Watching your AWS Bill


I have heard more than one story about how people were using AWS and suddenly one day they got a hefty bill. I too had this experience. The bill was not hefty but for a startup like mine even 20 or 30 dollars is an unwanted expenditure.

Why does this happen? Is this due to lack of knowledge on how AWS works and its billing schemes? No, lot of it happens due to lethargy. So the first battle to be fought is with lethargy. Being active is not enough but you must know how you may lose money unintentionally. I am trying to list some of my experiences here.

I am assuming you are a small or medium company and you do not want to purchase any additional software to manage your AWS infrastructure. You are managing it from the console. Here are the things you must do / look out for in order not to overspend.

1. Check the projected bill regularly: The best and simplest way to avoid unwanted charges is to check the project bill on a regular basis. In your billing section you will find a projection for the month. Check if it is the limit that you expect. If not dig deep down to see where the problem lies.

2. Set an alarm: You can set a billing alarm to alert you when the bill crosses a certain value. I think Amazon allows you to get this limit only once so use it wisely and you will be alerted in case of the bill crossing a certain amount

3. Stopping EC2 instances isn’t enough: Remember that when you stop your instance, only the billing for the instance stops. Your EBS is still billed. That means if you have have EBS volumes whose total size is more than what your free tier permits, you will be billed for EBS volumes even though the instance to which they are connected are stopped

4. Check the regions: A couple of times I had terminated my instances and seeing no running instance I was satisfied. Yet, I got a bill. This was because instances were running in other regions and I hadn’t shut them off. So remember what you see on  the dashboard pertains to one single region. So religiously check all regions regularly else you will end up paying a decent sum to Amazon

5. Release Elastic IPs: Elastic IPs cost nothing when they are attached to a running instance. In case you terminate an instance which has Elastic IP attached, ensure you also release the Elastic IP. Else you will be charged for the Elastic IP which is not in use

6. Delete Autoscaling groups: This happened to me once. I had terminated all instances and then logged off. What I had not realized is that I had an autoscaling group running with minimum number of instances set to 2. So after I logged off, autoscaling had done its job. It started two instances and I ended up paying for them. So always check if you have any autoscaiing group and whether the instances you are terminating belong to an autoscaling group

7. Delete Elastic LoadBalancer: Ensure you delete the ELB as well when you delete the instance attached to it. Else you will be charged for the ELB.

8. Understand which is free and which is not: I should have probably put this up as the first point. It is very important that we understand which services are free and which services are paid services. You must as well understand the limits (of free service). This will go a long way in ensuring that you do not pay anything in excess.

Large corporates will have their IT teams which will monitor for wastage. People like me, who run small companies, may not have the bandwidth to keep a continuous eye on the status of the infrastructure. So ensure that you scan for all things I had mentioned above whenever you log in into your AWS console. Only by discarding your lethargy will you be able to ensure you don’t waste money.

If you have any such experience. Let me know. I will add the learning to this post.