Don’t you just hate hidden charges?
You’re browsing your AWS bill and notice a significant chunk attributed to the vague name of “EC2 Other”. What does it mean? Why are you getting charged for these things? Is there anything that you can do to cut these costs?
How do you know whether you’re paying for something that you’re not even using?
Don’t panic - Aimably is here to help.
This post will guide you through what elements make up the EC2 Other category in your AWS bill. You’ll learn everything from what it is and why it’s separated from your other charges to how to reduce your costs and pitfalls to be aware of.
We’ll be covering:
- What is EC2 Other?
- Why not group all EC2 charges together?
- Breaking down EC2 Other charges
- How to lock down your EC2 Other costs
Let’s get started.
What is EC2 Other?
EC2 Other is a category that you’ll see in your Cost Explorer dashboard and AWS bills as a whole. However, unlike most other categories of costs in your bill, EC2 Other doesn’t map to a single item or service. This collection of smaller charges under the “Other” label generally means that it’s one of the highest cost categories in your bill at any given time, while also being confusing to anyone who isn’t intimately familiar with your AWS setup, costs, and usage statistics.
The easiest way to explain it would be to say that EC2 Other consolidates many of your EC2 costs that aren’t simply the price of running your instances. These include (but aren’t limited to):
- EBS Volume usage
- EBS Snapshot usage
- CPU credits from t2, t3, and t4g EC2 instances
- NAT Gateway usage
- Data Transfer charges
- Elastic IP Address usage
The totals of each of these costs will obviously vary based on your own setup. Without looking at your billing data, we can’t tell you exactly what percentage of your EC2 Other costs will belong to which sub-category. However, we can fairly reliably say that EBS Volume usage will tend to be the biggest chunk of this category. That’s because paying for the storage associated with your EC2 instances, aside from the instance running costs themselves, are some of the most common and significant costs in AWS.
To view your EC2 Other costs, go to your AWS Billing Management Console and open the Cost Explorer. Set the time frame that you want to examine and then select EC2-Other from the Services filter. This will give you a breakdown of how much each segment of the Other costs is making up the total category in a single color-coded bar chart. If you want to see all of these in more precise detail, switch over to Usage Type in the Group By option.
Why not group all EC2 charges together?
We’ll do a quick breakdown of every element making up EC2 Other charges in the next section, but for now let’s stick to the basics and ask why these charges are necessary to separate at all.
Simply put, it’s to make the server costs on your bill more transparent.
Let’s say that you’re trying to scale your operations and are looking at your current AWS bill to forecast how the changes you want to make will affect it. You need to reliably know not only what the initial setup cost will be, but also the ongoing charges of utilizing AWS’ services in order to factor that into your budget and not overstretch your resources.
That’s where EC2 Other comes in.
At a high level, looking at this cost category in your AWS bill will give you a rough idea of how much your current operational costs for EC2 are, allowing you to separately project what they would be in comparison to server costs themselves (listed on the bill as EC2) if you were to, say, double your available resources and traffic.
More usefully, you can keep track of the costs that are all too easy to forget about when scaling up; particularly usage and data transfer charges.
It’s easy to plot the cost of EC2 instances (as long as you know which ones you need). Aside from some optimization with free offerings and savings plans, their price is pretty much set and so can be easily factored into your future budget. However, if you don’t also forecast the increased usage and data transfer charges you can very quickly go over budget and ruin your scaling plans.
Breaking down EC2 Other charges
Let’s break down what each of the segments of your EC2 Other charges entails. We’ll go through each category that you’ll typically see, but note that there can be a few more categories based on which AWS services you use and the charges you’re incurring (the ones below are by far the most common, however).
EBS Volume usage
EBS Volume usage will generally be the largest segment in your EC2 Other costs and is, thankfully, fairly straightforward. This represents all of the charges incurred by the EBS Volumes (storage) associated with your EC2 instances, no matter the instance type.
It’s worth noting a few things here. First, the EBS Volume usage charge won’t distinguish the specifics of which volumes are costing what - it’s a total figure, not an exhaustive list of individual charges. For that information you’ll need to look into the Cost and Usage Report (CUR), which will tell you which volumes you’re running, their unit cost, and what your usage of them each is.
Second, it’s important to know exactly what you’re paying for here. Despite the cost not breaking down which volumes are costing what, you can still be getting charged for volumes that are not attached to any instances and are thus not being used.
Finally, if you notice that this charge is higher than you think it should be, it’s time to dive into your EBS Volumes and check whether you’re still paying for ones that aren’t attached and could therefore be terminated to reduce costs.
EBS Snapshot usage
EBS Snapshot usage is the same as EBS Volume usage, but for your snapshots (backup copies) instead. As such, the tips that apply to that charge also apply to this one.
This is especially worth reviewing if your instance costs remain fairly level from month to month but your snapshot costs keep rising. Make sure that you know which EBS Snapshots you’re holding on to and what they should be costing you, and whether you’re still paying for any unnecessary snapshots from old AMI’s or volumes.
A great rule of thumb is to hold on to production EBS snapshots for 30 days and non-production snapshots for 7 days. Most other snapshots don’t have much utility.
CPU credits from t2, t3, and t4g EC2 instances
We’ve covered T instances in detail before, so we won’t go into too much detail here. That being said, the CPU credits charge from t2, t3, and t4g EC2 instances can quickly get out of hand if you aren’t carefully tracking your CPU usage spikes on these instances.
T instances build up CPU credits during periods of low utilization and then spend those credits when utilization spikes. If you have these instances turned onto “unlimited” mode this can be especially costly as any prolonged or frequent spikes can result in you being charged for any CPU units used above what you generate.
Basically, if this charge is significant, it’s a sign that you should think about optimizing your T instances to something that’s designed for something that doesn’t penalize you as much for having high CPU utilization. You’re getting charged this extra fee because your spikes are more frequent than are intended for T instance usage. Perhaps it would be time to consider an M instance or an autoscaling configuration instead.
NAT Gateway usage
The Managed NAT Gateway usage charge is also self-explanatory. This is made up of any and all charges relating to utilizing a Managed NAT Gateway to direct traffic from a closed network to another closed network or the internet.
Note that this won’t include any standard data transfer charges typically incurred when communicating between networks, but it will include the data processing charges of a NAT gateway. This is solely the cost of your Managed NAT Gateways’ uptime and data processing usage.
If this charge seems higher than you think it should be, check whether you’ve taken advantage of our tips for optimizing NAT Gateway pricing, including consolidating and scheduling your usage to reduce the uptime you’re charged for.
Data Transfer charges
Data transfer charges are the sneaky cousin to your NAT Gateway and EC2 instance charges. We’ve written a whole post about this charge (most of which stems from data egress) but, to summarize, these are the charges normally incurred when data leaves one of your closed networks for another or to the internet.
For example, any data being sent out to the internet from EC2 will be charged beyond the first 100GB per month. These charges aren’t huge ($0.05 to $0.09 per GB, depending on how much data you transfer out per month), but they quickly rack up if you’re running your business via EC2. These charges are also incurred by transferring data between AWS Availability Zones, so if you’re running a worldwide operation to reduce latency for your customers you could see significant data transfer charges before you even send data out to the internet.
There are a couple of ways to reduce these charges, including utilizing Amazon CloudFront to send up to 1TB of data for free each month and searching for the cheapest Availability Zones possible. While it might hurt the end-user experience a little, shifting some of your instances to cheaper regions could save you a lot of money in the long run.
Elastic IP Address usage
Finally, there is the cost of any Elastic IP addresses that you have. As with your EBS Volume and EBS Snapshot usage costs, the trick here is to recognize when this cost looks higher than it should be, and use that knowledge to check for unattached Elastic IPs that can be cut in order to reduce costs. Remember: in July 2023, AWS began charging for all Elastic IPs, not just the idle ones.
How to lock down your EC2 Other costs
There is one major problem that all of your EC2 Other costs share, and it’s that it takes time and effort to go into your Cost Explorer and analyze all of these costs yourself. You need to have the time and expertise to be able to look at these charges, know whether they look appropriate, and be able to act if something looks like it’s costing you more than it should.
That’s where Aimably comes in.
Instead of the vague generalizations provided in the Cost Explorer, our AWS Cost Reduction Assessment tells you exactly what you can and should do to reduce your costs at the lowest impact on performance possible. We create a prioritized to-do list of items for you based on your AWS costs and even present you with how risky every action is in terms of affecting your operations.
If you want to reduce your EC2 Other costs (and all of your other AWS costs) without getting lost in all of the different savings plans, Availability Zones, data transfer rates, and whether you’re paying for things that you aren’t making use of (such as unattached EBS Snapshots), then you need our Cost Reduction Assessment.