Free Web Hosting (and more!) with Microsoft Azure for Non-Profits

Ian Cole Marketing, Resources

A non-profit’s website is one of its most import marketing resources. For many non-profits, a small web hosting account will meet the need and be inexpensive. If your non-profit has a need to run larger web-based applications, or you have high-traffic websites, you could find yourself choosing between the right infrastructure and the infrastructure you can reasonably afford. Luckily, Microsoft’s support for non-profits includes a $5,000 annual credit for Microsoft Azure cloud solutions.

Microsoft Azure has a full suite of cloud services, from data storage and databases to Linux and Windows server instances. While this can seem quite complex at first, there are some easy ways to get started.

Azure Features

Obtaining the Azure Non-Profit Credit

You need to register your non-profit with Microsoft Philanthropies and receive validation through TechSoup. You’ll need organization info to get started – and note that the person that completes the process will receive the primary Azure account subscription (but can then add other users as needed). Note, if your organization has already registered with Microsoft for other non-profit benefits (Office, etc.), you will need your organizations Microsoft non-profit login to then request the Azure subscription.

Note: there is likely a middle step here to request the Azure subscription from the Microsoft non-profit portal, I didn’t document this when we obtained our Azure subscription. If you are doing this process and can capture the steps between registration and the subscription approval, please email me at ian.cole@themakereffect.org so that I can update.

Look for the sponsorship offer email with the big “Activate” button…

 

Once approved for your subscription, you will receive an email with your Azure subscription information so that you can then login to the Azure portal…

Once you have your subscription, click the link in the email or visit the Azure Portal to setup your subscription. In the event that the person that manages your non-profit account with Microsoft is not the same person that will manage your Azure infrastructure, you’ll likely want to add another user to the subscription so that setup can continue.

Hosting Websites on Azure

The Azure Portal is quite daunting at first – but there are a number of tutorials, and Microsoft has the  Azure Starter Kit for Non-Profits which is a set of video and article resources to help you get started.

The Azure Portal Dashboard…

In our case, we chose to get started by moving our websites from shared web hosting to Azure servers. Our website are built on WordPress, and there are quite a few ways to run WordPress on Azure. We chose the Bitnami WordPress Application Stack for Microsoft Azure – which is simply a pre-configured Linux instance which contains WordPress, MySQL and more in a “ready to run” setup.

Click to view full size (youtube)

Bitnami has a guide that shows the configuration of the WordPress application stack on Azure (note that the Azure Portal user interface has changed a bit, but the concepts are the same.

Note: If you will be running multiple WordPress sites and sharing a common administrator, you may want to install WordPress Multisite to reduce the Azure credit impact from each individual WordPress site. Bitnami also has a WordPress Multisite application stack for Microsoft Azure. You get started the same way – you can see it in the Bitnami WordPress search results in the gif above…

Once we created the Bitnami WordPress resources, we used the Bitnami WordPress Application Stack for Microsoft Azure guide to do the basic WordPress setup, then we migrated our website from the existing host to the new hosting. This can be done several ways including restoring a backup (especially if you use a backup solution like Vaultpress which supports restoring to a new host), or manually moving all WordPress files, and performing a manual WordPress backup & restore.

We started this with no knowledge of Azure, but a good background in hosted WordPress, and we figured out the rest. It wasn’t always simple, but the performance increases for our websites – AND the reduction of our hosting cost was well worth the effort.

Microsoft sends a monthly billing email so you know how much you are spending against your credits…

Azure monthly billing email

 

Now that we’ve moved our websites over, we’ve started using Azure for more services – including cloud backup from our Synology network storage device. How will you use your $5,000 annual credit – I’m interested to learn how you use Azure to benefit your non-profit. Send me a note at ian.cole@themakereffect.org – thanks!

 

Maker Quote: Creating a hackerspace and learning from other really smart members there…

Candy Cole Uncategorized 0 Comments

 I started a hackerspace  with some soon-to-be friends about 5 years ago. We went on to run a video game company together, which led to us creating the largest non-profit representing game companies in Chicago, and personally, my teaching game development at DePaul University. …I now teach classes on programming and, soon, creating custom game controllers and consoles. All from creating a hackerspace and learning from other really smart members there. Quite the leap! 

Maker Quote: Focusing on a creative project clears my mind…

Candy Cole Uncategorized 0 Comments

 My creative work keeps me grounded. It helps me relax and forget about work-related problems. My knitting group is better than group therapy, and spending an evening with them gives me energy that I can bring to work the next day. I have often found that focusing on a creative project clears my mind so that I can then focus on a work-related issue in a new way.    

Maker Quote: I am more willing to try new things.

Candy Cole Uncategorized 0 Comments

 Seeing my lifelong interest in crafting with fabric and fiber in the context of the maker movement has been liberating. I am more aware of the process of creation, and more willing to try new things. In turn, I think this has helped me think more creatively about how to approach work situations. Instead of seeing one “right” way of getting something done, I am more willing to explore a variety of paths to get to the desired destination.  

Maker Quote: Skills in my professional life come from my personal life…

Candy Cole Uncategorized 0 Comments

 My personal life makes my work life. There is a constant overlap in my interests, skills, abilities, and passions. At work, I’m simply a focused version of myself, and that focus moves to what our customers bring to the table. These could be napkin sketches of products, or hundred page binders of market research and ID renderings, but I have to design and make prototypes. My skills in my professional life come from my personal life, and both build off one another every day. 

Maker Quote: Personal experiences help me to develop skills and confidence…

Candy Cole Uncategorized 0 Comments

 Ultimately my personal experiences help me to develop skills and confidence that can be applied to my professional work. I work for a museum and run a program the helps students build skills and confidence through making and inventing. Most of our workshop time is spent supporting the students think, make, improve, and show their own inventions and projects. Most of my projects are prototypes to be used to teach concepts and skills to the students.