The bad news is that you have a cloud storage spending problem. The good news is that the first (and often hardest) step is admitting that you have a problem. There are practical steps you can take literally today to begin fixing the problem. The following 10 tips, although they’re largely IT-centric, can help the owners of each moving part of cloud storage to review their usage and reduce their storage footprint, enabling the organization to rein in spending.
01. Remove unattached cloud storage
When your VMs are terminated, normally only the root volume associated with the VM is automatically deleted. The additional storage volumes remain intact and incur storage costs— in some cases by design, to avoid accidental deletion. An easy way to reduce cloud costs is to find and delete unattached volumes. This one’s a no-brainer—if you’re not using the storage, get rid of it. But, as with any untethered resources, that involves some detective work to identify who owns the storage and have them attest to its need to exist or not. Who knew that data could be so existential?
"Hot" storage tiers (which ususally hold frequently accessed data) can be priced as much as 5 times higher than their "cold" tier counterparts.
02. Purchase the right storage tier
Every public cloud provider offers a number of storage tiers. And yet everyone seems to choose the fastest (and most expensive) level, with little or no regard for cost. If it costs more, it must be better, right? Not necessarily.
The GB/month tier price is generally based on how often and how quickly you need to access your data. “Hot” storage tiers (which usually hold frequently accessed data that requires low latency, high performance and throughput, and high availability) can be priced as much as 5 times higher than their “cold” tier counterparts (where infrequently accessed data, such as backups and archives, should reside).
Consider both your performance and cost requirements when assessing storage tiers, balancing your needs with attention to budgetary targets. You can always move it to another tier later.
03. Rightsize underused storage volumes
There’s no easier way to waste money on cloud storage than to create a storage volume that is never used appropriately. Cloud providers don’t let you shrink storage volumes. NetApp recommends that you first go through the process of identifying oversized volumes, then create a new volume with the space you actually need, migrate the existing data, and delete the oversized volume. In the future, simply implement better storage need assessments for the volume creation process.
04. Downgrade storage based on throughput required
Cloud providers also offer performance tiers to meet your throughput needs. You can reduce storage costs by monitoring the actual read-write access of a given volume; if throughput is low, then downgrade it to a lower performance tier. This reduces the storage IOPS to be better aligned with the workload using it, while reducing cost.
05. Determine the level of redunancy needed for storage
When people have the option to replicate data anywhere, they tend to get panicky and choose a far-away location. But do you really need your data in the United Kingdom to protect against a loss of data due to, say, a hurricane in the United States? The answer, of course, is no, unless it’s a really, really big hurricane. These sorts of decisions have a material impact on cost; for example, redundancy across different geographies can be twice as expensive as local redundancy. It’s important to plan your redundancy requirements wisely, taking a page from business impact analysis and risk assessments to determine what’s actually needed.
Mental Math: By choosing the right storage tier based on capacity and throughput, and jumping to a higher storage tier only at peak usage times, you can save up to 70% on your monthly cloud bill.
06. Delete old snapshots
The snapshot is a staple of any virtual machine recovery strategy. Multiple snapshots give IT organizations the ability to restore to a specific point in time, based on a specific disaster recovery scenario. The last thing you want is to delete something that the owner of the workload needs. But when you have hundreds of VMs, each creating snapshots daily without deleting the previous day’s snapshot, your cloud storage costs grow exponentially. You must establish a strategy around snapshot expiration. Fortunately, most cloud providers have some form of snapshot lifecycle policy to automate deletions, eliminating the need to rely on any one individual.
07. Manage outbound data transfer requests
Moving data costs money. That’s a fact. But those costs are not all created equal. In the cloud, the cost of transferring data depends on the location of the source and the destination cloud servers. Inbound traffic is normally free (or close enough). But when data is transferred outside the cloud provider’s network (aka data egress), it gets expensive fast. And remember, as far as the data owner is concerned, the transfer is all about “I need it done,” not “it’s cost effective to do it this way.” To address this issue, encourage users to store data as close to where it’s actually used as possible, to eliminate the need to move it somewhere else. Also consider compressing and deduplicating data before egress, using incremental synchronization to save on transfer costs. Finally, if you can delete data, or move it to an archive tier, do so with zeal.
08. Minimize cross-region and cross-zone data transfer
When data moves across regions, countries, or availability zones, cloud providers get to charge you more. These data transfers can be part of an application’s architecture, used by DevOps to maintain test data, or they can be a part of a redundancy strategy. So data transfer needs to be both purposeful and sanctioned. Make it your goal to host necessary data as geographically close to its userbase as possible. Over the long run, consider rearchitecting solutions to minimize the path your data needs to travel.
09. Monitor storage pricing tier
Pricing for both storage and data transfers often includes additional cost tiers based on consumption. If you reach specified levels in the cloud provider’s pricing table—as indicated by terms such as “greater than <storage amount>”—you are likely to be able to negotiate a better price. Keep in mind that higher discounts apply only to stored data that meets the pricing requirement. Finally, you may be locked into a multiyear contract. You should try to stay within the constraints of that contract, while looking for ways to negotiate costs down based on increased usage overtime.
“Companies can save hundreds of thousands of dollars a quarter, sometimes even $100,000 a month simply by considering how they architect their cloudbased architecture.”
10. Clean up incomplete uploads from storage
Some workloads require users to upload files. In this scenario, interrupted uploads sometimes result in partial objects that linger in cloud storage as unusable data that costs you real money. Depending on size, incomplete uploads can add up to tons of waste because admins tend to be afraid to delete or move anything (see step 6). The best course of action is to back up incomplete uploads and then delete them.