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13 Ways To Save Money When Using Microsoft Azure

cloudThing are well versed in all aspects of Microsoft Azure, being a Microsoft Gold Partner…

cloudThing have built multiple enterprise scale architectures on Microsoft Azure and helped many businesses to leverage the flexibility of the Microsoft Power Platform.

Whilst we’re equally comfortable with Amazon Web Services (AWS) or a platform agnostic pick-and-mix approach, taking core parts from Azure or AWS and combining with other microservice components, today we’ll be giving away some handy and easy to implement tips on how your organisation can save money when using Microsoft Azure.

Don’t Forget To Shut down Your Azure VM’s Correctly

One of the biggest mistakes everyone makes when using Microsoft Azure is in forgetting to shut down their VM’s (Azure virtual machines) correctly when they’re no longer needed.

Unfortunately, you can’t just flick a switch and expect to stop being charged for it; it must be shutdown using the correct processes.

To bring an Azure VM to a point where it’s not costing you anymore you need to bring it to what’s known as a Stopped (Deallocated) state.

Confusingly that can’t happen if you try to close the VM from within the VM itself. Doing that will only bring it to the Stopped state (and you’ll still be charged).

 

As stated, rather than shutting the VM down from within, you need to head to the Azure Management Portal, find the Virtual Machine  blade for the VM you want to stop and click Shutdown.  

It’s worth noting however that doing this will mean all the resources currently allocated to that particular VM will be released, including the virtual IP associated with it.

A quick tip to prevent that from happening is to make sure the Cloud Service supporting the VM still has at least one VM in it which you haven’t put in the Stopped (Deallocated) state. You’d still be charged for that one but not the others, whilst maintaining your virtual IP.

 

The reason this saves you money is that the CPU, memory and other hardware that’s been reserved for your VM is then released, allowing Azure to use it for someone else’s VM which means you no longer need to pay for it.

The beauty of Cloud Solutions like Azure is that if you then need it back, you can just re-start it and get back to work!

The second way this same effect can be achieved is to Deallocate resources through the Azure CLI (Cross Platform Command line).

You can configure your VM to auto-shutdown when you know it won’t be in use or needed by configuring a specific time (including a time zone) when Azure is to automatically shut it down and reallocate the resources used for you.

 

Feel free to speak to us about this option if you’re concerned there’s a chance someone might forget to Stop and Deallocate VM’s manually and thus costing you money.  

Don’t Forget To Delete Your Staging Slots For Cloud Services

When migrating to Azure, standard practice to avoid downtime is to add everything into a staging slot from your old system before putting it into live production but… you still pay the same cost for staging as you do production slots.

You’d be amazed at the number of people who forget to delete their staging slots after they’re done with them.

You must do this as soon as possible to avoid being charged!

If you’re ever unsure if this has been done or not you can edit your view in Azure Portal to add easy to see columns for both Staging and Production so you can tell at a glance which (if any) need deleting.

Pre-pay For Microsoft Azure; Even On A Pay-As-You-Go- Azure Account!

Many people don’t realise that discounts are available for six or twelve month pre-payment plans for Azure, sometimes even available on their Pay-As-You-Go accounts.

Normally however, depending on your size that is, cloudThing would recommend you investigate an EA agreement first…

Is An EA Agreement Worth It?

EA agreements (or Microsoft Enterprise Agreements in full) require an organisation to commit to an annual financial commitment that gives them access to a discounted rate.

EA Agreements can save varying amounts depending on the Azure Product you require.

With thousands of different products, it’s hard to keep track of if you don’t know what you’re doing but savings of between 5% to 30% are possible. The important thing is to make sure you’re only paying for the products you need.

As already said, it’s also worth noting that due to the size of the financial commitment, Microsoft’s EA Agreements tend to be more suited to larger organisations.

Are You A Start Up?

If you’re a start-up just investigating the possibility of Azure then Microsoft Start-ups is a great place to check out.

Microsoft offer a lot of free benefits to start-ups if you’re thinking about implementing Azure early into your business.

Switching Azure Price Regions

A little-known secret to Microsoft Azure pricing is that not all Azure Regions will have the same pricing for the same resource.

Whilst many would consider it best practice to allocate your VM’s and other resources within the closest Azure region to your customers, clients or users; a lot of people find there can be significant price benefits to choosing a different region.  

Unfortunately, this pricing difference isn’t something you’ll see in any Azure documentation. Nor will you find much guidance online telling you which region is cheapest.

You have two options to find which Azure Region works best for your business or organisation. You can use a combination of the prices in the Azure portal when setting up a VM and make your own comparisons on which region to choose or you can talk to an expert in Azure Region pricing like cloudThing to guide you through the entire process.

Save Money By Doing All Your Testing In Azure DevTestLabs

Believe us when we say nothing will annoy your Accounts Team at the end of the month more than finding out someone’s been using test servers within Azure to check how best to optimise things without correctly closing them down afterwards (and thus being charged for them).

To avoid this, you can use something called Azure DevTest Labs. It’s an amazing bit of software for creating servers you’ll only need every so often or at certain hours of the day.

Azure DevTest Labs will even let you impose a schedule (say after 5:30 or at a weekend) in case your Dev team forget to turn them off as they leave which will save you being charged for them when not in use.

And the best thing to note about Azure DevTest Labs is it’s a free to use tool. All you need to pay for is the VM’s it’s on.

Work With A Microsoft Azure Partner (That’s Us!)

If you’ve a big project to undertake relating to migrating to Azure then you may not realise it but there are Azure discounts available to help fund the project available from Microsoft if you use a Microsoft partner.

Feel free to get in touch today to discuss this more in depth.

Pick The Right VM For The Right Job

A common issue everyone runs into when first using Azure to host virtual machines is picking the right type of instance for their needs and there’s literally dozens of different types and sizes.

When selecting which is right for your business or organisation you need to consider what your priorities are. Do you need…

 

  • More memory?
  • More CPU?
  • Extra disk space?
  • Better processor cores?
  • Disk I/O
  • Network bandwidth

Predicting with any degree of accuracy the appropriate VM instance isn’t easy, especially when implementing completely new VM’s for use in a new project, especially if you’re migrating something to Azure for the first time.

If you’re not sure what you need Azure Advisor is a great tool to make sure you’re not overpaying by looking at your needs and recommending the best options.

 

If you do happen to realise there’s too much CPU/Memory allocated to your VM’s you’ll need to manually resize them but do keep in mind that resizing your VM will requite it to be rebooted…so probably not something you want to do at peak times!

If you don’t feel confident resizing them manually or just feel more comfortable if the entire process is automated, then you can also try dynamically scaling your VMs with a VM Scale Set.

This needs multiple, identically configured VM’s, configured in such a way to allow Azure to dynamically add or remove server instances to meet your demands. 

Think About The Azure App Service For PaaS

Common slang for a first migration to Microsoft Azure is ‘Lift & Shift’. Lifting all your current assets and dropping them onto an Azure Virtual Machine is by far the most common method to get things going on the Cloud.

However… depending on why you wanted to migrate in the first place it might not actually be the cheapest, most logical or even best route for your you.

One of the common errors everyone makes when first migrating onto Azure is to over provision their VM’s. Whilst we’ve explained how to scale these back down if needed another way to consider solving the issue is PaaS (Platform As A Service).

The Azure App Service is the service that allows business to host Web apps, Background Processes, API Apps and Mobile App back ends by utilising PaaS.

As a deployed Platform Service it means you can create an App Service Plan which would represent two or three servers and then just pack it with as many web applications as you like.

As you can no doubt imagine that has huge cost saving implications over paying for an entire server per app (that may only occasionally be called on to do something).

The Azure App Service was deliberately built on a fully managed VM so for those that make use of it there’s no Operating system, patches or other platform updates for organisations using it to worry about which also massively decreases the maintenance costs of your applications and their associated workloads.

Use Auto-Scaling To Automate Cost Saving!

Whilst you’ll know the sector you operate in a lot better than we will we’re willing to bet that most of your Apps have busier and slower times throughout the day, week, month or year. If you enable it Azure has auto -scaling built in so you can save your business money during the slower periods.  

Cloud Services, App Services and VM Scale sets all support auto-scaling so it should definitely be part of your PaaS strategy.

Stay Up to Date With And Use New Features Released On Azure

Azure has recently started offering what they call warm and cold Azure storage. A little like auto-scaling, warm storage is designed for data that is used frequently and cold is for date that’s rarely, if ever, used.

If your Azure solution has a lot of data, backups or archives then cold storage is well worth investigating to save you some extra money off your Azure bill.

Check Out Azure Marketplace VM Images

Despite what they sound like, Azure VM images are a bunch of free .jpeg or .png files… They’re something much more useful.

Chances are if you need to build and configure an Azure Cloud solution from scratch for something then someone has already done it before.

The Azure Marketplace contains thousands of these images (configurations and operating system descriptions) so there’s a great chance the VM image you need is already sitting there waiting for you.

An additional benefit is that many of these Azure VM Images already include the licensing to the OS (operating system) that they use.

If you were to build a VM from scratch and upload it into Azure you’d also need to provide all the relevant licenses but by using Azure VM Images you can save on these costs.

 

And there’s our thirteen, cost saving, Azure tips!

Hopefully you’ve found this little list to be helpful and will now be able to save your business some extra money.

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Contact Us

There’s some quick wins here as well as some items that might need a more in depth approach so feel free to reach out to cloudThing to see how we can help your organisation with migrating to Azure.

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