The one sentence I keep saying to my co-workers, friends, family and all others is this: “Welcome to 2012!” It is the sentence I use to tell someone that he should lighten up and accept that things have changed. We’re not in 1999 anymore.
On that note I’d like to show you around on the latest incarnation of my weblog. I’ve moved the whole thing to the cloud in less than 10 minutes. That includes a full restore of the data (well, full, the important stuff is there, just a few links are missing) and the installation of a bunch of modules and my custom theme.
How is that all possible? Read on!
Windows Azure, my old friend
The Windows Azure platform has been around for a while now and I have been looking into it a few times. The problem however always has been the price. It’s too expensive for me. I am not going to pay 90 dollars to host a weblog when I can do the same thing on a virtual machine somewhere else for just 17 euros.
Up until a few weeks ago, the price was my excuse not to move to the cloud. That all changed when Microsoft launched the new Azure websites feature. A cheap way to host your website in the cloud with all the Azure goodness of a proper control panel and installation possibilities. You cannot excuse yourself for the price, it’s just 5 dollars per month. Way cheaper than the traditional hosting I had.
As soon as I saw the offer of a 90 days trial I subscribed myself and went ahead to try out the new features Azure has to offer.
The pure awesomesauce of Azure websites
Azure websites is a new feature on Windows Azure that smells a little like Microsoft Web Matrix. You can either choose to create a site with no files or choose a product from the gallery and deploy that on a site. At this point the gallery is filled with loads off good open source products you can use to build websites. There’s wordpress, dotnetnuke, drupal and more of that kind of products.
Creating a new website is done through the new management portal. Select websites on the left-hand side of the screen and click the new button at the bottom of the screen.
The new option offers a number of things you can do. You can create a website quickly using the quick create option. This reserves an URL for your website, but doess nothing after that. When using the quick create option you have to manually deploy your website. The next option is create with database, this option allows you to deploy a website together with the site. Again, the actual content you need to deploy afterwards.
The final option, and in my opinion the best, is the From gallery option. This allows you to select a standard product giving you an instant productivity boost.
This is what makes Azure websites so great. I can simply create a new website based on something standard. I don’t have to worry about things like, will it work in the cloud, configuration options, deploying databases, etc. I don’t see any other hoster around that offers such a flexibility at the price of just 5 dollar a month. You cannot beat that.
Migrating my old stuff
Okay, so I didn’t really migrate my website one-on-one. The reason being that I don’t want to poke around with MySQL backups that I possibly cannot restore into the cloud because of version differences. The old MySQL installation was kind of weird and I have had problems before.
I still was able to migrate my stuff, because of WordPress’ export/import functionality. It imports pictures, posts and comments in one go. Very neat! And because the deployment functionality on Azure configured the weblog just right I was able to import my old theme and modules without problems.
All things included it took me less than 10 minutes to move my weblog to the cloud. Giving me a costs reduction of exactly 12 euros. Did I mention it’s now scalable too? Not that I will use that function any time soon, but I’m happy to have it.