Monitoring AWS Resource Usage: Are You Just Taking Amazon’s Word For It?

Amazon Web Services (AWS) have simply become a fact of life for most IT organizations. The benefits of outsourcing networking to Amazon’s cloud are simply too obvious to ignore or to not take advantage of.

You get to stop worrying about infrastructure, heating, cooling, capacity, storage space, etc. and in return, Amazon sends you a bill every month. But how can you be sure that you’re getting what you’re paying for? And what can you do to make sure that bill isn’t a budget-wrecking surprise each month?

One answer is to monitor your own AWS usage so you know what you’re using and how much it’s costing you at any given moment. Amazon’s not trying to deceive you, of course – but it is in their interest to get you to consume more resources.

There are a few key advantages you can gain by using a tool like WhatsUp Gold to monitor cloud services like AWS, Azure, and Meraki:

    • Track Exactly What You’re Using – getting a complete breakdown of the specific cloud resources you’re using makes it easier to rationalize your final bill and determine precisely why you’re paying what you’re paying.
    • Optimize Your Usage – is the configuration you initially set up with AWS still valid? Are you still using those same resources in the exact same way? Are there resources you’re paying for that you aren’t using? Or possibly under-using? As your business needs change your cloud requirements may change as well, and the entire point of cloud networking is the flexibility it grants you. If you’re not using all your S3 buckets to full capacity, consolidate them. Same goes for servers and potentially even traffic to those servers. Are there opportunities for discounts for volume purchases or reserved capacity that you could be taking advantage of?
    • Track When You’re Using AWS – this can be daily, weekly, monthly, or annually. Your usage may seem steady, but very few organizations experience NO seasonality when it comes to network usage. Most cloud services don’t track statistics for more than 30 days, and looking at your annual usage can be incredibly valuable. If you’re paying all year for peak capacity that’s only truly being used at (say) tax season, then there’s a huge opportunity to reduce usage and save money.
    • Proactively Alert on Billing – you have a set budget, but Amazon’s not going to warn you when you’re on track to exceed it. WhatsUp Gold can monitor your usage and track it against your projected billing. Customizable alerts can notify you if you’re going to run out of money before you run out of the monthly budget. This can not only prevent any nasty surprises come billing time, but it also lets you modify your usage BEFORE you have to explain to your boss why you’re over budget (again).
    • See Everything in Context – your cloud-based resources are part of your overall infrastructure. They should be managed that way. WhatsUp Gold allows you to see everything in context so you can quickly drill-down to issues and isolate the cause of problems that span technology silos. That includes traffic to and from your AWS cloud resources, usage, billing and a ton of other things. Seeing not only how you’re using AWS resources but where that usage is coming from can give you insight into how to use those resources more efficiently and reduce your costs.
    • Share Your Knowledge – WhatsUp Gold can display a variety of detailed reports including graphs, charts, and spreadsheets for any metric and period. Take advantage of these to show your team, your superiors and your finance organization clear and concise information on what you’re spending and why. Rather than a single monthly charge based on usage, you can explain what resources, users and departments are consuming the most AWS services and link that directly to costs. That’s going to make it a lot easier to explain to the head of the training department why they need to shut down their AWS training services after each class instead of just leaving them running (for example).

The dirty secret is that most organizations aren’t tracking their AWS resources, how they’re using them or how much they’re spending – they just pay the monthly bill from Amazon. Unless that bill significantly increases, they have no incentive to determine if they’re really using all those resources or if they’re being accurately billed. In fact, companies pay an average of 36% more for cloud services than they need to, according to one report. WhatsUp Gold integrates directly with AWS CloudWatch via an API so you can track every single metric Amazon provides. This is not only going to help you with troubleshooting, but it’s also going to make it much easier to understand how you’re using AWS – and remember that knowledge is power!

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