A robust and comprehensive cloud platform, Microsoft Azure has emerged as a leading choice for some of the globe’s most ambitious organisations. But with many firms lacking the expertise or internal resources to manage it, the infrastructure risks rapidly becoming a burden to already-stretched IT budgets. So, how can SMEs navigate this growing challenge?
Mike Dunleavy, client director at Central Networks, shares some actionable insights to prevent cloud costs from spiralling out of control — helping you optimise your tech estate and maximise the value of your investment — as well as guidance on the role a trusted managed service provider (MSP) can play in eliminating the headache…
Naturally, as usage and demand of Microsoft Azure increases, particularly as the solution matures, companies have seen their cloud estates evolve significantly. This is, for the most part, a good thing — offering great scope for scaling as requirements change, increased data security and compliance in a time where cyber attacks are at their pique, and reliable disaster recovery protocols to help keep applications running, amongst other advantages.
The challenge comes when organisations overlook resource ‘rightsizing’, and over-provision their teams with technology that’s no longer fit for purpose, unused, or completely idle — incurring unnecessary costs that could be deployed elsewhere, through complete lack of visibility and monitoring. Additionally, the absence of a well-defined cost optimisation strategy and lack of employee awareness can also contribute to unchecked spending.
Here’s a jargon-free run-down of the ways you can tackle the challenge:
Embrace Azure cost management and billing tools
To gain better visibility and control over your cloud spending, take advantage of the robust cost management and billing tools provided by Microsoft Azure. These tools offer features like cost tracking, budget alerts, and recommendations for optimising resource usage. By monitoring your spending and setting budget thresholds, you can proactively identify any potential spikes and take necessary actions to keep your expenses in check.
Leverage resource sizing and scaling
One of the key advantages of cloud computing is the ability to scale resources up or down based on demand. Properly sizing your Azure resources ensures you are only paying for what you need. Regularly analyse your resource utilisation patterns and adjust the sizing accordingly. Utilise features like Azure Auto Scaling to intuitively adjust resource capacity based on predefined conditions, ensuring optimal performance while minimising costs during periods of low demand.
Implement cost-effective storage strategies
Storage costs can quickly accumulate if not managed efficiently. That’s why assessing your requirements and classifying data based on its access frequency is key. Utilise Azure's storage tiers — such as hot, cool, and archive — to store information cost-effectively, while ensuring it remains accessible when needed. Implementing a data lifecycle management policy also enables you to automatically transition between storage tiers based on defined rules — optimising costs by keeping frequently accessed data in high-performance storage, and moving less frequently accessed information to lower-cost options.
Utilise Azure Reserved Instances
If you have long-term resource requirements, Azure Reserved Instances (RIs) can help you save significantly on compute costs. This is because they provide discounted pricing for virtual machines and databases when you commit to a specific term. By strategically planning your resource needs and leveraging RIs, you can unlock substantial savings compared to pay-as-you-go pricing. And in today’s uncertain economic climate, where keeping a laser-sharp focus on costs is crucial, every penny truly counts.
Continuous monitoring and optimisation
Cost optimisation isn’t a one-time solution. Instead, it requires regular monitoring of Azure resource usage, performance metrics, and cost patterns to identify areas for improvement. Leverage Azure Advisor's recommendations and other cost optimisation tools to implement best practices and eliminate wasteful spending. Engage with your development and operations teams to foster a culture of ultimate cost awareness and accountability — encouraging them to make budget-conscious decisions when provisioning and managing resources in the cloud.
Lean on outsourced IT specialists for support
The complexity of the cloud can make cost optimisation feel like a time-intensive and headache-inducing process — particularly for enterprises without a designated IT division internally. Specialised MSPs can prove to be an invaluable extension of your team here.
Bringing rich expertise and industry experience, outsourced technical partners can assess your cloud infrastructure and identify areas where cost-saving measures can be implemented, without compromising service delivery. This includes rightsizing virtual machines, scaling resources based on demand, and leveraging RIs for long-term savings. By implementing cost management tools to monitor and track usage patterns, identify cost anomalies, and provide actionable insights for optimisation, they can also implement tagging strategies to allocate costs accurately and enable department-level visibility.
Taking a proactive and holistic approach to managing your future cloud costs in Azure, MSPs can also regularly review and optimise subscriptions, eliminate unused resources, and adjust configurations to align with evolving business needs. It’s all about striking the right balance between performance and cost efficiency in your Azure cloud deployments.
Of course, these services come at a cost, but the benefits of investing in a trusted specialist truly outweigh the ramifications of hiking tech stack costs that often fly under the radar.
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