Treat your hangover if the costs go too high

When many academic institutions had to move away, teachers recorded lessons with learning management tools for students to look at. Since platforms were often cloud-based, students could deliver content at the perfect time. It worked well, but difficulties began to arise with cloud providers.

The problem was not getting the content into the platform, but rather its storage and distribution. Cloud providers storage costs and, with platforms growing in size as groups of students stream classes, for example, monthly cloud bills have spiraled out of control.

Due to the pandemic, many businesses and industries have also been forced to move their staff and platforms remotely. To make the transition quickly, many organizations have started using cloud services. As life slowly becomes more stable, businesses are concerned with where the resources are, where people want to be, and what’s best for the business as a whole.

Remote workers and platforms, which grew slowly before the pandemic, have exploded and appear to be the norm going forward as businesses embrace cost savings and flexibility for staff and business. But now IT operations teams are facing a hangover in the cloud. Because they are the ones who foot the bill, they are also the ones who have to reassess tools in place and seek to manage cloud costs.

Reassess tools and services

First, consider the additional services that your organization pays in its main software as a service (SaaS) or other applications. For example, a local business that doesn’t have a global reach probably doesn’t need a service like AWS CloudFront that delivers global distribution.

Suppose that in this initial cloud rush, not all services or features were identified as needed. It was faster to check everything, but now is the time to reassess. In any cloud environment, it can be difficult to understand what is being used and administrators may need technical and sales support from the cloud provider.

One thing that occurs in any IT environment is the ominous warning of the repercussions of feature or function deactivation by administrators. Often times, these alarms can scare even the most experienced IT pros, so be prepared to be on the phone with the vendors to determine what each service is doing and the possible effects of removing it.

Additional services may be the easiest targets to mitigate a hangover, as admins can turn them on or off and see the results quickly. The effect is often limited for tools and services, but not for data storage.

Review the prioritization of data storage

Not all data is created equal. In data centers, administrators take this into account with data levels. In the rush to move to the cloud, speed may have trumped a plan of prioritization and retention of data. Although some level of data prioritization planning has taken place, it is important to revisit as data ages, more data is created, and administrators gain a better understanding of data usage.

Most clouds provide data usage reports that provide insight into usage and help administrators plan for primary to secondary data transition, archiving, and deletion. Data prioritization is not just a technical consideration. Administrators should involve the creators or owners of data to understand data lifespan, criticality, and recovery needs, as they should be associated with usage reports.

This can be a challenge for the data owner: if the data is in place and working, why change anything? Being transparent and sharing the costs can help. IT isn’t free, so why should IT admins pretend it is? Application owners should understand billing and cost savings and see the financial implications of data location and different cost levels for performance and capacity.

Cut subscriptions

The other target for remedying the cloud hangover is not the additional services to SaaS or other applications, but the core applications themselves. Often times, large-scale services are purchased as a package item to cover all the staff who might use them, not just those who certainly will.

This often occurs in large contracts for video conferencing services or virtual office infrastructure cloud provider deployments that were done quickly. These items can be one of the biggest cost savings measures, but one of the worst things to take away from end users. It doesn’t matter if they used it, they lose it; It is a problem. Some vendors may allow organizations to reduce subscriptions, while others may require businesses to restart on a different subscription level.

Usage reports should guide all cloud decisions. Using a tool or function once or twice does not count as active use. It’s a tough line to draw, but teams have to draw it somewhere or end up paying for annual use – and inflating the bill accordingly. This policy can create tensions with staff, but usage reports help IT operations administrators determine how reduce subscriptions.

The cloud hangover will be messy no matter the evidence or the data. Checking out a service bothers users, even if they have never used it. Be open about what you’re doing: don’t shut down the services, as one or two voice users can cause a huge headache if something suddenly goes away. Usage reports, combined with billing data, will provide the best argument support – and that could be an argument. Be prepared for opposition from users and middle managers.


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