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Maximizing Your Cloud ROI: How to Ensure Cloud Investments Are Valuable & Impactful

8 minute read

Many organizations – driven by the pursuit of agility, cost-effectiveness, and innovation – are now investing millions in cloud systems. In 2024 alone, this ongoing boom in the worldwide public cloud computing market is expected to reach an estimated $675 billion. Lurking beneath the glossy surface of digital transformation, however, lie several challenges – including merger and acquisition complexities, a lack of visibility into usage and spend, and – most importantly – a need to prove value.

In a recent survey, over three-quarters (78%) of business leaders revealed they’ve integrated cloud technology into most or all areas of their organizations – though more than half admitted to not seeing the results they’d hoped for from these investments. Indeed, many of those who’d initially migrated to the cloud to shed the financial burdens of on-premises infrastructure now find themselves grappling with overspend due to a lack of strategic optimization. It’s a common scenario in cloud computing: an organization invests millions in cloud technology, only to realize they’re either overpaying for unused capacity or they’re trapped with a package that no longer aligns with their evolving needs.

To maximise ROI on cloud spend, cloud services should be seamlessly integrated with existing IT infrastructure – especially when grappling with legacy systems. Here’s how a combination of FinOps, cloud optimization and ongoing monitoring can help you to get the most out of your cloud spend.

 

Set Measurable Goals

Without well-defined targets, it can be challenging to gauge success or drive meaningful value from cloud initiatives. Rule number one for maximising ROI on cloud investments is to set specific, measurable goals. Clear, business goal-oriented objectives – such as cost savings, improved efficiency, and sustainability – can then be aligned to the cloud strategy.

To kickstart this process, businesses should ask themselves key questions such as:

  • How much storage do we need?
  • How long will we need it for?
  • What data do we need to store on the cloud, and how secure does it need to be?

To develop a robust cloud strategy that adds tangible value, businesses should then carry out a detailed audit of their core technology infrastructure and operations before migrating to the cloud.

The audit should:

  1. Identify and index all data to be migrated, including types, sizes, and current storage locations.
  2. Compare current storage costs with projected cloud storage costs, including data transfer fees and potential savings.
  3. Evaluate the performance requirements for different types of data, such as access speed and frequency. This will help in selecting the appropriate cloud storage tier – either hot, cold or archive.
  4. Review the current security measures and access controls.
  5. Assess the feasibility and risks associated with the migration process. Identify tools and strategies for a smooth and secure migration, including timelines and potential downtimes.

This proactive shift helps manage risk, drive cost reduction, and ensure greater business continuity and resiliency.

 

Implement FinOps Practices

FinOps practices can be a game-changer in maximizing ROI on your cloud systems – combining financial management with operational practices to streamline cloud cost management.

The key FinOps principles of cost analysis, budgeting, and forecasting can really help drive down cloud costs. Cost allocation – where cloud costs are attributed to specific departments or projects – ensures transparency and accountability. Then there’s budgeting and forecasting; by meticulously planning and predicting cloud expenses, it’s possible to avoid bill shock and align spending with business goals.

But the real magic of FinOps happens through collaboration between finance and IT teams, breaking down silos and fostering communication to ensure everyone is committed to cutting cloud costs. By working hand in hand, these teams can monitor, manage, and optimize cloud spend effectively – all while boosting ROI.

By underpinning the cloud optimization process with FinOps practices, organizations can create a culture of financial accountability, drive efficiency, and, ultimately, propel the business towards greater success.

 

Optimize Cloud Usage

When it comes to cloud investments, optimizing usage is key to ensuring a solid ROI. One of the first steps in cloud optimization is identifying and removing underused or idle resources – think of it as decluttering your digital space. You pay for cloud resources whether you use them or not, much like leaving lights on in an unused room. It’s easy to spin up an instance for a quick task and forget about it, leading to wasted costs. Regularly auditing your cloud environment to find and discard idle instances, unused elastic IPs, and outdated snapshots can significantly reduce your cloud-related spend.

Additionally, right-sizing your instances can ensure that your cloud resources match your actual needs. Many businesses fall into the trap of sticking with default settings or oversizing their instances based on peak demand. Instead, carefully assess your requirements and choose the appropriate instance sizes. Leveraging auto-scaling features can also help, as they adjust resource allocation based on real-time demand, ensuring you only use what you need when you need it. Discover how Surveil uses automation to optimise, secure, and control your Microsoft environment.

Regular audits and monitoring will allow you to track usage and performance – maintaining optimal cloud usage and driving down cloud costs. To boost efficiency, use customizable dashboards and AI instance-removal tools offered by cloud management platforms for effective expense and resource utilization tracking.

A final way to optimize cloud storage is to consider ‘cold’ storage for archival data to reduce costs without deleting legacy information.

 

Leverage Automation and Tools

Optimizing your cloud investments isn’t just about managing resources manually – it’s about harnessing the power of automation to streamline processes and maximize efficiency. Whether it’s through AI and machine learning for predictive insights, or comprehensive cloud management platforms for cost savings and scalability, automation helps an organization stay efficient and cost-effective.

Automation tools such as Surveil can significantly enhance your ability to manage and optimize cloud resources. These tools help reduce manual effort, prevent resource sprawl, and ensure you’re making the best buying decisions. By automating repetitive tasks like cost management, monitoring, and performance optimization, engineers are free to focus on more strategic problem-solving tasks where they can really add value.

Adopting solutions like Surveil – backed by AI and machine learning – can further enhance cloud efficiency by predicting usage patterns. For example, AI can be used to work out how often different types of data are accessed, peak usage times, and geographic data distribution to allow for proactive resource scaling. By analyzing past usage data, AI can help forecast future demand – ensuring that you always have the right number of resources available without overspending.

A comprehensive cloud management platform can also simplify the management of day-to-day tasks, cost optimization, and resource sprawl prevention. Surveil, for example, automates the monitoring and management of cloud resources, providing insights into usage patterns while suggesting optimizations. This helps ensure that you’re not only staying within budget but also maximizing the performance of your cloud infrastructure.

Focus on Security and Compliance

When it comes to cloud investments, security is a top priority for any business using cloud computing with revenue in the cloud security market projected to reach $2.31bn in 2024.Cloud providers like Microsoft Azure offer centralized identity and access management, encryption for data at rest and in transit, and secure storage of secrets and keys. Azure also offers enhanced network security and firewall protection to guard sensitive data and defend against cyber threats. However, when there is so much at stake it’s a good idea to take additional security measures.

Businesses must take proactive steps to safeguard their cloud environments and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements – particularly within multi-cloud environments.

Proactivity looks like:

  • Encrypting sensitive data both at rest and in transit, via strong encryption methods.
  • Using secure networks to protect data transmission.
  • Implementing multi-factor authentication and strict access controls.
  • Regularly reviewing and updating access permissions to ensure only authorized personnel can access critical resources.
  • Staying updated on relevant regulations and industry standards.
  • Ensuring your cloud infrastructure complies with regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, or SOC 2, depending on your industry and location.

Investing in cybersecurity is crucial for protecting your business from online threats and data breaches. Cybersecurity investments should include secure networks, malware protection, and employee training on security best practices. Educate your team about the latest security threats and the importance of following security protocols. A well-trained workforce is your first line of defense against cyber-attacks.

Strong security measures do more than just protect your data – they also enhance your overall ROI. By preventing data breaches and ensuring compliance, you avoid costly fines under regulations like GDPR and HIPAA, along with reputational damage and potential loss of business. Moreover, robust security can be a competitive advantage, reassuring customers and stakeholders that their data is safe with you.

 

Keep an Eye on Contract Commitments

Waiting until the end of a contract term to renegotiate can be a costly mistake. Here’s a classic – and likely familiar – process:

  1. Identify the need for cloud storage
  2. Estimate usage
  3. Negotiate a deal
  4. Sign an agreement.
  5. Review at renewal

One big issue with this traditional approach is that it often doesn’t account for ever-changing business needs. What worked at the start might no longer align with your current usage or strategic goals, leading to inefficiencies and wasted resources.

To avoid these pitfalls, you need to keep optimizing and staying flexible with your cloud contracts. Regularly review and negotiate with your cloud provider throughout the terms of your lease to make sure they continue to match your KPIs and forecasting.

Effective contract management hinges on strong collaboration between procurement, finance, and technology teams.The procurement team should be on hand to negotiate pricing and terms, the finance team should have an eye on costs and budgets, and the technology and IT teams should be able to ensure the cloud contract can meet technical requirements and the required optimizations.

By working together, these teams can keep an eye on contracts in real-time, making sure the terms stay cost-effective.

Also, remember to watch out for data transfer charges. Outbound transfer fees can add up quickly and bill shock isn’t something any organization needs. When deciding where to host data, balancing cost and proximity to users and keeping an accurate resource inventory can help you avoid unnecessary expenses.

 

Engage and Educate Teams

Continuous education and training for cloud management teams are crucial for optimizing ROI in the cloud. Foster a culture of continuous improvement and innovation by encouraging, for example, hackathons and collaborative projects that galvanize employees around FinOps.

Ensure your teams stay updated on the latest security practices and technologies to protect cloud resources effectively. Building strong relationships across departments plays a vital role in tracking and optimizing cloud spend, providing transparency and accountability. Address any resistance to cost efficiency measures by highlighting the innovation potential rather than just focusing on cost-cutting.

Regular audits and staying updated on industry best practices help teams adapt to evolving technology landscapes, maximizing the value of IT investments.

 

Measure and Celebrate Success

By defining KPIs – such as cost savings, efficiency improvements, and business growth – upfront, teams can easily track progress and evaluate the impact of cloud initiatives on business aims. Regular KPI monitoring also helps to ensure your cloud investments keep delivering value and help your team to spot areas for improvement, contributing to an optimized ROI.

Accurate forecasting can only happen if key people are keeping an eye on ongoing usage and regularly reviewing cloud service needs. While it’s wise to have a margin for pre-booked capacity (reserving cloud resources in advance), make sure it’s reasonable to avoid unnecessary costs for unused storage.

A generous ROI wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of cross-organizational teams, and it’s important to recognize and celebrate their hard work. Incentives, promotions or public recognition not only boost morale but also fosters a culture of collaboration and innovation for the future success of the cloud.

 

Unlocking Long-Term Value

Ultimately, maximizing ROI from cloud investments is a team effort and won’t happen overnight. Successful cloud management is an ongoing journey that requires vigilance and adaptability; it requires setting clear goals, fostering a culture of innovation, and using automation tools to streamline processes and reduce costs. Meanwhile, staying on top of key legislative changes and being responsive to the business’ evolving needs will further boost ROI on your cloud spend.

The biggest and most immediate challenge is, of course, getting started. But with a robust set of goals, a FinOps mindset, and the right tools at your disposal, nothing can stand the way of you and cloud success.

Want to learn more? Check out more guides in the Surveil blog.

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