Azure vs traditional web hosts

In the past couple of weeks between E3, TechEd, and just the regular pace of technology, there have been a lot of new things to learn about. One of them is the new Azure.

If you are completely unaware, it is Microsoft’s cloud-hosting service. You can host an application on a virtual machine in the cloud, and rapidly scale it up (more CPU and ram) or scale it out (more servers) with a click of the mouse.

So, up until present-day, that wasn’t really on my radar because the only websites I host, are hobbyist-type websites. That means that the price point just didn’t make sense. For example, to get the VERY lowest option with Azure (or Amazon EC2, for that matter) – you’re looking at at least $25/month – because you are basically get your own managed VM. Meaning, they set up a Windows 2008 R2 server and you can Remote Desktop into it and set it up how you want. This isn’t hosting content on a shared server, you are actually getting your own server instance set up.

Considering that traditional web-hosting costs like $4/month, it just doesn’t make sense for me.

Azure:
In the past couple of weeks, they released a new version of the management console and started offering something new – you can host a “website” on a shared server… for FREE. In fact you can host up to 10 for free. You can also host SQL or MySQL databases up there too, on a shared server, for free. So, I checked it out and used them a fair amount in the past week.

To get a feel for this, check out Scott Gu’s post here which has screenshots, or see this video by Scott Hanselman which is a screencast of actually using it.

So, after dabbling with this for a week, I drew a couple of conclusions. First, Azure is extremely impressive. They’ve done a fantastic job with what it does and the interface. The downside is that you can only host SomeAppName.azurewebsites.net there – it has to be under azurewebsites.net. If you want to host your own domain name or have an SSL certificate, you can’t (right now). For that, you’d have to upgrade to a “reserved instance”, which again, I gather costs around $25/month and up.

Traditional Web Hosting:
I have been using Web Host for ASP.NET (here is my referral link if you’d like, or the regular link) for a couple of years now. I used WebHost4Life for a long time until they were bought out. I had several catastrophic issues, so I ultimately left. WebHostForAsp.net on the other hand has been REALLY great!

In the past week or so, I was up for renewal – which is also what prompted me to look at Azure. In the end, I realized that I needed a traditional web host. So, I renewed with WebHostForAsp.net and they have been awesome. The support staff is responsive around the clock, across several days, and I’ve had zero issues with them.

With a web host, you either don’t need them for 11 months, or all-of-a-sudden, you want them to be responsive. That is what happened with me. I haven’t touched these sites in months, but in the last few days I’ve been re-organizing and restructuring things, so I’ve been interacting with the host support staff quite a bit.

Their control panel is very full-featured, they support .NET 4.0, SQL 2008, MySQL, php, etc – and again, what you can’t do through the portal, you open a ticket. They generally seem to respond within 10-20 minutes, every time and the staff seems to be very competent.

The bottom line for me is that traditional web hosting is still the way to go for any sort of hobbyist hosting. That is, until Azure decides to take the next step and do more with shared-hosting. I don’t know if they will, but they are very much ready for it with their tooling. They have a very powerful management console. However, unless or until that happens, I continue to be very pleased with WebHostForAsp.net (referral link for me | regular link)

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Posted in .NET 4.0, ASP.NET, ASP.NET MVC, Cloud Computing, Computers and Internet, General, Infrastructure, Uncategorized
9 comments on “Azure vs traditional web hosts
  1. roundel1900 says:

    Where can you sign up for FREE Azure (link please), I haven’t seen that. Is that indefinitely free or just a trial offer?

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  2. Allen Conway says:

    This was a very good synopsis on the current state of Azure hosting and costs and I appreciate it! I keep watching these Azure sessions and want to get all wrapped up in it, but the reality is for hosting hobbyist sites traditional hosting still seems to be the cheapest option.

    Would really like the ability to be able to remote into V, and configure myself in IIS, but for the price I would have to pay for a site that gets a few hundred visitors a month, it is not worth it.

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    • Rob Seder says:

      I agree! Although watching the Scott Gu keynote at aspConf today – he showed that a “small instance” would cost ~$9/month if I understood correctly. When I looked, I didn’t come to that same conclusion.

      So yeah, for now, I’ll still use one-off hosting but I think most developers would love to go to Azure and price is the only barrier, really!

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      • Allen Conway says:

        That’s what I was watching too; in his keynote! I ended up here on your blog trying to see if it’s all the freebies and goodies it is touted to be vs. traditional hosting.

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  3. roundel1900 says:

    Ok, he seemed to be talking about a FREE TIER, NOT a FREE TRIAL. I can sign up for a free trial right now. And yes there is a difference.

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    • Rob Seder says:

      Yes- but to be clear, you CAN create up to 10 free websites and up to 10 free databases. When you want to go to your own VM, that is when it starts to cost money. but for websites and databases, those are free – I set those up and used them for a few weeks and it didn’t cost me anything!

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      • Allen Conway says:

        It is true though that the ‘free’ websites all are SomeAppName.azurewebsites.net as you mentioned before, correct? Meaning I believe, that you can’t map another domain you own to those free instances.

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      • Rob Seder says:

        Correct – you can’t host your own domains and you can’t do SSL. you MUST upgrade to a reserved instance (which costs $9-25/month) if you want to do either. Which again, is why I came to the conclusion that for hobbyist hosting, it still might be ideal to use a traditional host.

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