AWS Costs: the 5 Most Common Mistakes

(Mis)managing your AWS Costs

We all know that AWS lets us deploy applications in ways that would have been unimaginable using traditional IT infrastructures and processes. But for that very reason, it’s a bit too easy to lose track of exactly what you have running at any one time. The end of a billing period might consequently bring unexpected AWS costs indicating that your ongoing charges have soared out of control.

To avoid this, you’ll have to better understand where these surprises can come from. In this article, I will describe what I believe to be the five biggest AWS costs control and resources management mistakes people and organizations currently make.

1. Using oversized instances, too many instances, or leaving instances running idle

Carefully choosing the correct instance type is a fundamental decision you’ll have to confront. What size instances should you run? How many will you need? How will you keep track of all your resources (a good place to start is your AWS account’s Billing page)? Each infrastructure deployment has its own unique characteristics, so these are questions that only you and your organization can answer. Instance types that are specifically optimized for compute, memory, or storage are obviously going to cost more than low-tier or generic versions. It’s your responsibility to ensure you’re not over-provisioning for your specific project. But remember: using oversized instances will cost you money, using too many instances will cost you money, and leaving unused instances running will, you guessed it, cost you money.

2. Choosing the wrong instance model

Besides instance types, there are also three distinct ways to purchase instance resources and thereby closely control your AWS costs:

  • On-Demand Instances allow you to pay a fixed rate by the hour with no commitment.
  • Reserved Instances provide a capacity reservation, offering a significant discount over hourly on-demand prices when you commit to longer-term instance purchases.
  • Spot Instances enable you to bid your own price for instance capacity. Assuming that your applications have flexible start and end times and can survive service interruptions when instances at your bid price aren’t unavailable, this can provide significant savings.

For a first-time AWS user, On-Demand Instances are the easiest to deploy and “no-commitment” sounds attractive. But using On-Demand for any sustained periods can generate unexpected AWS costs at the end of the month.

Continuously stopping and starting these instances will also prove costly. If you are planning on deploying a site that needs to operate 24/7 and expect to run this site over for the next 12 months, you would be far better off with a reserved instance, since you’ll know your exact costs up front. If you’re planning to deploy infrastructure that’s a little more complex and requires Elastic Load Balancers and Auto Scaling, you will probably need to draw on a combination of both On-Demand and Spot Instances, carefully calculating the relative AWS costs. Doing this right requires some careful planning.

3. Taking too many snapshots

You can back up the data on your Amazon EBS volumes to Amazon S3 by taking point-in-time snapshots. Backing up your data is not only a smart thing to do but, more often than not, it’s critical. However, EBS snapshots should be saved in moderation, or you may find yourself suffering from snapshot sprawl…which can exponentially increase your storage costs. Make sure you have an EBS Snapshots retention strategy in place (using S3 Lifecycle rules) that’s a good fit for your particular needs.

4. Not releasing allocated Elastic IPs

AWS allows you one Elastic IP (EIP) address associated with a running instance at no charge. However, you will be charged for each additional EIP that you associate with that instance per hour on a pro rata basis. To ensure efficient use of Elastic IP addresses (which are, by definition, a limited resource), AWS also imposes a small hourly charge when these IP addresses are not associated with a running instance or when they are associated with a stopped instance or an unattached network interface. That’s right: you may just stop your instance and assume that the IP associated with it will be automatically released. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and your accrued AWS costs will prove it. So make sure that you aren’t maintaining (and paying for) any unused EIPs.

AWS costs sample image5. Not monitoring AWS costs using CloudWatch and Smart Alerts

Amazon CloudWatch is a monitoring service for AWS cloud resources and the applications you run on AWS. You can use Amazon CloudWatch to collect and track metrics, monitor log files, and set alarms. You can set alarms on any of your metrics to receive notifications or automatically initiate other actions (like shutting down unused or underused EC2 instances) when a metric crosses your specified threshold. You can also use Auto Scaling to add or remove Amazon EC2 instances dynamically based on your Amazon CloudWatch metrics. If you have a complex infrastructure of any kind running on AWS, you really need to use CloudWatch to keep up with it.

Most importantly, however, can be the Billing Alerts you create to warn you when your monthly costs reach a certain predetermined threshold.

Control AWS Costs: plan ahead

Careful consideration of the above points will hopefully help you keep your ongoing AWS costs down. As we mentioned, Amazon is a fabulous platform for deploying large applications at prices unimaginable until recently. However if these applications aren’t carefully monitored and kept in check, you may find that the money you’d hoped to save by deploying your infrastructure on AWS is silently flying out the window.

Read also EC2 Pricing: understanding compute costs on AWS

Avatar

Written by

Michael Sheehy

I have been UNIX/Linux System Administrator for the past 15 years and am slowly moving those skills into the AWS Cloud arena. I am passionate about AWS and Cloud Technologies and the exciting future that it promises to bring.


Related Posts

Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— September 15, 2020

New Content: Azure DP-100 Certification, Alibaba Cloud Certified Associate Prep, 13 Security Labs, and Much More

This past month our Content Team served up a heaping spoonful of new and updated content. Not only did our experts release the brand new Azure DP-100 Certification Learning Path, but they also created 18 new hands-on labs — and so much more! New content on Cloud Academy At any time, y...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— August 28, 2020

AWS Certification Practice Exam: What to Expect from Test Questions

If you’re building applications on the AWS cloud or looking to get started in cloud computing, certification is a way to build deep knowledge in key services unique to the AWS platform. AWS currently offers 12 certifications that cover major cloud roles including Solutions Architect, De...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS Certifications
Patrick Navarro
Patrick Navarro
— August 25, 2020

Overcoming Unprecedented Business Challenges with AWS

From auto-scaling applications with high availability to video conferencing that’s used by everyone, every day —  cloud technology has never been more popular or in-demand. But what does this mean for experienced cloud professionals and the challenges they face as they carve out a new p...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Cloud Adoption
  • digital transformation
Avatar
Andrew Larkin
— August 18, 2020

Constant Content: Cloud Academy’s Q3 2020 Roadmap

Hello —  Andy Larkin here, VP of Content at Cloud Academy. I am pleased to release our roadmap for the next three months of 2020 — August through October. Let me walk you through the content we have planned for you and how this content can help you gain skills, get certified, and...

Read more
  • alibaba
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • content roadmap
  • Content updates
  • DevOps
  • GCP
  • Google Cloud
  • New content
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— August 5, 2020

New Content: Alibaba, Azure AZ-303 and AZ-304, Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) Foundation, Python 3 Programming, 16 Hands-on Labs, and Much More

This month our Content Team did an amazing job at publishing and updating a ton of new content. Not only did our experts release the brand new AZ-303 and AZ-304 Certification Learning Paths, but they also created 16 new hands-on labs — and so much more! New content on Cloud Academy At...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— July 16, 2020

Blog Digest: Which Certifications Should I Get?, The 12 Microsoft Azure Certifications, 6 Ways to Prevent a Data Breach, and More

This month, we were excited to announce that Cloud Academy was recognized in the G2 Summer 2020 reports! These reports highlight the top-rated solutions in the industry, as chosen by the source that matters most: customers. We're grateful to have been nominated as a High Performer in se...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • blog digest
  • Certifications
  • Cloud Academy
  • OWASP
  • OWASP Top 10
  • Security
  • VPCs
Avatar
Cloud Academy Team
— July 9, 2020

Which Certifications Should I Get?

The old AWS slogan, “Cloud is the new normal” is indeed a reality today. Really, cloud has been the new normal for a while now and getting credentials has become an increasingly effective way to quickly showcase your abilities to recruiters and companies. With all that in mind, the s...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Certifications
  • Cloud Computing
  • Google Cloud Platform
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— July 2, 2020

New Content: AWS, Azure, Typescript, Java, Docker, 13 New Labs, and Much More

This month, our Content Team released a whopping 13 new labs in real cloud environments! If you haven't tried out our labs, you might not understand why we think that number is so impressive. Our labs are not “simulated” experiences — they are real cloud environments using accounts on A...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— June 19, 2020

Kickstart Your Tech Training With a Free Week on Cloud Academy

Are you looking to make a jump in your technical career? Want to get trained or certified on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform, DevOps, Kubernetes, Python, or another in-demand skill? Then you'll want to mark your calendar. Starting Monday, June 22 at 12:00 a.m. PDT (3:00 a.m. EDT), ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • cloud academy content
  • complimentary access
  • GCP
  • on the house
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— June 11, 2020

New Content: AZ-500 and AZ-400 Updates, 3 Google Professional Exam Preps, Practical ML Learning Path, C# Programming, and More

This month, our Content Team released tons of new content and labs in real cloud environments. Not only that, but we introduced our very first highly interactive "Office Hours" webinar. This webinar, Acing the AWS Solutions Architect Associate Certification, started with a quick overvie...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Rebecca Willis
Rebecca Willis
— June 3, 2020

Azure vs. AWS: Which Certification Provides the Brighter Future?

More and more companies are using cloud services, prompting more and more people to switch their current IT position to something cloud-related. The problem is most people only have that much time after work to learn new technologies, and there are plenty of cloud services that you can ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • certification
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— June 2, 2020

Blog Digest: 5 Reasons to Get AWS Certified, OWASP Top 10, Getting Started with VPCs, Top 10 Soft Skills, and More

Thank you for being a valued member of our community! We recently sent out a short survey to understand what type of content you would like us to add to Cloud Academy, and we want to thank everyone who gave us their input. If you would like to complete the survey, it's not too late. It ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • blog digest
  • Certifications
  • Cloud Academy
  • OWASP
  • OWASP Top 10
  • Security
  • VPCs