10 Newsworthy AWS Cost Horror Stories

(and What You Can Do to Avoid Them)

We recently had a wake-up call on AWS costs. As much as we love AWS, you must keep an eye on your monthly bill. Our wake-up call motivated us to think about the ways things spin out of control, which led us to seek out some newsworthy AWS cost horror stories. And as habitual cloud problem solvers, we offer our prescription for managing AWS billing more effectively.

AWS Cost Horror Stories

1. A Surprising $2.3 Million Bill for a Misconfigured S3 Bucket

In 2017, a misconfigured AWS S3 bucket exposed sensitive customer data, resulting in a massive data breach. The company responsible for the misconfiguration had to cover the costs of the breach and incurred a bill of $2.3 million for the data transfer and storage fees.

2. Crypto Mining Malware Costs

Various reports have highlighted instances where cybercriminals deployed crypto-mining malware on AWS instances, causing unsuspecting companies to face exorbitant bills for the excessive CPU and GPU usage. These cases have led to costs ranging from thousands to millions of dollars.

3. Unoptimized Auto-Scaling

Companies that do not properly configure auto-scaling policies can face steep AWS bills. In one case, a gaming company experienced a surge in costs, reaching $1 million as a result of inefficient scaling during peak traffic times.

4. Lambda Functions Gone Wild

Improperly configured AWS Lambda functions can lead to exploding costs. Some businesses have experienced unexpected high bills when their Lambda functions were triggered excessively.

5. Large-Scale Data Transfer Costs

Data transfer fees can add up quickly, especially when companies are not aware of the rates. Instances of unoptimized data transfer have resulted in unexpected costs reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars.

6. Unused Reserved Instances

Failing to properly manage AWS Reserved Instances can lead to unexpected overspending. Companies have reported wasting thousands of dollars by not paying their reserved capacity effectively.

7. Elastic Load Balancer Misconfiguration

Misconfigured Elastic Load Balancers (ELBs) can result in excessive costs. Organizations have received unexpected charges when their ELBs were not distributing traffic efficiently.

8. DynamoDB Provisioned Throughput Miscalculations

Incorrectly estimating DynamoDB provisioned throughput can drive cost overruns. Some organizations have paid much more than expected due to their DynamoDB tables’ inadequately provisioned capacity.

9. Cross-Region Data Replication Costs

Businesses that replicate data across AWS regions without proper monitoring & cost controls have been surprised by high bills from data transfer fees and storage costs.

10. AWS Marketplace Subscription Overages

AWS Marketplace offers third-party services, and some organizations have been caught off guard by overages in subscription costs for these add-on services. We laughingly hope our CloudSee Drive customers do this.

AWS Cost Management Tips

Managing AWS billing can be complex. As our horror stories reflect, common mistakes can lead to unexpected costs. Here are 15 AWS cost management tips that administrators should be aware of.

1. Set Up Billing Alerts

Ensure that you set up billing alerts for your AWS account. Configure thresholds that trigger alerts when costs approach predefined limits to avoid unexpected cost overruns.

2. Stop Unused Resources

Make it a practice to stop or terminate AWS resources that are not in use, especially instances. Implement scheduling or automation to handle this efficiently.

3. Optimize Auto Scaling

Properly configure Auto Scaling groups based on your workload requirements to ensure efficient resource utilization while avoiding overprovisioning or underutilization.

4. Utilize Reserved Instances (RIs) & Savings Plans

Regularly review your usage and consider using RIs or Savings Plans for cost-effective pricing, especially for stable workloads with predictable usage.

5. Manage Data Transfer Costs

Monitor and manage data transfer costs by using AWS Data Transfer Acceleration or Content Delivery Network (CDN) services, and be mindful of inter-region data transfers.

6. Set Up Smart S3 Bucket Policies

Review and update S3 bucket policies to ensure they grant the appropriate level of access and avoid unintended public exposure, which can lead to unauthorized data access and extra charges.

7. Optimize Reserved Instances

Continuously analyze workload requirements to ensure you’re purchasing the right type and quantity of RIs to avoid unused or underutilized reservations.

8. Implement Resource Tagging

Enforce a resource tagging strategy to categorize resources by project, department, or purpose, making cost tracking and management more efficient.

9. Choose the Right Storage Tiers

Evaluate your data access patterns and use the appropriate storage class in AWS (e.g., S3 Glacier for archival data) to reduce storage costs.

10. Regularly Perform Resource Cleanup

Develop a resource cleanup process to regularly identify and remove unused or unnecessary resources, such as unattached EBS volumes or Elastic IP addresses.

11. Use AWS Cost Explorer

Make AWS Cost Explorer a part of your routine to analyze spending patterns, identify cost-saving opportunities, and make informed decisions.

12. Optimize Databases

Continuously optimize your databases, especially Amazon RDS, to ensure efficient resource utilization and avoid unnecessary expenses.

13. Evaluate Your Third-Party Costs

Review pricing of third-party products & services from the AWS Marketplace carefully. To avoid high licensing costs, consider open-source alternatives.

14. Monitor Data Storage

Regularly audit your data storage to identify and remove redundant or unnecessary data, minimizing storage costs.

15. Consolidate Billing

If your organization has multiple AWS accounts, set up consolidated billing to centralize cost management, making it easier to track and optimize overall spending across accounts.

Avoid AWS Cost Horror Stories

These tips can help AWS expert administrators effectively manage and optimize AWS costs while maintaining a high level of efficiency and resource utilization. To avoid AWS cost horror stories, AWS administrators should regularly review their AWS billing and usage reports, leverage AWS cost management tools, and implement best practices for cost optimization. Note, AWS provides detailed documentation and resources to help users manage their costs effectively. The rest is up to you!

Learn Lessons the EASY Way

Join 5,000+ tech industry subscribers to get monthly insights on getting the most from the cloud.