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Windows Azure 90 Day Free Trial - Buyer Beware!

15 Jun

This is just a quick public service announcement for those that might be looking at trying the new Windows Azure service for hosting a DotNetNuke site.  I have been working with a few people that have been wanting to try it out and overall the experience has been pretty good as the DNN install was successful and performed quite well.  However, the reason for this post is a warning to those of you that are working within the "free trial" period.

As you go to sign up for the Azure free trial you will notice that they post certain notes about limits which all seem pretty reasonable, although hard to actually conceptualize.  Reading into this a bit more you will find the following fine print:

A Windows Live ID and credit card are required for proof of identity. There is no obligation to purchase at the end of the free trial. The trial includes monthly allocations for use. If you exceed these allocations, a spending limit will apply and your service will be disabled until the beginning of the next billing month; you will be required to redeploy your application and your subscription will expire at the end of the trial

I have highlighted the key piece here in red.  The operative phrase here is "redeploy" which means that you will lose ALL data that you have loaded to your virtual machine and that data is UNRECOVERABLE. 

After having two clients lose their VM's due to this issue I've done a bit more investigation and came up with a few important notes around how this whole process works.

  1. By default your account under the free trial has a spending limit of $0.00, if you incur a $0.01 overage, your account will be shutdown and your VM destroyed.....
  2. Your free trial contains 1,000,000 storage transactions per month (A $1 value)
  3. In my experience we used 1,060,000 storage transactions with a single DNN test site in a 6 day period...

So, although I believe that Azure is a great option for hosting, be sure that you are really mindful of the terms and conditions and lift the spending limit on your account.  You don't want to lose a VM instance and all of your work due to a $0.06 overage which is what happened to myself and a client this week.

Update - 6/16/2012

After a round of discussions with my client, Microsoft, and more poking around on the online tools we found out that we were given incorrect information from technical support.  If you hit the limit as noted above the Virtual Machine is deleted, however the disk volumes that you had are not deleted.  Still not ideal as you have to re-configure the VM, endpoints etc, but you still have your data etc. 

Regardless of this, if running a DotNetNuke site on Azure where you are charged for storage transactions I strongly recommend changing ALL caching to "Memory" to ensure that simple caching doesn't rack up excessive charges on your account.  I'll be pushing an update to my Performance Best Practices whitepaper soon.

tags: DNN, Quick Tips, Risk Management
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