For people in the early stages of development, a cloud storage provider that offers free credits might seem like a great deal. And diversified cloud providers do offer these kinds of promotions to help people get started with storing data: Google Cloud Free Tier and AWS Free Tier offer credits and services for a limited time, and both providers also have incentive funds for startups which can be unlocked through incubators that grant additional credits of up to tens of thousands of dollars.
Before you run off to give them a try though, it’s important to consider the long-term realities that await you on the far side of these promotions.
The reality is that once they’re used up, budget items that were zeros yesterday can become massive problems tomorrow. Twitter is littered with countless experiences of developers finding themselves surprised with an unexpected bill and the realization that they need to figure out how to navigate the complexities of their cloud provider—fast.
we made the unfortunate mistake (and I'm sure this is how they get you) of not watching our cloud costs so when the generous credits ran out we were hit with big bills until we did major refactoring. Lessons learned early on
— Yuan Gao (@mesetatron) December 5, 2020
What to Do When You Run Out of Free Cloud Storage Credits
So, what do you do once you’re out of credits? You could try signing up with different emails to game the system, or look into getting into a different incubator for more free credits. If you plan on your app being around for a few years and succeeding, the solution of finding more credits isn’t scalable, and the process of applying to another incubator would take too long. You can always switch from Google Cloud Platform to AWS to get free credits elsewhere, but transferring data between providers almost always incurs painful egress charges.
Because chasing free credits won’t work forever, this post offers three paths for navigating your cloud bills after free tiers expire. It covers:
- Staying with the same provider. Once you run out of free credits, you can optimize your storage instances and continue using (and paying) for the same provider.
- Exploring multi-cloud options. You can port some of your data to another solution and take advantage of the freedom of a multi-cloud strategy.
- Choosing another provider. You can transfer all of your data to a different cloud that better suits your needs.
Path 1: Stick With Your Current Cloud Provider
If you’re running out of promotional credits with your current provider, your first path is to just continue using their storage services. Many people see this as your only option because of the frighteningly high egress fees you’d face if you try to leave. If you choose to stay with the same provider, be sure to review and account for all of the instances you’ve spun up.
Here’s an example of a bill that one developer faced after their credits expired: This user found themselves locked into an unexpected $2,700 bill because of egress costs. Looking closer at their experience, the spike in charges was due to a data transfer of 30TB of data. The first 1GB of data transferred out is free, followed by egress costing $0.09 per gigabyte for the first 10TB and $0.085 per gigabyte for the next 40TB. Doing the math, that’s:
$0.085/GB x 20,414 GB = $1735, $0.090/GB x 10,239 GB = $921
Choosing to stay with your current cloud provider is a straightforward path, but it’s not necessarily the easiest or least expensive option, which is why it’s important to conduct a thorough audit of the current cloud services you have in use to optimize your cloud spend.
Optimizing Your Current Cloud Storage Solution
Over time, cloud infrastructure tends to become more complex and varied, and your cloud storage bills follow the same pattern. Cloud pricing transparency in general is an issue with most diversified providers—in short: It’s hard to understand what you’re paying for, and when. If you haven’t seen a comparison yet, a breakdown contrasting storage providers is shared in this post.
Many users find that AWS and Google Cloud are so complex that they turn to services that can help them monitor and optimize their cloud spend. These cost management services charge based on a percentage of your AWS spend. For a startup with limited resources, paying for these professional services can be challenging, but manually predicting cloud costs and optimizing spending is also difficult, as well as time consuming.
The takeaway for sticking with your current provider: Be a budget hawk for every fee you may be at risk of incurring, and ensure your development keeps you from unwittingly racking up heavy fees.
Path 2: Take a Multi-cloud Approach
For some developers, although you may want to switch to a different cloud after your free credits expire, your code can’t be easily separated from your cloud provider. In this case, a multi-cloud approach can achieve the necessary price point while maintaining the required level of service.
Short term, you can mitigate your cloud bill by immediately beginning to port any data you generate going forward to a more affordable solution. Even if the process of migrating your existing data is challenging, this move will stop your current bill from ballooning.
Beyond mitigation, there are multiple benefits to using a multi-cloud solution. A multi-cloud strategy gives companies the freedom to use the best possible cloud service for each workload. There are other benefits to taking a multi-cloud approach:
- Redundancy: Some major providers have faced outages recently. A multi-cloud strategy allows you to have a backup of your data to continue serving your customers even if your primary cloud provider goes down.
- Functionality: With so many providers introducing new features and services, it’s unlikely that a single cloud provider will meet all of your needs. With a multi-cloud approach, you can pick and choose the best services from each provider. Multinational companies can also optimize for their particular geographical regions.
- Flexibility: Avoid vendor lock-in if you outgrow a single cloud provider with a diverse cloud infrastructure.
- Cost: You may find that one cloud provider offers a lower price for compute and another for storage. A multi-cloud strategy allows you to pick and choose which works best for your budget.
The takeaway for pursuing multi-cloud: It might not solve your existing bill, but it will mitigate your exposure to additional fees going forward. And it offers the side benefit of providing a best-of-breed approach to your development tech stack.
Path 3: Find a New Cloud Provider
Finally, you can choose to move all of your data to a different cloud storage provider. We recommend taking a long-term approach: Look for cloud storage that allows you to scale with the least amount of friction while continuing to support everything you need for a good customer experience in your app. You’ll want to consider cost, usability, and solutions when looking for a new provider.
Many cloud providers use a multi-tier approach, which can become complex as your business starts to scale its cloud infrastructure. Switching to a provider that has single-tier pricing helps businesses planning for growth predict their cloud storage cost and optimize its spend, saving time and money for use on future opportunities. You can use this pricing calculator to check storage costs of Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage against AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud.
One example of a startup that saved money and was able to grow their business by switching to another storage provider is CloudSpot, a SaaS photography platform. They had initially gotten their business off the ground with the help of a startup incubator. Then in 2019, their AWS storage costs skyrocketed, but their team felt locked in to using Amazon.
When they looked at other cloud providers and eventually transferred their data out of AWS, they were able to save on storage costs that allowed them to reintroduce services they had previously been forced to shut down due to their AWS bill. Reviving these services made an immediate impact on customer acquisition and recurring revenue.
Time spent trying to navigate a complicated platform is a significant cost to business. Aiden Korotkin of AK Productions, a full-service video production company based in Washington, D.C., experienced this first hand. Korotkin initially stored his client data in Google Cloud because the platform had offered him a promotional credit. When the credits ran out in about a year, he found himself frustrated with the inefficiency, privacy concerns, and overall complexity of Google Cloud.
Korotkin chose to switch to Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage with the help of solution engineers that helped him figure out the best storage solution for his business. After quickly and seamlessly transferring his first 12TB in less than a day, he noticed a significant difference from using Google Cloud. “If I had to estimate, I was spending between 30 minutes to an hour trying to figure out simple tasks on Google (e.g. setting up a new application key, or syncing to a third-party source). On Backblaze it literally takes me five minutes,” he emphasized.
Workflow integrations can make cloud storage easier to use and provide additional features. By selecting multiple best-of-breed providers, you can achieve better functionality with significantly reduced price and complexity.
Content delivery network (CDN) partnerships with Cloudflare and Fastly allow developers using services like Backblaze B2 to take advantage of free egress between the two services. Game developers can serve their games to users without paying egress between their origin source and their CDN, and media management solutions that can integrate directly with cloud storage to make media assets easy to find, sort, and pull into a new project or editing tool. Take a look at other solutions integrated with cloud storage that can support your workflows.
Cloud to Cloud Migration
After choosing a new cloud provider, you can plan your data migration. Your data may be spread out across multiple buckets, service providers, or different storage tiers—so your first task is discovering where your data is and what can and can’t move. Once you’re ready, there is a range of solutions for moving your data, but when it comes to moving between cloud services, a data migration tool like Flexify.IO can help make things a lot easier and faster.
Instead of manually offloading static and production data from your current cloud storage provider and reuploading it into your new provider, Flexify.IO reads the data from the source storage and writes it to the destination storage via inter-cloud bandwidth. Flexify.IO achieves fast and secure data migration at cloud-native speeds because the data transfer happens within the cloud environment.
For developers with customer-facing applications, it’s especially important that customers still retain access to data during the migration from one cloud provider to another. When CloudSpot moved about 700TB of data from AWS to Backblaze B2 in just six days with help from Flexify.IO, customers were actually still uploading images to their Amazon S3 buckets. The migration process was able to support both environments and allowed them to ensure everything worked properly. It was also necessary because downtime was out of the question—customers access their data so frequently that one of CloudSpot’s galleries is accessed every one or two seconds.
If you’re interested in exploring a different cloud storage service for your solution, you can easily sign up today, or contact us for more information on how to run a free POC or just to begin transferring your data out of your current cloud provider.