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Which cloud management tools can track my cloud budget?

Cloud costs can fluctuate as user demands change. Are there cloud management tools that can help me track my cloud budget and spending?

Are there tools to help manage cloud budgets? How do they help?

A principal argument for cloud services is the shift from capital to operational expenses. While it's an attractive notion to most business leaders, it's important to remember that cloud costs are recurring, not fixed. The monthly cost of cloud services varies dramatically depending on changes in usage. For organizations expecting steady cloud expenses, this can result in "sticker shock."

Luckily, businesses can turn to a growing suite of software tools to track private, public and hybrid cloud usage. These tools help users visualize, forecast and improve cloud budget planning. For example, RightScale's Cloud Analytics offering portrays each cloud account in a dashboard, monitors usage and breaks it down by application, group and so on. Additionally, it projects future usage and cost trends based on seasonal patterns.

There are many other cloud management tools for budget planning, including Cirba's private cloud management software and Egenera's PAN Cloud Director, among others.

Budgeting errors can cause big problems for a business, and some cloud providers recognize that. Overspending might waste money, but under-spending could lead to untimely budget reductions. Vendors including VMware sponsor a Cloud Credits Purchasing Program that allows users to buy services upfront and redeem those services with certain cloud providers over time. This minimizes unexpected budget fluctuations, while maximizing the full budget.

Finally, it's important to use cloud budget data. Shifting from an on-premises service to cloud changes CAPEX to OPEX, but don't assume it automatically saves you money. Determining actual -- if any -- savings takes careful budget analysis, but budget tools can be extremely useful for ROI assessments. The data from budget tools, such as actual versus projected costs or long-term budget trends, provides vital feedback to finance and business leaders. This refines cloud budgeting processes and justifies cloud usage.

Cloud services are effective alternatives to traditional on-premises deployments. Still, cloud doesn't automatically make those services better for the business. Any move to the cloud must meet a clear business need, be technically feasible and offer measurable cost benefits.

Stephen J. Bigelow is the senior technology editor of the Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. He can be reached at [email protected].

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