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Azure Free Tier Azure Free Account? Is it really free?

mbcrump profile image Michael Crump Updated on ・7 min read

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:

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(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:

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:

Create your free account

  1. Go to https://azure.microsoft.com/free/ and click the green Start button
  2. Login with a Microsoft account or a GitHub account. If you don't have one yet, you can create one
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. Fill in your personal details and click Next
  6. 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:

  1. Go to the Azure portal
  2. Click the Create a resource button (the plus sign in the top left corner)
  3. 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.

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(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:

  1. Go to the Azure portal
  2. Search for subscription in the search box at the top of the portal and click on the Subscriptions result
  3. 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.

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(Free service usage in the Azure portal)

Conclusion

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.

Discussion (17)

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hanpari profile image
Pavel Morava

I tried Azure, but I have to admit I was afraid to start anything to get charged as I have not comprehended their payment model at all.

Right now, I am happy user of low tier virtual private server for 4USD per month which suits my need and doesn't scare me 😆

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mbcrump profile image
Michael Crump Author

We have docs on billing, etc. that could help. There is also a pricing calculator to help.

azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/...

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hanpari profile image
Pavel Morava

I've just offered some feedback, Michael. How Azure experience felt to me.
I was there to test it but the first thing they wanted was my credit card.

With my private server, I know exactly what to pay with the possibility to upgrade eventually.

Perhaps, I'm just a scary cat but having given out my credit card on the start I was really glad that my account was canceled due to my inactivity.

But I am a mere hobbyist, so you do not need to stress over it 😆

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fanmixco profile image
Federico Navarrete • Edited

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,

azure.microsoft.com/en-gb/pricing/...

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aloksdiptim profile image
alokz diptim!

Where is that website that collects 4$ per month

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hanpari profile image
Pavel Morava • Edited

I am using this one. It is 70 CZK without VAT. 1USD is about 24 CZK. It is a very basic virtual machine, 512 MB RAM and 20 GB SSD space. In setup, you can pick linux or windows of your choice. But Windows server would be probably more expensive. I am using Ubuntu server LTS and before I had Debian. It is prepaid service. If you dont pay, they note you and after a while, they scrap your virtual machine

But not so sure if it is applicable for your country. In English you can check them here.

I am qui

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hanpari profile image
Pavel Morava

Or after quick googling, what about this one.

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samarpandeb profile image
samarpandeb

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.

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Dimitris Gravanis

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!

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mbcrump profile image
Michael Crump Author

Microsoft SQL Server - any other questions then let me know.

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Federico Navarrete • Edited

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.

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Shaiju T

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 ?

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mulder999 profile image
mulder999

For me with small rather private usage there are too many shortcomings leading to high and costly administrative risks:

  • The always free that requires at least one paid subscription (so it is not really free)
  • You cannot cap your spending (no one want to pay unlimited/unjustified price just because someone started to ddos you for fun, we rather have the service stops)
  • PaaS and SaaS have no warranty about the version you can lock (no one want to be forced upgrading once a service is going out of support)

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 !

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c0dezer019 profile image
Brian Blankenship • Edited

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.

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artoodeeto profile image
aRtoo • Edited

Wow free storage for a month. I wonder if aws does free tier on their storage. This is cool. thanks.

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mbcrump profile image
Michael Crump Author

Thanks! Feel free to check around but we'd love to have you using Azure.