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How to Maintain Managed Cloud Services Without Spending an Arm and a Leg

Abstract

Managed cloud services can be notoriously difficult to maintain, as it’s a complex and ever-changing technology. One common challenge many businesses face, as a result of this, is significant over-spending. In this article, we explain how to maintain a managed cloud service efficiently and effectively while keeping costs under control.

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Main Article

In today’s digital-first business landscape, where flexible and remote working are the new normal, your cloud investment is no longer just an IT system. Your managed cloud service should be seen as the foundation of your entire business.

Whether you have an Amazon Web Services (AWS) or a Microsoft Azure infrastructure, you can’t afford to underestimate the importance of keeping well-maintained and well-managed cloud services.

But with so many complex applications and business-critical processes being delivered throughout your organisation from the cloud, that’s obviously easier said than done.

Having completed your migration, with your cloud deployment up and running, you’ll likely have found costs rising erratically, or dozens of unexpected line items appearing on your monthly bills. Either way, if you’re unable to remain within your original budget and don’t fully understand why, you need to take action immediately.

So, let’s take a closer look at answering the key question here – how can you maintain your managed cloud service without it costing you an arm and a leg?

Exploring the Top Challenges

Your cloud should, in an ideal world, drive greater agility and efficiency throughout your organisation. It should be enabling you to innovate your applications, and deliver better services both to your staff and your customers, ultimately driving growth for your business.

But many still struggle with the financial implications of the investment, and that prevents them from gaining these advantages.

Before we discuss the steps to take to solve this problem, it’s first important to demonstrate why and how it happens.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen far too many businesses simply submit their payment details into the AWS or Azure portal and expect everything to just work smoothly. But this is a critical mistake which can have a disastrous impact from a financial perspective.

There are a number of reasons why your cloud system may be causing unpredictable costs and unexpected spending, for example:

  • The system has not been configured to align with your specific requirements
  • You’re experiencing more usage, or need more bandwidth, than originally predicted
  • You’re receiving insufficient support from your staff or partners
  • You have a lack of monitoring, reporting, and analysis in place
  • Security and compliance are driving up costs unexpectedly
  • Updates from AWS or Azure make changes which aren’t being accounted for.

However, from here, we’ll go into more detail with some of the most significant problems which could be the root causes of these common issues.

1 – A Lack of Understanding

Without fully understanding the cloud system you’ve deployed, it’s almost impossible to control its usage. Without that control, you’ll be unable to sustain any consistency, or perhaps even full visibility, over the costs being accrued.

Therefore, it’s crucial to first understand that the nature of the cloud is ever-changing. As we explained in a recent related article, a cloud investment isn’t like a traditional enterprise IT product. It’s not something you can simply switch on and leave to take care of itself.

It’s flexibility and scalability will cause your costs to fluctuate each month. And as your applications evolve in line with their adoption and growth, your cloud spending will rise as well, whether you approve it or not.

Therefore, delivering your business-critical applications, data, and services via the cloud requires almost constant maintenance and management. This is a different concept to your legacy IT systems and needs to be approached differently as well.

There will be a range of hidden costs which come with your cloud investment, and these catch many businesses out. You may have experienced monthly bills with dozens of unexpected line items that weren’t forecasted for in the original budget.

For more information on this, check out our aforementioned article, where we provide detailed advice for gaining greater visibility and control with your cloud spending.

2 – Insufficient Knowledge and Expertise

Many businesses make the mistake of allowing existing teams – usually traditional IT or even software development – to be responsible for managing their cloud. But this rarely works.

If you had an in-house team set up the system, problems with deployment, configuration, or optimisation are likely affecting your infrastructure. For example, cloud licensing can sometimes be sold to businesses by AWS or Azure in a way that causes confusion, resulting in costly over-subscriptions. This isn’t your internal team’s fault, but it will still be seen as their mistake.

For a software developer or traditional IT manager, this new, unfamiliar technology should ideally warrant dedicated training. Not only that, but as the AWS or Azure cloud platforms evolve, further learning and re-training will also be necessary in future.

Over time you’ll also be forced to re-architect parts of your cloud system to keep up with updates from your provider as well. You could even have to make significant changes to your own infrastructure to accommodate business growth, and this is far from straightforward.

But training your existing employees specifically in this area is time-consuming and costly, so that’s a route some businesses avoid, albeit to their own detriment.

Looking to a partner for support is an alternative option you may have tried as well. Still, even if you are working with a managed cloud service provider, they’re likely also very expensive.

And if an MSP uses a fixed-cost or monthly subscription model, their available services may not cover everything you need in the long-term. Of course, limitations with the tools and technologies they use may still be failing to help you overcome this problem either way.

3 – Performance vs Cost

Whether the cloud is running your internal applications, or it’s delivering digital products and services to customers, the performance must be flawless.

Because the cloud is autonomous and flexible, higher volumes of usage that require more data and bandwidth to maintain performance can go ahead regardless of the cost implications.

This can result in drastic over-spending if the optimisation of your cloud, and allocation of required resources, are not managed carefully.

For example, if you’re selling a software product that’s hosted in the cloud and used by your customers, your sales team could drive growth of your user-base which will have a direct impact on the costs of your system.

4 – Overlooking the total cost of ownership (TCO)

Without the traditional fixed-cost model that comes with IT hardware, and even out-the-box software, a cloud investment must be viewed in the context of its total cost of ownership (TCO).

Cloud is not just a one-off purchase. Moreover, it’s not an investment that can be given just a one-time forecast of annual costs.

As mentioned, when your business grows and changes, so too will the usage, and the cost of the cloud infrastructure that supports it. This is where the need for constant maintenance becomes crucial.

If you’re experiencing persistent financial challenges or failing to achieve your desired ROI with your cloud, it’s likely that inefficiencies with the configuration and usage are negatively impacting the TCO.

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Case study: inclarity

Managing existing Azure infrastructure to reduce costs and increase reliability.

A telecoms provider with a cloud based solution.

Read more

The First Steps Towards Success

While there are no quick fixes or shortcuts to successfully maintaining a managed cloud service, it is achievable to do so in a cost-effective way if you know where to start.

Since the cloud is a highly complex, ever-evolving technology, the first step to take is acknowledging the significant time and effort required for your own implementation to make sure it achieves its goals.

You also need to make sure all the relevant stakeholders fully understand the cloud implementation you’ve invested in, including visibility over what the varying costs will be over the long-term.

Then you’ll be able to start working towards gaining positive ROI and harnessing the full potential of the technology.

Embracing the Right Approach

When it comes to maintaining and optimising a cloud infrastructure, it’s crucial to take a proactive, rather than a reactive, approach.

If you’ve already experienced over-spending on a cloud subscription, you’ll appreciate that problems with usage and cost must be prevented before they’re allowed to have an impact on the business.

Be sure to put processes and responsibilities in place to monitor and manage your cloud infrastructure, to lower these risks.

Conduct regular reviews of the configuration, the size of the infrastructure, the allocation of resources, the bandwidth, and any other relevant areas you can gain insight into. Then make decisions and optimise your cloud deployment accordingly to minimise unnecessary spending.

Granted, this is a challenging task in itself. Some businesses even decide to hire people specifically to do this role, although this is another costly option that doesn’t always solve the problem.

That’s why it’s so important to choose the right tools and technologies capable of successfully maintaining your cloud infrastructure, as follows.

Use Automation as Your Ally

When dealing with technology as complex and vast as the cloud, it’s often wise to allow other technology solutions to manage it. Manual maintenance of a cloud deployment, as mentioned throughout this article, is extremely time-consuming, expensive, and easy to get wrong.

Leaning on automation tools to conduct regular monitoring, reporting, and analysis of your cloud systems is a far more efficient way of keeping cloud spending under control.

Not only will this provide a significant performance boost, but it will also allow you to spend more time focusing on further business growth and innovation.

Automation will also offer assistance in keeping up with updates and changes deployed from the AWS and Azure platforms. These may not always be detected if you only rely on manual maintenance.

And, compared to the expense of hiring and training someone to do these things manually, automation is a far more cost-effective option.

There are some automated tools built-in to AWS and Azure, although these aren’t as holistic as most businesses need when looking to fully optimise their implementation. To gain full confidence that all the critical managed cloud service responsibilities are taken care of, we’d recommend doing a thorough evaluation of all the leading automation tools and systems available.

Whichever option you choose, your business deserves a comprehensive solution that is consistent, reliable, and affordable.

Final Thoughts

Maintaining a managed cloud service with the right strategic approach can deliver exponential benefits to your business.

Combining the necessary processes, best practices, and automation technologies discussed here will afford you:

  • Significant cost savings
  • More time to focus on running your business
  • Opportunities for improvement and innovation
  • Optimisation of cloud performance
  • Greater return on investment
  • Competitive differentiation and advantages.

However, if the challenges you’re experiencing still seem too daunting to face alone, or too great to recover from, we may have just the answer you’re looking for…

The Perfect Solution for Your Managed Cloud Services

igroup’s CloudOps Active Management Solution (CAMS) is designed to solve these exact problems, based on our team’s experience in supporting and managing cloud environments since 2010.

CAMS offers highly advanced performance and cost monitoring tools, support, and administration through one single portal to manage your cloud for you. This includes:

  • Always-on support; fault, find, and fix
  • Easy-to-use management, monitoring, and reporting dashboards
  • Proactive infrastructure optimisation
  • Tools and apps to enhance your cloud performance
  • Guaranteed cost savings.

CAMS is a proven way of reducing your cloud spend and optimising performance. The system can be implemented across any new or existing AWS and Azure cloud environment, allowing you to focus on delivering applications and services, not managing your cloud infrastructure.

Unlike a traditional cloud support service, CAMS already includes all the features and functionality your business needs without any hidden costs or surprise charges.

igroup and CAMS will:

  • Become an integral part of your team, delivering high quality advice and support
  • Allow you to concentrate on delivering your own services and applications
  • Improve overall business profitability and reduce cloud costs
  • Enable your business to grow through the cloud.

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