How to set up a study network in Azure without breaking the bank – Part 1

March 5, 2019 Peter Day

Some years back, before Microsoft launched Azure cloud services, my study network consisted of three beefy servers living under the kitchen table at home; it was noisy!  However, it did allow hands-on study and exploration of recent technologies in a safe environment.  Now I have many more Virtual Machines in Azure than I could ever fit in my kitchen, and by managing costs carefully, I can experience innovative technologies and study for exams for a reasonable amount.  Below are my top tips for setting up a study network in Azure without breaking the bank:

Create a free Azure account

Go to https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/free/ and sign up for a free Azure account – Microsoft will give you $200 credit to explore any Azure service for 30 days.

Select disk type carefully

For the lowest costs, select to use HDD rather than any type of SSD disk for your virtual machines.  You will also save money by choosing not to use managed disks, and will learn more about storage accounts in the process.  Please remember that the above two choices are appropriate for a test or study environment where cost is an issue.  However, they might not be the best choices in a production environment.

Deallocate virtual machines

There are two stages to shutting down a virtual machine (VM) in Azure.  First, you can connect to the operating system within the VM and shut it down.  However, even though the operating system has been stopped, you will still be billed for the virtual machine because resources, such as processors, are allocated to it.  To stop paying for computing costs, you will need to shut down and deallocate the VM. If the status for the VM does not say “stopped (deallocated), then you are being billed for computing resources.

Limit data egress

Azure charges you for data egress but not for data ingress.  So you can download software updates, and upload your own files to an Azure VM without being charged for the data going into the VM (i.e., ingress).  However, if you download data from Azure to your local network (i.e., egress), then there is a charge.

Azure hybrid benefit

If you have an eligible operating system license for physical Windows machines, you can use the Azure hybrid benefit feature to reduce costs in Azure.  When you create a standard Windows virtual machine in Azure, part of the hourly charge covers the license for the operating system – it is that element of the virtual machine cost that you can eliminate if you have a suitable license.  The Azure hybrid benefit can be selected when you create a virtual machine, or later in the configuration settings pane.  You can find more information about the hybrid benefit here.

Use the pricing calculator

There are sometimes dependencies and costs that you might not expect.  Use the Azure pricing calculator to learn about the charges for objects before you create them – you’ll find it here: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/calculator/.

 

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