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Why AWS Cost Optimization Is About More than Saving Money

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Why is it important to track and monitor cloud costs? The obvious answer is it helps you save money—and everyone wants to save money.

Yet, cost plays a much larger role in your cloud journey. If you think about cost only in terms of how much you are paying and what you are getting in return, then you’re missing much of the value that careful cloud cost control can provide.

Let’s take a look at all of the reasons why monitoring and optimizing costs is critical for a successful AWS strategy.

What Is Cost Optimization?

In AWS and other clouds, cost optimization is the art and science of identifying and addressing inefficiencies in the way you are using resources.

Those inefficiencies come in many forms. They could be an EC2 instance that offers more resources than you need for a given workload, which could therefore be replaced by a different, less costly instance.

They could be a result of using one type of application architecture, like workloads running directly on virtual machines, when another, such as serverless or containers, would deliver the same performance for less overall cost.

They could be caused by failing to take advantage of the best opportunities available for hosting a given workload. For example, you might be using S3 Standard for storage when S3 Glacier would meet your needs just as well, at a lower cost.

By identifying these sorts of problems, you can take steps to spend less while maintaining the same level of performance for your cloud workloads. A basic best practice is to use tools such as AWS Trusted Advisor to help ensure that your infrastructure is set up in a cost-efficient way from the start.

Cost Optimization Insights

These tools only go so far, and they are not the be-all, end-all of cost optimization. They are designed simply to help choose the right type of configuration for a given workload. However, cost monitoring as a whole goes further, and delivers several other important types of insight into your AWS workloads and strategy.

Rogue Infrastructure

By its nature, rogue infrastructure—meaning use of infrastructure for purposes not officially authorized by your organization—is hard to detect. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be very good at being rogue.

If you monitor cloud costs carefully, however, rogue infrastructure will have a hard time hiding. If employees spin up a virtual server in the cloud for personal use, or create storage buckets for organizational data that is not supposed to exist in the cloud, you are likely to discover it when you perform cost optimization operations designed to help identify workloads that should not be running.

Having a strong IT governance policy in place that requires all cloud-based resources to be tagged is another way to help prevent the creation of rogue infrastructure, and to make unauthorized resources easy to detect. When possible, tagging should be automated to ensure the fastest and most consistent results.

Security Risks

Although cost optimization is certainly not the only tool you should use to help identify security issues in your cloud workloads, it provides some useful insight that other tools might lack.

For example, if you notice that your bills for a certain application or service have increased due to heavier usage without a corresponding increase in legitimate requests, it could be a sign of brute-force attacks or other unauthorized access attempts.

Neglected Projects

When was the last time you evaluated each of your applications to ensure it was running as efficiently and securely as possible?

If you don’t know because you don’t regularly do this, cost optimization can help ensure that you do recognize workloads that could stand to be reconfigured. If you discover that you are paying more than you expect for a given workload, or that one workload’s costs are rising more quickly than those of others without a clear reason, it’s probably time to take a look at that workload and assess whether it should be scaled up or down, migrated to a different type of service, or otherwise adjusted to operate more efficiently.

Operational Inefficiencies

Finally, cost optimization can help you identify inefficiencies in the way your organization is run. That is because fees charged by AWS that you could have avoided but didn’t might reflect larger inefficiencies within the organization.

For instance, consider AWS data storage costs. If your AWS cost analysis shows you are paying early-deletion fees for data stored in S3 Glacier, you should determine why that is happening. It could be simply because you should be using a different storage class, but it could also be because employees are deleting data sooner than intended.