After starting to use Azure last year, there has been so many changes. While some of them were beneficial for the developers, on the other hand, some of them were just for the business and profits. I’m not planning to go deep into those changes but during the time I use the service, I gained an experience and I would like to share them.
First of all, it is a shame that the trial period was reduced to 1 month. Last year around October, I’ve moved 2-rent.com from a traditional hosting services to Azure in terms of cloud computing and we used the platform as free till end of January. Recently, I’ve registered another account for my personal projects and seen that now they offer only 1 month free trial. However, I believe that 1 month is somehow enough to examine the pros and cons of the platform and to test your system in another environment.
Beside this free trial stuff, nowadays, I’m dealing with NoSQL approach to DBMS. At this point, I strongly recommend using MongoDB. It is super easy to install using a small VM on Azure and it works quite well for a medium size web project. Although, I’m using the MongoDB mainly for an Android App through Web API, even this small VM is a good starting point to calculate initial costs.
Due to having high level strict security issues, Windows Azure might force you to buy a stable and secure VPN service to connect their SQL Servers from local. Although, it is not a requirement, it saves time by preventing you to add your current IP to the verified addresses in order to access SQL Server using SQL Server Management Studio. Once you define your IP range on firewall settings page, the only thing before connecting to SQL Server is opening the VPN connection. Also, they provide in-browser connection to run SQL queries through the portal but it is my common habit to use SQL Server Management Studio.
In addition to these, I have to say that Azure billing system is one the best developer friendly system. For example, you might use Azure Storage. In this manner, you define a size for storage. Till the limits of the storage, you are only charged how much you use it. Also, if you exceed the limit, they change the status of the storage into read-only mode. So that you don’t loose any data but can’t add anymore till improve your budget. Same scenario is applied to SQL Servers and other systems.
As a final note, if you are planning to run a small sized web application or a prototype then it would be better to run it on a Web Site that platform offers in a shared environment as free up to 10 websites per account. So that you only pay for SQL and your website becomes free. You access your free website using yourwebsite.azurewebsites.net domain. As a result, this would save domain name registration costs for your prototypes.
To conclude, although comparing the other cloud platforms and finding them more popular around web (Amazon, Google App Engine etc.), Azure is a powerful and tempting alternative for cloud computing and startups.