The cloud has revolutionised the way businesses operate. It can provide unlimited storage, scalability and flexibility, making it an essential tool for organisations of all sizes.

However, with great power comes great responsibility.

Uncontrolled growth, or cloud sprawl, can lead to a wide range of challenges, including increased costs, security risks and inefficiencies.

Despite its widespread impact, cloud sprawl often goes unnoticed until it has already wreaked havoc on an organisation’s IT infrastructure and budget.

Here, Digital Craftsmen will explore the telltale signs of cloud sprawl and provide insights into how you can nip the issue in the bud.

Understanding cloud sprawl

Before diving into the signs of cloud sprawl, let’s first understand what it is. Cloud sprawl occurs when an organisation’s cloud instances, services or providers multiply to a point where they become difficult to manage.

Different departments or team members may use various cloud services without centralised control or oversight, leading to redundant expenditures, security vulnerabilities and management complications.

This uncontrolled growth can lead to increased costs, security vulnerabilities and operational inefficiencies.

What causes cloud sprawl?

The primary cause of cloud sprawl is often a lack of policies and guidelines around cloud usage.

With the ease of access to cloud services, anyone in an organisation can set up a cloud instance, often without the knowledge or approval of IT.

This can lead to an uncontrolled expansion of cloud services, each with its own set of data, applications and interfaces.

Another contributing factor is simply the rapid pace of digital transformation. To stay competitive, many companies have moved their operations to the cloud, often without a comprehensive plan or strategy.

This hasty migration can result in multiple, disconnected cloud environments, leading to sprawl.

The different types of cloud sprawl

There are several types of cloud sprawl, including:

Instance sprawl: This occurs when there are too many virtual machines or instances running, often due to employees launching new instances without decommissioning old ones.

Service sprawl: This happens when organisations use too many different cloud services, leading to redundancy and inefficiency.

Shadow IT sprawl: This occurs when individual departments or teams within an organisation independently deploy cloud services without central oversight. It can result in security risks and inefficiencies.

Provider sprawl: This occurs when businesses use multiple cloud providers, making it difficult to manage and secure data across different platforms.

Container sprawl: With the rise of containerisation and microservices, organisations may face sprawl in the form of excessive or poorly managed containers.

Each type of sprawl presents its own set of challenges and can have a significant impact on your bottom line, security and operational efficiency.

Signs of cloud sprawl

Here are some red flags that indicate your organisation might be experiencing cloud sprawl:

Soaring costs: If your cloud expenses are continually increasing without a corresponding rise in value or productivity, it’s a classic sign of cloud sprawl.

Lack of visibility: Are you struggling to keep track of all your cloud resources? This lack of visibility is another indicator of cloud sprawl.

Security concerns: An increase in security incidents or vulnerabilities could be a result of too many cloud services, each with their own security protocols.

Compliance challenges: If ensuring compliance across all your cloud services feels like herding cats, you’re likely dealing with cloud sprawl.

Operational inefficiencies: Difficulty in managing and coordinating between various cloud services indicates sprawl.

Shadow IT: If various departments in your organization are using unauthorized cloud services without the knowledge or approval of the IT department, this is a classic sign of cloud sprawl.

The risks of cloud sprawl

Uncontrolled cloud growth can pose several risks, including:

Non-compliance: With data spread across multiple clouds, it can be challenging to ensure compliance with industry regulations and standards.

Security breaches: Without proper oversight, sensitive data may be stored insecurely or shared with unauthorised users, leading to potential data breaches.

Increased costs: Redundant cloud services can result in unnecessary expenditures, while the cost of managing multiple cloud environments can also add up quickly.

Operational inefficiencies: Cloud sprawl can lead to a lack of employee collaboration on a single cloud solution, leading to operational inefficiencies.

Risk of outages: Improper monitoring of a sprawling cloud environment can lead to unexpected outages, impacting business continuity and customer experience.

Controlling unnecessary costs

Controlling cloud costs is crucial for any business. Here are some actionable steps to help you achieve this:

Implement a cloud management strategy

While the cloud can provide a huge range of business benefits, it’s essential to manage and control its use to prevent cloud sprawl. By implementing a comprehensive cloud management strategy, businesses can enjoy the advantages of the cloud while minimising risks and controlling costs.

Establish clear policies and guidelines on cloud usage. This includes defining who can deploy cloud services, which services can be used, and how they should be managed.

Remember, the choice of tools you use to implement a cloud management strategy will depend on your specific needs, the cloud platforms you’re using and your budget. Also, many cloud service providers offer integrated suites of tools that can handle multiple aspects of cloud management.

Use cloud cost management tools

Tools such as CloudHealth, CloudCheckr and Azure Cost Management can provide visibility into your cloud spending, helping you identify and eliminate unnecessary costs.

They enable users to visualise cloud initiatives, provide real-time notifications and adjust plans based on high-level analytics.

Notable providers such as nOps and AWS CloudWatch focus on real-time monitoring and notifications, Apptio Cloudability offers robust financial management tools for tracking and analyzing public cloud costs, while Microsoft Azure Cost Management + Billing provides comprehensive cost reporting and allocation.

Other solutions include AWS Cost Explorer, Google Cloud Platform’s Cost Management tools, and third-party solutions like CloudHealth by VMware.

Optimise cloud resources

Regularly review and optimise your cloud resources. This includes shutting down unused instances, selecting the right size for your instances and choosing the right storage class for your data.
Automation tools help streamline and automate operational tasks, reducing the risk of errors and cloud sprawl.

Examples include AWS CloudFormation, Azure Resource Manager (ARM) templates, Google Cloud Deployment Manager and third-party tools like Terraform and Ansible.

Why bring in third party experts to manage cloud sprawl and data sprawl?

Working with third-party experts to manage cloud sprawl and data sprawl can be a strategic move for several reasons:

  1. Expertise: Third-party specialists possess in-depth knowledge and experience in dealing with cloud and data sprawl. They bring a level of expertise that your internal teams may be lacking.
  2. Objective assessment: External experts offer an unbiased perspective, enabling them to identify issues that may go unnoticed internally.
  3. Cost savings: Outsourcing cloud and data management can lead to cost savings by optimising resource allocation and reducing inefficiencies.
  4. Efficiency: Third parties like Digital Craftsmen can swiftly implement best practices to streamline cloud and data management, enhancing operational efficiency.
  5. Access to advanced tools: Third-party experts often have access to advanced tools for managing cloud and data sprawl. These tools can provide insights and automation capabilities beyond what’s available to most organisations.
  6. Compliance: Expert providers ensure that your organisation remains compliant with industry and regulatory standards, mitigating legal and security risks.
  7. Scalability: As businesses grow, third-party experts can easily scale resources and services to accommodate changing requirements.
  8. Focus on core activities: Outsourcing these tasks allows your internal teams to concentrate on core business activities, fostering innovation and growth.
  9. Neutral perspective: An external party can provide a neutral perspective, identifying issues that may be overlooked internally due to familiarity or bias.

Collaborating with third-party experts in cloud and data sprawl management can ultimately enhance overall performance, reduce risks and free up valuable resources for strategic initiatives.

About Digital Craftsmen

Our cloud industry experts deliver best practice for your business, providing tailored cloud services with a human touch.

Speak to our experienced Craftsmen now and we’ll help you find the right solution – contact our team on 020 3745 7706 or email [email protected].

Latest Insights

Read the latest news, research and expert views from our master Craftsmen on cyber security and hosting issues, cyber risk, threat intelligence, network security, incident response and cyber strategy.