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5 Facts about Amazon EBS That Will Save You Time and Money


Are you thinking of using Amazon EBS? The easy scalability and the option to pay per usage make it an attractive service, but there are some things to consider if you want to avoid any surprises in your AWS bill. In this article, we offer five tips to help you effectively cut your Amazon EBS usage costs.

What Is Amazon EBS?

Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) is a service offered to Amazon Web Services (AWS) users. This service provides block storage volumes, which can be used in combination with Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and in the AWS cloud.

The Amazon EC2 provides resizable cloud-based compute capacity, which can facilitate web-scale cloud computing. EBS provides storage for EC2 instances through block level storage volumes.
EBS volumes are versatile and can be used as a primary storage device for a database or attached as a root partition to an EC2 instance. Using a system of snapshots, the volume can serve as a backup, remaining after the EC2 instance is deleted. It's key features are:

  • It’s a plug-and-play system
  • It allows for automatic replication of each volume
  • Low latency performance
  • Easy scalability

How Much It Costs

Amazon EBS storage works as a pay-per-use service. Companies pay according to how many gigabytes per month of storage they need. This is different from EC2 instances, which only generate charges while running, EBS volumes generate charges as long as they are attached to instances. This happens even when the instance has stopped, but not when it’s deleted.

Therefore, there is a risk of EBS volumes generating charges in the background, while unnoticed because their attached instances are not running. This can amount to hefty sums accrued in the AWS bill.

How can you reduce your costs while maximizing the EBS features? Below we explain five tricks to reduce EBS costs.

5 Tips to Reduce EBS Costs

1. Adjust the Volume to Your Performance Requirements

If you buy more storage than you need, you will end up paying more for unused storage. Therefore, it is crucial to select the right size of EBS Volumes. The blocks should be adjusted considering factors such as capacity, traffic (IOPS, Input/Output operations per second), and the application throughput. You should monitor the read-write access volume of the blocks, provisioned periodically to detect unused blocks. If the volume of requests/responses is low, you should downsize the EBS blocks and reduce costs.

EBS volumes come in three sizes━General Purpose (SSD), Provisioned IOPS (SSD), and Magnetic. A good tip is to attach EC2 to General Purpose SSD volumes and reserve Provisioned IOPS for applications that are mission critical and need a high throughput per volume.

2. Delete Unattached Volumes

The volume persists even after the EC2 instance has stopped, and is generating charges as long as the EBS is attached to the EC2 instance. This persistence is good to retain the data, but you can end up paying for unused storage.

A simple way to cut costs is to delete unattached EBS volumes. While they are marked as “available”, they can’t take any traffic, so you cannot use them. You should delete an orphaned volume only after checking you don’t need the data in it. A good option is to take a snapshot of the EBS volume and then eliminate it.

You can use AWS snapshots for disaster recovery. They are a great tool to compress the data, and they are cheaper as they are hosted in Amazon S3, which has lower rates. This allows you to store cold data, which you don’t need to access frequently, but with wich you can restore the EBS volume if needed.

3. Identify Idle Volumes

Having eliminated unattached volumes, you need to look out for volumes that are still attached but aren’t doing anything, and which generate unnecessary charges. To discover these idle volumes, a good tip is to look at the volume throughput and IOPS. If this volume has not had any traffic or disc operations in a while, the volume is not in use and can be eliminated.

4. Tag Everything

Tags are useful tools that allow you to locate the high-cost areas in your database.
By applying tags to EBS volumes, you can search, manage and filter resources using metadata.

Moreover, you can use tags to organize and edit resources, forming groups within the AWS console.

5. Manage Snapshots

AWS snapshots are copies of the data present in an EBS volume. Since Snapshots are cheaper than active EBS volumes, they are an easy way to backup unattached volumes before terminating them.

However, snapshots get outdated from time to time. A good rule of thumb is to set a period of time after which the snapshots are no longer relevant. Afterward, you can set up the system to delete older snapshots periodically while deciding how many snapshots you are going to retain per volume.

The Bottom Line

While managing the costs of your AWS platform can seem tricky at first, it all boils down to monitoring your usage periodically. The key is to identify unused space and reorganize it. Equipped with these tips, you can minimize costs and optimize your platform performance.

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