Am I ready for Windows Azure Web Sites?

This question pops through my mind the first time when I am moving my blog from the usual web-hosting from any Web-Hosting company that I find through the website WebHostingTalk. So what really brings me to migrate my blog site and other sites to Windows Azure? Let’s read on to find out more based on my analysis and thoughts.

So many options, which is for me?

In the usual web-hosting offers that we get, we are given the following pointers to consider.

  • What type of site are you hosting? (ASP.NET – Windows Based or PHP – Can resides in Windows Based or Linux Based)
  • How much space do you need? (Goes from as little as 100MB to unlimited storage, for some.)
  • How much bandwidth do you need? (Goes from as little as 1GB to 100GB or even unlimited data transfer.)
  • Do you require database? What type? (Microsoft SQL Server or MySQL)

In Windows Azure Web Sites feature, users are filled with three options available for users to choose. The three options are namely,-

  1. Free
  2. Shared
  3. Standard

So what is really different between them? I won’t want to explain more on them because Microsoft have explained the differences clearly here.

However, Yes, I know there may be different charges for different tier but as a consumer, which is more suitable for me? Is the answer pretty much clear-cut? Let’s tabulate the possibility in the following questionnaire that will lead you to various tier plan.

Pick “Free” if,-

  • You just started out on your new site and don’t wish to incur so much cost during the designing phase of your website.
  • Testing new features during the development phase.
  • You are clearly aware of the limitation that are placed on this tier where you will not get really fantastic and awesome performance.

Pick “Shared” if,-

  • You have a blog site like mine (Yes, I consider miltongoh.com as a small baby) who do not have huge number of visitors coming to the site yet, but you are expecting the unexpected and always prepare for the sudden gush.
  • You will want to use your own domain for your website hosted in Windows Azure Web Sites.
  • You want to perform some testing of your web-application for the scaling part where you are expecting the unexpected!

Pick “Standard” if,-

  • You are in for the real thing and you take Windows Azure Web Sites as the platform ready to host your Web Site or Web Application.
  • You need more scaling power than those that is available in the “Shared” tier.
  • If you need your site to be SSL encrypted.

So what’s the big hoo-ha about Cloud Hosting vs. Traditional Hosting? Just think of this scenario, imagine you host an E-Commerce site with the traditional hosting provider and on one fine period you decided to run some promotion to deduct 50% off the list price of the products on your website. Therefore, you attracted lots of visitors to your site not only to buy but most of them will spend time browsing through what they can really purchase. However, if you do not know how to estimate how much traffic and resource you will require, your website will definitely crawl! You may also end up with having utilizing up all your allocated pre-purchased data transfer. What worst would be your hosting provider may simply just suspend your site upon reaching the quota.

However, on the flip side, if your web-hosting is being programmed in a way it comply with the flexibility of scaling, then just simply allow Windows Azure to help you scale up and down accordingly to your visitors needs. This type of luxury will not be found in traditional hosting because their recommendation for you will most likely be upgrading and migrating your site to dedicated VPS (Virtual Private Server) or dedicated server.

Having to upgrade to such fixed plans will incur monthly cost directly and you will probably not be moving back to the Shared Hosting environment in Traditional Hosting provider.

 

Is Windows Azure that Good?

This question is very subjective and there goes, “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.” I may think that Windows Azure totally fit into my needs but you may think that other Cloud provider may fit into your bill. Who cares? Just work with something you are comfortable with!

One thing that attracts me to Windows Azure on first site is the visual statistics that I am getting. An example will be the dashboard for my web site hosted on the platform.

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It gives me the kind of information I need at the time I log into the management portal. So if you have graphs that spike up most of the time, then it will simply means that it is almost time you need to either increase the number of instances or moving your site from “Shared” to “Standard” if you are residing on the “Shared” tier.

You can configure the “Auto Scaling” feature simply through the management portal.

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Will all these awesome features available in Windows Azure, why would I return to Traditional Hosting again?

So are you ready to start hosting your site with Windows Azure Web Sites?

In the next blog series, I will be detailing out the process and consideration of migrating existing Web Application (maybe an E-Commerce site) to Windows Azure Web Sites. The consideration will detail out whether when it is time you should be using Windows Azure Web Sites or Windows Azure Virtual Machine.

Cheers.

Regards,
Milton Goh

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