Cloud sprawl: what is it, and how can you prevent it?

For all the benefits of cloud computing, it can also lead to new challenges for businesses to manage. A prime example is cloud sprawl.

Thanks to the rapid growth and ease of use for cloud computing instances and services, it’s easy to land in the cloud sprawl pitfall. As we rely on more cloud services, business IT can snowball into something unmanageable.

Here, we take a closer look at cloud sprawl. What is it, and how can you prevent it?

What is cloud sprawl?

Cloud sprawl is where your business has too many cloud instances, services or providers. To the extent that, that is, the growth of your cloud presence is unmanageable.  

Cloud sprawl can refer to times where you have multiple services of a similar nature from cloud service providers. Different departments will use these similar services to complete the same task. In turn, you then experience communication and integration issues — as well as potentially missing out on bulk discount prices.

You might also use the term ‘cloud sprawl’ to mean that you have too many software as a service (SaaS) instances, for example. In such cases, you pay for accounts or licences that you’re not actively using.

In short, cloud sprawl is where your cloud presence gets out of control and sprawls too wide to manage.

Why does cloud sprawl happen?

Cloud sprawl happens when an organisation loses control and view over its various departmental cloud-based processes.

This control loss can be due to shadow IT — tech tools used by employees without official approval. It can be due to poor communication between teams. It may be because an old cloud service isn’t properly powered down or deleted when a new one is implemented.

The issue is, cloud sprawl means that you don’t have an adequate view or control over the use of your resources. The ensuing repercussions hit everything from expenses, to efficiency, to the security and use of company information and data.

What to do about cloud sprawl

It’s important you know how to check for/ identify when you are falling foul of cloud sprawl. A good way to do this is to create a centralised cloud strategy and record. That is, actively keep track of every cloud service your teams are using and why.

You should also have clear policies in place for how a team can add a new cloud instance to the business. Make sure such decisions first go through the IT department, for instance. Make it good practice to regularly check you’ve closed a cloud instance when you no longer need it.

In cases where you realise you have already fallen into cloud sprawl, take time to analyse the programs, services, and instances in question. Delete those that aren’t in use or are redundant. Then consider if you have any areas where you have two cloud services completing the same task, and choose only one to continue with.

Cloud sprawl

Organisations can fall into endless IT pitfalls. Particularly common are areas where IT resources could be better spent (or saved), or where teams end up inadvertently making things harder for each other than they need to be.

Cloud sprawl is one example. But it doesn’t have to be an inevitable hurdle.

With careful, active management of your cloud services and instances, you can keep in control of your cloud use.

Useful links

The importance of system integration: does your software play well with others?

Using automation for cyber protection

The top 5 automation pitfalls to avoid