If you haven't yet heard of Microsoft Azure, it won't be long before you have. Azure isn't a product as such, like a piece of software. It's actually a series of datacentres around the world, which Microsoft claims to have spent some $15 billion dollars in establishing. Those datacentres contain, between them, over a million servers, and you can rent one by the month or by the hour. Whether you want to run a web site, or a complex database, or you just feel like trying out the idea of having a Windows PC in the cloud, Azure lets you do it.
Set up an account at http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/free-trial/ and your first $200 of billable time is free, which is enough to run a low-spec server for more than a year. Or if you merely want to host a basic web site, it's free forever. But bear in mind that, once you've used up your $200 worth of time, charges will start to appear on your credit card unless you remember to cancel your account.
While Azure has been around for a while, and has indeed been mentioned by me in the past, new this month is a free and comprehensive 200-page e-book that tells you how to get started. You'll find it at http://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com/ebooks#9780735697225 and it's downloadable in PDF format and others too.
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