Paying too much for cloud services? These five tools can help cut your cloud costs

As you move workloads to the cloud, you’ve probably already discovered that keeping track of your monthly cloud computing bills is not an easy task. Certainly, using a cloud provider can be cheaper than purchasing your own hardware, or instrumental in moving a capital expense into an operating one. And there are impressive multi-core hyperscale servers that are now available to anyone for a reasonable monthly fee.

But while it is great that cloud providers base their fees on what resources you actually consume, the various elements of your bill are daunting and complex, to say the least. True, many of the cloud components can be had for pennies per month, but for some resources (such as those heavily loaded multicore CPUs) the meter can run up to real money very quickly.

One of the ways the cloud is evolving is in how these fees are calculated. Some vendors, such as Amazon Web Services, have blue-light specials where if you can plan in advance you can cut your costs significantly. Others, such as IBM’s SoftLayer, offer freebies like inbound and outbound data transfers. (See: Cloud price wars give way to feature battles among Amazon, Microsoft and Google)

And all of the vendors are cutting their prices regularly. According to one vendor, AWS EC2 has had 44 price reductions since its inception in 2006. And that is just for one of their several dozen offerings, each of which has had its own price reductions. Keeping up with these constant changes can be tough.

Certainly, the cloud providers are trying to help with pricing pages on their own websites. But because each provider charges separately for each individual storage unit, CPU core, amount of RAM, disk space, and data transfer, these calculations can be hard to predict with any accuracy, even if you know ahead of time the parameters of your particular instance.

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AWS has so many different services that they have a link to what they call their economics center where customers can explore how to cut monthly bills and optimize configurations. AWS is probably the most transparent. With some providers, you need to sign up for their services (or at least create an account with a valid email address) before they give you access to their pricing pages.

Added to this is that a virtual CPU isn’t the same across service providers. Cloudorado has written its own vCPU benchmarks, which is a good start, but customers should have more tools like it to enable easier cross-vendor comparison shopping.

And then each provider has its own marketing spin, such as this recent blog post on Google’s site where they compare their cloud offerings to AWS. No surprise, they are cheaper. So, separating fact from fiction isn’t easy. (Watch a slideshow version comparing these products.)

For this article, we looked at five shopping comparison services, including Cloudorado, CloudHarmony’s CloudSquare, CloudSpectator, Datapipe and RightScale’s Some of them cover a lot of providers, some only focus on a few.

Each of these services brings something unique and interesting to the table. The services either go wide or deep but generally don’t do both, so you’ll probably want to make use of at least two or more. Most have free reports or cost prediction tools to help in your own analysis. You should definitely download these free reports first and review them carefully before contemplating paying for any of the services, because you can get a lot for free if you spend the time.

However, if you have less than a $1,000 monthly bill from your cloud provider, you probably aren’t going to like any of the paid services since fees are fairly steep and are designed for large enterprises.

Given that there are close to 200 cloud providers it is easy to see that no single comparison service will be able to ferret out details on everyone’s offerings.

  • If you are looking to find a smaller or lesser-known cloud provider, then certainly start with those services that compare more of them such as CloudHarmony and then focus in on the three or four players that look the best for your particular circumstances.
  • If you are shopping for a particular set of technical traits, such as a provider that makes use of burstable CPUs, then Cloudorado can quickly narrow the field within a few seconds. 
  • If you want a convenient comparison of a few support plans, then PlanForCloud has a nice page summarizing that.
  • If you are just using AWS and you want more insight into your bill and don’t mind paying for the analysis, then take a look at what Datapipe can provide.
  • And CloudSpectator will help you determine how much it would cost to move internal operations to the cloud.

Here are the individual reviews:

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