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Organizing and Managing Higher Ed Cloud Cost at Scale

6 min read

Last updated on May 17th, 2023 at 1:41pm

Like most large-scale businesses, academic institutions increasingly rely on cloud resources. Research departments need significant computing power for experiments and analysis. Often, each department or faculty applies its own solution. Meanwhile, the organization’s administrative needs resemble those of a corporation, with a central IT department to supply the necessary systems and platforms.

Adopting cloud resources can trigger a new set of challenges for your organization. The diversity of cloud use across the institution can cause a lack of visibility, leading to inefficient resource allocation and potential cost overruns.

Finding better ways to understand and manage your higher education institution’s cloud costs helps you get the best value for your investment. Let’s explore how to improve your visibility.

Key Considerations for Higher Education Cloud Cost Management

Higher education IT departments face unique challenges in managing cloud costs. High turnover of the people using the services and shortages of cloud-savvy IT staff only add to this complexity.

Whatever specific obstacles complicate your cloud budget, you need unified, business-aligned, and current financial reporting you can customize to suit your needs. Your institution can also benefit from automated mechanisms to identify and prevent overspending.

Unfortunately, traditional approaches to cloud cost management or out-of-the-box tools from cloud providers may not be enough. These approaches typically use built-in billing and cost management dashboards to gain insight into the organization’s cloud usage and costs. The tools offer basic information on cloud resource use, such as the total cost of each service, the number of instances used, and the amount of data stored.

This basic information is insufficient to understand which departments use the resources and how. Researchers tend to use cloud resources much differently than administrative staff, for example, and one intensive research project may use the bulk of the institution’s cloud services.

Consider adopting specialized cloud cost management tools designed to address your unique needs and challenges, such as support for specific cloud providers, customizable reporting, and automatic cost-saving measures. Such tools can help university IT departments gain better visibility into their cloud resources and ensure they’re used cost-effectively.

Getting Started with Cloud Cost Management

To start with cloud cost management, you need a basic management strategy. This strategy uses granular resource tracking to review metrics, identify cost optimization opportunities, and enforce budgeting. You can implement this strategy manually using multiple native and third-party tools.

However, this manual approach can be time-consuming and costly to implement and maintain. The IT department must review logs manually, set up monitoring systems, and analyze the data to identify optimization opportunities.

Instead, you can implement automated solutions like Kion to efficiently identify optimization opportunities. Kion’s central platform offers complete visibility and control of your cloud environment. The platform unifies AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud environments into a single place to visualize, manage, and govern cloud resources across diverse platforms.

Kion helps higher education institutions that seek every opportunity to control cloud costs. It offers a single solution for management and governance, so IT staff only need one platform to monitor and manage the institution’s cloud environment. Your IT department can also quickly provision and deprovision accounts and access, which is essential for managing high turnover rates and multiple accounts.

Additionally, Kion offers budget enforcement rather than just notifications. IT staff can set budgets and be confident that Kion will automatically enforce them, keeping spending under control.

Finally, you can host Kion’s security-first architecture on-premises, ensuring that sensitive data and applications remain secure. This feature is crucial for higher education organizations that handle confidential research data or other sensitive information.

IT staff can use Kion to manage resources in multiple cloud providers, including AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. This feature makes it easy to manage cloud resources across multiple suppliers.

Best Practices for Cloud Cost Optimization and FinOps in Higher Education

Organizations working at scale — including those in higher education — want to regularly monitor and analyze their cloud usage and cost data to identify areas for optimization. To identify these cost optimization opportunities, you can establish well-defined policies, including budgeting, cost allocation, chargeback mechanisms, and spending thresholds.

Consider encouraging collaboration between IT, finance, and other departments to ensure a holistic approach to cloud cost management. Cross-functional teams or committees can review and optimize cloud spending. The committee can also provide training and resources to ensure all stakeholders understand the importance of effective cloud cost management.

It’s crucial to regularly review and refine cloud cost management policies and practices to ensure they remain aligned with your organization’s evolving needs and priorities. Below are best practices to help optimize your cloud spending.

Define Cloud Cost Management Policies

Higher education institutions should establish clear policies and guidelines for cloud cost management that align with the organization’s objectives and priorities. Cost allocation mechanisms divide cloud costs by specific organizational departments, projects, or people. By implementing cost allocation and chargeback mechanisms, your IT teams can gain greater visibility into cloud use, allocate costs more accurately, and bill each group for their actual use of cloud resources.

Defining these policies helps ensure everyone knows your institution’s expectations for cloud cost management. This approach helps various departments and teams know they are accountable for cloud costs and encourages them to take responsibility for their part of this group effort.

Regularly Review and Adjust Cost Management Policies

As cloud usage patterns and institutional needs evolve, it’s essential to periodically review and adjust cost management policies to ensure ongoing optimization. This process includes analyzing usage data, identifying areas for cost reduction, and updating policies to align with the organization’s current needs and goals. Regularly evaluating and adjusting cost management policies helps avoid overspending and ensures you use resources most effectively.

Establish a Cross-Functional FinOps Team

Creating a FinOps team that includes members from finance, IT, and other relevant departments helps ensure that cloud cost optimization efforts align with your institution’s financial goals. This unit can work together to identify cost optimization opportunities and develop strategies for cost reduction. A cross-functional team also involves all relevant stakeholders in cost management, leading to better decision-making and more effective cost optimization.

Creating a Granular System of Tracking

Ensuring resources are correctly tagged and tracked is crucial for effective cloud cost management. Analysts can quickly drill down and view reports based on apps, projects, teams, and other filters in a granular tracking system. This level of detail enables better visibility into cloud use and costs, identifying areas for cost reduction and optimization. Granular tracking can also facilitate accurate cost allocation and chargeback methods, helping departments and teams better understand and manage their cloud costs.

Conclusion

The higher education industry has complex cloud needs you must meet at scale. Academic institutions often use multiple clouds, serving multiple organizational needs, with a high participant turnover and a shortage of IT staff with cloud experience. Traditional cloud cost management approaches and cloud providers’ out-of-the-box tools are ineffective for higher education. You need a system that provides granular resource tracking and establishes clear policies and guidelines.

Review and adjust cost management policies regularly, create a cross-functional FinOps team, and ensure resources are appropriately tagged and tracked to prevent overspending. Higher education organizations can save significantly by implementing these best practices while maintaining optimal cloud performance.

Kion’s automated solution provides a single platform for complete visibility and total control of your cloud environments. It streamlines your organization’s cloud cost management processes while helping you catch every cost optimization opportunity. Learn how Kion unifies your institution’s cloud services for greater visibility and savings.

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