Billing Alerts Help Prevent Surprise Bills

Recently I was travelling from my home town Leicester to London by train for a meeting with a consulting client. I arrived at the train station at 6am for a 6.30am train, purchased a ticket and then heard an announcement that the train drivers were on strike and a very limited service was running. A little frustrated I went to the train companies Web site to see if any schedule of this limited service was available only to be greeted by the screen below.

My immediate thought was that this could easily have been averted with the use of the auto scaling of cloud computing which works perfectly in such times of large spikes of traffic to a Web application.

Autoscaling of resources is a great facility but it is not as straightforward as maybe first appears. Technically, it requires configuration on most cloud services. Take for instance Amazon’s AWS. Here a load balancer must be configured and then the CloudWatch service must be enabled with thresholds set for scaling up and down the number of server instances. Added to this there are business concerns too. The obvious one being how much the services will really cost in any particular month. We could be happily running our systems, but at what financial cost ?

Cloud services such as Amazon and Microsoft do not enable the setting of spending thresholds, although Google’s App Engine does. This means paying by credit card or by invoice may result in a surprise at the end of each month–the bill may be much larger than expected if usage is large. As a user of Amazon AWS, my company have been aware of this for some time and regularly check our billing data for abnormal patterns. We were thus delighted to hear that Amazon have now announced billing alerts. This service allows you to configure spending thresholds which when reached for any particular service will send you an immediate notification. This means that you will be aware as soon as spending is above your accepted limit and can take appropriate action at that time. The billing service makes use of the standard CloudWatch alarms and Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS) for sending alerts. The free monthly usage tier of CloudWatch is 10 alarms and unto 1000 email notifications can be sent before charges are incurred. This facility is a much needed and welcome addition to the Amazon Web Service portfolio.

If you would like to understand more about cloud computing, consider attending Learning Tree’s course, Cloud Computing Technologies:  A Comprehensive Hands-On Introduction,  which provides a thorough coverage of the business and technical benefits of cloud computing as well as exposure to the products from the major vendors. For those looking to use Amazon Web Services, Learning Tree also have an excellent four day hands-on Amazon Web Services course where the lower level details of using and integrating these services are covered.

Hope to see you at one of these courses soon.

Chris Czarnecki

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