Hosting a Website on Azure
04 November 2014

Hosting a Website on Azure

Azure Websites is a Microsoft PaaS (Platform as a Service) offering which allows publishing Websites running on multiple frameworks and written in different programming languages. This means both Microsoft proprietary technologies and interestingly 3rd party ones too.

So does this mean I can move my website to Azure? The answer is in most cases is “Yes”. The next step is trying to understand how easy or difficult the moving will be. That’s what we want to cover in this post. How difficult is it to move an existing website to Azure? Turns out the answer is “not too difficult at all”. Thanks to the deployment tools Azure offers and the platforms it supports the process of moving a website is straightforward.

We have done a couple of sample migrations and in each we divided them into two main steps:

  • Deployment of code
  • Database migration

The examples we will use are an Umbraco website which has a SQL database and a WordPress website which has a MySQL database. If you are thinking of trying a migration yourself you will need to sign up with Microsoft Azure first. You will see that in the samples below the Azure Management Portal provides a number of useful tools/options and you won’t be able to access without signing up first at www.windowsazure.com.  Ok, back to the samples, here is how we moved them:

Umbraco Website to Azure

The first step is to migrate the SQL DB to Azure SQL. To do that we can use the open source tool SQL Database Migration Wizard (http://sqlazuremw.codeplex.com). In a few steps it will create and configure our new database. We point the wizard at our source database and can then choose to copy just the schema or the schema and data to the destination database.

The second part of the process is to create a new web application through Visual Studio. You can do this with the published project files that we can get from IIS or a copy of the most up to date code. We can then publish the web application to Azure through Visual Studio with the “publish profile” we download from the Azure Management Portal.

WordPress website to Azure

To move a WordPress website to Azure we have to first create an empty WordPress website in Azure. Creating a WordPress site from the gallery will create a new MySQL DB also. In Azure the database side of things is handled by a Microsoft partner company called ClearDB.

After creating the empty site we are ready to copy all our WordPress files from our current server (including media, themes, customizations, plugins...) with an FTP client using the credentials that we get from the Azure management portal to our new Azure web site.

Once our site is updated we can install and configure this plugin (http://wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-database-abstraction/) that will allow us connect the Azure web site to Azure SQL. After this is done, we can delete the MySQL DB in the ClearDB corporation web site.

As a final step, we will migrate the MySQL source DB to Azure SQL with the Microsoft SQL Server Migration Assistant for MySQL with a few clicks.

Summary

As you have probably guessed we have not provided every step needed to move an Umbraco or WordPress website to Azure. Instead we wanted to firstly highlight the simple fact that it can be done and secondly that the process in both cases is quite straightforward. The functionality provided by Azure and its supporting tools mean Azure is able to provide a strong and comprehensive PaaS offering. 

For more information about I.T. Alliance Cloud Services, contact us.