Windows Azure (almost) free for IT pros

A long time ago IT Pros could get quite a lot from Microsoft to set-up test environments as a "home lab". If you are in IT you can really only understand technology by using hands-on. You can only make recommendations from personal use. Unfortunately not all employers give people resources to keep their knowledge up to date. Instead home learning is a thing.

You can build a home lab with either the free version of ESX from Vmware or a free Hyper-V host from Microsoft. Next an old server or an HP Microserver would get you a basic home virtualisation platform. Software could come with Linux or you could splash out on a Technet Subscription at £99 per year.

Sadly Microsoft ended Technet Subscriptions and replaced them with time limited evaluations. Not so good if you want to set up domain controllers and a test SQL server that you want to return to periodically. However it's better than nothing.

However IT moves on. IT Pros need to understand about cloud services. From a Microsoft perspective this means Azure.

They offer a month trial with £150 of credit. Just sign up with a credit card. I have discovered that the card basically isn't billed because the default billing is set not to charge when you exhaust your credits but just turn it all off. So the £150 is good for 1 month.

If you want to run up some vms and build a virtual network over 30 days then this is a good deal. However I rarely get that concentrated time. So a little more often would suit me. Fortunately you can do that too.

First you need to sign up for Microsoft's cloud essentials;

It's free to join. Sign in with a Microsoft account and you are ready. Once inside head to the offers page.

Finally activate an Azure subscription with £20 per month credit.

So $25 (£20 in the UK) isn't huge. You could run a couple of VMs for maybe a day but looking from the perspective of  a weekend of training that isn't too bad. The main thing is that you get 1 year of this. Over time you have a lot of flexibilty to learn what Azure is all about.

I think it's a good deal for IT Pros and I will be trying it out over the next few months.


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