Monday, 28th September 2020

Join the Tag team – how to optimise tagging policies for the cloud

Think of the cloud as a serviced apartment: your business’s fully-managed home on the internet. While the cloud provider is responsible for everything from the underlying architecture to physical security, accessibility and maintenance, the tenant is responsible for their own possessions – in this case, the applications and the data within them. By Jeremy Chaplin, cloud optimisation consultant at KCOM.

Similar to our homes, our clouds can quickly become cluttered and complex as we add more items over the years, making everyday management increasingly unwieldy and expensive. Like the cupboard under the stairs full of defunct devices and outdated documents, the cloud can become a graveyard for once-useful resources that are no longer adding value. But to extend the metaphor, you can’t make better use of your space if you don’t know what you have, and which items should be thrown away. In the same way, you can’t optimise your cloud if you don’t understand its components and which parts of the business they serve.

Every cloud needs constant attention to maximise usability and performance. This is why it’s so important that items are clearly labelled so we know what resources are kept where, and why they’re there. In other words, you have to understand your cloud landscape before you can optimise it. That’s where tagging comes in.

Tagging provides visibility over your cloud spend and usage and represents the all-important first step in taking full control over your enterprise’s cloud.

Making sense of your cloud

You can think of tags as labels, or metadata, that you assign to the resources in your cloud environment to help you identify them from different perspectives, such as who owns an asset or when it was created. This enables you to sort, report and analyse these assets in whatever way you wish. However, some thought is required up-front to ensure your tagging strategy meets your specific requirements.

So, how can you get started on a tagging strategy that will ensure all your resources are fully labelled and identifiable? The first step is to conduct a thorough appraisal of your business needs to ensure that you fully understand what information about your IT estate the organisation requires to function efficiently. What insights would benefit the business, making it easier to align your cloud to use cases?

This can’t be a top-down process: you need to involve every stakeholder across the business – from finance to operations, engineering to human resources – to ensure that your tagging strategy meets all your requirements. The last thing you want is a business department to lose sight of critical resources they need to get the job done, so it’s important that everyone is involved.

Remember, you don’t have to tackle tagging all at once. Start with around three or five classifications for your cloud assets. These should support specific aims such as improving the visibility of your resources, clarifying ownership, or identifying the costs associated with that asset: for example, you could tag by business unit, product or service, owner and role.

Categorise your tags

There’s plenty of time to expand these tag classifications later, but it’s important first to establish a naming convention to avoid confusion or double-tagging. We recommend that you split your tags into four discrete categories – Technical, Business, Automation & Security – and then prefix your tags to clearly identify which category they relate to: for example, ‘tech:Version’ or ‘bus:Customer’. Whatever categories you choose, make sure they are used consistently.

If you have only a small number of resources, then you could manage tagging through a spreadsheet, although this will quickly become impossible to manage as your business and its cloud assets grow. This is where a good cloud service management platform can make all the difference, by not only helping you label and keep track of your assets, but also providing you with detailed analytics and reports – along with real-time recommendations on how to optimise your use of cloud resources.

There’s never a bad time to get your house in order, and the same goes for your cloud. The more you understand about your company’s cloud, the more value you can bring through optimisation. Realising the benefits of cloud computing isn’t a given; it’s the product of thoughtful management. Get tagging today to stop sprawl, save money, and ensure you’re getting the most business value out of your cloud.

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