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I remember the days when creating a personal website was a major chore. I had to figure out how to install web server software, create a website, fiddle with ports and NAT settings to allow inbound HTTP port 80 on my firewall, and a lot of other finagling. Not to mention, my website would break if I performed some patches or accidentally tripped over the power cable! It wasn't easy, but I'm a geek so I loved it. Nowadays, though, I don't much care about how to get the website going. I just want the website! I want the services I care about ASAP and, luckily for me (and millions of others), I can with Microsoft Azure Web Apps.
Microsoft Azure has dozens of different cloud offerings. One of its most popular is the web app service. The reason is that it's a PaaS offering which essentially means I no longer have to fiddle with an infrastructure to come up with a website. All of the tasks of getting a server up and running, fiddling with network settings, etc., are gone. I can simply specify a few different parameters I'd like my website to have, wait a few minutes, and my website is created.
Before we get started, I'm going to assume you already have an active Azure subscription. If not, you'll need to sign up. As of this writing, you can receive $200 in credits during a free 1-month trial. Also, it will help if you already have an Azure Resource Group configured to place your website in. However, if you don't, that's OK. You can create a generic one at the time of website creation.
First of all, you'll need to head to the Azure portal. This is where you'll find all of your various Azure services. To create a website, you'll need to click on New in the upper left-hand corner, select Web + Mobile, and select Web App. This will take you to a screen to specify a few different parameters you'll need to create your website.
The most visible attribute you'll need to specify is the website name. Microsoft has created a domain azurewebsites.net for you, so you don't have to mess with DNS settings anymore. The website will be in this domain where your subdomain will reside. In the App name box, you'll have to specify the domain name you'd like to have. Since azurewebsites.net is a public domain, this will have to be unique.
You'll find that if you try to pick a domain that's already taken, it will notify you.
Once you come up with a unique name, you'll have to specify your subscription, your resource group (if you already have one), and the App service plan location. You can either accept the default one they'll create for you or build your own. I suggest taking a few extra minutes and making your own. This way you can select the data center location that's closest to you.
Once you’re ready, click Create, and you'll be notified that your web app deployment has started.
Within a few minutes, you should see that your web app deployment has succeeded to the resource group specified. Your website is now live!
To view your newly-created website, navigate to the left-hand side again and, this time, choose App Services. This will show you all of the sites currently created in your subscription. Notice here I have one called uniquewebsite.
If you click on that, you'll then be presented with various properties. One of which will be the URL of your website.
Click on the URL to see what your website currently looks like. Microsoft builds every website with a generic template as shown below, but you'll obviously want to change this. At this point, you'll need to upload files to your website.
Successful Web App Creation
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To upload files, you can use the FTP hostname provided on the same screen as the URL. This will allow you to use any FTP client you wish with the appropriate subscription credentials to connect and begin to build your first Azure website!