The pandemic remains a conversation point within the technology sector because of the fundamental impact it had on cloud adoption and digital transformation. Organisations shifted rapidly to the left, taking advantage of solutions that would allow them to remain in business and connected to the local and global markets.

Microsoft Azure saw a 62% revenue growth worldwide in 2020 and it continued to sit in the higher percentages for much of 2021, 2022 and 2023. The platform stepped into a very large gap and delivered what companies needed. However, says Quintin van Zyl, Head of Managed Services at Qwerti, it also introduced some unexpected pitfalls that companies need to manage to ensure their Azure experience is beneficial, not expensive.

“Microsoft Azure really appealed to a significant percentage of the South African market and delivered some exceptional innovation around access, global networks and capabilities,” he says. “However, some companies didn’t scope their move correctly, or they hastily moved into an environment with a rapid lift and shift that ended up costing them a lot more than it should.”

The problem is that companies leapt into the cloud and transformed their existing environments into consumption-based spaces. The cost shift was unexpected. Today, as companies settle back onto their digital heels, they need to refine their Azure posture and reshape how they operate within the cloud to reduce their costs while still gaining all the benefits inherent within the platform.

“The first step is to break down the usage into a component-based approach so you know that, for example, CPU or memory usage or storage are using a certain amount of space, or that they get their own separate billing to improve visibility,” says van Zyl. “You want transparency into ingress and egress data within your storage environment as this is often the biggest cause of bill shock.

” A company is quoted the cost of transferring data locally only to get the bill for international data transfers that’s significantly higher. A lot of companies were presented with a conceptual price and when they moved their workloads into the cloud, the cost was unexpected.”

Which leads to one important word – optimisations. Companies need to optimise their environments so they understand where their billing is going, when their costs reach a certain threshold, and what drives the biggest costs. This should be balanced with alerts that notify decision-makers when costs reach a specific point at a certain time of the month, and if there are spikes in usage.

These alerts allow companies to be more proactive around their Azure usage and spend without having to compromise on performance or spend months worried about the bill.

“It’s also worth working with a service provider who can assess your systems and determine which services and applications you really need, and which you can remove because they no longer serve a purpose,” says van Zyl. “Companies are cash-strapped right now, so refining every last app, service and system means that costs can be saved – it’s less about keeping the lights on and more about figuring out which lights can be turned off.”

For many companies, the giant leap to Azure makes finding the costs and controlling them seem complex and challenging. Van Zyl agrees that this is a problem, but that with meticulous support and ongoing optimisation, companies can refine their Azure commitments to meet their cost expectations without compromise. This is key, because the move to Azure was defined by its ability to provide the business with a competitive advantage, and this doesn’t have to be thrown out at the same time as expenditure.

“The honeymoon is over, it’s time to unpack exactly what’s necessary within your Azure ecosystem and remove anything that doesn’t add value,” concludes van Zyl. “Cloud will remain an invaluable asset and will deliver the agility the business needs, but first, it’s time to tidy up and optimise so every last corner of your cloud fabric delivers results and cost-efficiencies.”