Your Options for Getting Microsoft Azure for Free: Explained

Adam Listek

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Microsoft Azure is a major cloud provider with dozens of services. But, Azure for free? It seems too good to be true but, in this case, it’s not! You can find many different ways to use Azure for nothing out of your pocket!

In this article, we’re going to cover all of the free options in Azure and how and how can you best take advantage of them.

Your Free Azure Options

So you need to leverage an Azure service but have no money? You have a few different options; two limited by time and one always free.

Depending on what you need to will depend on which option you can get away with.

Let’s find out which option is for you!

Limited Time Free Azure Account

Like many cloud services, Azure offers a free credit trial to entice potential customers into using the Azure cloud. Azure provides a generous free tier of $200 in Azure credits for the first 30 days and a limited quantity of additional free services for 12 months.

An Azure Free Account is only available to Azure’s new customers, those who have not paid for or used Azure before.

You can create services in any region that supports the service. Additionally, you can create multiple instances as long as the total is within the permitted limits.

Microsoft Azure Portal showing the Free Services Available
Microsoft Azure Portal showing the Free Services Available

What is Free for 12 Months?

  • 5,000 transactions with Text Analytics standard instance
  • 20,000 transactions of Anomaly Detector standard instance
  • 500 pages of Form Recognizer S0
  • 2,000 transactions with Ink Recognizer S0
  • 50,000 transactions with Personalizer S0
  • 10,000 transactions of Content Moderator standard instance to moderate or review
  • 10,000 predictions with Custom Vision standard instance including one training hour and two projects with 5,000 training images each
  • 5,000 transactions with Computer Vision for each S1, S2, and S3 tier
  • 10,000 Text Request transactions with Language Understanding (LUIS)
  • Three days free per month of QnA Maker
  • 30,000 transactions with Face standard instance
  • 2 million characters of any combination of standard translation and custom training with Translator
  • 128 GB of Managed Disks as a combination of two 64 GB (P6) SSD storage, plus 1 GB snapshot and 2 million I/O operations
  • 5 GB of LRS-Hot Blob Storage with 20,000 read and 10,000 write operations
  • 5 GB of LRS File Storage with 2 million read, 2 million list, and 2 million other file operations
  • 250 GB of SQL Database standard S0 instance with 10 database transaction units
  • 15 GB of bandwidth for outbound data transfer with free unlimited inbound transfer
  • 750 hours of Azure B1S General Purpose Virtual Machines for Microsoft Windows Server
  • 750 hours of Azure B1S General Purpose Virtual Machines for Linux
  • 1,500 hours of dynamic public IP addresses for use with B1S Virtual Machines listed above

What Happens When an Account Goes Over the Spending Limits?

Within the first 30 days, you have a $200 credit limit to either additional purchase services or apply to an overage you incur when using products.

For example, saw you use more than 750 hours of Linux VM’s, you can use the $200 to apply for any overages, as long as that overage is incurred within the first 30 days. After 30 days, the account will need to be switched to a pay-as-you-go account.

  • Unused credits cannot be rolled over at the end of the 30 days or transferred to another subscription
  • Within 30 days of sign-up or upon exhaustion of the credits, an account must be upgraded to a Pay-As-You-Go subscription.

It’s important to note that inactive accounts for greater than 90 days may have resources removed.

Of course, the $200 in Azure credits may not be used to purchase every product. Several different products are not allowed to have the credits applied and are listed below.

  • Azure support plans
  • Azure DevOps
  • Visual Studio subscriptions
  • Visual Studio App Center services
  • Express Route
  • Third-party branded products
  • Azure Marketplace Products
  • Separately licensed products from Azure such as Microsoft Azure Active Directory Premium

Always Free Services

Outside of an Azure Free Account, there are always free services that Azure offers to any Azure account holder. To find them, log into the Azure portal and head over to the Free services page as shown below.

Microsoft Azure Portal showing the Always Free Services Available
Microsoft Azure Portal showing the Always Free Services Available

If you need additional services or usage exceeds the limits for free services, you’ll need a pay-as-you-go account so that Azure can bill the overages.

You can do a lot with Azure free services! Just check out a summary of every free service in Azure as of this writing.

IOT

  • Free Azure IoT Hub edition includes 8,000 messages per day with 0.5 KB message meter size
  • Azure IoT Central includes a 7-day free trial for first-time subscribers and 2 free monthly connected devices

Web Services

Security

Identity

Machine Learning

  • Free 2 million characters included for Translator
  • 30,000 transactions per month processing at 20 transactions per minute with Face API
  • 50 MB storage for 10,000 hosted documents with Azure Cognitive Search including 3 indexes per service
  • Machine Learning with 100 modules and 1 hour per experiment with 10 GB included storage

Networking

Data

Containers

Logging

  • Free 5 GB per month analysis plus 31-day retention period with Log Analytics

Monitoring/Automation

  • Free 500 minutes of job run time with Azure Automation
  • Unlimited Azure Batch usage for job scheduling and cluster management
  • Free namespace and 1 million push notifications with Azure Notification Hubs
  • Unlimited recommendations and best practices with Azure Advisor
  • Unlimited nodes (server or platform-as-a-service instance) with Application Insights and 1 GB of telemetry data included per month
  • 100,000 operations for event publishing and delivery with Event Grid

Software Development

Other Free Services

  • Azure Maps S0 account tiers offer 250,000 monthly map tile loads and 25,000 monthly service calls

Azure Dev/Test Pricing

You can get discounted rates on Dev/Test pricing and monthly Azure credits to Visual Studio subscriptions. There are a couple of benefits to the Azure Dev/Test options

  • No Microsoft Software Charges on VM’s
  • Dev/Test Pricing Discounts
  • Windows 10 Virtual Machines & Windows Virtual Desktop service

Companies often offer visual Studio subscriptions to employees who need it, but if a subscription is required, the pricing starts at $1,199 and goes up.

If you are a Visual Studio subscriber, you have a few options available to you, depending on whether you are an individual versus a team. But if you are an individual, you get access to the following.

Keep in mind that the licensing terms for this are restricted for dev/test use only, and production instances are not allowed.

Managing Cost

Of course, you need to manage your cost-effectively and make sure that you aren’t going over this. Thankfully, you can quickly see how your costs are stacking up using the Azure Portal to check the Free Services section and see what is offered and how your usage is.

  1. Navigate to Subscriptions.
  2. Select the subscription associated with the Azure Free Account.
  3. Scroll the page to find the table showing the free service usage.

Below you’ll see a breakdown of usage for an Azure account’s free usage tier.

Microsoft Azure Portal showing the subscription section and usage of free services.
Source: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/cost-management-billing/manage/check-free-service-usage
Microsoft Azure Portal showing the subscription section and usage of free services. Source: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/cost-management-billing/manage/check-free-service-usage

Related: How to Build a Detailed Azure Usage Report with PowerShell

It’s important to note that if you don’t see this table, then your viewing subscription does not have access to the 12 months of free services.

Conclusion

Azure offers many different free services for the first 12 months and in an always free state. With this freedom, it’s easy for new and existing developers to get started using Azure and test out or use Azure for smaller projects. Check out Azure today to see how you can take advantage of the many free and useful services available!

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