Google says it’ll stop charging fees to transfer data out of Google Cloud

Google today announced that it’ll stop charging Google Cloud customers a fee to migrate their data to another cloud provider or on-premise data center, effective immediately.

Customers using Google Cloud services including BigQuery, Cloud Bigtable, Cloud SQL, Cloud Storage, Datastore, Filestore, Spanner and Persistent Disk are eligible for free transfers out of Google Cloud — but must first apply for approval through a form. They’ll have 60 days to transfer their data upon approval; if the time frame elapses, they’ll have to submit a second request.

Only once an approved customer’s data has been transferred out of Google Cloud and they’ve terminated their cloud written agreement will the data transfer fee will be waived (via a bill credit). Of course, Google has the final say; in a support article, the company makes clear that it reserves the right to audit data movement away from Google Cloud “for compliance with program terms and conditions.”

Google’s move follows criticism from regulators — and rival public cloud providers — over cloud “egress,” or outgoing data transfer, fees.

Egress costs vary based on a range of factors, including destination, data origin and data volume. For example, for outbound data to the public internet, AWS charges $0.09 per gigabyte of data for the first 10 terabytes. Transferring data between two AWS EC2 instances in different regions is charged at a flat $0.02 per gigabyte, in contrast.

The fees can be punishing for cloud customers large and small switching to alternative providers. Companies like Apple have paid $50 million in egress fees to AWS in a single year, reports The Information.

According to an IDC survey, 99% of cloud storage users have incurred egress fees averaging 6% of their cloud storage costs. In a separate poll from Global Market Intelligence, 34% of enterprises said that their use of cloud storage had been affected by egress fees, causing them to repatriate data on-premises or shift to a service provider that doesn’t charge for egress.

In 2018, Cloudflare launched the Bandwidth Alliance, a group of companies pledging to reduce or eliminate data egress fees. Google is among the group’s member’s, as is Alibaba, Microsoft and Oracle (which has publicly criticized both Google and AWS over their egress fees), but not Amazon.

Last October, the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority said that it would begin a probe into the egress fees charged by public cloud providers including AWS and Azure, as well the ways in which providers might be hindering cloud interoperability or imposing restrictive software licensing. (In response to the probe, AWS claimed that it “doesn’t charge separate fees for data switching” to other cloud providers and that 90% of its customers pay nothing for data transfers.)

All public cloud service providers operating in Europe might eventually be forced to stop charging for egress by the European Union’s recently enacted Data Act. The Data Act requires the gradual wind-down of switching charges, including charges for data egress, within the next three years — albeit with carve-outs for multicloud deals.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission last summer began an inquiry into the state of the domestic cloud market, looking at — among other policies and pricing — cloud data egress fee structures.

Beyond regulatory headwinds, Google has another incentive to stand out in the crowded field for public cloud services: competition. As of August 2023, Google Cloud had just 11% of the global public cloud market, behind Azure (22%) and AWS (32%), according to Statista data.