Recently Microsoft started offering a $100 per month credit to all MSDN subscribers for using their Azure cloud based services. A lot of developers here at ICF have MSDN subscriptions so I definitely recommend checking this out if you haven’t already done so. I never really considered using Azure for anything as I had assumed it was mostly used as a cloud based hosting service similar to Amazon. It wasn’t until I recently read a blog post by Scott Hanselman that I realized Azure could be used for much more than that. With MSDN you automatically get access to all the latest Microsoft Software including the latest releases of Visual Studio and a range of development tools. Microsoft started offering pre-configured Virtual Machines in the cloud with Windows server automatically installed along with Visual Studio. I have an MSDN Premium account so I was able to select the Visual Studio Premium configuration.
The process for setting up was really easy. You just need to sign into Azure using your MSDN Microsoft account. There you can choose to add a new Virtual Machine and pick from one of the preconfigured servers. I chose Visual Studio Premium 2013 as I have the MSDN Premium account. There is a choice of small, medium or dedicated setups – I have found the medium is more than sufficient for my development needs. Once your account is setup, you will need to attach storage to it. This is a really important step because the machine hard disk space isn’t reserved. In other words, if you store any work there it may go away without warning. I gave myself 120Gb and partitioned it as an additional drive. You are only ever charged for the amount of space you are taking up on the machine. Without going into all the details of setup, if you are interested in doing this – check out Scott Hanselman’s post.
The nice thing about MSDN is that you have $100 per month and you can set this up so it never uses more than your assigned credit. I have never come close to using up the entire amount of credit, however you have the option to shut down your VM to reduce the amount of credit being used when you do need to access it. Recently I went on a trip overseas and instead of carrying my development machine with me, I decided to take my tablet. Anytime I needed to do any development work, I simply logged into my Azure VM. Because MSDN also comes with licenses for Office and other software I was able to install everything I needed to get work done on the go. Currently my Azure development environment has Visual Studio Premium, WAMP, Sublime, Microsoft Office, Fiddler and a few other applications and development tools. If you have MSDN, I would highly recommend checking it out.