How to start hosting websites with Azure Web Apps

In an earlier post, I suggested that everyone who intends to continue to support Microsoft networks needs to get into Azure now. Microsoft is putting much of its new investments into Azure and you need to follow suit. I discussed how to get your subscription up and running and funded from various sources. Then we looked at what an E-commerce solution looks like in Azure vs. what it used to look like on-premises, and I gave you some resources where you can get free training. Luckily, we’re still in the era where you can get started with Azure with just an investment of your time, and Microsoft is going to provide the rest of the resources you need. Take advantage of that now while the opportunity exists.

I suggested that you get started with backup, Web Apps (website hosting, really), and some of the features that ride along with your Office 365 enterprise subscriptions. For this article, we’ll take a look at what hosting a website looks like in Azure.

Hosting websites in Azure

I own three companies, an MSP, a firm that provides technical assistance to MSPs and a firm that lists MSPs for sale. I’m hosting websites for each of my three businesses in Azure. Initially, I did this so that I could learn how Azure works. It’s not like any other hosting solution that I’ve ever worked with because it’s designed for hosting applications. If you want to learn, then start simple by hosting a website. Here’s what hosting three related websites looks like in Azure.

websites in azure

Setting up a WordPress Web App couldn’t be easier in Azure. It is completely driven by the wizard. Here you see that I’ve got a WordPress website that is supported by a hosted MySQL database and is connected to a storage account that not only contains the website but also hosts the downloadable files for our customers. Azure takes care of GEO availability and scales it up when necessary. The whole thing is then backed up daily. For this I pay about $74 a month using the S1 plan. You may not need all of these features, but if you have a client whose business presence IS their website, then this is where you want to start. My two other more traditional brochure-type websites cost about $10 a month and share the same storage, database, and backup locations.

That’s what I love about the Azure plans. I can scale from a small brochure to a full-fledged web application using the same solution. I just level up. Or if I’m hosting multiple sites, I can share resources with them. I have the flexibility to manage the sites as I choose.

Choosing a plan

If there’s one thing you can always say about Microsoft, it’s that there’s never a lack of licensing options. With WebApps we see that there is a large range of subscription plans that you can choose from. When you first set up your app, you’ll be presented with only three “preferred” options, but go ahead and click the View All link to check out all of them. Once you do, you’ll see the feature cards.

Azure website plans azure website plans

To get familiar with how the WebApp setup works, select the F1 free level. But be aware that the feature set is so limited you won’t find it very interesting. So at a minimum for learning Azure, go to D1 and use up $10 of your free Azure credits. When you decide to host a production site, you can bump it up to a higher level or you can keep it here for hosting a basic brochure site. This is a very competitive price with a nice set of features.

Azure Web Apps monitoring

Azure provides some information to make sure that I’m running efficiently. When I click on my App Service Plan, I get information about my website performance. Here I see that I’m using 67 percent of the available memory pretty consistently and the CPU hovers around 17 percent, with some spikes in activity now and then. Overall, it looks like I have enough headroom left for good performance, but also that I’m actually using what I’m paying for. Both of these are important metric considerations.

azure web metrics

Next up

Now that you have a bunch of websites living happily inside Azure, we can move onto another great introductory feature, and start experimenting with the different backup options for applications, servers, and workstations. Stay tuned!

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