GUEST OPINION: Business managers are constantly on a mission to reduce wastage. They know it improves efficiency, saves costs, and may even benefit the environment.
Typical sources of waste include everything from office equipment and consumables to packaging, electricity, and water. Over time, even small reductions in waste can add up to significant saving for the business.
Waste in the cloud
One area that tends to go unnoticed by office waste watchers is the way in which cloud platforms are being used. Often such resources are adopted without a clear understanding of how they can be properly utilised and how much they will actually cost.
In many cases, a business will have no centralised strategy covering cloud usage and place excessive faith in their chosen vendor’s ability to deliver efficiencies. They blindly believe that they have in place the right capacity to meet current demands and the ability to scale in the future as those demands change.
However, just like mobile phone plans, the devil can be in the details. Those details can lead to excessive costs that simply appear on the bill which might be paid by someone in the business who has no knowledge that things should be otherwise.
One example are the virtual environments deployed in the cloud for application testing by software developers. Rather than having to use a local server, virtual servers can be spun up in the cloud for short periods. Typically, such services are paid for by the hour, minute, or second.
However, costs can rise quickly if an application developer completes testing but then forgets to decommission the test environment. It sits idle yet continues to attract costs and essentially becomes a wasting asset.
Another source of waste comes from so-called cloud sprawl within some businesses. As the name suggests, cloud sprawl occurs when an organisation loses visibility over its cloud instances and the providers it is using.
Often this can happen because there is no centralised strategy and management of cloud usage. Individual teams and departments can readily sign up for cloud resources which may duplicate others already in use.
Problems can also occur if a company is experiencing high staff turnover and IT personnel keep changing. This means there is likely to be a lack of knowledge around what cloud workloads do, or if they can be readily turned off. There is also often zero documentation and transfer of knowledge when staff turnover occurs resulting in cloud wastage.
Also, existing legacy systems often can’t be upgraded due to their integrations with existing APIs. Before you know it, a lot more servers are being built and the old ones can’t be decommissioned.
This can result in the business paying far more for cloud resources than is actually required. It can have additional problems when data is stored in multiple locations and staff time is wasted looking for it.
Around the world, these trends are already amounting to billions of dollars in wasted costs. The wasted resources include everything from data storage to compute resources and software-as-a-service platforms.
There are also costs associated with transferring data to and between different cloud platforms. Bandwidth ends up being consumed for no worthwhile purpose, again resulting in avoidable costs.
This lack of cloud visibility and waste also applies to individuals. For example, when a consumer downloads an app to their phone, uses it for a week, and then deletes it, it may feel to that individual that the entire thing can be forgotten.
However, deleting an app from a phone does not delete the data that was supplied at sign-up. Even if no money was ever paid in terms of subscription fees, the person’s email address, data, and password still live on in the servers of the app’s company where it can be used for other marketing purposes, re-sold, or even stolen in a breach.
Clearly, just because the cloud is invisible and activities that happen there can be easily forgotten by both businesses and individuals, they are not forgotten by the machines that administer those activities.
For this reason, it’s important to be constantly on the lookout for instances of cloud wastage. Allowing it to continue unabated can lead to unexpectedly high costs and a risk of data misuse.
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