How ActivePlatform helps CSP resellers increase the loyalty of customers

Going to the cloud brings customers not only new opportunities but also new concerns. One of such concerns is cloud cost control. Complex billing rules and different offerings sometimes may become confusing. Customers, for a good reason, want to understand their cloud services spendings. It seems only vendors of cloud brokerage platforms can help figure it out.

Using Microsoft Azure as an example, this article illustrates how ActivePlatform helps ensure customers' confidence and brings spending transparency. You will see that the only way to increase customers' loyalty is to build solid trust in the accuracy of billing in a cloud brokerage platform.

The key difficulties of billing Microsoft Azure subscriptions

Microsoft Azure's flexibility and verity make it not only attractive for customers but also challengeable for CSP resellers. Think about a general cloud service. It usually has fixed monthly or annual payments. The payments are based on the number of purchased licenses, and it is a simple model.

On the contrary, Microsoft Azure is a pay-as-you-go service with dozens of resources. A CSP brokerage platform must follow different pricing models for different resources and measure their actual consumption to charge a customer correctly. More to it, all numbers are subject to change from day to day that may worry customers.
Unlike the modern Microsoft Azure Plan, legacy Microsoft Azure was trickier and could raise additional questions. ActivePlatform inspires CSP resellers to offer the best level of trust and transparency for all customers and allows migrating legacy customers to Microsoft Azure Plan out of the box.
ActivePlatform offers a complex solution to the Microsoft Azure billing challenges. One part includes a process of verification of numbers in the platforms against the numbers from Microsoft. This process is called reconciliation and involves the ActivePlatform support team working with recon files of customers.

Another part of the solution is providing customers with information about their consumption in a timely manner. This part implies that customers interact with analytics tools via their self-service portal.

Trust in CSP resellers: Microsoft Azure reconciliation

The ActivePlatform support team helps CSP resellers to compare internal and Microsoft numbers for Microsoft Azure subscriptions on a demand basis. Our specialists provide any required clarifications on the apparent discrepancy with reconciliation files to prove the cloud brokerage platform's correctness.
azure recon file
Working with recon files requires a lot of patience and attention
Significant apparent anomalies in Microsoft Azure consumption can usually be explained by human factors. In general, the rest of the discrepancies in cloud brokerage platforms are caused by technical limitations and cannot be eliminated completely. In ActivePlatform, we took several actions to minimize any discrepancies. Here is our list of checks and approaches that can be useful during the reconciliation process.

The right recon file

One of the most straightforward checks is to make sure that the correct recon file is provided. This advice may sound too obvious, but for a given customer, it is easy to get confused with a mistaken recon file for another month. The cost structure may often be very similar from month to month, but not the numbers.

Solution: As far it is just a human factor, our support specialists double check the charge dates in a provided recon file before the actual reconciliation.

Resource unit prices

Resource unit prices for Microsoft Azure are subject to change. If prices were stored in a local billing system, they would become outdated. However, keeping local resource unit prices updated is not a trivial task.

Solution: We eliminate this issue by the platform architecture. ActivePlatform does not store any information about resources and their unit prices for Microsoft Azure. The actual prices are retrieved from Microsoft and are always up to date.

Tiered pricing

Microsoft Azure subscriptions may have one or more resources billed by ranges. It means that for the resource, different unit prices are applied depending on the consumed amount. Here is an example:
The first 100 units of the resource are charged at 1.00. The next 100 000 units of the resource are charged at 0.80, and everything above is charged at 0.50. If a customer consumes 102 units of the resource, they will be charged at 100×1.0 + 2×0.8 = 101.6

For some cases, Microsoft offers a free amount of Azure resources. It is not precisely tiered pricing, but it requires the same approach. A resource has different prices depending on ranges, just starting from zero.

The lack of ability to follow the tiered pricing model might cause huge discrepancies, especially for big customers.

Solution: ActivePlatform retrieves from Microsoft resource unit prices for every range and applies the suitable price for the consumed amount. Usage tiers are reset every billing period. Included resources are billed at zero price within the free amount.

Reserved Instances and third-party resources

If a customer ordered Reserved Instances (RI) or third-party resources directly via Azure Marketplace, other consumption records appear in recon files. As a result, additional rows may cause additional discrepancies.

Solution: ActivePlatform processes the consumption of third-party resources and Azure RI within a Microsoft Azure subscription as separate resource categories.

Rounding errors

Finally, one that cannot be eliminated is calculation errors due to the rounding operations. Tiny fractions may be accumulated during the billing period, which eventually leads to discrepancies. The worst case is when customers use a small number of low-cost resources. The product of these small values usually causes slight differences in charges.

Using local currencies and floating exchange rates add up more rounding operations and possible discrepancies. There is no universal solution for this aspect. However, the impact is usually extremely low.

Transparency for customers: self-service portal and cost analysis tools

As a part of better transparency, ActivePlatform offers customers a self-service portal with advanced cost analysis tools. Among them:

  • Filters by subscription, category, tag, or resource.
  • Daily and monthly granularity.
  • Downloadable reports in Excel.

ActivePlatform includes another excellent tool — monthly email reports. A report includes a weekly usage chart and a costs comparison with the previous month. Overall, it also encourages customers to use cost analysis tools more frequently.
azure monthly report
Costs dynamics and structure in a monthly report for a Microsoft Azure subscription

The loyalty of customers is secured in ActivePlatform

By choosing ActivePlatform, resellers get a trusted cloud brokerage platform with accurate billing. It applies not only to Microsoft Azure or CSP program but a vast portfolio of integrated cloud services, including Google, VMware, and other vendors. In couple with great transparency, it reduces customers' worries about cloud services spendings. Reliable and timely costs information allows customers to be sure that resellers treat them fairly. Ultimately, confident and loyal customers become a key to a long-term relationship and a steady revenue flow for resellers.

Get in touch, and we will consult you on how ActivePlatform can help raise the profits for your cloud business.