How to Tag Cloud Resources

23 July 2020 | Posted by Matt Willis

Creating a comprehensive cloud tagging strategy with the help of an expert partner helps your business to identify its needs and manage its cloud in an effective manner. But what exactly is cloud tagging? Tagging is a vital tool for gaining visibility into your cloud spend and usage. By assigning a tag to your resources in the cloud, you can categorize and identify them.

What are tags?

Tags are metadata labels made up of a combination of a key and values. No matter your cloud platform of choice, you can apply tags to your resources to easily organize and search through your information by group or value. Governance is at the heart of cloud tagging, and implementing a cloud tagging policy within your business helps you complete actions relating to allocation, compliance, reports, installation, and more. 

Tags can also be useful in designing automation strategies. For example, you can use Tags in conjunction with functions to have machines stop/start at certain times of the day, stopping the creation of resources that don't contain a certain tag. 

Tags are unique in that they’re only meaningful to you. To cloud providers, they’re simply strings of characters with zero semantic meaning. They’re entirely separate from your code architecture. By attaching tags to resources, you can then filter through them based on the tags used and keep them logically organized.

Tags must be made up of a key and value pairing. The ‘key’ acts as the tag’s category, while the ‘value’ is the description. If a department of your business is using a cloud service, then that department is the ‘key’, while the values would be made up of the services within that department.

However, implementing tags without consistent naming conventions is virtually useless. A stringent tagging policy that lays the foundation for exact spelling, capitalization, and format for each new tag is key to consistency, otherwise you may end up with numerous tags for a single name, leading to confusion. For instance, 'Finance' may be written lower case as 'finance', or even spelled incorrectly like 'finace'.

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Tips for an effective cloud tagging strategy

Simply creating tags isn’t enough to get the most out of using them. For your business to benefit, you need a tagging strategy tailored to your business’ needs and how it uses the cloud already.

Identify and communicate business needs

The first step to creating a strategy that works is to understand why your business needs cloud tagging and the benefits it brings. Including your stakeholders in the discussion gives you visibility into how to build a tagging system that works for everyone.

If your business has a cloud tagging system in place, you need to perform an audit on your existing system. Ensure the infrastructure you have already works for your team before proceeding any further.

Simplify your strategy

If your business infrastructure is already complex, then keeping your initial strategy simple is vital to ensure you maximize the usefulness of the information you receive. Select a few areas of your business where you want to understand your costs better and you’ll be able to gain considerable visibility into these areas.

Just as important is making sure these processes remain simple as your business grows. The system should be made to work for your business and can grow in complexity at a rate that mirrors the organization.

Decide on how to use tagging

Cloud tagging answers key questions about how organizations are using the cloud. Define which questions are most important to your business early on so you understand why cloud tagging is a necessity.

When trying to determine where your costs are coming from, ask questions like:

  • How much does this product cost to operate?
  • Are there unused resources in my dev/test environment?
  • Which cost centers are the biggest areas of spend?

Define your tag vocabulary

Once you’ve decided on the target areas of your business, you’re able to decide on the specific tags you want to use. These are some commonly used examples surrounding business and structure:

  • Application Name
  • Business Unit
  • CreatedBy
  • Environment
  • Cost Center
  • Service
  • Product

It’s necessary to focus when building an effective cloud tagging strategy. Instead of just creating tags immediately, the way to get consistent results is by following the previous three steps outlined in this blog. By doing so, your cloud tags are more focused and have had input from the whole team. Inconsistency makes it harder to see what’s happening with your cloud usage.

Utilize a Cloud Cost Management Platform

Using a spreadsheet to manage and decode thousands of tagged resources isn't best practice and not recommended. A cloud cost management platform enables you to process tags into actionable analysis, and certain platforms can compensate for typos and spelling variations to help keep tags organized. The earlier you involve a cloud cost management platform in your tagging process, the better.

Each cloud provider enables cloud tagging, but they operate in different ways. Depending on who your provider is, you’ll need to apply a slightly different method to tag your resources effectively.

How to use the AWS Tag Editor Function

Amazon Web Service's Tag Editor allows you to add and edit tags of any resource in AWS. Once you've found resources to tag, you can use the editor to add, view, edit, or delete tags. 

Finding resources to tag:

  1. Sign into the AWS Management Console and select Resource Groups. Then, choose Tag Editor. 
  2. (Optional step) Choose regions in which to search for resources. Your current region is selected as your default.
  3. Choose at least one resource type from the Resource Type drop down. You can add or edit tags for up to 20 individual resource types at one time, or simply choose All Resource Types. 
  4. (Optional step) Enter a tag key, or key and value pair, into the Tags field. By doing so, you'll limit the resources in the current region to those tagged with your specific values. When you've finished, choose Add or press Enter (choosing Add enables you to add more tags). By leaving the Tags field empty, you'll find all resources of the specified type within your region. 
  5. When your query is ready, choose Search Resources. Results are then displayed in the Resource Search Results field.
  6. (Optional step) Choose the Preferences icon in your results to choose the number of rows you want displayed. You can show columns for tag keys that appear in your search results, or a selected subset of your results. 

It’s also possible to view tags of selected resources as well. Tag Editor shows you existing tags on selected resources that appear in your results query. 

  1. In the results of your Find Resources to Tag query, select a number in the Total Tags column for any resource, for which you want to view the existing tags. Note: resources that have a dash in the Total Tags column don't have existing tags. 
  2. View the existing tags in Resource Tags. This window can also be opened on the Manage Tags page. 

You can also export your results findings to a comma-separated values (CSV) file to help you develop a tagging strategy for resources in your organization, or determine where there are overlaps or inconsistencies in tagging across resources. 

  1. In the results of your query, choose Export Resources to CSV.
  2. When prompted by your browser, choose to open the CSV file or save it to a location that's convenient. 


How to tag in Azure

When cloud tagging in Azure, there is a key and value tag limit of 15 per resource, and you can only tag resources that are recognized by Azure Resource Manager. It’s important to remember that while tag names aren't case-sensitive, tag values are.

  1. To view tags for a resource or group, look for existing tags in the overview. The list will be empty if no tags have been previously applied.
  2. Select Click Here to Add Tag.
  3. Add a name and value to the tag.
  4. Continue to add as many tags as you need. When finished, select Save.
  5. The tags are now displayed in the overview.

You can also assign tags in bulk on Azure:

  1. From the resources list, tick the check boxes for the resources you want to assign to a tag.
  2. Select Assign Tags.
  3. Add names and values, then select Save.

How to label in GCP

The Cloud Console can be used to add labels to a single project or multiple at once.

  1. Open the labels page in the Cloud Console.
  2. Choose the Select a project dropdown.
  3. Click + Add label to add a new entry. Enter the label key and value for each label you want to add.
  4. Click Save when finished.

To add labels to more than one project at once:

  1. Open the Manage Resources page in the Cloud Console.
  2. Select the organization and projects that you want to add labels to.
  3. In the Labels tab, click + Add labels and enter the label key and value for each one.
  4. Click Save when finished.

Once the labels have been added, you can filter projects by typing the label key or value into the filter box. Results can be previewed thanks to the keys and values suggested in the box.

Maximize Tag Effectiveness

To see the real benefits of cloud tagging, it’s important to work with an expert in the field. Partnering with a cloud management provider helps you to forge a clearer strategy that works towards the identified needs of your business. Cass has certified cloud experts that work alongside your organization to tackle the complexity behind maximizing your cloud usage, and help you manage your cloud.

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Topics: Cloud Management Services

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