Define FREE: Google vs. Microsoft cloud developer storage

Hmm….it seems that the word ‘free’ means different things to different people.  Since departing Microsoft as a full-time employee in Oct 2011, I set up new free developer cloud accounts on both Windows Azure on Google’s developer cloud storage. 

Google performed as expected.  Storage free and working.  Here’s my ‘bill’:

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Microsoft however, was a different story.  First, mysteriously, my corporate (i.e. when I was still a full-time employee) charges appeared on my newly created ‘free’ trial account after I left.  Bill is shown below.  My personal credit card was charged for corporate (demonstration) use.  I know, hard to read, so, I’ll call out the total – $ 358.97 for the month of Oct 2011.

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Also, each month, additional charges appeared.  Here’s the overview page from the ‘free’ Azure billing.  You’ll note that each month, my ‘free’ account continued to accrue charges.

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As you might expect, I was concerned and contacted the support line.  I got inconsistent information each time that I called.  Here are highlights from the some of the emails I got:

First the confirmation of my new, (free?) trial account is shown below.  Notice the spot in the email (highlighted), where the link to ‘buy’ it should be is just blank. 

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Well, I was out of the country (teaching) on the expiration date, so I decided to let my ‘free’ account expire.  I was happy to get the next email on 11/21/2011, confirming the expiration (shown below).  I assumed all data would be erased and by account would be closed and cancelled. 

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When I got back from my trip those assumptions were proved incorrect.   I also noticed that free didn’t mean free (i.e. I had charges on the Azure portal, and worse, on my personal credit card), so I called the Azure biz disk and opened a case on 12/01/2011 as shown below.  Mysteriously, my Azure account appeared to still be open and active as well.

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On 12/6/2011 I got a ‘friendly’ reminder to pay my bill as shown below.

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The mystery continues, on 12/11/2011, I got a email asking if I wanted to renew my ‘pay-as-you-go’ account as shown below.  Hmm…I thought I signed up for a free trial account, I thought that account had expired and was cancelled????

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Then, on 12/20/2011, I got the email below, which says ‘oh we are sorry, we overcharged you and we’ll credit you.’  Nice sentiment, however, no credit to my personal credit card.  I wonder what amount I was overcharged? Hmm….

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Oh, wait, there’s more.  On 12/22/2011, I got the email below, saying, ‘your “free” account will now expire on Jan 6/2012 [but, wait, didn’t it expire already?])

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Ok, I am pretty diligent, but even I know when I must walk away.  So, on 1/4/2012, I manually cancelled my Windows Azure account via the portal (you, know the one which was supposedly cancelled on 11/21/2011) and got a confirmation email of such promptly:

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Much to my surprise, I received the email shown below on 1/5/2012.  It warns me of the upcoming planned cancellation of my account.  But wait, didn’t I already do that the previous day….?

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And then on 1/06/2012, I got another friendly reminder to pay my ‘free’ bill as shown below.

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As you might guess, all charges remain on my personal credit card and, there are new charges to my ‘free’ account for December.

Moral of this story.  Buyer beware.  I’ll let my credit card company fight it out with Microsoft. 

Oh by the way, you might ask, WHY I wanted a free account, well it was to be able to intelligently discuss and include Microsoft’s cloud offerings in my general discussion of data storage options for the cloud from all of the big vendors. 

To that end, I’ll be presenting on Google App Engine at the upcoming SoCalCodeCamp at UCFullerton on Jan 28th.  Looking forward to seeing you there!

About lynnlangit

redheaded girl geek (SoCalDevGal), linguist, BigData & Cloud expert, SQL Server Business Intelligence author, co-founder of "Teaching Kids Programming"
This entry was posted in Azure, Cloud, google. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Define FREE: Google vs. Microsoft cloud developer storage

  1. Unbelievable, such a mess just for signing up for a free account! Hope MS sort this out, and get things moving positively.

  2. Reminds me of the song, “Everythings free in America…for a slight fee in America”, lol. Thanks for the information.

  3. joseffb says:

    Why’d you give your CC number? If it’s free you shouldn’t need one.

    • lynnlangit says:

      yes, that’s true and normally I would’ve stopped at the point that the cc was required. However, I was transitioning between MSFT FTE and contracting and had public speaking obligations around SQL Azure (ironic!) in Africa and in Europe and I was worried about having a live account to demo with, so I took the text ‘free’ on faith. Also I could not find any option to sign up for a free account at that time that did not require a credit card.

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  6. CT says:

    You do realize that most FREE trials need to be cancelled so you don’t get charged? It’s a common business practice. Amazon Prime does it. Equifax t does it. SkinID does it. Etc.

    Also, if you try to cancel even a few days after expiration, most companies still don’t reimburse you.

  7. Janardhan says:

    ohh !!! Thats really bad… I never faced any such problem with the Microsoft sites, Lets see this time, I have an account with Windows Azure… Hope this doesn’t repeat for me, Microsoft would have fixed the issues.

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