Get your head into the cloud for free!

 Jul 28, 2014

I know many of you have been hearing about cloud computing for quite a while now. Some of you have already made the change, and a lot of you want to check out this whole cloud thingie. And I do know that some of you have free or subsidised accounts as part of your MSDN subscriptions and so forth, but the free trials that I'll discuss today are available for everyone, and give you more room to just try things out.

The good news here is that Microsoft has a whole slew of free cloud trials for you to try out so you can get your feet wet while you get your head in the clouds – oops, sorry - I went a bit overboard mixing my metaphors there!

Anyway, let me briefly go over the main cloud related trials provided by Microsoft, and it is only right that we start with Office 365.

Now certainly there are a number of organisations offering trials of Office 365, usually requiring you to sign up for a subscription service but giving you the first month free. However, if you use the one from Microsoft, you get access to an E3 Plan for 30 days without any such subscription signups. It gives you 25 user licenses (the full E3 has unlimited users), Exchange Online (50Gb email storage per user!), SharePoint Online, Lync Online, Microsoft Web Apps as well as the complete Office Professional Plus Suite which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Publisher, Lync Client and InfoPath. It also includes OneDrive for Business, which now gives an incredible 1TB of included storage per user! If you wish, you can use your own domain name with the trial, and the trial can be converted to a standard subscription if needed. No credit card is needed for the trial application, but an SMS capable phone is required for verification purposes.

Are you thinking about a cloud based datacenter? Then a Windows Azure Trial is for you. This 30-day trial gives you a web-based portal where you can create your own virtual machines, run your own servers (including Windows Server 2008 R2 and 2012/2012 R2 Servers, Ubuntu, Suse Linux, Centos and Oracle servers), create your own cloud services, set up storage systems, create web sites, and so on. You will need an SMS capable phone and a credit card to apply, but Microsoft includes AUD$210 worth of free compute credit, which is plenty for most trial scenarios. For security, Microsoft have placed a restriction on the number of times a particular public IP address can be used each day to apply for a trial account, so if you are attending one of the New Horizons courses that use Windows Azure, you may be asked to create your own trial account before attending the course. These courses have been structured so you will not be charged anything for the trial account.

What about managing your mobile users? This is the era of BYO everything, so PCs, laptops, mobile smartphones, tablets are no longer restricted to one physical location. This is where Windows Intune comes to the fore, and yes, there is a trial available for that too. If you already have an Office 365 account, you can tie both Office 365 and Intune together with the same Windows Azure Active Directory for ease of administration. Windows Intune, either as its own web portal or integrated into System Center Configuration Manager, lets you manage your Windows, IOS and Android devices in a truly flexible way that improves efficiency and simplifies administration, protecting your corporate assets with configuration policies and remote wipe, and requiring no infrastructure!

Now these trials are only the start of your own cloud adventure, and are just a small fraction of the many trials and evaluation systems Microsoft have for all their products, so create your first (or another!) Microsoft Live account (again, they are free to make) and use that to apply for the free trials above – that way you can simply keep creating as many trails as you require. And of course, you do know that New Horizons has a large range of cloud related courses to give you the best edge in using this technology in the brave new cloud world.

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About the Author:

Gordon Cowser  

With over 22 years real world and training experience, Gordon is our most senior IT Infrastructure trainer. His expertise includes but is not limited to; Microsoft Server and Client OS, Messaging, Collaboration, Active Directory and Network Infrastructure. Gordon also specialises in SharePoint technologies training in both technical and end user aspects. With his extensive skill-set he brings a thorough mentoring capability to the classroom where he can advise on technical issues and challenges often beyond the scope of the course curriculum. A very approachable and experienced training professional, he has the ability to establish credibility fast with students at all levels.

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