Last updated at Thu, 30 Nov 2023 14:26:46 GMT

Cloud adoption has exploded over the past decade or so, and for good reason. Many digital transformation advancements – and even the complete reimagination of entire industries – can be directly mapped and attributed to cloud innovation. While this rapid pace of innovation has had a profound impact on businesses and how we connect with our customers and end users, the journey to the cloud isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

Along with increased efficiency, accelerated innovation, and added flexibility comes an exponential increase in complexity, which can make managing and securing cloud-based applications and workloads a daunting challenge. This added complexity can make it difficult to maintain visibility into what’s running across your cloud(s).

Beyond management challenges, organizations often run into massive increases in IT costs as they scale. Whether from neglecting to shut down old resources when they are no longer needed or over-provisioning them from the beginning to avoid auto-scaling issues, cloud waste and overspend are among the most prevailing challenges that organizations face when adopting and accelerating cloud consumption.

Just how prevalent is this issue? Well, according to Flexera’s 2022 State of Cloud Report, nearly 60% of cloud decision-makers say optimizing their cloud usage to cut costs is a top priority for this year.

The cost benefits of reducing waste can be massive, but knowing where to look and what the most common culprits of waste can be a challenge, particularly if your organization are relative novices when it comes to cloud.

Common cases of cloud waste and how to avoid them

Now that we’ve covered the factors that drive exploding cloud budgets, let’s take a look at some of the most common cases of cloud waste we see, and the types of checks you and your teams should make to avoid unnecessary spending. I’ve categorized these issues as major, moderate, and minor, based on the relative cost savings possible when customers we’ve worked with eliminate them.

Important to note: While this is what we’ve seen in our experience, it’s important to keep in mind that the actual real-world impact will vary based on each organization’s specific situation.

Unattached volumes (major)

Multiple creation and termination of instances often results in certain volumes remaining attached to already terminated instances. These unused and overlooked volumes contribute directly to increased costs, while delivering little or no value.

Cloud teams should identify volumes that are not shown as attached to any instances. Once detected, schedule unattached storage volumes for deletion if they are no longer in use. Alternatively, you could minimize overhead by transitioning these volumes to serve as offline backups.

Load balancer with no instances (major)

Load balancers distribute traffic across instances to handle the load of your application. If a load balancer is not attached to any instances, it will consume costs without providing any functionality. An orphaned load balancer could also be an indication that an instance was deleted or otherwise impaired.

You should identify unattached load balancers, and double-check to make sure there isn’t a larger problem related to an improperly deleted instance that was once associated with those load balancers. After you’ve determined there isn’t a bigger issue to dig into, notify the necessary resource owners that they should delete them.

Database instance with zero connections (moderate)

Databases that have not been connected to within a given time frame are likely to be billable for all classes of service, except for free tiers.

After some agreed-upon time frame (we typically see teams use about 14 days), you should consider these databases stale and remove them. It’s important here to be sure there isn’t a good reason for the perceived inactivity before you go ahead and hit that delete button.

Snapshot older than 60 days (moderate)

Snapshots represent a complete backup of your computing instances at a specific point in time. Maintaining snapshot backups incurs cost and provides diminishing returns over time, as snapshots become old and diverge more and more from the instances they originally represented.  

Unless regulatory compliance or aggressive backup schedules mandate otherwise, old snapshots should be purged. Before scheduling a deletion or taking any other actions, create a ServiceNow Incident for reporting purposes and to ensure snapshot policy socialization.

Instance with high core counts (minor)

Instances that have more cores will tend to perform tasks more quickly and be able to handle larger loads. However, with greater power comes greater costs. For many workloads, eight cores should be more than sufficient.

Users should identify these instances, mark them non-compliant, and notify the resource owner or operations team about potentially downsizing, stopping, or deleting instances with more than eight cores.

How InsightCloudSec can help contain cloud costs

By this point, you might be wondering why we here at Rapid7 would be writing about cloud cost management. I mean, we’re a security company, right? While that’s true, and our dedication to powering protectors hasn’t waned one bit, the benefits of InsightCloudSec (ICS) don’t stop there.

ICS provides real-time visibility into your entire cloud asset inventory across all of your cloud platforms, which gives us the ability to provide relevant insights and automation that help improve cost effectiveness. In fact, we’ve got built-in checks for each of the issues outlined above (and many more) available right out of the box, as well as recommended remediation steps and tips for automating the entire process with native bots. So while you might initially look into our platform for the ability to simplify cloud security and compliance, you can also use it to get a handle on that runaway cloud spend.

Our customers have realized massive savings on their cloud bills over the years, covering portions –  or in some cases, the entirety – of the cost of their InsightCloudSec licenses. (Gotta love a security platform that can pay for itself!) If you’re interested in learning more about how you accelerate in the cloud without sacrificing security and save some money at the same time, don’t hesitate to request a free demo!

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