Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing platform that enables individuals and companies to deploy web applications, virtual servers, and entire IT platforms, as well as host databases, perform analytics, and store data. Although Microsoft goes out of its way to help technologists and sales personnel get to know Azure inside and out, third parties do a bang-up job too.
Find out about free Azure resources from Microsoft, Pluralsight, edX, GitHub, Skylines Academy, Azure Citadel, YouTube and other trusted sources.
Microsoft provides ample free sources of training for Azure, mainly through Microsoft Learn. The main page features several Azure courses, and clicking the browse all Azure learning paths link displays the entire Azure learning library, geared mainly toward people who use the technology or who design and sell Azure-inclusive solutions for customers.
Use the Filters feature to narrow the list of courses by Azure product, role (from administrator to solution architect) and level (beginner or intermediate).
Beginners may do best to start with Cloud Concepts – Principles of Cloud Computing, move on to Core Cloud Services – Introduction to Azure and then work through other courses in the Azure fundamentals learning path. You'll also find more advanced courses relevant to administration and application development (as expected), as well as several artificial intelligence (AI) courses, because of the integration of AI and machine learning with Azure.
While you're on the Microsoft site, browse the Azure documentation pages for quick starts, tutorials and samples too. That time will be amply rewarded!
Since 2004, Channel 9 has been a go-to for Microsoft customers to view videos and webcasts; discuss issues, problems, and emerging technology in the forums; and generally learn about Microsoft technologies. While you're on the site, consider subscribing to the Tuesdays With Corey and Azure Friday shows. Corey Sanders answers viewer questions about Microsoft Azure, and the Azure Friday hosts bring in Azure engineers who share their experiences and tips.
There's no better way to learn about Azure than to work with it directly. For hands-on practice and general noodling within the Azure environment, Microsoft offers a free Azure account, which comes with 12 months of select free services (more than 25 services are always free) and a $200 credit toward the Azure service of your choice for 30 days.
Examples of products that are free for 12 months include 750 hours of both Linux and Windows virtual machines, managed disk storage, blob storage, and a SQL database. These always-free services enable you to build web, mobile and application programming interface (API) apps; deploy and manage containers; use a host of developer tools; and lots more.
To create a free Microsoft Azure account, you need a phone number, credit card, and a Microsoft or GitHub account username (the former is often abbreviated as MSA, the Microsoft Account/email address that many, if not most, Windows and Office users employ to login to accounts and subscriptions).
In partnership with Microsoft, Pluralsight hosts a long list of free video-based Azure courses for administrators, developers, engineers and solution architects, most of which map to Azure certification content. Clicking on each course shows which certification exams apply. When you register for access to the Azure courses, Pluralsight may display subscription pricing for its entire learning library, but you don't need a credit card or to sign up for a trial to fee-based products to take the Azure courses.
EdX, founded by Harvard University and MIT, is a massive open online course (MOOC) platform with more than 20 million learners signed up. The concept driving edX is that learners can take free courses offered by leading colleges, universities and training organizations without receiving higher education credits. (However, edX offers a few programs in which learners can receive credit.) Students taking current courses (those that are not archived) may receive a verified certificate of completion, which could count as professional development units (PDUs) for some organizations. Searching the edX course catalog for "Azure" results in over 60 current and archived courses based on Azure, as well as courses that should be available soon.
Microsoft moved code and project repositories from CodePlex to GitHub in 2015. Now you can find APIs, software development kits (SDKs) and open source projects for Azure there as well. Be sure to browse the Azure Readiness portion of GitHub for even more opportunities for practice and access to developer camps. There are also Microsoft Azure training materials available for researchers and data scientists. Another great GitHub repository is Azure-links.
Although Skylines Academy courses are available for a reasonable fee or as part of a paid membership, you can often find at least one free course in the company's catalog. Items in its Resources section, however, are always free. You'll find study guides for the Microsoft Azure Architect Technologies (AZ-300), Microsoft Azure Architect Design (AZ-301) and Microsoft Azure Administrator (AZ-103) exams, as well as an Azure PowerShell Reference Guide and templates for naming and tagging standards.
Created by a group of Microsoft Cloud Solution architects in the U.K., Azure Citadel offers technical guides, videos, hands-on labs and workshops on a variety of Azure topics. There isn't a virtual lab environment; each hands-on session lists the technologies you must install on your computer, usually with basic instructions, or that you need an Azure account (remember, it's free). The site aims mainly at the partner channel, but the content is pertinent to anyone learning about Azure.
If podcasts are your thing, the Azure Podcast, the Microsoft Cloud Show, Microsoft Cloud IT Pro and the Modern IT Podcast may be worth your time. The Azure Podcast is hosted weekly by Cynthia Kreng, Kendall Roden, Cale Teeter, Evan Basalik, Russell Young and Sujit D'Mello, each of whom is either a Microsoft engineer, consultant, manager or architect. The Microsoft Cloud Show and the Microsoft Cloud IT Pro focus on Azure and Microsoft Office 365, while the Modern IT Podcast provides tips for using Azure in small and midsize businesses.
The YouTube Microsoft Azure channel
Like most well-known tech products and services, Azure has its own YouTube channel. Because everything is free, you may notice some overlap with Microsoft Learn, but it's still worth your time to peruse these offerings. Each set of videos is composed of bite-size chunks of information on specific Azure topics, presented in an appealing format and designed to retain viewer interest. The demo videos tend to contain the most material and run the longest, and are super helpful to prospective customers and current customers who need to understand little or never used product features.
Love e-books? Here are some of the most popular Azure titles in digital format, which are free for the viewing:
- Azure Tips and Tricks (in two volumes)
- Learn Azure in a Month of Lunches, November 2018
- Microsoft Azure Essentials: Fundamentals of Azure, Second Edition, September 2016
- Microsoft Azure Essentials: Migrating SQL Server Databases to Azure, Carl Raebler, June 2016
- Microsoft Azure Essentials: Azure Web Apps for Developers, Rich Rainey, June 2015
You can also search for "Azure" on Amazon (select Books from the Search in menu dropdown). When the search results appear, select Price: Low to High from the Sort by menu. All free Kindle edition books are listed first.
The Microsoft Azure blog is a terrific source for both historical and cutting-edge information on Azure. Find out when new features are being released, or pick up tips and step-by-step how-tos for using various Azure features and services. Be sure to check out the Red Gate Software Cloud blog as well, which covers Azure topics in great technical detail.
Organizations that aren't yet using Azure but would like to know how to get started should visit the Azure Virtual Machine Readiness Assessment website. The tool provides a checklist and report tailored to your environment, which are valuable sources of learning in and of themselves.