How to get the most out of Google Cloud’s free tier

10 tips for expanding Google’s free services to the limit and pin your cloud meter to 0.

The cloud industry loves to offer free templates, and Google is no different from Amazon or Microsoft in this way. Companies know that if you give customers a free meal, they’ll come back when it’s time to dine.

Google offers two types for free. New customers receive $300 to spend on any of the 24 “cloud zones,” 73 “zones,” and 144 “edge-to-edge locations.” Money works pretty much anywhere in Google’s cloud, from raw computer power to any of dozens of different products like databases or mapping services.

But even if that free money runs out, the free gifts continue. There are 24 different products offering free templates that are constantly billed as “always free”. Even if you’ve been a customer for years, you can still experiment. Of course, Google additionally warns that the word “always” in this generous promise is “changeable.” But until that date arrives, the BigQuery database will reply to one query terabyte per month, and Automatic Translation will transfer 500,000 characters from one language to another.

Some developers use the free tier for a purpose:

an opportunity to explore without having to beg their boss and boss for a budget. Others work on a hustle site or a site for neighboring children. When the load is small, you can easily innovate without processing your monthly invoice.

Some developers take this seriously. They try to stay in the free tier for as long as possible. Maybe it’s because they want to brag about their extremely low burn rate. Maybe it’s just a modern form of machismo. Maybe they’re short on cash.

In any case, working in this free angle for as long as possible often leads to compact and efficient web applications, doing as much as possible with as little as possible. When it’s time for them to leave the free tier, the monthly bills will be small as the project scales up, which warms the hearts of every chief financial officer.

Here are a few tips to distill every last nice drop from the free offer of Google. Maybe you’re cheap. Maybe you’re just waiting to tell your boss until the great thing is fully realized. Maybe you’re just having fun and this is an idiot. Whatever the case, there are many ways to save.

Store only what’s needed
Free databases like Firestore and Cloud Storage are fully flexible tools that eliminate documents and objects with corresponding key values. Google Cloud’s always free level allows you to store the first 1GB and 10GB respectively in each product. But the more details your app keeps, the faster the free gigabytes will run out. So quit saving information unless you really need it. This means there is no obsessive crawling just in case you need it to debug later. There are no additional times stamps, no large cache filled with data that you are keeping to be ready.

Compression is your friend
There are dozens of good snu bits to add a compression layer to your customers. Instead of storing JSON blocks, client code can run data through an algorithm like LZW or Gzip before sending it over wires to your server versions, which store data without extracting it. That means faster responses, fewer bandwidth issues, and less impact on your monthly free data storage quota. Be a little careful as some very small data plans may be larger when including compression costs.

No server
Google is more generous with their interscesed computing services billed on demand. Cloud Run will start and run a stateless container that responds to two million requests per month for free. Cloud functionality will enable your functionality to meet two million other requirements. On average there are more than 100,000 different activities per day. So quit waiting and start writing your code into a serverless model.

Note: Some architects will not be happy with the idea of using two completely different services. It can save money but it will double the complexity of the application and that means it will be harder to maintain. It’s a real danger, but often you can more or less copy the functional structure as a Cloud Function service inside your own container, making it possible to integrate your code later if you have a plan.

Use App Tools
Google’s app tool remains one of the best ways to create a web app without learning all the details about how to deploy or expand it. Almost everything is automated so it will deploy new versions if the upload increases. App Engine comes with 28 “instance hours” per day — meaning your basic app will run for free for 24 hours a day and can even expand for four hours if demand booms.

Angst service calls
There are several freedoms to add extras if you are careful. The limits for non-server calls are on the number of individual requests, not in terms of complexity. You can package more actions and more results into each exchange by wrapping all data operations into one larger package. So you can give silly gimmicks like stock prices, but only if you add a few bytes to the packages that are really needed. Just keep in mind that Google calculates the memory used and the time it calculates. Your functions must not exceed 400,000 GB-second memory and 200,000 GHz-seconds of calculation time.

Use local memory
Modern web APIs provide some good locations for storing information. There is a perfectly good type of cookie, the old one is limited to four kilobytes. The web hosting API is a document-based lock-value system that will cache at least 5 megabytes of data and some browsers will keep 10 megabytes. IndexedDB offers a richer set of features such as cursors and database indexes that will help speed up ploughing data that is usually stored without limits.

The more data you locally store on a user’s computer, the less you need to use your precious server-side memory. This also means faster response and less bandwidth for bringing endless copies of data back to your server. However, there will be problems when users switch devices because data may not be synchronized. Just make sure the important details are consistent.

Find hidden bargains
Google maintains a useful page that summarizes all “always free” products, but if you look around, you’ll find many free services that are not even on the list. For example, Google Maps offers “$200 free monthly use.” Google Documents and some other APIs are always free.

Use G Suite
Many G Suite products including Documents, Worksheets, and Drives are paid for separately, and users receive them for free with their GMail account or their business pays them as a set. Instead of creating an app with built-in reports, simply write the data to the spreadsheet and share it. Spreadsheets are strong enough to include charts and charts just like any dashboard. If you build a web application, you’ll need to write down your data and computer quotas to handle interactive requests. But if you only create one Google Document for your report, you’re completing the majority of the work on Google’s machine.

Remove gimmicks
Some features of modern web applications are quite redundant. Does your banking app need a stock price? Do you need to include local time or temperature? Do you need to embed the latest tweets or Instagram photos? Not. Get rid of all these extras as each of these features means another call to your server and that will corrode your free limit. The product design team may dream big, but you can tell them, “No!”

Be careful with new options
Some of the better tools for building artificial intelligence services for your stack provide good limits for testing. The AutoML Video Service will allow you to train your machine learning model on your video feed for 40 hours per month, before starting charging. The service for tabled data will crush your rows and rows of information on a free button for six hours. This gives you enough rope to test or build basic models, but beware. It’s dangerous to automate out the process so that every user can activate a large machine learning job.

Keep costs in perspective
It’s easy to raise this game and turn your app architecture into a Rube Goldberg device just to save a little extra cash. It’s important to remember that switching from the free tier to paying customers is usually a pretty small step in Google Cloud. While there are many free services on the Internet that cost from free to thousands of dollars with just one click, Google services often don’t have such a price.

After a glance at two million free Cloud Function calls, the next time was a whopping $0.0 billion. That’s only 40 cents a million. If you dig around your sock drawer, you will be able to cover a few million more without any difficulty.

The price list is wide enough that you don’t have a heart attack when you step out of the free zone. If your app needs a few million more of these or the other, you’ll probably be able to cover it. The important lesson is to keep the calculation load low that will turn into smaller bills and respond faster.