31 Days of Servers in the Cloud – Building Free Lab VMs in the Microsoft Cloud (Part 2 of 31)

Want to play with Server 2012 but you don’t have the hardware readily available, well here’s your chance to do so for free.  Windows Azure IaaS allows for the creation of virtual machines in the fastest public cloud service on the market today.  To get started, simply sign up here.  This will require a credit card for verification purposes, but don’t worry, you will only be charged if you allow the system to do so.  Meaning, if subscribe to more services beyond what is available in the free trial period then it will let you know the new services have fees associated.  Now to get started with creating a VM, you should have landed at this page, then select “Virtual Machines.”  Next click  on “Create A Virtual Machine”:

“Quick Create” is easiest selection for this exercise.  Provide a DNS name, notice the suffix is provided for you already, and it will not allow special characters(other than hyphens) in this field.  Select the operating system of your choice, in this case Windows Server 2012 is the default and is the latest release from December 2012.  We will cover the other operating systems in a follow up article.  Size doesn’t matter.  For the labs I choose “Extra Small” and then provide a password twice as usual.  Now the more interesting selection on this page is “Location.”  Why is location important in the cloud you ask?  Let’s suppose you are the administrator for a company or organization that must adhere to government regulations(think HIPAA) and you’re data cannot reside outside of a certain region or country.  By selecting the region, in this case East US, I am assured that my data complies to the regulations.  This is where the main instance of your virtual machine will live.  Click “Create Virtual Machine.”

Now the progress of the deployment is shown:

Refreshing the web page from time to time will show you when it completes faster than waiting on the default refresh intervals.

After the provisioning process is completed you will see the machine is Running and ready for work.  Click on “Connect”:

You will most likely get a warning message at the bottom of your browser about the RDP link that is attempting to be opened:

Login in as normal after accepting the RDP warning screen:

The first login process takes a few seconds.  Then you should arrive at the desktop, with Server Manager launching shortly thereafter.

In full screen mode, tapping the “Windows” key on your keyboard you can also go to the new modern UI Start screen.  Top right corner shows you who you are currently logged in as.  Click this to “Sign Out” when you are finished working.  You can continue on with some of the labs on my site to see additional roles&features in action like Storage Spaces or File Sharing.  The Storage Spaces lab can be found here.

We hope you enjoy the series and make sure you give Windows Azure a Try: http://aka.ms/mshosting

If you missed any of the parts you can find the rest of the series here: 31 Days of Servers in the Cloud.

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