Best practices for labels

This document provides guidance on how to design an effective label strategy for your organization. Before you start creating labels, here are some general principles you can use when you organize your Google Cloud resources using labels.

General principles for labels

Always use labels

Although labels aren't mandatory, they are helpful in organizing and managing your Google Cloud resources. Labels can be used to track costs and identify resources. When you use labels for your resources, remember to follow strict labeling guidelines. We recommend that you create a formal labeling policy that aligns with key stakeholders in the organization. The example table shows what an organization-wide labeling policy looks like.

Apply labels programmatically for consistency

When possible, apply labels programmatically. Tools such as Script and Terraform enable you to automate the label creation process and help enforce the labeling policy. These tools ensure that labels are applied consistently across all your resources. Use a case-sensitive format for labeling and apply it consistently across all resources.

Standardize labels

Use a consistent and standard set of labels for all your resources. This makes it easier to search, filter, and manage your resources. To simplify your label strategy try not to use more than ten labels. Align your labels based on how you want to report costs. Consider using a standard set of label keys and values that work best for your organization. Your labels can cover business use cases such as environment, data-classification, cost-center, team, component, application, and compliance.

Note that standardizing on and adhering to a labeling policy is crucial for centrally-managed labels. Product teams and departments can also add custom labels to resources to share team-specific information. For more information, see Apply non-standard labels.

Here's an example of how you can define a standard set of values for each of the keys:

  • Environment: prod/dev/staging
  • Data-classification: public/internal-only/confidential/restricted/na
  • Cost center: c23543
  • Team: shopping-cart
  • Component: frontend/cache/backend/database
  • Application: shopping-cart-payments
  • Compliance: pci-hippa

Avoid confidential information

Protecting personally identifiable information (PII) is critical for security. Avoid storing PII or other confidential information in your labels.

Apply non-standard labels

Although adhering to a label policy is crucial, labels can also be used to share information that is specific to a product team or department. In such a scenario, providing resource owners of individual teams the option to apply non-standard labels for each resource can help provide more context about the resource. This makes it easier to search, filter, and share information specific to these product teams or departments. For example, a single resource can have a set of standard labels such as environment:prod, data-classification:restricted, cost-center:c23543, team:shopping-cart, app:shopping-cart-payments, component:database, compliance: pci. The resource owner can add non-standard labels such as version:5.0.1 and replica:primary to indicate the version of the database cluster and the node's replication status.

Consider change implications

Your labeling strategy is likely to change in times of evolving business requirements. Be aware of the implications that these changes may have. For example, the addition of new cost centers, microservices, or new tools can impact your labeling strategy.

Label naming scheme and pattern

Every organization has its own way of organizing resources. You can use labels to categorize the resources in your hierarchy in multiple ways, helping users to filter for the resources they need. When defining your label naming scheme, consider the following:

  • Environment, cost center, team, component, applications, compliance, and ownership associated with the resource.
  • Data classification of any data stored in the system. This is only applicable to stateful systems.
  • Labels that need to be applied at the specific resource level like Compute Engine, Cloud Storage bucket or at the project.
  • Flexibility to use optional labels, as needed, to provide more information on resources.

Example of defining labels

To define labels, here are some attributes that you need to keep in mind.

Field Description
Label key The label key is a unique identifier for a label. It must be a string with a minimum length of 1 character and a maximum length of 63 characters. The key cannot be empty. You can use a standard set of label keys that work best for your organization that cover business use cases like environment, data-classification, cost-center, team, component, application and compliance.
Label value The label value is the data associated with the key. It can be a string, number, or Boolean value. As a best practice, consider defining a set of values for each label key. This can help teams select and assign appropriate values for each key. For example, an environment key can have values such as prod, staging, dev or tools.
Stakeholder Identify the department which needs the label key for filtering resources or creating reports. For example, a Finance department in an organization would like to know the cost of running the prod environment. They would use the label key:value pair environment:prod.
Target resource For each label, consider defining a target Google Cloud resource where the label key:value pair should be applied. For example, the label key environment needs to be on each Google Cloud resource in your organization's production environment.
Exception Consider defining which label keys are mandatory on all resources and which keys are optional to apply. In the example table, there are some label key:value pairs that are optional such as environment:tools. The label key altostrat-team can be considered optional when the label altostrat-environment has the label value set to tools.

In the following label example, altostrat corresponds to the name of the enterprise.

Label key Label value Stakeholder Target resource Exception
altostrat-environment prod, sb1, staging, dev, tools Finance Google Cloud resources No
altostrat-data-classification public, internal-only, confidential, restricted, na Security Buckets, databases, persistent disks with Compute Engine No
altostrat-cost-center fin-us, mkt-eu, it-jp Finance Google Cloud resources sandbox-folder
altostrat-team shopping-cart Team lead Google Cloud resources Non-production environments, non-critical components
altostrat-component frontend, cache, application, database Finance Google Cloud resources Optional
altostrat-app shopping-cart-payment Finance Google Cloud resources No. There's an exception for multi-tenant resources where there is no 1:1 mapping with the application.
altostrat-compliance pci, hipaa Security Google Cloud resources Optional