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AWS Cost Explorer: What it is and How it works?

Amazon faced a big issue – many people using Amazon Web Services (AWS) were spending too much money on services without knowing where it was going. To fix this, they introduced tools like Cost Explorer and Cost and Usage Reports.

Dealing with your AWS spending and usage data can be frustrating. That’s why AWS Cost Explorer is super important. It’s the main way to see and understand where your money is going on AWS. If you have an AWS account, you really need this tool. 

But, like everything, Amazon isn’t great at explaining how it works and how to use it to its fullest.

This post is drafted to explain AWS cost explorer in detail. We explain how it works, its pros and cons. We will also do a short comparison of AWS cost explorer and AWS cost and usage report.

Let’s get started.

What is AWS Cost Explorer?

AWS Cost Explorer is like a tool that helps you see and understand how much money you’re spending on different things within your AWS account. Instead of dealing with complicated reports, it simplifies the information into an easy-to-read dashboard. 

This way, you can quickly figure out where your money is going, how much each AWS service is costing you, and how much you’re actually using those services. It’s a helpful way to start managing your AWS costs without getting overwhelmed by complex data.

AWS Cost Explorer Features

AWS Cost Explorer has 7 core features:

1. Cost and usage data visualization

This feature allows you to see a visual breakdown of your AWS costs and usage. Instead of sifting through complex data, AWS Cost Explorer presents the information in easy-to-understand charts and graphs. This visual representation helps you quickly grasp where your money is going and how resources are being utilized.

2. 12-month historical data

With the ability to look back at 12 months of historical data, users can analyze trends and patterns in their spending over time. This feature provides valuable insights into how costs have evolved, enabling better financial planning and decision-making.

3. 12-month cost forecasts

AWS Cost Explorer offers a forecasting feature that estimates your costs for the next 12 months. This predictive analysis helps in budgeting and planning for future expenses, allowing organizations to anticipate and manage their financial resources effectively.

4. Monthly and daily costs

Understanding your costs on a monthly and daily basis is crucial for pinpointing specific periods of increased or decreased spending. This feature provides a granular view of when and how much you are spending, aiding in identifying cost patterns and anomalies.

5. Filtered graphs and views

The ability to filter and customize graphs and views is a powerful tool for tailoring the displayed information to your specific needs. This feature allows you to focus on particular aspects of your AWS usage, making it easier to extract relevant insights and make informed decisions.

6. Reservation reports

For users leveraging reserved capacity, this feature provides detailed reports specifically focused on reservations. It helps you understand the impact of reserved instances on your overall costs and optimize your resource allocation strategies.

7. Savings Plans reports

Savings Plans are a pricing model designed to provide significant cost savings. With this feature, users can gain insights into how Savings Plans are affecting their costs. It helps organizations track and maximize the benefits of their Savings Plans to ensure cost-efficient cloud usage.

AWS Cost Explorer Pros and Cons

Pros of AWS Cost Explorer:

  • Easy to Understand: AWS Cost Explorer makes it simple to see and understand how much money you’re spending on different things within your AWS account. It uses charts and graphs that are easy to read.
  • Historical Data: You can look back at the past 12 months to understand how your spending has changed over time. This helps you make better plans for the future.
  • Cost Predictions: AWS Cost Explorer can estimate how much you might spend in the next 12 months. This forecasting helps you budget and prepare for future costs.
  • Detailed Breakdown: It provides a detailed breakdown of your costs on a monthly and daily basis. This allows you to pinpoint when you’re spending more and why.
  • Customization Options: You can customize the graphs and views to focus on specific information that matters to you. This flexibility lets you tailor the tool to your needs.

Cons of AWS Cost Explorer:

  • Learning Curve: For beginners, AWS Cost Explorer might have a bit of a learning curve. The initial reports can be a bit overwhelming, and it might take some time to get used to the tool.
  • Dependency on Data Accuracy: The accuracy of the information provided by AWS Cost Explorer depends on the accuracy of the data it receives. If there are inaccuracies in the data, it might affect the reliability of the insights.
  • Limited Optimization Recommendations: While it gives you insights into your spending, AWS Cost Explorer doesn’t provide detailed recommendations for optimizing costs. Users might need additional knowledge or tools for more advanced cost optimization.
  • Focused on AWS Users: As a tool designed for AWS users, it might not be as useful if you’re using multiple cloud providers. It’s tailored specifically for those utilizing Amazon Web Services.

How AWS Cost Explorer Works

Let’s understand how AWS Cost Explorer works in simple terms:

1. Collecting Your Data:

First, AWS Cost Explorer gathers information about how you’re using AWS services. It collects data on the resources you’re using, the services you’re employing, and how much you’re using them.

2. Analyzing Your Spending:

Next, it takes all that data and analyzes it to understand where your money is going. It looks at your spending on different AWS services, like storage or computing power.

3. Creating Easy-to-Read Reports:

AWS Cost Explorer then creates reports that are easy to read. Instead of showing you a bunch of complicated numbers, it uses charts and graphs to make the information clear. These reports help you see at a glance how much you’re spending and where.

4. Historical View:

You can also look back at the last 12 months to see how your spending has changed over time. This historical view helps you understand trends and patterns.

5. Predicting Future Costs:

AWS Cost Explorer can even predict how much you might spend in the next 12 months. It looks at your past usage and gives you an estimate to help you plan your budget.

6. Customizing for Your Needs:

The tool lets you customize the reports. If you’re interested in specific details or want to focus on particular services, you can adjust the settings to tailor the information to your needs.

7. Reservation and Savings Plans Insights:

For users who use reserved instances or savings plans, AWS Cost Explorer provides detailed insights into how these plans are affecting your costs.

Comparing AWS Cost Explorer and AWS Cost and Usage Reports

AWS Cost Explorer:

Imagine AWS Cost Explorer as your friendly guide in the world of AWS spending. It uses colorful charts and graphs to show you where your money is going – whether it’s on storage, computing power, or something else.

It’s like a time-traveling money tracker because it can rewind and show you how your spending has changed over the past 12 months. And not just that, it can also predict, like a budget wizard, how much you might spend in the future.

You have the power to customize it, tailor it to your needs. So, it’s like having a personal money assistant, always ready to show you what matters most to you.

AWS Cost and Usage Reports:

Now, if AWS Cost Explorer is your friendly guide, think of AWS Cost and Usage Reports as your detailed, encyclopedic documents. They contain every bit of information about your AWS usage and costs.

These reports are for the data lovers, the ones who want to dive deep. They give you all the specifics, from the hours a specific server worked to the amount of data you stored.

However, they might be a bit like solving a puzzle for beginners. They’re detailed, and it might take a little time to get used to navigating through all the information.

Is AWS Cost Explorer Free?

No, AWS Cost Explorer is not entirely free. While it is available for use, keep in mind that you may incur additional charges based on the AWS resources you use and the queries you run within AWS Cost Explorer. It’s a tool that helps you understand your spending on AWS services, but the actual usage of AWS services comes with its own associated costs. Always check the AWS pricing details to understand any potential charges related to your AWS usage and the use of AWS Cost Explorer.

Easy Way to Reduce AWS Costs

One easy way to reduce your AWS bills is to transfer your AWS billing to Lease Packet. We are an authorized AWS billing partner. We help you secure discounts on your monthly AWS bills. Also, our certified AWS experts optimize your AWS infrastructure for maximum efficiency. Contact our team to start saving on your AWS bills.


Q1. What is AWS Cost Explorer used for?

AWS Cost Explorer is used to visualize and manage AWS costs. It provides insights into spending patterns, historical data, and forecasts to help users understand and optimize their expenses.

Q2. What is the difference between AWS Budgets and AWS Cost Explorer?

AWS Budgets is a tool for setting custom cost and usage budgets with alerts, while AWS Cost Explorer is focused on visualizing and analyzing your AWS costs. Budgets help you proactively manage spending limits, whereas Cost Explorer provides retrospective and predictive insights.

Q3. How do I see costs on AWS?

You can see costs on AWS through tools like AWS Cost Explorer. It offers visual breakdowns, historical data, and cost forecasts. Additionally, AWS Budgets allows you to set custom spending limits and receive alerts.

Q4. What does AWS stand for?

AWS stands for Amazon Web Services. It is a comprehensive cloud computing platform provided by Amazon.

Q5. Is AWS Cost Explorer API free?

While AWS Cost Explorer itself is not charged separately, using the AWS Cost Explorer API and associated AWS resources may incur costs. It’s essential to check AWS pricing details for any potential charges related to API usage and specific AWS resources.