I was using dotnet-host.com, an "el cheapo" $5/month hoster to host my Website and my blog. They were hacked a few weeks ago and got back online but last week, they simply shut down with no warning at all so I decided to move my stuff to Azure. My Website is very simple, it's a static one page business card type of site. For my blog, I use BlogEngine.Net set to store the data in XML files, nothing fancy.
I decided to try Web Sites first. Web Sites are in preview (read Beta) right now and you get 10 of them free with your Azure account. Creating a Web Site is easy, you can create an empty one, one with a SQL or MySQL database or one from a gallery of apps including DasBlog or WordPress. Think of shared hosting à la GoDaddy. You end up with an URL like http://mysite.azurewebsites.net that but you can’t point a domain to it. That option may come later at a fee.
Since I wanted to point my domain to my web site and my blog I decided to try the new Virtual Machine role currently in preview (Beta) mode. Note that this role is different from the VM Role that was previously and still is available on Azure. The main difference is that Virtual Machines have persistent storage. When creating a new Virtual Machine, you’re presented with a choice of operating systems that even include Linux.
I decided to create on with Windows 2012 RC so I could familiarize myself with it. Once provisioned, I created a data disk where I would place my web site and blog files. I then clicked on connect to launch a remote desktop connection to the virtual machine.
From there, it’s business as usual. I went into disk management to format and assign a letter to the data drive. I installed IIS and created two sites. I copy and pasted the web sites files from my PC directly into the remote machine.
Back to the Azure portal, I punched a hole in the Azure firewall to let HTTP traffic in. You simply click on the endpoints link and create a new endpoint.
Lastly, in GoDaddy, I pointed my domain to the virtual IP address provided by Azure and created a CNAME for www and one for blog. The whole process took about an hour. What’s amazing is that for less than $15/month, I get a full Windows Server VM with failover, bandwidth and storage. The only caveat right now is that geo replication is turned on by default when you create a new data disk from storage. I noticed it when I looked by the detailed usage in billing. Although this is a cool feature, it will triple your storage cost and since I don’t need it, I simply turned it off. Just click on Storage, select your storage, then click on Configure and turn geo replication off. The funny thing is that in Preview mode, this is turned on by default and when you turn it off, you get a warning that this action will impact your billing :-)
A test post from an Azure Virtual Machine