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Step-by-Step: Microsoft Azure Free Trial – Create a Farm with the Azure Template ‘SharePoint Server Farm’

Following step-by-step guide helps you to use the Azure template “SharePoint server farm” though you have a Azure free trial account.

Microsoft offers a free trial account with $200 credit that lets you evaluate Azure for a month. But it seems like you can’t use the Azure template SharePoint server farm when you have a trial account. Well you can use it – I found a way that I want to share with you.

Explanation

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To set up a development environment for Microsoft Azure you can choose between two different deployment models:

  • Classic: create and configure every single resource (virtual networks, virtual machines, etc.) by yourself
  • Azure Resource Manager (ARM): group resources and automate with quickstart templates

Only with ARM it is possible to use a Azure template (ARM template). Of course the second model is considerably more faster and would be the favorite one. After the preparation was done it took about 30 Minutes to deploy a complete SharePoint three tier small farm!

You can find a lot of guides for the classic deployment (see link list at the end of this post), but nearly no information about the second one. Microsoft states, that you can’t use SharePoint server farm templatess with a trial account, see following screenshot of the Microsoft page Create SharePoint server farms.

2016-04-14 09_40_44-Create SharePoint server farms _ Microsoft Azure_org
Here’s the good news: you CAN use it!  :)
Just use following Step-by-Step guide.

Step-by-Step: Microsoft Azure Free Trial – Create a Farm with the Azure template “SharePoint server farm”

Create Azure free trial account

1. Create your Azure free trial account by clicking on the link here and then Start now. (If you want you can learn more about this offer on the page here.)

Create your free Azure account

2. If you are already signed in: go to step 3. Otherwise sign in with the Windows Live ID you want to use for Azure. You can choose your existing Windows Live ID or create a new one. Keep in mind that Microsoft has made it easy to turn your Windows Azure free trial into a standard month-to-month subscription at the end of the trial period.

3. A Sign up page with four steps opens up.

  • Step 1 – About you
    Already filled with the data of your Windows Live ID. (I didn’t have to enter anything)
  • Step 2 – Verification by phone
    Enter your mobile phone number and click on Send text message. When you became the verification number enter it in the field below (will appear after it has been sent).
  • Step 3 – Verification by card
Info!
To avoid costs a few points are to be considered, see step 8
  • Enter your credit card number, type, etc. This credit card will NOT be charged. If you’re feeling uncomfortable or unsure with this step you can find here a detailed explanation (refers to the old 90 days offer but the dialog hasn’t changed much)
  • Step 4 – Agreement
    Set the check box of I agree to the… box and click Sign up.

4. A page Welcome to Microsoft Azure! appears while the subscription is prepared. This takes up to four minutes.

Welcome to Microsoft Azure1

Let this windows open and then the page headline changes from Just a moment while we get things ready to Your subscription is ready for you! Click on Start managing my service.

6. The page Subscriptions opens up.

Upgrade your Free Trial subscription to Pay-As-You-Go

7. On the subscription page from step 6 click on your newly created subscription Free Trial.

Subscriptions - overview

8. Upgrade your subscription
With the following step it looks like as if some costs may appear. This definitely could take place. Microsoft had some billing issues back in 2013, and one can’t be sure how proper they work now – for me it all worked fine until now.

Warning!
To avoid costs you have to take care of following points:

  • Shut down your virtual machines, otherwise the costs will explode. Shut them down via Dashboard, not instance. See section Saving costs
  • To be sure one could use a prepaid credit card. Don’t load it with any amount so Microsoft can’t charge it!  :)  (I hope the Microsoft marketing guys won’t read this)  😀
  • This was what I did because I wasn’t experienced with Azure trials. Now, after the trial month went over and the regular bills came I am able to sum up my experience: shut down the machines properly and the monthly costs are below 5,00$
  • With the upgrade you will keep your credit of $200, but it will also expire after a month
  • With the upgrade you removed your spending limit. So don’t consume your $200 credit completely
  • Have a regular look on your subscription credit. Bookmark the windows that is open right now (the subscription name will change from “Free Trial” to “Pay-As-You-Go” but the URL won’t change)

You can see in the notification area the notification Your Free Trial expires in 29 days. Click here to automatically convert to Pay-As-You-Go and avoid service disruption or in the tasks area the button Upgrade now. Click on one of them to upgrade.

Subscription 'Free Trial'1

Create SharePoint farm

9. Go to the Azure template SharePoint 2013 non-HA Farm here and click on deploy.

10. If you are not yet logged in: a Sign in page opens up. Enter the credentials you used for the Azure trial account.

11. The SharePoint 2013 non-HA Farm pane opens up in the Azure Dashboard. On this pane click Create.

Azure template 'SharePoint 2013 non-HA Farm'

12. Now you can specify settings on the seven steps of the Create SharePoint 2013 HA Farm pane.

Create 'SharePoint 2013 HA Farm' pane - step 1b

I assume you have already set up a SharePoint farm so I won’t describe the steps in detail – they explain themselves. Only three things are a little bit tricky. In step 2 in the field Username don’t take your name but a SharePoint setup account name. In step 5 under DNS label take a URL of the Content site template you’ll name at the bottom, not Central Administration.

Info!
In step 6 it will check the configuration and then throw an error QuotaExceeded. It’s because only 4 cores per region are allowed. Since you grouped your resources with the Resource Manager you can’t use two regions. So with the 10 cores all in all the quota is exceeded. But it is simple to solve that: just click on Raise quota (or so).It will open a support ticket automatically. Then it takes around 5 long days till the quota is raised. If they start a discussion that first the spending limit has to be removed then say that you have already upgraded your subscription. That’s why step 8 was necessary.

QuotaExceeded3

Saving costs

With Azure the biggest costs were created when VMs run. For SharePoint you need a SQL server and this one is quite expensive. That’s why one should shut down the VMs after use. It is important to shut down VMs via the Azure dashboard, not on the instance itself! You can use the PowerShell cmdlet “Stop-AzureVM” for it as well.

Further links

Azure Resource Manager deployment

Explanation of the Azure templates “SharePoint HA” and “SharePoint non-HA”

Classic deployment

Create SharePoint 2013 development environments quickly on Azure (via Scripts)
Create a SharePoint development environment on a Microsoft Azure virtual machine (via Scripts)
Step-by-Step: Create SharePoint 2016 Farm with Azure Virtual Machines (manual installations)
Automatische Erstellung einer SharePoint 2013 Entwicklungsumgebung in Microsoft Azure via PowerShell (in german)

SharePoint 2013 development environments

Complete list of different ways including Office 365 and dev environment on notebook

Office 365 development

Office 365 Development for Beginners

[Update: added a summary of my experience in step 8 after the trial month was over]

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