Using Microsoft Hands-On labs to get hands-on cloud experience for free

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I am new to Azure and I am interested in getting hands-on experience on Azure
cloud offerings. Is there a way I can get familiar with the Azure cloud services
without having my own trial subscription and providing my credit card details?


We discussed Microsoft Virtual labs earlier in these tips-

Getting real time SQL Server lab exposure to test new features

Getting real time lab exposure to test latest SQL Server features
. You will
notice that all the links in those tips are repointed to the new Microsoft Hands-On
Labs that are available. The new link is here:
In this tip we will explore the Hands-On Labs with a demo. 

The New Microsoft Hands-on Labs

Once you click on the new
link, it will
take you to this screen where you can explore the “Self-paced Labs”
that are available.

microsoft hands-on labs

Click on the “Go to Self-paced Labs” option to view the lab options.
Once done, you will see this screen with the different lab options.

microsoft hands-on labs list

Here you can view all the labs that are available in this website. You can filter
your search further with the options available.

microsoft hands-on labs for azure

Explore the Lab: AZ00001: Azure Portal and Navigation

In this tip, we will explore the options in the AZ00001 lab for “Azure
Portal and Navigation”. Just click on the lab to “Launch”. Once
done, you will go through the authentication as shown.

sign on to microsoft hands-on labs

Click “Ok” and it asks you to sign in to your Microsoft email account
as shown.

sign on to microsoft hands-on labs

You could use either your Hotmail, Outlook or Live email account to launch the
lab. Once you input your user details, you will see this screen.

sign on to microsoft hands-on labs

Get Started: Lab: AZ00001: Azure Portal and Navigation

Click on the “Get Started” option. It may take some time for this
screen to appear based on your internet speed. Once you click on the “Get
Started” option, you will see this screen as shown below.

microsoft hands-on labs

On the left side you see the Azure portal where you can view the login with which
you had connected. In my case it is my Hotmail account. Note the screen to the right
which describes the lab session in detail. You can also view the estimated time
remaining in the lab. These lab sessions are for a duration of 2 hours.

Lab Login details: Lab: AZ00001: Azure Portal and Navigation

If you see further, you will see the “Resources” tab in the Lab instructions

microsoft hands-on labs azure portal

Here, you can get the user name and password you need to provide for the lab
session. Connect to the Azure
using the credentials. You will see this screen and you can provide the
above account details instead. In your case, it would be a different lab user name
and password.

microsoft hands-on labs azure portal sign in

Once done, you will see the new credential on the top right corner of the Azure

microsoft hands-on labs azure portal

Once you are on this page, you can resume the lab session by referring to the
lab instructions that are available.

Lab Instructions: Lab: AZ00001: Azure Portal and Navigation

To refer to the lab instructions, you can go back to the window where you obtained
the lab credentials. On this window, refer to the scenario instructions at the lower
right as shown.

microsoft hands-on labs azure navigation

Click on the “Next: Scenario 1-Navigation>” section as shown which
will take you to the detailed set of instructions. Once there, you can go through
the instructions and perform the lab based on the instructions that are provided.

microsoft hands-on labs azure navigation

Two hours is quite sufficient to try out the instructions for this lab session.
Out of curiosity, I just checked the billing details for this lab session and it
falls under the category of “Microsoft Azure Internal Consumption”.

microsoft hands-on labs costs

You would notice that even though I don’t have my own subscription, I could
explore Azure features using this lab subscription.  However, I noticed that
the lab session is not limited to only the instructions outlined as per the lab.
You are free to explore the other options that are available using this lab subscription
for the duration of the course. During this lab session, I deviated from the lab
instructions to create an Azure SQL database which I was able to be successfully
create. Below is a screenshot of a sample Azure SQL database that I created using
the lab session credentials.

microsoft hands-on labs sql databases

Once you add client IP address in the Azure portal to the Azure server, you would
be able to connect to the Azure SQL database locally using SQL Server Management
Studio (SSMS). You can refer this

for more information regarding adding client IP in the Azure portal.

microsoft hands-on labs sql databases

With these labs you were able to explore Azure features without having a trial
subscription or without the need to provide your credit card details. Once the 2-hour
window expires, you will get this screen which confirms that the lab session is

microsoft hands-on labs closed

NOTE: Whatever resources you had created during the lab session
will be deleted automatically after your 2-hour lab session is completed. In the
above example, we had created a SQL Azure database named “testingout”
on an Azure server named “”. Once the
lab session expires, you will get this message when you try to connect to the Azure
SQL database.

microsoft hands-on labs sql database error

Just remember that whatever you try in these lab sessions are for testing purpose
only and has a limited time window. The time available looks reasonable and also
helps you to get experience on the Azure cloud products that are available.

Watch out this space on Microsoft Hands-on Labs

When you check the
Microsoft Hands-on
Lab home page
, you will see that Microsoft will soon be launching “Instructor-led
Labs”. This would be a great place to learn more on the cloud platform from
industry experts.

microsoft hands-on labs instructor led labs

There is also this option to “Schedule an instructor-led workshop”
and when I clicked on it, it appears that the site is not ready yet and seems to
be based on the other “Instructor-led Labs” offering.

microsoft hands-on labs instructor led labs

In any case, watch out this space for these free Microsoft offerings.

Next Steps

  • In this tip, you learned about the Microsoft Virtual labs that were available
  • You learned about the new version of the labs known as the Microsoft Hands-on
  • You learned about the various labs available for Azure
  • You learned that you could access the Azure portal using credentials specifically
    for the lab
  • With this tip you also learnt that the credential permissions are not limited
    to the lab instructions alone and you could explore the other Azure cloud features
    in the stipulated 2-hour window
  • Start exploring the Azure
    hands-on lab
    to try out the Azure features for free
  • Refer to the different Azure articles available on


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About the author

MSSQLTips author Mohammed Moinudheen

Mohammed Moinudheen is a SQL Server DBA with over 6 years experience managing production databases for a few Fortune 500 companies.

View all my tips

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