How to Avoid Big Cloud Computing Bills

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away… Ok, maybe not, but 4 years ago I did write a blog post Clearing the Skies around Windows Azure which was aimed at helping people understand the pricing model of the Cloud. It seems much hasn’t changed in the past 4 years regarding pricing being the biggest concern when investigating the move to the Cloud, however, there have been a number of changes in Microsoft Azure to help address this concern.

Azure Spending Limits

If you have a Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN), BizSpark or Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) account you are able to activate benefits for Azure credits. These accounts come with a form of protection from spending additional dollars on top of the credits given in the form of a Spending Limit which is set initially to $0. A $0 spending limit means that you do not want to be charged for reasons over and above the credits you receive as part of the benefit.

This $0 spending limit is achieved by disabling the subscription when the benefit amount is reached, which intern will suspend access to resources (storage and SQL become read-only), and delete resources which would continue to accrue charges under normal operation (Cloud Services, VMs, etc). The subscription is re-activated at the beginning of the next billing cycle provided more credits are available.

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It is possible to change the spending limit as described in the Change the Azure Spending Limit which supports the following actions:

  • Remove spending limit indefinitely
  • Remove spending limit for the current billing period
  • Turn on spending limit in the next billing period <start date of billing period>
  • Keep my current spending limit option

If you remove the spending limit, the earliest you can turn it back on is at the start of the next billing cycle.

Azure Billing Alerts (Preview)

Where as Azure Spending Limits provide a way to avoid spending additional money, Azure Billing Alerts (currently in preview at the time of writing this blog entry) provide a way to set an Alert when you reach a spending threshold with your subscriptions billable resources.

How to Setup a Billing Alert on Microsoft Azure

  1. Login to the Account Center using the Microsoft Account for your subscription
  2. Select the subscription you wish to add a Billing Alert for.
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  3. Select the Alerts menu item
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  4. Select Add Alert
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  5. Fill out the Alert form with the following details:
    1. Alert Name
    2. Alert For
      1. Billing Total
      2. Monetary Credits
    3. Amount Spent
    4. Email Recipient 1
    5. Email Recipient 2 (Optional)

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  6. Click Save.