Creating a CloudWatch Billing Alarm

Navigating the world of AWS prices and billing can be a very daunting task. AWS has over 75 main services, each with their own complex pricing structure comprised of dozens of ways you can be charged for various usage. Just last week, I read a story of an AWS user trying the newly released service, Macie. That user turned it on just to “test it out” and thought it has been disabled afterwards. However, Macie was not disabled and the user ended up incurring over $60,000 in AWS charges in just a few days. Now this is a very extreme example (if true), but I think it’s what we all fear when using AWS – that unexpected HUGE bill. So how can we prevent this from happening? Lucky for us, AWS provides a tool for setting up billing alarms, including the means for notification.

Creating an AWS CloudWatch Billing Alarm with Email Notification:

1) From the AWS Console go to CloudWatch.

2) Under Alarms, on the left-hand navigation bar, select Billing.

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3) Click on Create Alarm.

4) In the exceed input field, put the monetary amount at which you want to be notified. Meaning once your monthly AWS bill reaches that amount, it will trigger the alarm.

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5) In the send a notification to input field, select new list, and then type in the email address (your own) that you want to receive notifications at when your monthly AWS bill has exceeded the amount you entered above.

NOTE: If you have an existing SNS topic created, you can select that from the dropdown menu in this field (instead of inputting an email address).

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6) Create the alarm and notification by clicking on Create Alarm.

7) Follow the instructions to “confirm” your email address. (Sign in to your email account, and find the confirmation email from AWS).

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8) You’re done!

NOTE: You should now see an active billing alarm in CloudWatch (and you will receive an email notification when the amount has been exceeded).

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It is important to note that even though this is a good safe guard, it is not foolproof. This alarm will NOT shut down or stop future billing. It will only send you a notification email when that amount has been exceeded. So even with this safe guard in place, it is very important to always understand AWS cost and monitor charges yourself.

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