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How to Reduce your AWS Bill Using EBS Snapshots

You have decided to jump into the cloud migration wagon and you’re using Amazon Web Services Elastic Cloud Services (EC2). However, when your AWS bill arrives, you suddenly realize your cloud budget has gone out of control.

AWS pricing can be complex to understand since the price varies according to the region and the products you use. Companies that are new to the cloud usually overprovision resources to ensure performance. This results in extra unnecessary costs.

Fortunately, there are several practices that can help you reduce your cloud storage costs, such as using EBS snapshots. Read on to learn what EBS Snapshots are and how to use them to lower your storage bill.  

What Is AWS Elastic Block Storage?

One of AWS’s cloud offers is Elastic Block Store (EBS), which is a block storage that stores data in block volumes. You can use this service to backup your Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) data.

You can use EBS volumes as primary storage or as a root partition for an EC2 instance. Since the volume can remain after you delete the instance, it can be used as a backup. Some of the key benefits of EBS volumes are:

  • Scalability
  • Supports low latency
  • Each volume can be replicated automatically
  • Plug-and-play system

What Are AWS EBS Snapshots?

You can backup EBS volumes using an option called snapshots. Snapshots are copies of EBS volumes, taken at a given point in time. The user can restore the data from the latest snapshot, in the event of a disaster.

EBS snapshots only save changes from the last snapshot, functioning as incremental backups. Here’s a review of the key benefits of using EBS Snapshots:

  • Easy backup and restore—you can restore volumes to any snapshot. 
  • Time-saving—the backup process is quick, since the snapshots only store the changes at the block level.
  • Cost-efficient—snapshots take up less storage than EBS volumes and are priced at a lower cost. Using snapshots enable users to save only the last versions, thus reducing redundancy.

There are some considerations to take into account when using snapshots:

  • You cannot copy data outside AWS—EBS snapshots are stored in S3. This means you cannot back up data outside AWS. 
  • Accumulating snapshots—snapshots are so easy to make and cheap, that you might be tempted to store as much as possible. The aggregated costs of snapshots can end up taking too much storage. 
  • Slower recovery—recovery takes a longer time than in other storage options since the system works backward, restoring until the point in time you choose.

Understanding Your AWS EBS Costs

Amazon EBS storage is priced on a gigabyte-per-month basis. The cost will depend on how much storage you provision for your account.

There is a difference in pricing between EC2 instances and EBS volumes. EC2 instances are only charged when running and stop accruing costs if stopped. However, the EBS volumes attached to those instances continue generating charges even after the instance is stopped. 

How You Can Use Snapshots To Lower Your Storage Bill 

Snapshots are a cheaper option than EBS volumes. Efficient management of EBS volumes with wise use of snapshots can be the key to keeping your storage costs under budget. Below, you’ll find some tips for reducing AWS EBS cloud storage costs.

Select the right EBS option

Not all EBS volumes are the same. The pricing varies according to the capacity and performance support. Choosing the right option according to your needs can significantly lower your costs.

EBS volumes come in three types: 

  • General-purpose—the default volume type for EC2 instances. These volumes are stored in solid-state drives (SSD) and can serve a wide range of performance needs. 
  • Provisioned IOPS—the highest performance volume option, and also the most expensive one. These volumes are backed up in SSDs and are designed for performance-intensive database and application workloads. 
  • Magnetic volumes—are backed by hard disk drives. This previous generation volumes are best suited for smaller databases and are also the cheapest.

Delete unattached EBS volumes

When you delete an instance, usually the EBS volume remains unattached. This means it continues to generate charges. A good practice is to set a policy in AWS Lifecycle Manager AWS to search for unattached volumes and delete unused ones.

Use snapshots instead of volumes

A snapshot can provide the latest copy of the data in the EBS volume at a fraction of the cost. You can copy the image to a snapshot and delete the volume, reducing costs.

Delete old snapshots

You can be tempted to create as many snapshots as possible to ensure you have enough backup in case of data loss.The downside of this is having unnecessarily old snapshots. The costs can add up quickly if you don’t configure the settings to automatically delete older snapshots. You can set up a standard of how many snapshots you want to retain per volume and delete the extra.

Delete orphaned snapshots

When you terminate an attached EBS volume, it gets automatically deleted. But this does not eliminate the snapshot. You can then keep the snapshot and delete the volume, but there are cases where you don’t need it anymore. Deleting orphaned snapshots can help reduce costs.  

The Bottom Line

Keeping cloud storage costs under control can be difficult, regardless of the size of your organization. You can cut costs using snapshots to prevent overprovisioning storage. At the end of the day, a good start for minimizing costs would be monitoring your usage and setting up policies to manage unused resources.  

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