Four ways to keep cloud costs under control

Hand with cloud floating above, money in different currencies raining from it

Individual cloud costs may look manageable, but can quickly spiral out of control. Read our tips to get a grip on cloud spending

The cloud is well and truly here to stay, with the average enterprise now using 1,232 cloud applications, according to Symantec. Yet concerns about cloud costs and managing budgets are increasingly pertinent for many IT decision makers.

At the outset, individual cloud costs may look small enough not to worry about. But when they’re all added together, businesses can quickly find costs spiralling out of control, taking valuable time and money from other IT projects.

With over 20% of IT budgets now being spent on cloud-based services, here are some tips to keep cloud spending within budget and easier to predict in the future.

Budget carefully

Historically, IT departments were able to scope out the setup, maintenance and upgrade costs of on-premises equipment and services, and could therefore create realistic forecasts and budgets on that basis.

However, cloud services require a new way of budgeting, particularly as the majority of services are usually offered on a subscription basis.

Licensing is often done on a per-user or usage basis, so getting as accurate an idea as possible of the numbers of employees who will need to use the service is vital for gaining a clear picture of what the monthly costs are likely to be.

One of the most common mistakes made is underestimating an organisation’s demand for a service, meaning that exceeding or upgrading subscriptions can far exceed the original budget. Building in flexibility to the monthly budget is another way of ensuring that fluctuations in users and usage won’t be too disruptive.

Being vigilant about removing old and unwanted user accounts from employees who have left or no longer need the services is another quick win when it comes to finding small cost savings.

Manage usage

With cloud services being used in so many ways across a business, costs can easily get out of control if employees don’t fully understand the implications of their usage. If a cloud license is based on a usage model, costs can rack up if applications are left running continually by staff who are unaware of the costs incurred.

One estimate says that enterprises can gain a 70% cost saving just by switching cloud services off when not using them.

Cloud storage is another area where planning and managing usage can bring significant cost savings. Storing data inefficiently can add vast costs in the long-term, with multiple copies or unnecessary files taking up valuable space.

Having a thought-out plan when deciding which files should be stored in the cloud (often for backup purposes) and which could be stored on a local server at potentially lower cost, will help with effectively managing costs.

Keep it visible

Investing in tools that will give you oversight of cloud usage and infrastructure may well help make significant savings elsewhere. Such tools can help with choosing the best cloud options for various parts of the business, as well as identifying and removing apps which aren’t being used or improving functionality of existing apps.

Having a clear view of historical cloud usage and where savings could be made will make forecasting future usage more accurate, and therefore the costs involved will be much more predictable and straightforward to control. Cloud management platforms can be a useful way to do this.

Visibility over licenses and users will also help with billing. Cloud services present a challenge for businesses as costs can be difficult to split between departments. Having a clear way of tracking who is using what service will make it much easier to split cloud service bills in the long run, which in turn will spread the financial burden across multiple departments.

Integrate services

Many larger organisations will be using a mixture of on-premises and cloud resources across a hybrid cloud infrastructure, so ensuring that services are integrated across management platforms is important for monitoring usage and consistency with other business applications.

In some cases, a standalone cloud service may be the best option for your business, but these are often less cost-effective when everything is added up than a packaged suite of services.

There are many benefits to ensuring that the cloud services you use are integrated with other systems you use, not least easy data transfer and collection, as well as ease of use for employees - scrambling around different platforms for files is far from time efficient!

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