Whether you have a small, medium, or large business – or want to resell web hosting – Microsoft Azure’s cloud computing platform can handle it all. But its pricing model can be a bit daunting and confusing with there being hundreds of (sometimes redundant) options
Something to keep in mind, also, is that Microsoft Azure offers many time-limited free services and 40+ always-free services
. Examples of these include 64GB persistent storage disks, and a Linux or Windows B1s virtual machine which you can use to set up your first web server.
Azure’s free service also comes with a $200 credit that you can apply towards different paid products
like larger persistent storage disks and more bandwidth. This is helpful if you want to try out Azure, but don’t necessarily want to commit fully just yet.
This article will go through several pricing options and configurations
to help you figure out what features you need without spending money on features you don’t. Azure is a complex platform that requires a fair amount of advanced server configuration and web development knowledge and experience, so I’ve also suggested some alternatives
Microsoft Azure Features and Pricing Overview
Microsoft Azure’s prices are comparable to other similar cloud computing and hosting providers
. This type of provider doesn’t offer traditional hosting plans, so you’ll need some advanced tech knowledge (or have someone on staff who does) in order to configure your server from the ground up.
This can be complicated, but the good news is, the price can be adjusted more finely
. You’ll have the flexibility to get exactly what you need without overpaying.
Something to consider is the temporary storage that’s included with the VM(s) you choose. Whatever is stored on temporary disks is not permanent and will be erased
if you restart your virtual machine. The temporary disks are generally reserved for page or swap files only. If you want to store data long-term, you’ll have to add a persistent storage disk which will incur an additional cost.
Accepted payment methods include credit card, wire transfer, or check
. But don’t break out your wallet just yet! Remember those free services I told you about? Microsoft Azure offers many time-limited free services for 12 months, or 750 hours (whichever comes first).
These temporarily-free services include a B1s Linux or Windows burstable virtual machine that can be used to host a website, and two 64GB persistent SSDs that allow you to store files like text, images, and videos.
The $200 credit that you get along with your free services is valid for 30 days
, and can be applied towards upgraded persistent storage, or even a different server instance entirely.
Azure also gives you access to several always-free services
. These include Microsoft Defender for Cloud which can prevent malicious activity on your servers, and Azure Advisor which can help you optimize your server infrastructure.
is highly scalable and can support anything from small, single-page websites to large organizations, and even reseller operations with multiple websites. The best thing about this type of hosting is, if you’re careful and plan ahead, you really only pay for what you actually need and use.
However, choosing the right server instance is complicated. To help you with the selection process, here are four different tiers of virtual machines I’d like to draw your attention to.
B-series virtual machines allow you to keep your costs low while your website isn’t getting much traffic
, but also have the ability to “burst” (boost) its performance when your site gets spikes in traffic.
But bursting is only meant to be temporary
. If you spend some time using fewer resources than your quota, you build up credit – and when you go over your quota, it depletes your credit. You’ll know you have chosen the right B-series virtual machine if you always have at least a little bit of credit.
The B1Is burstable server instance is the cheapest that Microsoft Azure offers
. This would be suitable for a small web server hosting a site that receives periodic bumps in traffic, like a blog that reviews popular new products or a news site that posts breaking news items.
You should upgrade to a general-purpose, A-series VM if you notice that these periodic surges turn into consistent traffic
. Any one of the A-series VMs (covered below) would be a better option in that case.
B2ms is a memory-optimized virtual machine meant to serve a lot of simultaneous processes
. With B2ms, your RAM increases to 16GB
, but you keep the same number of CPU cores. Whereas B1ls is ideal for very small web servers with infrequent traffic surges, B2ms is valuable for websites that need to have many processes running simultaneously.
A forum site with a lot of people signing up and posting and replying to comments, or an online store with frequent sale announcements, could be served well by the B2ms virtual machine.
Keep in mind that the temporary storage you get with this instance is only short-term storage meant for page files and swap files, which is extra RAM that is used by the operating system. So, you’ll need to pay extra for storage with all of these instances – but you can buy just as much or as little as you need in HDD or SSD format, depending on your budget and requirements.
A-series virtual machines are not burstable and are meant for websites with low-to-moderate levels of consistent site traffic. A1 v2 is suitable for web servers with up to 50,000 monthly site visitors, or 600,000 annual visitors.
This would be a very good option if you’re hosting multiple sites that get predictable traffic numbers, like e-commerce sites with only a few products each that aren’t generally affected by sale announcements.
Any site can experience surges in traffic, and while these VMs probably wouldn’t be slowed down by the usual fluctuations in your visitor count, you might have to upgrade if you do start to see viral traffic loads.
A2 v2 takes the specs from A1 v2 and doubles them
. That means you’re getting 2 CPU cores, 4GB of RAM, and 10GB of temporary storage.
A2 v2 can support between up to 100,000 monthly visitors
, or around 1.2 million annual visitors. Examples of sites with this level of traffic could be niche product affiliate marketing or review websites. The traffic for these types of sites tends to increase gradually over time, and doesn’t necessarily surge very often.
Is Microsoft Azure Cloud Hosting Right for You?
Azure cloud hosting in the form of Linux or Windows virtual machines is ideal for web servers of various sizes
and a multitude of website types for up to around 100,000 monthly site visitors.
If you’re looking to launch large, mission-critical websites or a growing and diverse reselling operation, Microsoft Azure’s dedicated servers will be more appropriate to your needs. In any instance, you can always start small and upgrade as necessary.
Microsoft Azure’s dedicated server hardware is not shared with other customers
unlike standard virtual machines, so you’ll have total access and complete control over what goes on them. They’re also far cheaper to maintain than on-premises physical servers.
Dedicated servers also offer the potential for excellent performance, so long as you know how to configure them. Even with Azure’s top-end support, you’ll need someone on your team who can manage a server.
DCsv2-Type 1 is the cheapest dedicated server that Microsoft Azure offers
. It’s powerful enough to support a fairly large entertainment, media, or news website with up to around 5 million monthly site visitors.
If you need to serve a lot of simultaneous e-commerce transactions, or otherwise get a lot of interactive site traffic, this will also work for that purpose
. It will handle large volumes of operations like logins and sales – but again, it must be configured correctly.
Fsv2-Type2 gives you twelve times more CPU cores and nearly two-and-a-half times more RAM
. This dedicated configuration will serve up to around 12 million monthly visitors, depending on your site’s content.
However, keep in mind that very complex interactive or high-quality video will increase the load on the server and requirements for RAM and bandwidth. When you get to this level, it’s imperative to monitor your site’s activity at all times.
A surge in traffic can bring your site down, cost you thousands of dollars more, or – ideally – be a sign that your business is booming, as intended. Maintenance and monitoring are thus essential.
The Msv2MedMem-Type 1 memory-optimized dedicated server is suitable for extreme levels of traffic
. For example, this means you could host multiple entertainment, media, news, and e-commerce websites with total site traffic of up to around 50 million monthly visitors.
Each time your site visitors log in or make purchases simultaneously, more memory will be required
. If you don’t choose a high-memory dedicated host in these instances, your website’s performance could slow down or shut down entirely for a short period if too many users try to do too many things at the same time.
Again, monitoring and maintenance is essential, so that you can adjust individual resource levels to ensure the most cost-effective server configuration for your purposes at any given moment. If you’re in this echelon of hosting customers, you’re probably also well-advised to pay extra for top-end Azure support.
Is Microsoft Azure Dedicated Hosting Right for You?
If your web server is observing more than 5 million monthly site visitors, or you’re planning to resell hosting to multiple blue-chip clients, dedicated hosting will be your best bet. Microsoft Azure also happens to be one of the most competitively-priced options in this space.
Recommended Microsoft Azure Alternatives
Though Microsoft Azure is a known and respected cloud hosting platform, it may not have the specific combination of features you need at a price that’s reasonable for you. Therefore, I’ve recommended some alternatives below.
In our performance testing, Kamatera consistently scored very highly. And yes, it even (surprisingly) exceeded the performance of Microsoft Azure. In some instances, it’s even been proven to be as much as two or three times as fast.
But where Kamatera really shines is in its ability to offer similar services and features at a lower price than Microsoft Azure. And on top of that, Kamatera’s level of server customization is unmatched
by most cloud hosting providers. Kamatera lets you fine-tune RAM, CPU, and SSD space to an even greater degree than Azure.
Liquid Web’s hosting services are managed, which means that you do not have to worry about the setup, administration, and management of your virtual instance. It offers cloud-based hosting aimed at small-to-medium-sized businesses
(SMBs), most of which is organized into straightforward plans rather than infinitely-customizable mega-servers.
Additionally, all of Liquid Web’s hosting plans come with free, 24/7 support via tickets, phone, and chat. Microsoft Azure of course does offer 24/7 support, but live phone and chat support costs extra.
Cloudways does not have its own servers or data centers – it provides managed hosting on existing infrastructure from DigitalOcean, Linode, Vultr, Amazon Web Services (AWS), or Google Compute Engine (GCE).
Cloudways provides security, performance, and configures the hosting technology stack to align with your chosen platform. The pricing differs depending on the vendor, with costs generally higher across the board due to the premium associated with the managed service. If you require it, the investment is worthwhile.
Cloudways offers a 3-day free trial
in case you want to try its technology stack risk-free.
Render is a competitively-priced cloud computing platform with straightforward plans. It is specifically geared towards developers,
with support for programming languages like Rust, Ruby, Node.js, Elixir, Go, and Python.
It also offers a free plan so you can try the service
. This includes 512MB of RAM, a shared CPU, and 750 hours of server running time per month – and you can track usage in your account dashboard on the billing page.
Amazon Web Services is one of the most trusted cloud computing services
today, and it’s one of Microsoft Azure’s primary competitors with various factors helping its cause significantly. For example, AWS includes 100GB of storage with your plan.
AWS also offers free services for one year, including a t2.micro general-purpose server instance which includes one CPU, and 1GB of RAM. You could also opt for a 90-day free trial of Amazon Lightsail
, which is a virtual private server (VPS) with 750 hours of free running time. Finally, AWS’s always-free CloudFront content delivery network includes 1TB of outbound traffic.
Google Cloud is a compelling alternative to Microsoft Azure as it offers less expensive persistent disk storage.
Also, some may find Google Cloud’s platform to be somewhat easier to use than Azure, yet it offers a similarly enormous range of cloud-based computing services.
GCP also offers a 90-day free trial with a $300 credit
that you can use towards things like upgrading the amount of persistent storage and the number of CPUs. Plus, there is an always-free e2-micro VM instance with 0.25 CPUs and 1GB of RAM, and its free usage limits include 30GB of storage, and 1GB of network traffic.
So, Is Microsoft Azure Really The Best Cloud Hosting Service?
It’s hard to say which of these types of services is “the best,” because performance will depend heavily on the skills of your web development team, and price will depend heavily on the requirements of your project. Suffice it to say, Many big companies use and trust Azure, so you probably won’t go wrong with this service – but keep an eye on the cost of persistent storage.
B-series virtual machines give your web server the flexibility to handle consistent traffic, and ramp up when needed
. The memory optimization of B1ms can enable your web server to handle periodic bumps in traffic and many simultaneous site actions like log-ins and purchases.
Azure’s dedicated servers are meant for very high levels of site traffic and give you the most flexibility and control
. You could go with the Fsv2-Type2 dedicated server as a decent middle-of-the-road option if your site observes up to around 10 million monthly visitors.
If you want even more flexibility and the ability to fine-tune your service on a minute-to-minute basis, and you don’t need any of the advanced cloud computing services on offer from Azure, Kamatera might be a better option for you.
Finally, if the whole process of customizing, configuring, and maintaining a server seems too onerous, you can opt for a managed cloud hosting plan from Liquid Web.
This should appeal to you if your online operations are smaller and less complex, and you don’t want to have to retain a developer.
Does Microsoft Azure offer a free trial or a free account?
Microsoft Azure offers an opportunity to try its platform with a number of services that are free for a year or for 750 hours (whichever comes first), along with a $200 credit. These free services include a B1s burstable Windows or Linux virtual machine, and two 64GB persistent storage disks (which usually incur an additional charge). The $200 credit can also be used to pay for any other Azure add-ons you want to try out.
Or, if you’ve decided that a fully-customizable option is overkill for your current needs, check out our step-by-step guide to choosing a standard web host and launching your first website.
What can I do with my $200 Microsoft Azure credit?
After you sign up for an account, you can apply your $200 credit towards any products and services you want, including more persistent storage, or another burstable server instance. Just keep in mind that adding resources could deplete this credit more quickly than you might expect, and that it is only valid for 30 days from the time you sign up.
How does Microsoft Azure invoice customers?
With Microsoft Azure, the way you’re charged depends on your subscription model. You can either pay as you go so you pay for only what you use, or you can sign up for a one- or three-year reserved term with fixed prices.
If you pay as you go, Azure measures the resources that you use and bills you accordingly each month. Reserved terms will cost you the same amount each month, and are usually cheaper in the long run, but you’ll need some idea of the resources you expect your website will require over an extended period of time.
How many pricing models does Microsoft Azure offer?
Microsoft Azure offers three primary billing models: pay-as-you-go, 1-year reserved, and 3-year reserved. Opting for the three-year option will get you the best price.
If you’re looking for more options, be sure to have a look at our list of the top 10 web hosting providers for 2023 before making a final decision.
Does Microsoft Azure offer 24/7 customer support?
All of Microsoft Azure’s plans offer basic customer support. This allows you to contact somebody via a ticketing system regarding issues related to the management of your account.
The free basic tier also gives you access to Azure Advisor which Microsoft Azure defines as a “cloud consultant.” Your server deployment is thereby analyzed using several data points, and recommendations are made regarding how to improve it.
In order to get access to 24/7 technical support via chat and phone, you’ll have to upgrade to one of the paid support plans, which vary greatly in price.