Checking Up on Costs: Saving More with Cloud Computing

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Smart habits to keep an eye on your cloud expenditure

Moving some or all of your IT infrastructure to cloud computing makes good financial sense. No longer does a new server or a terabyte of storage require thousands of dollars’ worth of up-front expenditure and a lengthy planning process. IT staff can create what they need in just a couple of minutes, and pay by the month or even by the hour.

It’s important to keep a watchful eye on your cloud computing expenditure. Alibaba Cloud makes it easy to do this, straight from the management console. Just click on Billing Management to see your current monthly charges, and to browse previous months’ invoices for comparison. Under Usage Records you can even download detailed information about any specific Alibaba Cloud service (Elastic Compute Service, Object Storage Service, and so on) between any two arbitrary dates, to see precisely what you’re spending money on.

Why not set aside half an hour every week to do this? Remember to check all of your Alibaba Cloud accounts, if you have more than one.

Saving on Storage

Release any pay-as-you-go server instances which are no longer being used, such as those that were set up for one-off evaluation or testing purposes. If you use the Object Storage Service (OSS), look for storage buckets that are only accessed very occasionally and consider moving them from standard storage to Infrequent Access or Archive mode. This will save you around 50 percent and 75 percent respectively on monthly storage costs.

Saving on Compute Resources

Use CloudMonitor to keep an eye on server performance. The dashboard makes it easy for users to visually monitor information, so they can view historical data on key metrics such as free RAM, CPU load, disk space and so on. You can save money by removing or reducing resources that are not being used. For example, if a server never exceeds 50 percent CPU usage then reduce the specification of the server.

To avoid unexpected downtime, configure CloudMonitor alarms to automatically alert you by text message or email if specific thresholds are breached. This will give you advance warning of impending problems such as low disk space or poor connectivity.

The basic CloudMonitor service is free to use.

Quarterly Audits

In addition to the weekly technical-level check, do a quarterly management-level audit too. Create, and keep updated, a service catalog. Use a database, or even just a spreadsheet, to record every cloud computing resource that you use. OSS storage buckets, ECS server instances, ApsaraDB RDS databases and so on. Against each resource, note which service or facility it helps provide, who the key users are, who created the resource, an emergency contact number for the owner, when its continued existence is next due to be reviewed, its typical monthly cost, and any current observations such as disk space getting low or CPU usage running high.

As part of the same audit process, spend a little time checking out the Alibaba Cloud website for details of new products and services that have launched in the past quarter and might be of use. For example, this could include new billing methods, more powerful server instances, new hosting regions and so on.

With cloud computing, no longer can you just poke your head round the door of the data center and quickly check that everything looks the same as it did last week. But all the tools that you need to keep on top of your Alibaba Cloud infrastructure are easily at hand, and free to use.

To learn more about how to run a cost-effective and successful business on the cloud, download our ebook A Cloud for Business: Running a Cost-effective Company on the Cloud.

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