In-depth

Four ways to keep cloud costs under control

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

cloud, money, costs, hand, pound, budget

By 2020, Gartner says a corporate no-cloud' policy will be as rare as a no-internet' policy is today. Couple that with Symantec stating that the average enterprise uses about 1,232 cloud applications, and it looks like the cloud is well and truly here to stay. 

Yet despite the benefits and flexibility the cloud can provide, IT decision makers still have concerns about cloud costs and managing their budgets. 

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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 UK business spending 19% of their IT budgets on cloud-based services and infrastructure, and this figure set to rise to 22% in the next four years, forecasting cloud spending and keeping it within budget are a must. Here are some tips on how to do just that.

Budget carefully

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

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

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

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Underestimating an organisation's demand for a service, which leads to exceeding or upgrading subscriptions, is one of the most common mistakes and can result in surpassing the original budget. But building flexibility into the monthly budget is a way of ensuring that fluctuations in users and usage won't be too disruptive.

Being vigilant about removing old or 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, applications left up and continually running by unaware staff can cause costs to accumulate. 

One estimate states that enterprises can gain a 70% cost saving just by switching cloud services off when not in use.

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Cloud storage is another area where planning and managing usage can bring significant cost savings. Inefficiently storing data can add extensive 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 managing costs.

Keep it visible

Investing in tools that provide oversight of cloud usage and infrastructure may uncover significant savings elsewhere. These tools can help with choosing the best cloud options for various parts of the business, as well as identifying and removing apps that aren't being used and improving the functionality of existing apps.

Having knowledge of historical cloud usage and where savings could be found will make predicting future usage more accurate, and therefore the costs involved will be easier to anticipate and more straightforward to control. Cloud management platforms can be a useful way to do this.

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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 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.

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

There are many benefits to ensuring your cloud services are integrated with other systems you use, such as easy data collection and transfer, and ease of use for employees - scrambling around different platforms for files is far from time efficient!

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