Getting Started on GCP: Billing Accounts

Before you can get started building infrastructure, applications and services on the public cloud, the first thing you need to concern yourself with is how you are going to pay for it.

About Billing Accounts

If you will be using Google Cloud Platform (GCP), you want to start by creating a Billing Account.

Your Billing Account will be linked to a Google payments profile that will be used to pay for any cloud resources you create, such as virtual machines and storage, as well as any other services you consume, such as network traffic or support.

In addition to defining how you will pay for your GCP services, your Billing Account is also where you will control access to billing and reports, manage budgets and notifications, and generally monitor the behavior of your GCP account from a financial perspective.

Some of the things you can do with your Billing Account:

  • Change its name or the GCP Organization to which it is linked
  • Control permissions of who can use the account for new projects, who can view costs, and who can modify permissions
  • View credits, transactions, invoices, and payments
  • Configure budgets with thresholds that will send email alerts or messages to Pub/Sub when they are breached
  • Manage automated exports of billing data to CSV or JSON files stored in Cloud Storage or directly to BigQuery
  • Manage self-service payment options such as credit/debit card or direct debit from your bank account
  • View reports of your billing data to analyze costs, discover trends and predict future spend
Example GCP Billing Report

Payment Options

Before creating your Billing Account, you’ll need to determine which payment method you plan to use. Google offers two distinct types of Billing Accounts:

  • Self-service (credit/debit card or direct debit from checking account)
  • Invoiced (check or wire transfer)

Certainly, the easiest and most common way to get started is to create self-service Billing Account backed by your credit or debit card. If you are an individual or small business, this may be sufficient for your needs, long term.

However, if you are a large organization that plans to spend a lot on public cloud services, it probably makes sense to move to an invoiced account at some point. As an example of some of the pain points you may be able to avoid with an invoiced account, see “Why you should not use Google Cloud” (Medium).

Creating a Billing Account

Now that you’ve decide how you plan to pay, you can go ahead and create a Billing Account.

For self-service Billing Accounts backed by a credit/debit card or a direct debit, you can create your account at console.cloud.google.com/billing:

For more information on creating self-service billing accounts, see the how-to guide: “Create a new billing account.”

For invoiced Billing Accounts, you will need to Request Invoiced Billing and your organization will need to meet Google’s eligibility requirements. Depending on your organization’s funding, size and structure, this process can be arduous and may require you to spend several months as an active, paying GCP customer before you will qualify.

Alternatively, instead of obtaining the Billing Account directly from Google, you can work with a member of Google’s global network of partners. I have had good experiences working with both ONIX and SADA Systems , but if you’re interested in learning what different partners are able to offer your organization, see the Find a Partner directory to search by capabilities, products or locations.

One additional advantage of using an invoiced Billing Account is the fact that you have an opportunity to negotiate the contract before you sign it, compared to the self-service options where you have to accept the online Terms of Service. For many larger organizations, this will be a requirement, as their legal teams will want an opportunity to adjust the terms.

Initial Configuration

Once you have created your Billing Account, you can begin using Google Cloud Platform! However, there are a few things I recommend taking care of before you proceed.

  • Adjust the Billing Account Permissions to meet your needs. Specifically, make sure you have a limited set of folks who can update Billing Account Permissions (Admins), such that only people you trust can create projects on your Billing Account (Users) and that anyone who needs to monitor costs and projections has the right level of access (Viewers).
  • Export Billing Data to BigQuery, because when something occurs down that road that requires you to investigate, you want the data to be there, waiting for you.
  • Set Budget Alerts to help keep track of your spend and stay within your desired thresholds. I recommend setting up two budgets to start, one that is based on a specific monthly budget and one that is based off of “last month’s spend.” That way, you can stay informed about how your spend is increasing over time. Adjust your budgets as your consumption changes so they continue to be relevant and actionable.
  • Configure an additional credit/debit card or bank account on your self-service billing account in case your primary payment method has any issues.

Next Steps

Now that you have a Billing Account that is setup to meet your needs, it’s time to start cloud computing!