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Track your cloud costs with BigQuery for easy analysis

TL;DR – Regular file export for Google Cloud billing is going away on May 15th! Try out this interactive tutorial to set up exporting and explore your billing data with BigQuery

You may have seen an email from Google Cloud reminding you to set up billing data export to BigQuery, and letting you know that file export options are going away. More specifically:

Starting May 15, 2023, your daily usage and cost estimates won’t be automatically exported to a Cloud Storage bucket. Your existing Cloud Storage buckets will continue to exist, but no new files will be added on an ongoing basis.

In fact, I even received one of these notifications since I had an old billing account (or two) that still had file export enabled. Even though the file export is going away, exporting your billing data to BigQuery gives you more detail and more capabilities to analyze, so it’s a big upgrade.

Start from the start

While Google Cloud does offer a free trial and free tier of services, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that most cloud services cost money to use. With the unique properties of the cloud, it’s much easier to bill for exact usage of various services, like pay-per-second for virtual machines. However, this can also become an overwhelming amount of information when a large number of services are being used across multiple teams. In order to make sure you understand your billing data, Google Cloud offers that data through direct reporting in the Cloud console, file exports, and exporting to BigQuery.

Most importantly, the file export for Cloud Billing data is going away on May 15th (the file exports for specific reports, like the cost table, aren’t going away). This was an option for billing accounts to generate daily CSV or JSON files into a Cloud Storage bucket so you could download the files and analyze them as needed. While these exports were definitely helpful for looking at your billing data, over time they couldn’t keep up with the complexity and volume of data that comes out of a billing account.

The most important thing to note here is simple: this export option is being deprecated entirely, so if you’re currently using it (and even if you’re not), you should make sure exporting to BigQuery is enabled.

Large data, large queries

Exporting from your billing account into BigQuery has been an option for the past few years, and now more than ever it’s the central option for managing your billing data. Of course, BigQuery is a natural home for large datasets with the scale and granularity of your billing data. In addition to that, exporting to BigQuery also happens more frequently than a daily file export, so you can do cost anomaly detection much faster.

As teams and organizations become larger, it can be increasingly difficult to figure out which groups are responsible for different costs. If your organization is using a chargeback model (where one group pays for all resources and then breaks down cost details for individual teams/groups to be responsible for their usage), then using BigQuery is the best way for you to accurately collect and analyze costs. On top of being able to query directly against your data, BigQuery also makes it much easier to integrate with other tools, like Looker or Looker Studio for visualization.

The actual data being exported to BigQuery are hourly records of every service your billing account is responsible for, along with detailed information like the SKU, what type of unit is being measured, and how many of that unit you’re paying for.

A small snapshot of billing data exported to BigQuery

I suspect most folks using the file export (and probably most folks overall) will be fine with the standard export for BigQuery, and can use the detailed cost and pricing options if they need even more details. You can find some more details on all the exports in this blog post.

With the file export going away, it’s also important to mention: exporting your Cloud Billing data to BigQuery starts when you enable it, and doesn’t include older data. So make sure you set yourself up for future success by enabling billing export as soon as possible. Try using our built-in walkthrough to help you enable the export and to get started analyzing the data! You can also read more in the documentation.

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