In today’s digital landscape, cloud sprawl and data sprawl are critical challenges that CTOs and technical directors must grasp. 

Cloud sprawl refers to the uncontrolled proliferation of cloud resources, leading to inefficiency and higher costs. In contrast, data sprawl involves the haphazard storage and management of data, risking security and compliance issues.

It’s imperative for businesses to recognise these issues – and by addressing them proactively, CTOs can optimise resource allocation, enhance security and improve compliance with regulations.

Ensuring that your organisation understands and combats cloud and data sprawl is pivotal for maintaining a competitive edge and sustaining operational efficiency.

The Digital Craftsmen’s short Cloud Sprawl Guide is written to help you recognise, identify, remediate and prevent cloud sprawl within your organisation, giving you a comprehensive understanding of how to tackle this growing challenge effectively.

Table of contents

1. Understanding cloud sprawl

  • Definition and causes
  • Why it matters
  • Common indicators

2. Identifying cloud sprawl

  • Audit and assessment
  • Cost tracking and analysis
  • Resource utilisation monitoring
  • Stakeholder interviews

3. Remediation strategies

  • Rightsizing resources
  • Resource tagging and categorisation
  • Automation and orchestration
  • Implementing resource policies

4. Preventing future cloud sprawl

  • Establishing governance policies
  • Implementing a cloud management platform
  • Continuous monitoring and alerts
  • Training and awareness

5. Case studies

  • Real-world examples of successful cloud sprawl management

1: Understanding cloud sprawl

Definition and causes

Cloud sprawl refers to the uncontrolled proliferation of cloud resources within an organisation, leading to inefficiency and increased costs. 

Cloud sprawl typically occurs when a company doesn’t have the guidelines and policies in place around cloud usage. What often happens as a result is that different departments or team members may open up an account with various cloud services and cloud computing resources without centralised control or oversight or making the IT team aware of what’s being set up.

Once the project is finished they can forget to switch it off, or when people move jobs it is handed over to the new person. These rogue cloud resources lead to wasteful expenditures, security vulnerabilities and management complications.

Common causes of unchecked cloud sprawl include:

  • Lack of governance
  • ‘Shadow’ IT
  • Decentralised procurement
  • Misconfiguration
  • Unused resources

Why it matters

Cloud sprawl will impact your organisation in numerous ways, including unnecessary financial burdens, security risks, and operational inefficiencies. Identifying its existence within an organisation is the first step to addressing the issue.

Common indicators

Learn to spot common signs of cloud sprawl, such as increasing cloud costs, underutilised resources, and lack of visibility into resource allocation.

2: Identifying cloud sprawl

Audit and assessment

To find where cloud sprawl might be occurring in your business operations, you need to conduct a comprehensive audit of your cloud environment to identify redundant or unused parts of your existing cloud structures and resources.

Cost tracking and analysis

Implement cost tracking tools to analyse spending patterns and identify areas with unnecessary expenditure.

Resource utilisation monitoring

Track the usage and performance of cloud resources to spot under-utilised or idle instances.

Stakeholder interviews

Engage with various departments and stakeholders to gain insights into their cloud resource needs and utilisation.

3: Remediation strategies

Right-sizing resources

Scale resources up or down to match actual needs, reducing costs and resource wastage.

Resource tagging and categorisation

Implement a tagging system to categorise and identify resources effectively.

Automation and orchestration

Automate resource provisioning and de-provisioning processes to eliminate manual errors and reduce sprawl happening.

Implementing resource policies to manage cloud sprawl

Establish governance policies that dictate resource allocation, usage, and decommissioning.

4: Preventing future cloud sprawl

Establishing governance policies

Develop and enforce cloud governance policies to maintain control and visibility over cloud platforms and resources.

Implementing a cloud management platform

Set up and use cloud management tools and platforms if you haven’t already for centralised control and monitoring. Make sure they are fully implemented and support this by rolling out cloud policies and guidelines across all the different departments across your business. Keep this updated regularly as it’s far too easy for a business to slip back into cloud sprawl. 

Continuous monitoring and alerts

Set up continuous monitoring systems with automated alerts for unusual resource usage. Establish an internal process and then allocate roles and responsibilities for your internal teams to make sure that alerts are continually monitored and followed up. 

Training and awareness

Educate, educate and continue to educate your teams on the importance of responsible cloud resource management and the risks cloud sprawl brings to any organisation. .

5: Case studies

Take a look at these anonymised examples of organisations that have successfully recognised, addressed and prevented cloud sprawl with a company-wide cloud strategy.

Successful cloud sprawl management:

  • Cost optimisation and resource tagging:
    • Company XYZ implemented a robust tagging strategy for all their cloud resources, clearly indicating the owner, purpose and cost centre. This enabled them to track and allocate costs accurately, identify unused resources and make informed decisions about resource provisioning and resizing.
  • Automated resource lifecycle management:
    • Organization ABC automated resource lifecycle management by implementing scripts and policies to decommission unused or underutilized resources after a defined period. This resulted in substantial cost savings and streamlined resource allocation.
  • Centralised cloud governance and policies:
    • Company DEF established a centralised cloud governance team responsible for defining and enforcing cloud usage policies. These policies include guidelines on resource provisioning, access control and spending limits, ensuring compliance and reducing sprawl.
  • Regular usage audits and optimisation:
    • Firm GHI conducted periodic usage audits to identify unused, overprovisioned, or incorrectly configured resources. They then optimised their infrastructure based on the audit findings, resulting in cost savings and improved performance.
  • Integration of cloud management platforms (CMPs):
    • Organisation JKL integrated a CMP that provided a centralised view of their multi-cloud environment, allowing for better management and control of resources across different cloud providers. This integration helped streamline operations and prevent sprawl.
  • Education and training programs:
    • Company MNO invested in educating their employees about cloud best practices and cost implications. This empowered teams to make informed decisions, avoid unnecessary resource provisioning and effectively manage cloud usage.
  • Use of cloud cost management tools:
    • Business PQR utilised specialised cloud cost management tools to monitor and optimise their spending. These tools provided insights into cost patterns, helped set budgets and alerted teams when spending exceeded predefined thresholds.
  • Adoption of serverless and microservices architecture:
    • Organisation STU embraced serverless and microservices architecture to develop and deploy applications. This approach enabled them to optimise resource usage, scale automatically and reduce operational complexity, mitigating cloud sprawl.
  • Continuous monitoring and alerting:
    • Company VWX implemented continuous monitoring and alerting systems to track resource usage and costs in real time. This proactive approach allowed them to quickly identify and address any unexpected spikes or anomalies.
  • Feedback loops and continuous improvement:
    • Firm YZ implemented a feedback loop mechanism, gathering insights from various teams involved in cloud operations. They used this feedback to iterate and improve their cloud management practices continuously.

Cloud sprawl is an ongoing challenge requiring constant vigilance and proactive management. 

By understanding the causes of cloud sprawl, knowing how to identify the signs and then implementing remediation strategies and establishing preventive measures, CTOs have the skillsets and tools to tackle this common cloud problem whilst saving money and increasing security along the way. 

Choosing a cloud partner 

With the costs of cloud sprawl issues potentially heading north all too quickly, it makes sense to regularly audit, check and evaluate the costs, security and efficiency of your cloud services infrastructure.

This is where bringing in specialist expertise and dedicated resources of a managed cloud services partner benefits busy CTOs with limited resources trying to manage on shrinking budgets.

Our team has a wealth of experience of working with organisations from different industry sectors, so from the outset they know what to do and how, helping you to save money on wasted resources from day one. 

About Digital Craftsmen

As cloud industry experts, we provide bespoke managed services around cloud sprawl auditing for businesses of all sizes, and with that comes a peace of mind that your cloud operations are in the best hands. 

Since the company was founded in 2002, Digital Craftsmen has always brought a human touch to the cloud and hosting services that are all too often faceless and impersonal.

We go one step further than that and work closely with our clients to become in effect an extension of their in-house team, providing a service that’s flexible, personal and tailored to their exact specifications.

If this sounds like the cloud sprawl service you’ve been looking for, then contact our team on 020 3745 7706 or email [email protected]