If you want to continue testing and training in Azure after the free 30-day trial, you have quite a few options to save costs. In this article I give you a few tips on how to keep your Azure costs low.

Training with traditional on-premises products is very easy and cheap, not to mention free (excluding your personal hardware). You can download nearly every Microsoft product as a trial version from the Evaluation Center. And if you don't have a second computer, you can even dual-boot your only computer with another operating system (OS) dedicated to a lab.

What makes this method completely free is that after the trial period expires, you just have to reinstall your OS and your products in your lab from scratch to start with a completely new trial period.

For Azure, things are a little different. Microsoft is really willing to give you a taste of Azure with a free trial offer, letting you try and test it. This offer contains a $200 credit you can spend during 30 days and also a quota of popular free services for 12 months in addition to the more than 25 services that are always free.

Great—you've subscribed for a free trial! But… the 30-day period came to an end. So now what? Of course, 30 days is not enough to become an Azure expert, and you need more time to train.

Furthermore, if you want to enjoy your remaining quota of free services for the next 11 months, you have to switch to the Pay-As-You-Go subscription.

So how can you continue training at the lowest possible cost if not for free?

Free solutions

Microsoft Azure for Students Starter offer

If you are a student, you can subscribe to the student offer if you are able to provide either a verification code or your school email.

Azure for Students subscription methods

Azure for Students subscription methods

Microsoft self-paced labs

At the time of this writing, Microsoft offers 43 self-paced labs dedicated to Azure topics.

Nearly free solutions

Ask your company if you can have a Visual Studio license.

Depending on the subscription type, you can get different benefits like:

  • A monthly credit up to $150
  • Dev/test pricing
  • A period of free access to learning sites (LinkedIn, PluralSight, etc.)

Understanding cost basics

In Azure, you pay because you consume resources:

  • Compute (CPU and RAM)
  • Storage (space and read/write operations)
  • Network (ingress and egress bandwidth)

A lot of services are cheap or free in themselves, but you will consume underlying resources. In fact, nearly everything consumes storage resources at least. For example, everything based on log analysis uses storage space and disk operations to store and read logs for analysis.

Virtual machines (VMs) are another example. When the VM is offline, you won't pay any compute resources, but you will still pay for the public IP address (if the VM is not deallocated). You'll also pay for the disk space it consumes (typically a P10 disk for the OS and potentially other data disks if you attached any).

Keep tracking your spending

Here I will show you how to create a new dashboard so you are aware of your spending at a glance.

  1. In the portal, click on + New dashboard.
    Create a new dashboard

    Create a new dashboard

  2. Give it a name like "Costs" for example and click on Done customizing.
  3. Click on All services and type "Cost" in the filter field.
    Picking up the Cost service

    Picking up the Cost service

  1. Click on Cost Management + Billing.
  2. On the Overview blade, click on the Pay-As-You-Go

    Select the subscription

    Select the subscription

  3. Here you can follow up your quota of resources that are free for the next 11 months.
  4. Click on the pin on each diagram to pin it to the dashboard you just created.
    Pin your diagrams to the dashboard

    Pin your diagrams to the dashboard

  1. Now every time you log in to Azure, have a look at that dashboard.

Estimate the cost before creating any resource

The Azure calculator gives you the ability to estimate the cost before creating resources. Its advantage is that it makes you think about all related side costs.

For example, if you need storage, you must think about read and write operation costs and not only the used or provisioned space.

Azure calculator

Azure calculator

Set up billing or credit alerts for your Microsoft Azure subscriptions

  1. Go to the account portal (which is different from the Azure portal).
  2. Ensure that in the Preview Features, the Billing Alert Service is active.
    Ensure billing alerts are enabled

    Ensure billing alerts are enabled

  3. Then from the subscription menu, click on your subscription.
    Select your subscription

    Select your subscription

  4. Click on Alerts.
    Click on Alerts

    Click on Alerts

  5. Create an alert to warn you as soon as you are near the spending limit you fixed for your account.
Create one or several alerts

Create one or several alerts

Get the most of your 12 months of free services

  • During the 30-day period, you probably used a part or all of your $200 credit. This means the resources you created are outside the permanent free set or outside the free (12-month) monthly quota. The best you can do now is to remove all of your current resources and start from scratch with only low-cost resources.
  • When you create a VM:
    • Use Standard disks instead of Premium disks.
    • Use locally redundant storage.
    • Use a general purpose v1 storage account.
    • Configure VMs with auto-shutdown enabled (if this option is not available in the region you chose, change the region).
    • Select only B1s VMs (the free offer does not include other VM types).
    • Don't back up your VMs.
    • Disable diagnostics when not needed because it uses storage.
    • Furthermore, you should deallocate VMs by stopping them with the Azure interface instead by stopping them inside a RDP session. This way you will lose your current IP address and will not incur a charge for it any longer.
  • Remove resources as soon as you've finished training with them. For example, if you want to train on attaching disks to a VM, create them, attach them, and detach them. But when you have finished, delete them.
  • When you want to remove unnecessary resources, check your resource groups. For example, when you delete a VM, you must also delete the OS disk, additional data disks, the public IP address, log files, and metrics. You should put all related resources in the same resource group. Thus, when you delete the resource group, you won't forget to delete related resources.
  • When you reach the limit of your 12 months of free resources, wait until the end of the 30-day period. The quotas reset to zero every 30 days.
  • Don't keep resources you don't need right now, but instead save their templates so you can delete them now and create them quickly again when you need them later.
Add automation scripts to the library when the resource is not needed

Add automation scripts to the library when the resource is not needed

Deploy resources with the automation script when they are needed

Deploy resources with the automation script when they are needed

Use PowerShell instead of RDP

RDP sessions use a lot more of ingress and egress network resources than using PowerShell cmdlets.

Do not use the integrated console but a PowerShell console on your own computer

There is now an integrated console in Azure, which you can use to manage your environment from the command line.

Azure integrated console

Azure integrated console

However, this convenient tool will start a VM in the background and consume storage space.

Instead, install the AzureRM module on your own workstation and manage your environment remotely.

Turn on and check out Azure Advisor recommendations

If Azure Advisor is not already in your favorites:

Subscribe to 4sysops newsletter!

  1. Click on All Services.
  2. In the filter field, type Advisor.
  3. Click on the little star next to Advisor.
Add Advisor to your Favorites list

Add Advisor to your Favorites list

  1. Now you can get some advisories from time to time.
Check for cost advisories

Check for cost advisories

Are you testing in Azure? How do you keep your costs down?


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