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Amazon Web Services helps users avoid bill shock

IT staff can now keep track of the total cost or the charge for individual services and get alerts via email

Amazon Web Services users can now start receiving billing alerts that help them continuously monitor their cloud costs, the company said on Thursday.

One of the basic tenants of cloud services like those offered by Amazon is the pay-as-you-go model, where the eventual monthly bill will reflect actual usage. But when usage varies from hour to hour, it is always a good idea to log in to the AWS portal and check account activity on a regular basis, according to an Amazon blog post.

To make that process simpler, IT staff can now be notified automatically via email when estimated charges reach a pre-defined threshold. The alerts can, for example, be linked to the total cost or the cost of an individual service.

For example, an alert can be set up to make sure that usage remains within Amazon's free usage tier -- which allows new AWS customers to use Amazon's cloud services for up to a year, as long as they stay within certain limits -- or to find out when a budget limit is approaching.

To get started, monitoring of the charges have to be enabled on the AWS Account Activity page. Once that is done, users can set the first billing alert based on total AWS charges, and minutes later can establish alerts for charges related to individual services.

The estimated charges are based on usage and will increase as more resources are consumed, according to Amazon. The messages are Amazon SNS (Simple Notification Service) notifications triggered by CloudWatch alarms, it said.

The free usage tier for CloudWatch and SNS includes up to 10 alarms and 1,000 email notifications per month.

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