Setting up an Azure environment for a small company

Internet awash with technical information on Azure but when I came to figure out how to set it up for company use there is very little detail or its all out of date due to the frequent changes with Azure.

Note: This is written in April 2015. Azure is in change so it may not be correct later.


Small company with one Developer with MSDN access and another tester.
Using Visual Studio online for source control and testing. MSDN subscription gives full access to this and the basic free account is enough for the tester.
Azure account setup to use the MSDN free credits. Fine for development and testing websites, databases etc.
Now want to create a production website which will incur costs beyond the free MSDN credits (Plus Microsoft states companies shouldn’t use them to run production sites)

The MSDN Azure is under my account and I don’t want to put the company credit card in there. The company needs control over that.

So how do you go setting up the correct environment?

After much hassle, support calls and searching I come up with the following information:


Azure, Visual Studio Online and MSDN subscription are all separate systems from Microsoft point of view. Each has its own account owner.

Accounts can be created with Microsoft Accounts (old live accounts) or with an organisational account which is an Azure Active Directory account.
If you’re using Office 365 then most likely you have an Azure Active directory setup for you company so you can use your company user/password

Azure and Visual studio can be setup with your organisational account.
MSDN must be done with a Microsoft account. However once in you can change it or over to your organisational account. I got the instructions but decided not to do it in the end.

Azure account:
The Azure account owner is responsible for all the billing and managing subscriptions
The account owner is a specific user. There is no company accounts. So whoever wants to be responsible for billing should be the one that sets up the account. It has to be tied to a user. I guess you could create a dummy user that is shared among people if required.

The account website is
There you can setup billing and create subscriptions

A subscription is holder for all the websites, database and other services you run on Azure.
It’s the main portal you are probably familiar with if you have used Azure.
The website is at

With an Azure account you can create subscriptions. Each subscriptions can have an administrator and co administrators.
Subscriptions can have a number of certificates which can be used to give to developers for deployment to websites but were you don’t want them to access the Azure portal.

With subscriptions is suggested that you create one for each activity you are doing.

For example:

  • Subscription for Project A – QA
  • Subscription for Project A – Production
  • Subscription for Project B – Production

This allows the management of user access easier to each project and task. You can lock out everyone from production sites.
Allows the billing for each subscription to be seen. The account holder still pays for all the subscriptions but they can be monitored easier.

I read an article that suggests calling the subscriptions in the following manner:
Company – Project – Environment.

Company being there in case you have outside contractors accessing and it allows them to separate your work from their other clients.


I wanted the following setup with one account holder and two subscriptions. One for the production website/database and the other with my MSDN subscription with its free credits.

Azuresetup1   However after discussion with Microsoft they recommended keeping the MSDN subscriptions in their own separate accounts.
They have added a “MSDN Dev/Test pay-as-you-go” subscription which would allow the above but I was directed away from doing it. Never answered my queries why.

So in the end I ended up with a setup like this.

The MSDN account and subscription is kept by its self and I guess if you have more than one developer they will have their own as well.
Each developer having their own will encourage people to play.
These accounts don’t have payment activated so can’t go beyond the free credits.

A main account is setup with the man in charge of the credit card. You can with a phone call change the account so you can pay by invoice or with OSA keys which can be acquired by buying Azure volume licenses from resellers such as GreyMatter. I think in reseller approach is the most cost effective.
The account has the main production subscription (and will have more in the future as required) and all the costs are charged to the credit card.

Visual Studio online

The Visual Studio online needs to be linked to an Azure account for billing.
In my case I needed an Advanced user for doing testing (until they changed it to being free)
The Visual Studio is separate so can be moved around between azure accounts easily.
I moved mine by disconnecting it within the Azure management portal then connecting it to the new account afterwards. Had no problems.
Within the control panel - settings page in Visual studio you can see the Azure account under the billing information. That is the account any costs will go to.


Note: some articles are dated but give a general idea

What is and how to create Windows Azure Subscription

Manage Accounts, Subscriptions, and Administrative Roles

Good Practices for Managing Windows Azure Subscriptions

Sign up for Azure as an organization

What is an Azure AD directory?

How Azure subscriptions are associated with Azure AD

MSDN, Microsoft Account, Organizational Account

Azure benefit for MSDN subscribers

Using Work Accounts with MSDN FAQ

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