Cloud Sprawl: Why is it dangerous?

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?

When a large number of cloud services are used across an enterprise, it makes it difficult for IT to ensure that corporate data is managed and protected. In many cases, IT may not even be aware of the many unsanctioned applications that are being used by a wide range of departments and employees. This lack of control over cloud instances is called cloud sprawl, and it presents a major challenge for IT.

The use of cloud provisioning and Software as a Service (SaaS) has grown significantly over the past decade, and if not effectively governed, it can lead to significant inefficiencies and serious security concerns. Let’s take a closer look at the problem, its ramifications, and the dangers that it presents to effective IT management.

cloud sprawl

Causes of Cloud Sprawl

Similar to server sprawl or virtual machine sprawl, cloud sprawl usually begins when an organization fails to adequately monitor and manage individual cloud instances. For example, a software developer might launch a new workload in Amazon Web Services (AWS) or deploy a private cloud to test a new software version or database, but then neglect to power down or delete the workload when it’s no longer needed. Because businesses pay for public cloud computing resources every month, the proliferation of unneeded cloud instances can be costly for an enterprise.

Cloud sprawl can also refer to the proliferation of SaaS instances, such as Salesforce, Microsoft Office 365, or any other online service for which an organization creates and pays for new user accounts, but doesn’t actually use them.

In some cases, different departments within the same organization may use similar services from different SaaS providers to accomplish the same tasks. This can result in inconsistent or non-interoperable data, which can cause communication issues between business departments. It also eliminates the potential for bulk SaaS discounts, which providers often offer to organizations with a large number of user accounts, costing a company more.

Cloud sprawl can also refer to the uncontrolled proliferation of cloud providers, which are used by different departments within an organization. For example, software developers may use AWS for computing and storage instances, while a research and development group might use Google Cloud resources for big data projects. Cloud providers are not yet fully interoperable, so a business that uses different cloud providers may face incompatible APIs and data consistency challenges.

The Risks of Cloud Sprawl

As you may already be piecing together, cloud sprawl can lead to:

  • Avoidable expenses
  • Security issues
  • Environment inefficiencies

Now, let’s review the risks associated with cloud sprawl and how to avoid them.

Unnecessary costs

The more your budget is tied up in your cloud workloads, the less you have to allocate for other, more important projects.

Unnecessary costs can be detrimental to any business. As cloud computing becomes increasingly ubiquitous, it’s crucial for companies to evaluate how their budget is allocated for cloud workloads and start thinking about IT cost optimization. Reallocating resources from unnecessary costs could mean more money for projects that drive innovation and growth. By closely examining cloud spending, companies can ensure they’re optimizing their investments in the most cost-effective way possible.


Cloud security has become increasingly important in cloud computing as organizations move more of their data and operations to the cloud. However, there are many potential threats to the security of cloud-based information, ranging from misconfigured settings to inadequate identity and access management. To ensure complete safety and privacy, organizations must take proactive steps to protect their cloud data from unauthorized access and malicious attacks.

Misconfigurations pose the biggest threat to your cloud security, but mismanagement leading to excess data and accounts can also cause problems. Having the proper security settings in cloud applications is an important line of defense that, if missed, can leave your business open to hackers. Worse yet, because these can be forgotten pockets of data, they can go unnoticed and allow infiltrations to go undetected.


Inefficiencies in cloud management can have a huge impact on an organization’s operations. Without proper coordination between departments, costly redundancies, and misused resources can occur.

Additionally, if different departments are using different cloud providers, it can cause confusion and create additional strain on the team’s resources. By having a centralized system for managing the organization’s clouds, companies can reduce costs and make sure everyone is working from the same source of information.

cloud sprawl

3 steps to getting control of it

The best way to mitigate the issues associated with cloud sprawl is to keep in mind the three following concepts: Plan, Control, and Improve.


Planning is vital in every aspect of modern business. There’s never a bad time to have a plan in place before you begin an expansion or a data transfer, but it’s often easy to get caught up in the momentum of new technology. However, even if your cloud usage wasn’t strictly organized from day one, it’s never too late to fix this.

The first step in mitigation is to put together a list of all your current services, usage history, and payments due. This will allow you to gain a comprehensive picture of the current situation you’re in. It also enables you to plan any further expansion to plug gaps you may have and to start reducing redundant services you don’t need to be paying for.


Controlling your usage and analyzing your future needs can help to cut costs quickly. It may be possible to offload some of the services you don’t intend to use and negotiate early deals with service providers before you need the extra room in any particular area. You can also look at automation and how it can further reduce your expenditure to save you the time that could be used to build your business and delight your customers.


It’s also a good idea to look at future-proofing your plans by scheduling a regular review, which helps to avoid price rises and makes sure every service you’re paying for is being utilized and used correctly.

By putting these steps into place, you should see a reduction in unwanted sprawl, an improvement in the control you have over your services, and a reduction in overheads.

Cloud technology is a great choice for streamlining your processes and accessing data on the go, but it does need planning. Keeping things under control helps your business make the best of the enhanced flexibility of the cloud and ensures you grow your company and not your expenses.

Your cloud environment isn’t doomed to sprawl

The good news is cloud sprawl is not an inevitable side effect of implementing a multicloud strategy. With proper planning and strategic cloud adoption and migration practices, it can be avoided from the start. Starting with implementing the right guard rails and following that up with regular audits and diligent monitoring with the proper tooling is foundational. And continuing with widespread communication and an overarching cloud strategy within an organization are critical components needed to ensure cloud success. Working with a managed cloud services provider is a further asset in helping your business tackle sprawl and reap the full benefits of a multicloud environment, without burning holes in your budget.


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