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Moving WordPress to Windows Azure

For the past year or so I’ve hosted this blog at Godaddy using their web hosting service. It took a little getting used to compared to having a full server, but overall it worked well enough. Performance has been up and down, ranging from ok to terrible, which I’d guess is a combination of being on a shared server and a low traffic blog that maybe gets spun down and then back up. Still, for $6 a month it was functional and let me dabble with plugins and settings more than I could with a WordPress.com hosted blog.

One of the things I want do this year is try “the cloud” more. It feels like the tools have matured enough that it’s viable for some cases, I need to understand if that is true and what the cases are. Doing something as simple as moving a blog over is a chance to learn by doing – and learn I did. The first step was to figure out whether to get a true VM or just a web site. A VM on Azure didn’t strike as much different than a VM elsewhere, so I opted for the web site. There is also a cost factor to consider and I found this post from Scott Hanselmann useful in learning about that. I get a bunch of free hours from MS so the cost doesn’t matter right now, but it will at some point.

The web sites come in three flavors, starting with free. The downside to free is that you can’t use it to host your own domain. Still, I started there because I didn’t know if I would like it or if I could get it working the way I wanted – why pay money to learn if you don’t have to. Installing WordPress was cake, just click a button and it’s done. It installs 3.6, so I did the upgrade to 3.8 just to see if it would work – a good first test. My plan for moving the content was to export the WVR file from the live site and import it to the new one. The exported file was about 4.5 megs, the import has a 2m limit (which seems way too low). I duid a little reading and the limit can be changed by changing a setting in the PHP.INI, but that file isn’t accessible with this type of hosting.  This led me to figure out how to connect using FTP, easy enough once you realize you can’t use your Azure login – you have to create a new one (but still use your Azure password!). I found that I could do most of the changes by creating a “.user.ini” file, so I created that and FTP’d it up. I finally got it loaded, but it was painful. It would partially import the file. I’d submit again and get  a few more posts in. I spent an hour messing with it, including some time using a splitter to see if the size was the issue.

With the posts loaded I added back a few plugins I use.  The next step was to move to standard hosting so I could point my domain at the new install. It’s reasonably easy, a matter of adding a couple DNS records, but you have to wait for them to post and while you wait you’re wondering if you got it right. In about an hour I had it working, I just had to go back and edit the WordPress site URL that had defaulted to the Azure generated web site name instead of my domain. I don’t need Standard, Shared should be good enough, but I’m wanting to experiment with the options in Standard some. If I was writing the check I’d be moving faster on that, nice to have time.

It’s been a couple weeks now and all seems good. The only issue I had was with a backup plugin, I changed to Updraft and that seems to be working ok. I just got an email from ClearDB, the company that provides the MySQL hosting. I’m at 18m of my 20m database limit. That both seems like a lot and not much. It’s free up to the 20m limit, once you hit it then you’re locked – no more data in unless you upgrade to next plan which is $9.95 a month. $10 a month for one mySQL db seems high. I can set up the smallest Windows VM on Azure for about $15 a month and – in theory! – put multiple db’s on there. I may try that, it’s not going to need a lot of CPU and it would be nice to be able to spin up a new site without additional cost.

It’s kind of a weird mix of technology if you think about it. No OS to manage. No patching the OS! Yet it requires installing WordPress, plugins, deciding on the database, managing backups, etc.  It’s better, arguably, then having an OS that would have to be upgraded at some point. It’s not the near zero touch experience you get if you go with WordPress.com. As far as cost, it depends. Dedicated hosting sites are still cheaper if you want to use your domain name. Not a lot cheaper, but some.

I found quite a bit on how to get it all done so I didn’t try to write my own tutorial (plus I’d have had to do it all over again to get it right!), but I’m including some links I found that you might find useful:

It’s been worth doing for the learning.


I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.


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