Reaching cloud nine: how to stop the high cost of cloud sprawl

As we start a new year and anticipate new technologies entering the market, one solution that will continue thriving is cloud computing. According to McKinsey, cloud-specific spending is expected to increase six times faster than general IT spending through 2020. From a regional perspective, it’s worth noting that the UK is leading the way in adoption. In fact, an Infosys report categorised British companies as ‘torchbearers’ in terms of their cloud adoption rate. 

The answer to the question of why cloud computing is so popular could be that it comprises myriad benefits. These include agility, collaboration and productivity, along with the flexibility to create new cloud environments on an ad-hoc basis whenever they’re required. With benefits a plenty, it’s easy to overlook its downsides. One of the most concerning pitfalls is that companies often invest in cloud applications and neglect to devise a plan to realise ROI. This is reflected in a Gartner report which cites that less than 30% of businesses have devised a cloud computing strategy. Consequently, this tunnel vision could result in organisations paying for a product that isn’t required or is inadequately managed. With cloud computing growing in necessity, how can companies improve how they manage their investment, reduce cloud sprawl and achieve tangible business benefits? 

Back to basics 

As the age-old saying goes, you can’t ‘run before you can walk’, and this is the same when it comes to the cloud. Before investing in cloud applications, it’s important to go back to basics. Firstly, organisations must consider how their teams will actually use the cloud services, what capabilities are required to enhance productivity, which cloud applications will drive results and which will be redundant. Using a solution like IT Service Management (ITSM) enables organisations to monitor their cloud usage as well as capture and track all cloud application requests. From a business perspective, this means that companies can maintain a comprehensive inventory that includes the relevant attribute of each cloud environment. These steps may seem obvious, but are necessary to establish a roadmap which outlines how cloud applications are being leveraged and how they support the business strategy. 

Problems, protocol, profit

Keeping a cautious eye on a cloud application’s lifespan is critical to ensure it is cost-effective, otherwise unrestricted applications can be a huge money pit and drain resources. It’s important that organisations screen, and in some cases reject, requests for cloud environment in order to ensure that IT budgets are being spent wisely. It’s imperative that before a company invests in new cloud applications or platforms, that these are vetted and undergo a strict approval procedure. This procedure should be based on a business case explaining why that particular cloud instance is required, cost and expected benefits to the business. Additionally, identity management tools can be used to control who can approve and access certain cloud applications, and for how long. 

In the same vein of approvals, it’s important to have someone dedicated to the business’s cloud landscape, responsible for maintaining it and ensuring that each profile is kept up-to-date based on the cloud application’s lifecycle and business terms. This may come in the shape of an individual or group – for example, a Cloud Approval Board. An obvious choice would be an IT leader, as their skills and involvement naturally lend themselves to this role. They can, for example, call upon their experience to establish how a cloud solution can assist the company to achieve its business objectives. 

Keep an eye on time 

It’s unavoidable that companies will require cloud applications for short-term projects as business booms. However, these are often easily forgotten and left running – and draining resources – once the work is completed with the costs continuing to stack-up. The good news is that businesses can overcome this pain point by arranging pre-set end dates for cloud applications. They can save even more time by using an automated solution which can independently enforce end dates based. This gives power back to businesses by allowing them to contain and limit their cloud spend. It also ensures that cloud activities don’t side-step stakeholders, who can access an overview of all cloud resources whilst they are running, not just at the end of the billing cycle. 

Beyond this, companies need to also consider the lifecycle of cloud-based apps to ensure that they stop running after the employee who was using them leaves the business or changes departments. This timely termination of cloud instances isn’t only imperative to cost-effectiveness, but also to security. Automating application control and revoking access to cloud instances during staff offboarding crucially prevents security breaches or data thefts which could be caused by unmanaged applications or unauthorised access. 

It’s clear that cloud computing is a core component of digital transformation, and its adoption, and inevitably waste, is set to continue to rise. It’s prime time for organisations to improve their governance of cloud computing and ensure that their resources address their wider business plan. By determining cloud computing requirements and eliminating redundant cloud costs, businesses unlock the door to full ROI potential.

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Nigel Seddon serves as Vice President Northern Europe at Ivanti, the company that unifies IT and security operations. He has held this position since 2016 and manages Ivanti’s sales team in the region.

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