Keeping Cloud Costs Manageable

Keith German
RCH Solutions

Today, the Cloud is a critical component of most Bio-IT strategies. The benefits of incorporating the Cloud into your workflows are many and include the ability to open and accelerate access to critical research data and foster greater processing capabilities at scale. 

There’s also significant opportunity for cost savings. 

Instead of investing in costly on-prem servers and data centers to potentially use only a fraction of its capacity, using the “pay-as-you-need” model based on your consumption of compute resources ultimately helps you achieve a lower cost. 

However, what many IT teams don’t accurately account for is the potential for the Cloud to become a significant cost-center in-and-of-itself. Excess users, unused databases, and duplicate workflows—these are all very common yet costly contributors of unnecessary expense within your Cloud environment. Without the right strategies, processes, and controls in place to guard against missteps such as these, departments may find their costs growing out of control and see the need, as one of our customers said best, to “put their Cloud on a diet.” 

If your Cloud environment is starting to feel a little tight around the middle, keep these tips in mind: 

#1 – Define clear and measurable Cloud goals to set a realistic budget. 

Ideally, goal-setting is done in advance of implementation, but it’s never too late to solidify a strategy for better outcomes. 

By defining (or redefining) your goals clearly, your team can carefully budget for your Cloud needs. This begins with an accurate estimation of total Cloud users (think groups and individuals across the full span of the workflow) since services are offered on a per-user or a usage basis. Budgets should accommodate a fluctuation in users, and ongoing monitoring to remove old or unwanted accounts should be performed regularly. Ironically, underestimating an organization’s demand for a service can lead to exceeding the budget. Luckily, most Cloud providers offer helpful tools for accurate budgeting purposes.  

#2 – Understand how the Cloud influences workflow. 

The Cloud is only as effective—and efficient—as you set it up to be. Be sure to address processes and workflows not only within your Cloud but also happening around the Cloud to streamline processes or services and avoid duplication. 

Here are a few ways to do that when working with some of the most notable Cloud providers: 

  • Manage usage with features like auto-shutdown on instances that are not currently in use.
    • Use Amazon CloudWatch alarms to detect and shut down unused EC2 instances automatically to avoid accumulating unnecessary usage charges
    • MS Azure has auto-shutdown for VMs using Azure Resource Manager
    • Google’s Cloud Scheduler provides a straightforward solution to automatically stop and start VMs
  • Manage storage costs by removing duplicate files and utilizing a tiered-storage model.
    • Amazon S3 Intelligent-Tiering is designed for customers who want to optimize storage costs automatically when data access patterns change, without performance impact or operational overhead
    • Microsoft Azure storage offers different access tiers, which allow you to store blob object data in the most cost-effective manner
  • Use tools that provide historical metrics on Cloud usage to identify unused services.
    • Enable detailed monitoring for resources, such as your instances, or publish your own application metrics
    • Amazon CloudWatch can load all the metrics in your account for search, graphing, and alarms
    • Microsoft Azure Monitor collects and aggregates data from a variety of sources into a common data platform where it can be used for analysis, visualization, and alerting
    • Google Cloud Metrics Explorer lets you build ad-hoc charts for any metric collected by your project

Finally, it’s always a good idea to integrate services across management platforms to maintain consistency and deploy your application in multiple regions with lower latency to local customers. The latter provides disaster recovery from region-wide outages and enables low-latency global access to applications and data.

#3 – Work with a vendor who is familiar with the unique needs in Life Sciences. 

There are several benefits of working with a vendor who brings specific experience in implementing or optimizing Cloud computing workflows within the Life Sciences. 

The most significant is helping organizations still determining how the Cloud will work for their needs, set goals, and adapt workflows based on best practices and the unique demand of their business. 

For these teams, they typically see a dramatic increase in agility for the organization, since the cost and time it takes to experiment and develop is significantly lower. 

Focus On Outcomes

The bottom line: Cloud computing allows you to focus on outcomes, rather than racking, cabling, and powering servers, and offers the potential to significantly increase the pace of innovation and discovery within R&D teams. However, if not implemented or appropriately optimized, it can introduce an entirely new set of challenges—and cost—many organizations are not prepared to face. Partnering with a vendor who brings first-hand experience supporting organizations as they navigate this new and rapidly evolving territory—and being involved in defining and executing solution sets—is invaluable.

Do you have questions on how to best implement or optimize your Cloud computing strategy? Click here to learn more about how RCH Solutions can help you achieve your Cloud computing goals.

About RCH Solutions

RCH Solutions is a global provider of computational science expertise, helping Life Sciences and Healthcare firms of all sizes clear the path to discovery for more than 27 years. If you’re interesting in learning how RCH can support your goals, get in touch with us here.  

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