Signing Up for Windows Azure

It’s easier than you think to get started with Windows Azure, and in this blog post, I’ll walk you through the steps. Once you’re signed up with a trial subscription, you’ll be able to explore all of the services available on Azure.

Basically, you need two things: a Microsoft account and a Windows Azure subscription. It’s quite possible that you already have a Microsoft account, which was formerly known as a Windows Live ID. This is the same account you might be using today for logging in to various Microsoft websites and services, such as Outlook.com, Hotmail, Xbox LIVE, Windows Phone, OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive), and other Microsoft offerings.

Creating a Microsoft account

The very first step before you can use any Windows Azure service is to acquire a Microsoft account if you don’t already have one. This is essentially an email address and password combination you will use to create and access your Windows Azure subscription. If you already have a Microsoft account, you can use it now to create a new Azure subscription. There’s no need to create another account, so you can just skip ahead to the next section, “Creating a Windows Azure subscription.” Otherwise, you’ll need to create one now.

If you already have a Microsoft account but you want to use a different email address for any reason, you still don’t need to create a new account. You can either rename the existing account or create an alias. See http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/hotmail/get-new-outlook-address for more information.

If you do create a new Microsoft account, the user name can be an email address you already own. Alternatively, you can create a new email address for the account that ends either with @outlook.com or @hotmail.com. It really makes no difference which you choose, as long as the name you provide has not already been taken by someone else at either @outlook.com or @hotmail.com. If you do choose to create a new email address, you will also get a new mailbox account at that address, and Microsoft will communicate with you via that mailbox any time it needs to notify you about important information regarding your account.

Whether you use an existing email address or create a new one, you’ll also need to assign a strong password to protect the Microsoft account. Some additional personal information is also required, such as your name, gender, one of two forms of identity confirmation, your country, and your postal/Zip code.

Follow these steps to create your new Microsoft account:

  1. Using Internet Explorer, browse to http://signup.live.com. This displays the Create An Account page:
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  2. Provide your first and last names.
  3. For the Microsoft account user name (which is what you will be logging on to the Windows Azure portal with), provide an existing email address. Or click the Or Get A New Email Address link to create a new one available on either @outlook.com, @hotmail.com or @live.com.
  4. Supply a password, and then reenter it to confirm. The account requires a strong password of at least eight characters that must contain a combination of mixed case, numbers, and symbols.
  5. Provide your country and postal/Zip code, birthdate, and gender.
  6. Provide a phone number or alternate email address. You must provide at least one of these identity-confirmation methods.
  7. Type the random characters generated to prove that you’re a real person.
  8. Click the Create Account button.

If you created a new email address in step 3, a mailbox for it is immediately created and you are directed immediately to the Account Summary page. If you provided an existing email address, you will receive an email at that address from the Microsoft account team shortly after clicking Create Account. This email is sent to verify that you do, in fact, own the email address you provided. Your new Microsoft account will not become activated until you click on the verification link provided in the email.

Creating a Windows Azure subscription

Now that you have your Microsoft account, it’s time to create an Azure subscription. The subscription is essentially your Windows Azure billing account, and that opens the gateway to the full range of services available on Windows Azure.

In the procedure that follows, you will create a free trial subscription to Windows Azure. Currently, the free trial gives you $200 of credit for 30 days with access to all services. This requires providing credit card information that will be used to bill your subscription after your trial expires.

Note that Microsoft Azure pricing and special offers are subject to ongoing change. I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/pricing/purchase-options/ to review the latest pricing structures available. Furthermore, special pricing is available for MSDN subscribers. See http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/pricing/member-offers/msdn-benefits/ for more information.

Follow these steps to create your new Windows Azure subscription:

  1. Using Internet Explorer, browse to http://www.windowsazure.com.
  2. Click the green Try For Free button.
  3. On the next page, click the green Try It Now button.
  4. If you are not already logged in to your Microsoft account, log in now.
  5. You will be taken to the Free Trial Signup page, as shown below.
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  6. Choose to either receive a text message or phone call as the method to receive a verification code.
  7. Enter the code received via the text message or phone call, and click Verify Code.
  8. Provide the credit card payment details for billing after the free trial expires.
  9. Select the box to indicate that you agree to all the terms.
  10. Click the green Sign Up button.

It takes just a few moments to complete setting up your new Azure subscription, and then you’re ready to get started working with Windows Azure services.

In future posts, I’ll show you how to get started with Windows Azure SQL Database, the cloud version of SQL Server.

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