Cloud Optimization: More Than Just About Cost

There are many facets to optimizing your cloud infrastructure other than just costs. Optimization is about more than saving money (but it can help with that too).

Here are some ways you should be thinking about cloud optimization to make the most of your cloud investment.

Optimizing for availability

While cloud-based workloads are typically more resilient than on-premises, there are a few cases where a cloud-based workload may be unavailable. It might be because of a failure with the cloud service provider or maybe a problem with a specific workload.

If an application exists on a single virtual machine (VM), it is subject to downtime. A single-instance VM has a Service Level Agreement of 95% with standard hard drives. For many applications, this level of availability is not sufficient. Optimizing, including right-sizing, and storage & replication options, for resiliency is key to mitigate the risks associated with an outage.

To mitigate the risk, you could deploy multiple instances of the same workload over different VMs or another option might be to set up disaster recovery to a secondary region. This way, if one instance becomes unavailable for some reason, redundant instances can take over.

The problem, of course, with running multiple instances is that it can quickly get expensive, so there must be a balance between resiliency and cost. This is especially true in the case of global DR.

Optimizing for performance

Optimizing for performance ensures that your applications and services run as fast and efficient as possible. However, selecting the right level of performance can be complex.

For example, using workloads with server-less functions may offer improved performance over using a standard VM. This choice is dependent upon the type of workload, speed desired and cost tolerance.

For storage performance optimization, selecting the fastest storage is not always the best option. In some cases, you don’t need fast I/O and can benefit from slower, cheaper storage. This is why it’s essential to understand your storage options. You will need to choose storage options that balance performance, cost, and availability.

Optimizing for security

A single misconfigured resource can make your cloud vulnerable. For example, focusing on protecting Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) and Secure Shell Protocol (SSH) ports is key. Optimizing access to cloud resources should always be a priority.  For example, protect your vehicles and the garage they reside in. Some strategies to limit risks include Azure Bastion, Azure VPN gateways, and just-in-time VM access.

Optimizing for storage security is also critical.  Encrypting data at rest in case of a data security breach is one simple example. Since this is available in Azure for no additional cost, everyone should take advantage of this feature.

Azure also offers security enhancements like advanced threat protection for your sensitive data. This protection can help ensure that a third party does not change your data. Azure’s Advanced Threat Protection, now called Microsoft Defender for Identity, can identify, detect, and investigate threats. It can also detect malicious insider actions that may harm your organizational brand and revenue.

Optimizing for cost

Most companies know what it’s like to get a surprising cloud consumption bill. The cloud costs may start low and then rise unexpectedly. There are a variety of reasons this could happen including data replication charges, hidden server costs, incorrect resource sizing, lack of automation, and more. Conversely, a company may decide to stick with a lower service tier in an effort to limit costs but this can cause latency issues and a loss of revenue.

According to Gartner, 45% of companies that lift-and-shift to get their cloud architecture to the cloud have higher initial costs and overspend by 70% in the first 12 months of cloud usage. Organizations will also waste an average of 30% after moving to the cloud – regardless of the company size.

This overspending and poor cost management can affect other business areas as well, including reduction in innovation projects, budget for R&D and reduced agility throughout the organization. 57% of companies have experienced a negative business impact because of inefficient management of their Cloud Estate. This is because organizations and their MSPs commonly focus on cloud adoption and less on cloud optimization.

Cloud resource pricing models can be very complex and change frequently.  It’s important for companies to enlist a trusted, experienced, MSP to ensure their cloud environment is consistently optimized as cloud services and pricing change.

It’s common for Cloud Service Providers, like Microsoft, to introduce new features that can save companies money such as the Hybrid Use Benefit or additional storage tiers. These cost-saving benefits are often missed if not continuously monitored.

Continuous optimization

The cloud is constantly evolving, and therefore it’s important to ensure that your cloud portfolio evolves as well. As new features and services become available it’s critical to have a trusted partner to help determine if these new services should be adopted and whether they could have a positive or negative impact on your business. Cloud Optimization is a continuous process of reviewing and monitoring for new cost, architecture, performance, and security optimization opportunities.

If you don’t have the time or the expertise to perform continuous optimizations, please check out our Azure Managed Services to speak to an Optimization subject matter expert.

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Kati Dougherty

Managed Services Director

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