Using the 5 easy steps provided in this article, you’ll be able to activate a FREE Windows Azure Trial Subscription, suitable for building your Lab in the Cloud for Windows Server 2012 R2 without the need to wait for downloading installation bits or local on-premises lab hardware.  This trial subscription provides a tremendous opportunity to gain hands-on experience with Windows Server 2012 R2 and the Cloud – it provides up to 30 Days or $200 USD of “cloud credit” to use as you see fit for building new cloud-based lab solutions involving Cloud Storage, Virtual Networks and Virtual Machines.

Step 1 – Sign-up for a new Microsoft Account ( aka., Windows Live ID )

Your Microsoft Account is used to both sign-up for a FREE Windows Azure Trial, as well as sign-in to the Windows Azure Management Portal to provision and manage Cloud resources.  Even if you already have a pre-existing Microsoft Account, many IT Pros prefer to sign-up for a unique account to better track Windows Azure resources.

Sign-up for a new Microsoft Account
Step 1 – Sign-up for a new Microsoft Account

  • Country and ZIP Code: When completing this form, please be sure to accurately reflect your country ( United States ) and ZIP code to take advantage of this special offer.

Step 2 – Launch the FREE Trial Page

To request a FREE Windows Azure Trial with the appropriate evaluation resources, launch the FREE Trial Preview Page using the link below:

Spin-up your Windows Server 2012 R2 Lab in the Cloud! 
Step 2 – Launch the FREE Trial Preview Page

  • From this page, be sure to select Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter on Windows Azure from the drop-down list.
     
  • Click the GET STARTED NOW button to continue.

Step 3 – Register for the FREE Windows Azure Trial

On the Windows Azure page, register for a Windows Azure FREE Trial subscription.

  • DO IT: On the Windows Azure page, click on the TRY IT NOW button.

 
Step 3 – Click on “Try it now” to Register for your FREE Trial

Step 4 – Submit the Windows Azure Free Trial Registration Form

To activate your Windows Azure FREE Trial subscription request, submit a completed registration form.

  • DO IT: Complete each field on the registration form and click the SIGN UP button.
     
    Submit the Windows Azure FREE Trial Registration
    Step 4 – Submit the Windows Azure FREE Trial Registration

NOTE: When completing the Windows Azure FREE Trial Registration form, you will be asked to supply valid Credit Card information in Section 3 of the form highlighted in the figure above.  This information is securely processed for validating your individual identity ONLY.  Your credit card account WILL NOT BE CHARGED during the FREE Trial Subscription period, unless you EXPLICITLY decide to convert your FREE Trial Subscription to a PAID Subscription at a later point in time.  It may be interesting to note that this requirement is not unique to the Windows Azure free trial subscription program - as most cloud providers in the industry generally require credit card information to validate the identity of individuals when signing up for trial programs of this nature.

Step 5 - Build Your Windows Server 2012 R2 Virtual Machine

After completing the 4 steps above, you should now have an active Windows Azure FREE Trial Subscription to use for building your cloud-based lab environment. 

Completed! Your Windows Azure FREE Trial is now Active.
Completed! Your Windows Azure FREE Trial is now Active.

To build your Windows Server 2012 R2 virtual machine in the Cloud with your new Windows Azure subscription, complete these tasks:

  1. Sign-in at the Windows Azure Management Portal with your Microsoft Account.  Use the same credentials that you defined in Step 1 above.
     
  2. At the bottom of the Windows Azure Management Portal page, click the +NEW button on the black toolbar.
     
  3. After clicking the +New button, select Compute | Virtual Machine | Quick Create and complete the form as shown below below, replacing xxx with your unique initials.
     

    Quick Create Form for New Virtual Machine
     
    When the form is completed, click Create A Virtual Machine to begin provisioning your new VM.
     
  4. Windows Azure will begin provisioning your new Virtual Machine.  Once your new VM is ready, it will be listed with a Running status on the Virtual Machines page of the Windows Azure Management Portal.
     

     
    To connect to your new VM via a Remote Desktop connection, select your new VM and click the Connect button located on the bottom black toolbar.  When prompted, login with the LocalAdmin user credentials that you defined in the Quick Create form above.

Let’s Build More IT in the Cloud!

To continue exploring key IT Pro cloud scenarios that you can leverage with your FREE Windows Azure Trial subscription, be sure to check out the next step resources below:

See you in the clouds!

- Keith