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5 Ways to Stay on Budget with AWS

In recent years, there has been a lot of buzz around AWS. And it’s easy to see why when you consider that it offers several benefits when you use it to host your website or application, from speed to uptime, security, and more.

But here’s the thing. All these benefits don’t come cheap and if you don’t manage your AWS costs and budget properly, you could end up facing a steep cloud-hosting bill. Sure, for companies with million-dollar budgets, this isn’t likely to be a problem, but for other businesses, the impact on their budgets can be devastating.

In this post, we’ll look at some strategies you can use to stay on budget with AWS, including alternative options such as cloud hosting or dedicated servers.


Contents

  1. How AWS Works?
  2. Use a Calculator and Save Up for AWS
  3. Plan Before Launching any Services
  4. Use AWS’s Free Tier to Your Advantage
  5. Be Smart With Your Storage
  6. Consider Looking at AWS Marketplace
  7. Alternative Options

How AWS Works?

Before looking at these strategies in more detail, let’s first recap how AWS billing works. Generally, AWS billing works on a pay-as-you-use model. This means there are no upfront charges or termination fees, you only pay for the resources you use, and you stop paying when you cancel a service.

It goes further than this, however. Based on this pay-as-you-use model, AWS also provides different pricing models in relation to different services. These include:

  • On-demand pricing, where you pay for the time the service is running and which allows you to terminate the service at any time without paying any termination fees.
  • Reserved instances allow you to reserve instances or services for a specified period of time. Here, you’re required to pay the full fee for the reserved services upfront, but you do get significant savings compared to on-demand pricing.
  • Savings plans that work like reserved instances, so they require that you commit to using an instance for a specified period and pay the entire fee upfront.
  • Spot pricing that allows you to bid on unused resources on the spot market. You’ll then be able to obtain these resources at a far lower cost, but this process does lack some flexibility compared to other pricing models.

In addition to these pricing models, AWS also offers a free tier (which we’ll deal with later) and the ability to pay less the more you use. This, for instance, applies to storage where your storage costs decrease the more data you store.

Now that we’ve given you a broad overview of how AWS billing works, let’s look at some simple strategies you can implement to stay on budget with AWS.


Use a Calculator and Save Up for AWS

Let’s assume you want to host your website on AWS and have done your research. As such, you probably already know what storage, computing, and other AWS services you’ll need to do this. And when you know these things, you’re in luck because then you can use AWS’s Pricing Calculator.

This web-based tool helps you create estimates of how much hosting your website on AWS will cost. It also allows you to explore how much different AWS services cost and get more in-depth detail into the calculations behind your estimates. Ultimately, it’s an invaluable tool that can help you plan how much you’ll spend and make better decisions when choosing the right services.

Once you have your estimation, you can then save up to make sure that you have enough of a budget to run your website effectively on AWS. Keep in mind, though, that although the calculator is a valuable tool, there can be some discrepancy between your estimates and your actual usage. So, you should factor this into your budget and planning as well.


Plan Before Launching any Services

Before launching your website, it’s crucial that you plan properly before launching any AWS services. This is simply because not planning your services ahead of time can lead to excessive AWS costs for your specific use case. To illustrate this better, let’s look at a simple example using AWS EC2 instances.

AWS offers several different EC2 instance types from general-purpose instances to compute-optimized, memory-optimized, storage-optimized, and other instance types. Obviously, if you choose a compute-optimized, memory-optimized, or storage-optimized instance, you’ll end up paying more compared to a general-purpose instance.

Now, if you consider general-purpose instances, you’ll find no less than 14 subtypes. These all vary based on the computing, storage, and memory resources they offer, and, as such, the higher the resources, the higher the cost. As a result, you’ll need to carefully determine the size of the instances you should run and how many instances you’ll need based on your requirements. If you don’t, you might end up paying too much for oversized instances, unused instances, or too many instances.

Apart from choosing the right type of instance, you should also choose the appropriate pricing model. As mentioned earlier, here you have a choice between on-demand instances, reserved instances, and spot instances. Choosing the right model can also significantly impact your AWS costs. For example, with on-demand instances, you’ll pay a fixed rate per hour for your usage. While this sounds like the best option for first-time AWS users, it could lead to unexpected costs.

In contrast, reserved instances allow you to reserve capacity over the longer term which then results in significant discounts, and spot instances allow you to bid your own price in respect of instances. It’s true that these models might lack some flexibility compared to on-demand pricing, but with careful planning, you can save a lot on AWS costs when you choose these models.

But planning doesn’t stop there, however, and you should always consistently monitor your usage. Because, as mentioned above, you only pay for what services you use when using AWS, you could end up paying for services that are running when you no longer use them for your website.

As such, you can reduce your AWS costs if you consistently monitor and terminate unused EC2 instances, Snapshots, IP addresses, and other assets that might increase your AWS costs. Here, rightsizing and auto-scaling can also be very effective tools to help you manage your AWS costs and stay on budget.


Use AWS’s Free Tier to Your Advantage

When researching AWS as a solution to host your website, you’ve probably heard about the AWS Free Tier. Now, the question is: Is AWS Free Tier really free? The answer is that it is, and it allows you to use some AWS services for free. There are, however, some important caveats to keep in mind:

  • You’re only entitled to use these free services within the first 12 months of creating your AWS account.
  • You can only use services that offer free tier benefits. Some of these services include certain instances of Amazon EC2, Amazon S3 storage, Amazon RDS database services, and many others. In fact, with the free tier, you can use over 100 of AWS’s products.
  • You should stay within the usage limits of these free tier services. All the services you can use on the free tier have determined usage limits you should stick to. For example, with Amazon EC2, you’ll get 750 hours of computing resources per month, and with Amazon S3, you’ll get 5 GB of standard storage.

Once you go beyond these restrictions, you’ll be charged the standard AWS billing rates for the services you use. Despite this, you can get a lot of value by using these services, and, depending on your specific website, you might be able to host it for little to no cost during the first year. When you do, however, it’s important that you consistently check your Amazon billing dashboard to make sure you stay within the mentioned limits.


Be Smart With Your Storage

We’ve already mentioned that you should plan properly before you launch any services, and we used EC2 instances as an example. Similarly, you should also be smart with your storage and use the appropriate storage class for your purposes.

For example, for your website’s code, content, and media, you might want to use S3 Standard storage. This is the default storage class that provides low latency and high throughput and is designed to provide 99.99% availability during a given year and 99.99% durability. As a result, your audience will always be able to access your website consistently.

However, because of this, S3 Standard storage is also the most expensive storage class. So, it might not make sense for you to store all of your data using this service. For this purpose, you could consider using S3 Standard–IA, which is specifically designed and optimized to provide storage for less frequently accessed data. This can, for instance, include back-ups or older data that your website users don’t typically access.

It still offers high durability, high throughput, and low latency, but offers lower storage prices and retrieval fees. You could also consider S3 Intelligent Tiering, which is designed to automatically move data to the most optimized and cost-effective storage access tier as data access patterns change.

Keep in mind, though, that these are just some examples of storage classes you can consider and there are many others including S3 One Zone-Intelligent Access and Glacier. What it shows, though, is that you should carefully consider your storage requirements and all the storage options when launching your website, as it could have a significant impact on your AWS costs.


Consider Looking at AWS Marketplace

Another effective strategy for managing and reducing your AWS costs is to use the AWS marketplace. Here, companies that purchase a surplus of reserved instances and no longer need them might offer them for sale. Then, in order to sell them quickly, they’ll often reduce their prices, which means that you’ll be able to buy instance capacity at a lower price than you would typically.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s often difficult to find these unused instances on the marketplace. This means they shouldn’t be your primary way of buying computing resources, as the process lacks flexibility.


Alternative Options

AWS might be an excellent option to host your website, but, as you’ve probably gathered when reading the above, billing can become quite complicated, and it can be challenging to keep your hosting costs low. Now, with this in mind, the question is: What alternatives are there to AWS for hosting your site?

Fortunately, at HOSTAFRICA, we offer several alternatives. For instance, you could choose to host your website or application on a dedicated server. When you do, you’ll have access to a dependable, high-performance bare-metal server that can scale effortlessly as your business grows.

You’ll also be able to manage every aspect of your server with full root access, reverse DNS, hardware configurations, and more. Ultimately, you’ll be able to configure your server based on your specific needs and requirements, and as a bonus, you won’t break the bank.

Another option would be to consider a cloud virtual machine. This provides you with the benefits of migrating to the cloud like speed, uptime, and security, but at a cost that won’t break your budget. Here, you’ll also have the ability to customize your package based on your unique needs and scale seamlessly as your business grows and your requirements evolve.


Wrapping Up

AWS can be a good choice when deciding where to host your website. However, if you don’t manage your AWS costs effectively, you could get some nasty surprises which, in turn, could be disastrous to your budget. Hopefully, this post helped illustrate some strategies you can use to stay on budget when using AWS. More importantly, we hope this post showed you that there are, in fact, viable alternatives to AWS.

To learn more about these alternatives and see what HOSTAFRICA has to offer and how we can help you, check out our entire product range now.


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