How to Analyze Cloud Cost Using the AWS Cost Explorer

aws cost explorer

You can keep AWS (Amazon Web Service) costs under control using the AWS Cost Explorer. The AWS Cost Explorer is a cost management tool that lets users see how costs vary over time. With this software, you can export reports, detect anomalous usage patterns, view periods with the highest cloud spending, and much more.

You can also filter costs by service, time, cost centers, users, and other criteria. Most importantly, you can use Cost Explorer to forecast future spending and even get cost optimization recommendations.

AWS Cost Explorer is also ideal for making data-driven decisions in rightsizing AWS resources.

Also Read: AWS Billing and Cost Management

How to Use the AWS Cost Explorer

Using the Cost Explorer is very easy, as engineers have analyzed most of the data for you. Be sure you enable Cost Explorer under the Billing and Cost Management console. The Cost Explorer dashboard has several use cases:

  • Forecast Future Costs: You can use the AWS Cost Explorer to generate an almost accurate future forecast of AWS costs. AWS uses data from the previous 12 months to do quantitative analysis and modeling, which helps forecast costs for the upcoming year.
  • Make Data-Driven Decisions: The success of your cloud journey depends on the decisions made along the way. AWS recommends making data-driven decisions, which support concrete data. The Cost Explorer displays valuable insights through charts, bars, and other visualization elements. Use the Cost Explorer data table to find the most costly availability zones, services, and users. Using cost allocation tags assists inaccurate tracking of AWS costs.
  • Compare Costs: You can know the most productive and non-productive months by comparing month-to-month costs. You can create a monthly cost by service report, which highlights the cost of each service in the previous 12 months. This report displays the five most costly AWS services.
  • View RI Utilization: RI utilization metrics let you know if you have rightsized instances. The RI utilization should be at least 80% for consistent workloads. A higher percentage could mean you may exceed the limits, while a low RI utilization means you are paying for what you don’t use. The combined utilization metrics indicate the average demand for cloud compute capacity. You can also check for unused reserved instances. AWS also gives RI recommendations based on your previous usage.
  • Use Pre-Configured Views: The AWS Cost Explorer has pre-configured views, dashboards, and templates to help you get the data that matters. This data is already easy to digest; there’s no need for further analysis. In addition, these pre-configured views reflect accurate AWS costs, so you may see all hidden costs and identify culprits that lead to a cost spike.

What is the AWS Cost Explorer API?

You can use the AWS Cost Explorer API to integrate other tools with your AWS environment. APIs help eliminate inefficiencies by offering micro-services to help get more meaning out of your data. With an API, you can link Cost Explorer with other Business Intelligence tools, integrate with AWS databases, export data, and much more.

The AWS Cost Explorer API also secures your Cost Explorer dashboard by integrating with other IAM permission providers.

AWS Cost Explorer Integrations

To get the best out of Cost Explorer, you’ll need interoperability with other AWS cost-saving tools.

AWS CloudWatch: Use Amazon CloudWatch to get alerts whenever you reach certain thresholds, which is critical in forecasts from the Cost Explorer as a threshold for receiving billing and cost alerts. Use CloudWatch to monitor costs in real-time before they spiral out of control.

AWS CUR: The cost and usage reports (CUR) are a detailed report of AWS costs, allowing you to dive deep into costs with finer granularity. The CUR lets you share AWS costs with other team members by exporting a CSV file.

AWS Budgets: AWS budgets let you set a budget and receive alerts whenever you exceed the set budget. You can use data from AWS Cost Explorer to analyze costs, RI (reverse integration) utilization, and service usage, to set a practical cloud budget.

AWS TCO Calculator: The total cost of ownership calculator displays the overall budget of running all resources in the AWS cloud. You can key in data from the Cost Explorer to help estimate the total cost of ownership. The Cost Explorer will give input parameters such as services, server type, memory, compute capacity, and much more. The Cost Explorer helps in taking the guesswork out of forecasts.

The Bottom Line

While the AWS Cost Explorer is good for getting started, there are a limited number of templates for the free tier plan. In addition, it takes some time before new users adapt to the cost explorer user interface. The nOps dashboard with Cost Explorer capabilities is a better alternative to the default Cost Explorer. nOps gives you inbuilt integration, charts that go beyond bars and lines, more views, and more profound cost-saving recommendations. nOps has a good interface and is easier to use.