much money these actions will save alongside the risk level posed to your operations by carrying them out, so that you can make an informed decision without having to know the details of every instance, payment plan, and available discount off by heart.
Cloud cost management solution #7: Use your host’s cloud cost management solution
Whether it’s Amazon CloudWatch or Azure Cost Management, most of the bigger cloud computing services have their own software for managing your cloud services. If you’re starting out with cloud cost management then these can be a godsend for making sure that you have some measures in place to monitor your operations.
For example, CloudWatch allows you to set alarms related to CPU usage for your instances. This means that you can instantly know when an instance is getting towards maximum capacity and a new one needs to be booted up in order to keep up with demand.
Admittedly, this doesn’t necessarily solve the issue of tracking and optimizing your costs. These tools tend to focus more on the usage side of the cloud management equation. However, they’re still a solid starting point to make sure that your operations are running smoothly and consistently meeting demand, which is key to knowing that your costs are justified in terms of the effect they’re having on your business.
Don’t leave your costs up to Lady Luck
These cloud cost management solutions are key to having a plan in place to deal with your bills. Without using one or (preferably) more of them, you’re going to find yourself caught by a nasty bill sooner or later, even if that bill isn’t the result of a mistake.
You need to stay on top of the financial side of cloud computing if you want to be able to run a consistent operation and stay on budget. That’s why you need a cloud cost management solution.