Azure Free Account? Is it really free?
Azure is an extremely big and powerful cloud platform that you can use to develop and run your applications. There are services to run your applications with, like Web Apps, VMs, Kubernetes, Logic Apps and many more. And there are lots of other services, that help you focus on the things that matter, instead of building plumbing. These are services like Cosmos DB, Cognitive Services, Azure Active Directory and many more.
If you are new to Azure or if you want to run an experiment on Azure, you can use it for free, for 12 months.
In this post, we'll explore how to create an Azure account that you can for free, and what's included in the offer.
Creating a free Azure account
To start your journey into Azure, you can go to https://azure.microsoft.com/free/. This takes you to the landing page of the free account offer, which looks like this:
(Free Azure account website)
You can explore the page to see what's included in the offer. This is what you get when sign up for a free Azure account:
12 months of free use of the following services:
- Linux Virtual Machines
- Windows Virtual Machines
- Managed Disks
- Blob Storage
- File Storage
- Microsoft SQL Server Database
- Azure Cosmos DB
- Bandwidth (Outbound Data Transfer)
- Cognitive Services
You can use all of these services for free for 12 months, within the free service limits for the particular service.
For instance, you get 750 hours of Windows Virtual Machine for free. You can spend these hours over 12 months.
$200 Azure credit for the first 30 days
If you want to use a service that is not in the list of free services, or if you use more than the free service limits, you get charged for that usage. In the first 30 days after you've created your free account, this charge is deducted from $200 that you get for free. When you've spent the $200 or your 30 days are up, you will be charged for any service usage that is beyond the free service limits.
Services that are always free to use
On top of the free services offer, there are Azure services that have a free tier that you can always use. These are the services that have a free usage tier:
- App Service
- Azure Functions
- Event Grid
- Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS)
- DevTest Labs
- Active Directory B2C
- Service Fabric
- Azure DevOps
- Security Center
- Load Balancer
- Data Factory
- Cognitive Search
- Notification Hubs
- Data Catalog
- Virtual Network
- Inter-VNET data transfer
- Bandwidth (Outbound Data Transfer)
Create your free account
- Go to https://azure.microsoft.com/free/ and click the green Start button
- Login with a Microsoft account or a GitHub account. If you don't have one yet, you can create one
- First, you need to verify your identity by phone. You can do that by entering your phone number and putting in the verification code that you receive
- Next, you need to fill in the details of a credit card. Don't worry, you won't be charged. And by default, the Azure subscription that you create has a spending limit on it, so you can't use more than the free $200 that you receive until you remove this limit manually
- Fill in your personal details and click Next
- Finally, agree to the agreement and click Sign up. Your free Azure account will now be created
After a few moments, your Azure subscription is ready. Now, you can go to the Azure portal (https://portal.azure.com/) and start using Azure.
Start using Azure
Now that you have a free account, you can start using Azure.
A great place to start is with the Azure Cognitive Services. These are services that provide AI-as-a-service. They come with pre-trained machine learning algorithms and are packaged as APIs that you can call. Take the Face API for instance. You can spin up an instance of it and send it an image of a person. It will tell you if it can see the person's face in the image and where it is in the image. And it will also tell you the gender of the person, estimated age, facial hair, glasses, emotion, hair and more. And you get 30.000 transactions for free!
Let's create a Cognitive Service:
- Go to the Azure portal
- Click the Create a resource button (the plus sign in the top left corner)
- Search for Cognitive Services and click on the result to start creating one
- This brings you to the create blade of Azure Cognitive Services
- Fill in a Name for the service
- Select a Location
- Select the S0 Pricing tier
- Select a Resource Group (or create a new one)
- Check the box to indicate that you've read and understood the legal notice
- Click Create to create the Cognitive Service
Once the Cognitive Service is created, you can give the Face API a try by following one of the 5-minute quickstarts on this page.
You can also use one of the services that have a free tier. You can try that with Azure Web Apps. This has a free tier that you can use forever. The only catch is that the free tier isn't as powerful and doesn't have as many capabilities as paid tiers.
(Web Apps free tier in the Azure portal)
Monitor your free usage
In the Azure portal, you can see the usage of your free services when you look at your subscription details:
- Go to the Azure portal
- Search for subscription in the search box at the top of the portal and click on the Subscriptions result
- Select the subscription (it is probably called Free Trial)
You'll now see your usage for the free services, shown in percentage. Here, you'll also see your free $200 credit and if anything of that is used and for what.
(Free service usage in the Azure portal)
If you want to try Azure for free, you can! There are many services that you can use for free, for 12 months. On top of that, you get $200 to spend in the first month. And there are many services that always have a free usage tier so that you can use them for free, or just try them out. Sign up now and check it out!
Stay connected with me on various social platforms for daily software development news.
Top comments (20)
Regarding the 200 credit, I wish MS would have allowed free-account holders to decide, when to start the 30days immediately upon registration or anytime later with a limit of 12 months period. The reason i am saying this, there could be many like me who are still in the beginner stage of Azure and may not need this 200USD in the initial 30days. May be after doing practice, free limited account is good enough for that, when I am feeling confident to test some complex/big scenario can use that CREDIT. MS can just give an "activate" option to trigger its usage at anytime. I am pretty sure many newbies are not able to utilize this 200USD credit for anything meaning full.
I agree with some others that Azure is a bit scary because I don't really understand how the billing works completely. Each time I have ventured off a bit I got a surprising bill. It's not much (under $5) but I thought it was included in the 12 month free plan. I'm just experimenting, not using it for work. Anyway, I recently found this app. It automatically constrains your virtual machine setups to the free tier stuff, a bit like AWS EC2 if anyone has ever tried. I don't think it works on anything else but it's decent for VM setup. Here's the link: azuremarketplace.microsoft.com/en-...
I use Azure to host a Django app using App Service, which sits on top of a PostgreSQL database. I'm on the second month of my free account (currently Pay-As-You-Go), thus I no longer have the 170 EUR credit. Apparently, Azure charges my account for the postgres db server, as I can clearly see in the subscription overview. So, can you please clarify what "SQL Database" service covers whilst on the free tier? Thanks!
Microsoft SQL Server - any other questions then let me know.
I knew that because I'm a long-term Azure user, but maybe it should be clarified in the Azure Page as SQL Server/SQL Azure Database. SQL Database can be misunderstood as Oracle, MySQL, MariaDB, PostgreSQL, etc. All of them are SQL Databases. This is misleading point for people new in the MS ecosystem. Furthermore, from my knowledge IBM is the one who started to develop SQL.
For me with small rather private usage there are too many shortcomings leading to high and costly administrative risks:
I am a professional developer, so when I develop for home/leisure I need an easy and worry free solution. Now that a 40 USD raspberry pi supports docker, I cannot justify anymore to hosts my solutions on the cloud. There are too many administrative risks with the cloud and I already lost countless hours with Google end of support service or Amazon sudden jumping fee, I don't want to go again on the cloud route with another copy cat (administratively speaking). When you are late to the game, you should be better and address those elementary problems !
We have docs on billing, etc. that could help. There is also a pricing calculator to help.
The pricing can be confusing. The Azure ML for example is not understandable by regular users or business users. You need to have quite deep technical knowledge in this area. For example,
Hi, I have one doubt. Can we host a commercial website for free forever in azure ? I need a website and a SQL Server DB and need to connect the website to godaddy domain. Is this possible using free azure trial forever ?
Thank you for this article. It came along at just the right time to me.
I am currently preparing AZ-900.
Amongst others I learn from MS Learn platform.
They mentioned the free account but without going too much into details.
I heard of Azure for quite some time now, but I never dare to try because I would be afraid of being billed hundreds if not thousands without noticing.
That would be better if the limits on free account are on quantity per month for instance. This would allow for regular practice yet not being able to use it for production (should this be what MS would like to avoid).
As some comments say, it is nice to get upfront credit but as you start using the service, you may simply refrain to explore blindly and it would be gone.
1 month is pretty fast.
People may have little time to try different kind of services.
I learnt there are sandbox, but there is very few you can do in there.
Actually I would do with a sandbox that allows me to explore freely. I don't particularly need to keep assets if it is to learn.
Hopefully MS would do such changes someday.
It is indeed free, if you're smart about it. They don't exactly tell you when you're about to create something that isn't free, you basically have to double check to make sure. The great thing is, they only charge for what you use, so in most cases your $200 credit will absorb the costs and hopefully you'll realize that something isn't quite right with your 'free' tier account.
My advice is...don't blow your $200 line just trying things out. Save it as a just in case, or for small tests. Unless that is, you're ready to move beyond the free tier.
Where is that website that collects 4$ per month
well, I'm happy to have Oracle Cloud always free server; 4 cpu, 24 GB RAM, 200 GB disk, 5 Backups, and 4 Gbps network speed. The performance is awesome!
Wow free storage for a month. I wonder if aws does free tier on their storage. This is cool. thanks.
Thanks! Feel free to check around but we'd love to have you using Azure.