Don’t Let Orphaned Volumes and Resources Contribute to Cloud Waste

Maybe you’re familiar with the ways idle instances contribute to cloud waste, but orphaned volumes and other resources also go easily-missed, needlessly increasing your monthly bill. Since the cloud is a pay-as-you-go utility, it’s easy to lose visibility of specific infrastructure costs and discover charges for resources you aren’t even using. Here’s how orphaned resources contribute to cloud waste, and what you can do do about it.

How Orphaned Volumes are Eating Your Budget

The gist of it: When you shut down or terminate an instance or VM, you deal with orphaned volumes and snapshots of those or other volumes, unattached to servers and continuing to incur monthly $/GB charges.

Let’s take the example of AWS EC2. You’ve stopped all of your AWS EC2 instances, but you’re still getting charged monthly for Amazon EBS storage and accruing charges for unused instances. This happens because even though you didn’t leave your instances running (*high five*), you’re still getting charged for EBS storage in GB per month for the amount provisioned to your account. While EC2 instances only accrue charges while they’re running, EBS volumes attached to those instances retain information and continue charging you even after an instance has been stopped.

How to Reduce Waste from Orphaned Volumes

To save your data without paying monthly for the storage volume, you can take a snapshot of the volume as a backup and then delete the original volume. You’ll still be charged for EBS snapshots, but they’re billed at a lower rate and you still have the option to restore the volume from the snapshot if you need it later. EBS volume snapshots are backed up to S3. They’re compressed and therefore save storage, but do keep in mind that the initial snapshot is of the entire volume, and depending on how frequently you take subsequent (incremental) snapshots, your total could end up taking as much space the first snapshot.

When you no longer need these snapshots, Amazon’s user guide has instructions for how to delete EBS volumes and EBS snapshots.

Similar to EBS, Azure offers Managed Disks as a storage service for VMs and provides backups of persistent disks. But while EBS volume snapshots are compressed and also include incremental backups, therefore taking up less storage, Azure only takes full point-in-time snapshots, which can become costly when you can take as many snapshots as you want from the same Managed Disk.

If you’re using Google Cloud Platform, then Compute Engine also provides backups of persistent disks with instructions for create, restore, and delete snapshots. Like EBS snapshots, Google’s persistent disk snapshots are automatically compressed and also include incremental backups, saving storage space. The benefits (and risks) are the same as the other cloud providers e.g. lower bills and less storage costs, but you will still need to ensure that your snapshotting strategy does not leave you exposed to risk.

Watch Out for Other Orphaned Resources

Moral of the story: delete snapshots that you don’t need from terminated instances and VMs. It’s easy to see how a small feature that is supposed to save you money can end up forgotten, costing you money for resources you’re not using.

Orphaned volumes and snapshots are just one example of how orphaned resources can result in unnecessary charges. Others include:

  • Unassociated IPs (AWS – Elastic IPs);
  • Load Balancers (with no instances);
  • Unused machine images; and
  • Object Storage.

Don’t let orphaned volumes, snapshots, and other forgotten resources drive up your cloud bill. Put a stop to cloud waste by eliminating orphaned resources and inactive storage, saving space, time, and money in the process.


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