How to set up a free WordPress blog using Microsoft Azure

This post will guide you through setting up a WordPress site hosted free on Microsoft Azure. From signing up for a Microsoft account and logging in to the Azure Portal, to configuring WordPress and seeing your blog live for the first time.

Expected time going from zero to first published blog post is 20 minutes.

1. Sign up for a Microsoft Account

Visit https://signup.live.com/signup.aspx to sign up for a free Microsoft account. Skip this step if you already have a working Microsoft/Live account.

2. Log on to the Azure Portal

Visit https://portal.azure.com/ and sign in with your Microsoft account.

Note: At the time of writing, the new Azure Portal was not yet released to all users. If you see the “old” portal with the centered, blue design, click the “Switch to new portal” link in the profile drop down menu:

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This should take you to the new portal, looking something like this:

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3. Create the web site hosting WordPress

Click the + (New) button in the lower left corner. This will expand a panel displaying various services provided by the Azure platform. Click the “Everything” link at the top to view all available options.

A gallery of machines, services and apps is opened. Within the “Web” category, click the WordPress app. and press Create:

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Another panel is opened allowing you to set initial configuration specific for the WordPress service. You may set the name of the resource group to anything; this is just a logical grouping that you may associate services with, enabling a better overview of spent resources.

Expand the “Configure required settings” page; this is where you can set the web address (URL) of the blog and the physical location of the web server. It is possible to use a custom domain (not ending in .azurewebsites.net), but this required one of the paid plans. As we are trying to set up a free blog, we will go with the .azurewebsites.net for now. A custom domain can be added at any time later on. Also, select the “Free Light Traffic” plan located at the bottom of the plan overview:

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The next configuration category is the WordPress database. Clicking this reveals several inputs for unique phrases:

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Simply put, these phrases/keys are passwords take make it harder to break through WordPress’ security barriers. You do not need to remember these, so make them as hard to guess as possible. I prefer using this tool to automatically generate the keys and copy/paste them into Azure. Note: there is a bug in Azure that will cause keys with $ signs to be marked as invalid (even though they are not). To fix this, just erase all $ signs in your keys, or swap them with a random letter. This is how it looks with all the keys inserted and validated:

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Press OK to save the unique phrases and continue on to set the server location. Pick a location either close to you, or close to your future readers, as this may have some impact on the time it takes to load the site once it’s installed and in use. This can also be changed later on, or replicated to other locations as needed.

WordPress needs a database to store settings, posts and comments. This can also be set up for free using ClearDB. Click the “DATABASE: Configure required settings” button, select “New ClearDB Database” and give it a name (preferably something related to WordPress, like WordPressDB). For the pricing tier, select the free “Mercury” tier, which should be more than enough when starting out blogging. The database can also be scaled later on. Set the location to the same as the WordPress server location and accept the legal terms.

The last thing to do is associate your WordPress site with a subscription. If you are on the free Azure trial, this option may be unavailable or you may have to select a subscription associated with your $200 free Azure credits. Choose the one fitting to your needs, and press Create:

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After a couple of minutes, you will receive a notification that the WordPress site has finished provisioning.

Access the tile on the Azure portal main screen that was just created. This should display an overview of the resource group. Click on the Website in the Summary and then the Browse button, here:

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4. Install WordPress

If everything went ok, you should see the following screen when visiting the URL of your newly created WordPress blog:

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This is the last step to go through before you may start publishing blog posts.

Input a blog title and set up a username and password for the blog. Input your email address and tick the “Privacy” box if you would like search engines like Google to index your site and make it available for others searching on the web. Press “Install WordPress”. This may take a minute or two, but should take you to a screen looking like this:

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That’s it! Find a theme, download some plugins and start publishing blog posts.

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