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How to Use Billing Alarms to Save Cloud Resource Costs

This article is a part of the Cloud Quick Wins series, which is a collection of small improvements that you can make today to save time, reduce your cloud costs and scale faster.

The cloud has many benefits, one of them being the ability to pay only for what you use.

So why is your bill so high, unexpectedly? It happens all too often: You’re being billed for a higher amount of usage than anticipated or for something you didn’t expect to be using altogether. It's very common, for example, for users to create feature-rich VMs, use them for a day or so - and forget about them.


Unfortunately, it isn't always obvious when you are in a situation like this. By the time you notice extra resource consumption - at the end of the month when it’s on your bill - it’s too late. You’re already on the hook for a potentially (very) large sum of money that you didn’t expect to spend.

Large environments tend to compound this phenomenon, because they mighthave multiple accounts or even accounts on different Cloud providers. Excessive costs could then be masked by the sheer number of items in your bill.

It could be months before you realise some aspect of your cloud spend is out of control.

Then what?

Get cloud costs under control with Billing Alarms

The most effective way to get cloud costs under control is a dynamic way to tell you about excessive consumption before you are presented with a bill that is wildly out of line with your expectations.

Fortunately,  all three of the largest cloud providers offer a facility to help in this situation.  On AWS it is called ‘Billing Alarms’.  On both Azure and GCP they’re called ‘Budget Alerts’. In all cases, it is a special threshold you set in the system that will tell you if an expenditure exceeds a certain amount for a given resource type.

For example, let's assume you expect to spend $500 per month on AWS EC2 instances. You want to be notified if that amount is exceeded by 10%. So, you set a billing alarm that would trip at $550. If your costs ever reach that amount, the billing alarm is invoked and you will be notified either via email or by SMS. Crisis averted.

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