Less than a month ago (Sept 17), there was an update to Windows Azure Websites. This update added a third option for hosting websites, the Free option.
Previously all Shared hosted sites were free but now you can choose between Free, Shared, or Reserved. Here is a brief summary of the functionality of each.
Free: You know what they say “Free is the new Shared” well in this case that’s right. Free is like shared in that your site could be hosted on the same VM as other sites but you cannot assign a different domain name to the site. With Free the site will always be <something>.azurewebsites.net
Shared: The same hosting as free in that the site is not on a dedicated VM, however with this option you pay for the ability to assign your own domain to the site, even without a subdomain or what is called a “naked domain”.
Reserved: With this option you can assign the domain like shared but all of your sites in that datacenter are hosted on a reserved instance. The key point here is that all your websites are hosted by the same reserved instance. So if you have a high traffic site that requires 2 VMs and another small site, both will gain the 2nd VM if they are in the same datacenter.
Also before this change the only option that would show up on your bill was the reserved instance but now that there is a cost for the Shared instance, you may need to make some decisions on how you are hosting your sites.
Since all of your Reserved instance sites share one cost for the machine, you may want to go to reserved if you have a number of small traffic sites to host. However, at what point would you switch from Shared to Reserved? Take a look at these screenshots from the Azure pricing calculator.
So Reserved you are paying per VM and Shared you are paying per site it would take about 6 sites to reach the cost of a single small VM. I don’t know what the performance gains are for Reserved vs Shared but this gives you an idea as to what the cost of a Shared site would be compared to a Reserved instance.
If you are planning on deploying multiple sites or any services to Azure I suggest playing around with the pricing calculator for a while. https://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/pricing/calculator/
Thanks for reading!