Google Cloud Platform

Get started on Google Cloud Platform by signing up for a free account and creating a new project to use.

Sign Up

If you don't already use Google Cloud Platform, you can get started for free, and receive $300 credit.


All cloud services and resources (such as virtual machines, network, load balancer, etc) are created under a Google Cloud Platform project.

A project is a billing unit. Any services / resources you create under the project will be charged to the Billing Account associated with the project.

A project is a security boundary. You can assign additional users to access different services / resources within the project.

Projects are usually referred to by Project ID. A Project ID is globally unique.

New Account

If this is your first time signing up for Google Cloud Platform, it will automatically create a Google Cloud Platform Project.

Every project has a Project ID and a Project Number. Project ID is most used. Find the Project ID in Home, under Project info.

Existing Account

If you already have an account, use an existing project, or create a new one.

Identity Access Management

IAM may be one of the hardest concepts to grasp about Google Cloud Platform - but once you understand it, everything else becomes clear.


All Members (i.e., a user) are identified by an e-mail address:



Identified By

User Account

User interaction with gcloud CLI, or the web console.

User's e-mail address

Service Account

Service to Service authentication

Service account's e-mail address

G Suite Group

A collection of user accounts or service accounts.

G Suite Group e-mail

G Suite Domain

All users and groups of a G Suite domain.

G Suite domain name

Sometimes, when referring to different types of Members, you may need to add a prefix:




User Account


Service Account


G Suite Group


G Suite Domain


See Identity Access Management Overview documentation for more details.


A Permission is the finest grain of a particular action that a Member can perform. For example, a permission to list objects / files from Cloud Storage is storage.objects.list.


Each Member can be associated with different Roles, and each Role is associated with a set of Permissions. For example, a roles/storage.objectViewer role, has the storage.objects.get and the storage.objects.list permissions. See Understanding roles documentation for all the available roles and the associated permissions.

You can create Custom Roles to associate with specific permissions too.




User Account

OAuth credentials - an Access Token, or a Refresh Token, or Application Default Credentials.

Service Account

A User Account is great for local development when using gcloud. Service Account is great for your application/microservice.

Application Default Credentials

This is the default credential that a Google Cloud client library will discover. And Application Default Credential can be:

  • Created by gcloud auth application-default login when running locally,

  • or a GOOGLE_APPLICATION_CREDENTIALS environmental variable that points to the path of a Service Account key file,

  • or automatically discovered using the Metadata Server.

When using a Google Cloud client library to access a Cloud service, the client library will automatically discover the credential to use based on precedence. See Google Auth Library README for more information.

Service Account Key

Service Account Key file is a JSON file that contains a private key, and the private key is used to retrieve OAuth access token. The Service Account file is like a password and must be stored securely!

Never expose the service account key file in the public.

Never check-in your service account key file.

Never put your service account key file in a container image, or deployable artifact like a JAR file.

Always store your service account securely.

In most cases, your application is associated with a service account, but will not need the Service Account key file. See Machine Credentials.

Machine Credentials from Metadata Server

All Google Cloud runtime environments (App Engine, Cloud Functions, Cloud Run, Kubernetes Engine, Compute Engine, ...) have access to the Metadata Server. From the runtime environment, you can retrieve the current access token associated with the Service Account:

curl -H "Metadata-Flavor: Google" \

Each runtime / service may be associated with a specific Service Account. For example, VM1 uses Service Account A, and VM2 uses Service Account B. Depending on which VM is used to access the Metadata Server, the Metadata Server will return the token for the associated Service Account.

Last updated