To begin using Windows Azure one must first create a billing account by visiting the Microsoft Online Services customer portal. Each billing account has a single owner with a Windows Live ID. Through this billing account the owner can:

  • Add and manage subscriptions.
  • Display billing information and usage information.
  • Designate the service administrator for each subscription.

A subscription’s service administrator manages its services and deployments. The account owner and service administrator can have different Live IDs.

Once a billing account has been created Windows Azure can be selected from the available subscription offerings. A subscription name must be entered, the name of the Azure project. Once you have purchased your subscription, your Windows Azure service can be activated. There is no limit to the number of subscriptions permitted for a billing account.

Once these steps have been completed, you can sign in at the Windows Azure Portal ( On the Windows Azure Portal home page you will find the name of your project that you entered when you created the subscription. Here you can create services for your project, either a hosted service or a storage account. Hosted services are areas where applications are deployed and each includes a staging environment and a production environment. Each project can have up to twenty compute instances and up to six hosted services with any combination of web roles and worker roles. Also, it is possible to configure roles for instances and set the size of the virtual machine through Visual Studio. Virtual machine sizes can be set for small, medium, large or extra-large.

Each project can have up to five storage accounts that can be shared by all the hosted services in the subscription. Each account can hold up to 100 terabytes of data of any combination of tables, blobs and queues. Additional storage and computing capacity can be obtained through Microsoft Online Services.

Billing is based on the role resources used by services that have been deployed, even if these services are not running. To avoid unnecessary charges you should delete unused deployments.

Charges for using Windows Azure are based on services used including bandwidth, compute time and storage. Data transfer rates vary from region to region and usually cover transfers between data centers and your sites. Compute time charges are based on an hourly rate and on an instance size rate. Storage charges are determined by the amount of gigabytes used plus the number of transactions. To learn more about pricing and special offers see Windows Azure Pricing.

You can estimate your cost by using two calculators that are available: