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An Introduction to AWS Cost Management

Ever felt overwhelmed by your AWS bills? Managing your cloud expenses can be a challenging process considering the wide range of products and services that AWS offers. With this vast array of services, users may often find it difficult to keep up with the complexities of AWS billing structure. Therefore, AWS offers a comprehensive set of tools to support its users. These AWS Cost Management tools facilitate effective management of cloud expenses and improve the efficiency of your cloud deployments.

In this article, we will discuss two tools within the AWS Cost Management suite: AWS Cost Explorer and AWS Cost and Usage Report. We’ll explore their functionalities, and their unique advantages, and provide valuable insights to help you determine which tool best suits your business needs.

Exploring the functions of AWS Cost Explorer

AWS Cost Explorer is a fully managed AWS service, designed with an interactive interface to provide insights and reports to manage your AWS costs and resource utilization. It helps you to visualize your data, create custom reports, and analyze your data to predict future costs. It provides a comprehensive overview of your AWS usage enabling you to efficiently allocate your AWS resources.

AWS Cost Explorer, AWS Cost Management Tools, AWS Cost Explorer vs AWS Cost and Usage Report
Source: AWS

Features of AWS Cost Explorer

  • Cost Explorer presents cost and usage data through intuitive charts and visual graphs, making it easier to identify trends, and find areas of potential improvement.
  • It can filter data by various dimensions, including service, region, account, instance type, and tags. This granular level of detail helps to identify precisely where your resources are being consumed.
  • Cost Explorer makes use of historical data and usage patterns to predict future costs, enabling you to proactively manage your cloud budget.
  • It analyzes your resource utilization and provides recommendations and potential cost-saving strategies to optimize your cloud spending.

An Overview of AWS Cost and Usage Report

AWS Cost and Usage Report records all your AWS usage consumptions and provides a detailed breakdown of your cloud expenses. Each report provides line items for every combination of AWS products, usage categories, and activities within your account. You can also create filters and customize the report to aggregate costs by hourly, daily, or monthly intervals. AWS Cost and Usage Reports deliver these detailed reports directly to your designated Amazon S3 bucket in a CSV format, allowing for easy access and analysis.

AWS Cost and Usage Report, AWS CUR, AWS Cost Allocation tags, AWS Cost Explorer vs AWS Cost and Usage Report
Source: AWS

Features of AWS Cost and Usage Report (CUR)

  • The CUR provides a historical record of your AWS costs, allowing you to analyze spending patterns over an extended period of time, which helps to identify trends and usage fluctuations.
  • You can download the reports in different formats like CSV, JSON, or Parquet and schedule the delivery at different frequencies as daily, monthly, etc.
  • CUR utilize cost allocation tags to categorize your resources. This helps in tracking the cost of AWS services based on specific projects, departments, or applications within your organization.

Comparative Insights on AWS Cost Explorer vs Cost and Usage Report

1. Exploring the User Interface

When it comes to User Interface and User Experience AWS Cost Explorer takes center stage. It can create customized dashboards representing visual charts and graphs for cost analysis. This visual representation makes it easier to identify cost trends and highlight areas of improvement based on various factors like service, region, or instance type. It can also find cost anomalies and unexpected cost spikes, allowing you to dig deeper into specific areas of concern.

Analysis data in AWS Cost Explorer User Interface
Source: AWS

In contrast, the AWS Cost and Usage Report has a more traditional approach. While it offers some customization options for formatting and delivery, the overall user experience lacks the intuitive appeal of Cost Explorer. Here you need a more hands-on approach, which involves a lot of filtering and manipulating to analyze your data.

2. Understanding the Granular Data

AWS Cost Explorer offers a visual interface that allows you to filter costs by various dimensions. This allows you to drill down to specific resources to identify the services driving your costs. Cost Explorer can display the top 5000 most costly resources per service. If you have more than 5000 resources, you might not see all of them in the console.

CUR provides line-item data for each unique combination of AWS products, usage categories, and activities within your account. Therefore, it provides a more comprehensive understanding of your resource consumption, including individual resource IDs.

AWS Cost and Usage Report
Source: AWS

3. Insights and Report Customization

With Cost Explorer, you can use a wide range of filter options to gain customized reports of your AWS resources based on service, region, account, instance type, tag, or time range. With this degree of customization, you can easily identify granular details such as cost drivers within specific departments or analyze resource utilization for individual projects.

Cost and Usage Reports offer a different kind of customization. With CUR, you can define the format of the report (CSV, JSON, or Parquet) depending on your preferred data analysis tools. It also allows you to schedule the delivery frequency of the report like daily, monthly, etc, ensuring you receive the data at your desired intervals. As you can download the reports in various formats, you can easily integrate the CUR with external cost management tools or business intelligence platforms for detailed analysis.

AWS Cost and Usage Report, AWS Dashboard

4. Tracking through Historical Data

Both tools provide historical insights into your cloud spend. AWS Cost Explorer provides the cost and usage data for the past 14 months by default, at daily granularity. Users can enable an additional 24 months at a monthly granularity and also 14 days of resource-level data for any AWS service at a daily granularity. This is ideal for a quick understanding of recent trends and identifying unexpected cost spikes.

The AWS Cost and Usage Report offers a more detailed record of your spending history, allowing you to access historical data for up to 38 months at a monthly granularity.

5. Integration with other Services and third-party resources

While Cost Explorer offers some built-in features like cost allocation tags, for categorization of resources and data analysis, it has limited integration capabilities. As it primarily functions within the AWS ecosystem, it is less flexible for users who rely on third-party tools for analysis.

The downloadable feature of AWS Cost and Usage Report makes it a natural fit for integration with external cost management tools and business intelligence (BI) platforms. This allows you to combine your AWS cost data with other financial information such as marketing expenses or sales figures, within a single unified platform.

Cost Explorer vs Cost and Usage Report – When to use both?

Both AWS Cost Explorer and AWS Cost and Usage Report have unique advantages. Cost Explorer offers quick insights, trend analysis, and proactive guidance while utilizing the CUR helps you in deeper analysis of your historical data and integration with external platforms for a comprehensive financial picture. This combined approach empowers you to make informed decisions about your cloud resource utilization and optimize your AWS spending for the long term.

You can use AWS Cost Explorer when you need forecasting capabilities that provide valuable insights into potential future expenses, allowing you to plan and adjust your budget proactively. Additionally, its cost-saving recommendations, based on resource utilization analysis, help you to identify opportunities for optimization.

CUR with its downloadable format, is useful when you require seamless integration with external cost management tools and business intelligence platforms. This allows you to analyze your AWS costs alongside other financial data, providing a holistic view of your organizational spending.


While both AWS Cost Explorer and Cost and Usage Reports (CUR) play a crucial role in managing your cloud finances, their strengths lie in different areas. Understanding these nuances will help you leverage the maximum potential of each tool for optimal cost optimization. A combined approach using these tools will empower you to make data-driven decisions about your cloud resource utilization and optimize your AWS spending for the long term.

How can we help?

Tired of your cloud costs building up? Don’t let cloud costs weigh you down anymore. With Economize, you can slash your cloud expenditures by up to 30% effortlessly. Book a free demo with us today and discover how we can help you start saving in as little as 10 minutes.

Heera Ravindran

Content Marketer at Economize. An avid writer and a zealous reader who specializes in technical content and has a passion for all things Cloud and FinOps.

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