How to Save Money on the Microsoft Azure List Price  


Cost control and Azure Resource optimization are important parts of building out your cloud practice in Microsoft Azure. In other words, you don’t want to waste any money and need to be using your Azure resources in the most efficient way possible in order to increase your overall margin. This article will highlight a couple of ways that will enable you to save on Azure list pricing and optimize Azure Resource usage.  

Since this is meant to be a practical guide, we’ll go over each item one-by-one. Some tips will have a direct impact on the list price, as the title implies, while others will help you get your Azure resources running more efficiently. This means you won’t save on list pricing per se, but you will get more out of your Azure Resources and thus spend less as a result.  

1. Becoming a Direct or Indirect Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) 

This might not come as news to some of you, but there are still a lot of MSPs who are not aware of the CSP program and the additional (financial) benefits it has to offer. Trust me, it’s worth looking into if you haven’t done so already.  

Being a CSP will not only make it easier to transact Azure (i.e., create customer subscriptions), but it will also allow you to increase your margin by receiving a discount off Azure list prices via your CSP Provider. You will also be eligible for various incentives that Microsoft makes available to their CSPs based on their growth objectives.  

These incentives are incremental to the discount you’ll receive on Azure consumption and can be in the 10% range, or more, when added up. 

There are two types of CSPs: Direct CSPs and CSP Resellers. Direct CSPs purchase Azure directly from Microsoft but are required to maintain high consumption volume and need to overcome various qualification hurdles.  

CSP Resellers purchase Azure through an Indirect CSP Provider. These CSP providers are large distributors that help CSP Resellers understand Azure, its pricing, and billing. Any MSP can become a CSP Reseller without any volume commitments or certification hurdles. 

Have a look at the below discount overview. Note that these numbers (might) change overtime and we can’t guarantee the exact percentages displayed.  

Direct CSPs and CSP Resellers are eligible for the following benefits: 

  • Azure consumption discounts: 7%-15% 
  • Azure Reserved Instances (more on this below) discounts: 1%-5% 
  • CSP software subscriptions (more on this below) discounts: 5%-15% 
  • Office 365, Dynamics 365, and Microsoft 365 discounts: 10% – 20% 
  • Local, regional, and other accelerators (i.e., rebates): these vary by year and Microsoft priorities. Some are available to Direct CSPs only. 

2. Choosing the Right VM for the Job  

Another advantage of using Cloud resources is having a choice, and lots of them.  

Within almost all regions globally, you can choose to work with dozens if not hundreds of different services – virtual machines being just one of those services. VMs come in various shapes and sizes, also known as families. In short, for every type of workload out there you will be able to find a VM type/size to go with it.  

When sizing your Azure virtual machines, be cautious when copying the specifications of your on-premises (physical and virtual) machines. These are often oversized for their purpose; a problem you won’t have with cloud-based VMs. Even if you pick a small size, to begin with, perhaps even too small, they can always be re-sized later within minutes. This ensures that you’ll make optimal use, or close to it, of the compute and storage resources available without paying for additional “reserved” capacity you probably won’t need during the first year or so.  

By the way, services like Azure Migrate (migrate existing on-premises virtual machines to Azure) can help with the above as well. Azure Migrate supports Hyper-V and VMware virtual machines and will help you to pick the correct VM size depending on various statistics.  

3. Microsoft Azure Promos 

[Offer has ended.]

More information can be found on the Microsoft website here

4. B Series Machines 

B-series VMs are known as “burstable” VMs. They are used for non-CPU intensive workloads (domain controllers, file and web servers, for example) and cost about 50% of an equivalently sized Ds-series VM (often used within Azure Virtual desktop environments). The reason they are cheaper is because Azure imposes a quota on how much of the total CPU cores can be used. This quota is usually a fraction of the total available CPU. 

Every second that the VM is using less than its quota, it is “banking credits”. These banked credits can be used to burst up to the total available CPUs when needed. While bursting, the VM is consuming its banked credits. Once credits run out, the VMs CPU-utilization is throttled down to its pre-defined quota.  

For approximately the same price you would pay for a Ds-series VM, you can get a B-series with double the CPUs and double the RAM. But again, use them for non-intensive CPU workloads only.  

5. Ephemeral OS Disks 

We also want to highlight the use of Ephemeral OS disks, which are especially interesting if you are running stateless, or “non-persistent” workloads.  

Ephemeral OS disks are a form of stateless disk storage. They are created on the virtual machine’s local storage (as part of the available VM cache, read on below) and are not written/saved to Azure Blob storage. This makes them ideal for stateless workloads, providing lower latency and thus faster read and write times. As always, there are multiple pros and cons to consider.   

To start with a big pro, they are free!  

You are not charged for storage costs. Though, keep in mind that the Azure compute used as part of the VM that the Ephemeral disk is part of will still cost you money – nothing new there. If you have any other disk types attached to the VM, you will pay for those as well. 

Another important thing to note, and one of their biggest drawbacks is that Ephemeral disks cannot be stopped/deallocated. Restarting is supported. However, when combined with the auto-scale engine built into Nerdio Manager for Enterprise or Nerdio Manager for MSP, that problem goes away almost completely. Our advanced and patented auto-scale engine can easily create new VMs from scratch within minutes, pre-stage machines, monitor and auto-heal VMs, and completely remove and deallocate virtual machines when they are no longer needed.  

In other words, you get the best of both worlds!  

6. Azure Hybrid Benefit and CSP Software Subscriptions 

Comparing costs between Cloud based resources like a virtual machine, for example, and buying a physical server can be tricky. There’s a lot to consider. People often look at the monthly cost of an Azure VM, multiply it by 36 to get its three-year cost and conclude that it is much more expensive than buying a server.  

What most don’t realize is that the pay-as-you-you-go list price of a VM includes in it the “premium of optionality” (i.e., you can turn it off at any time and stop paying) and a subscription to the Windows Server operating system.  

Also, you need to take into account the flexibility that this model offers. Machines can be shut down, deallocated etc., meaning you will instantly pay less or nothing at all. Spinning up a new machine will take you minutes instead of hours/days and you’ll always be able to find a configuration that will fit your use-case. What a about resiliency, instant scalability, and there’s more to consider.  

By reserving the base compute and bringing your own license for the operating system, the cost of the VM drops by 80%! 

Microsoft has created a special entitlement called Azure Hybrid Benefit usage (AHB) that allows MSPs to pay for the Windows Server operating system via another licensing program and not through Azure. AHB is a benefit unique to Azure. You can’t bring your own Windows server license to AWS or GCP, for example. The cost of a VM in other public clouds will include the cost of the license, even if you already own Windows. 

AHB can be enabled on a per-VM basis (easily done by using an automation platform like Nerdio, all at once or one by one) in the Azure portal. Turning it on stops the Windows OS billing meter and the cost of the VM becomes lower. How much lower? That depends on the VM family but can be up to half of the VM’s cost. 

7. Azure Reserved Instances 

The cost of Virtual Machines (VMs) in Azure is the single biggest component of a typical MSP’s IT environment. Therefore, focusing on reducing this large consumption component is where we’ll start. The savings can be significant.  

Reserved Instances are reservations of a specific type of compute capacity (i.e., VM family/series) in a specific geographic location (i.e., Azure region) for a predefined period (12 or 36 months). Depending on the VM family, duration of the reservation, and region, these RIs can save you from 20% to 57% relative to the list pay as you go (PAYG) price. The trade-off is that you have to commit to the reservation in advance for an extended period of time — 12 or 36 months. This is great news for MSPs because typical IT workloads they deploy in Azure on behalf of their customers are persistent and customers are generally open to making one or three-year commitments. No customer wants to move an IT environment from one cloud to another every month! 

The good news is that RIs can be paid for monthly as well. 

RIs can also be exchanged without any fees or penalties. Any unused portion of an RI will be applied as a credit towards the purchase of a new RI for a different family, in a different region, or both.  

Even if you want to cancel an existing reservation, you can. However, there is a cancellation fee. The cancellation fee is 12% of your purchase price. The unused portion of your reservation will be refunded to you minus the 12% cancellation fee. There are some limitations to this on an annual basis. For example, your cancellations cannot exceed $50,000 in a year. Cancellation fees apply to both upfront paid reservations and those that are paid for on a monthly basis.  

8. Use AutoScaling to Lower Your Azure Compute and Storage Costs Significantly 

The cloud is famous for its pay-per-use model. This sounds like a dream come true and it is a great concept for sure. However, taking advantage of this is not as easy as it sounds. You need to have a mechanism in place that can constantly monitor what is going on within your environment and act accordingly. It needs to be able to stop and start machines in a flexible manner, and not “just” on set times, build new machines completely from scratch, and throw those same machines away when they are no longer needed.  

Workloads need to be resized from time to time and systems need to be monitored for health so that proactive measures can be put in place when applicable. And what about keeping your Active Directory clean when it comes to machine names and objects, for example? Those need to be taken care of also.  

What if we could resize machines to a smaller (cheaper) version during night-time? It would still be available but will cost a lot less regarding the underlying Azure compute and storage resources. That, times the number of machines you manage, can lead up to significant savings. Or have machines completely shut down, drained from the user first while also notifying them beforehand. Of course, in a perfect world, we would all have access to something like this. 

This is exactly what Nerdio is capable of. In fact, you will save up to 75% regarding your underlying compute and storage resources while keeping your users happy because it won’t affect the overall user experience.  

9. Final Notes and Various Tips 

Next to the above, keep in mind that there are also price differences per Azure region. When storing large amounts of archive data, it might make sense to store it outside of your own region to save on costs. And there are more examples, of course.  

Tagging your resources in Azure (or directly from within Nerdio Manager for Enterprise or Nerdio Manager for MSP) can help to track resource usage and thus the associated costs. Azure also offers various options to monitor your spending and other ways of cost control by setting budget alerts, for example.  

The use of Management Groups to govern your underlying subscription as part of your tenant is another way to make sure things don’t run out of control. Applying policies, which can be set on a subscription level as well, can help with controlling what can be configured where. As an example, maybe you only want virtual machines to be created within your own region and block the use of other regions.  

Hopefully, this post has provided you with some insights on how to take full advantage of all that can be done to lower (and monitor) costs and optimize overall Azure usage and cloud resources in general. While this may seem like a lot of information at once, if you take your time and handle these topics one by one, it will be well worth your trouble.  

Bas van Kaam

Nerdio Field CTO, EMEA

Nerdio Manager for Enterprise Case Study: LexisNexis


Learn how LexisNexis consolidated a variety of incompatible environments and siloed work into a single, cohesive solution using Nerdio Manager for Enterprise. 

About LexisNexis

LexisNexis is a leading global data analysis and information provider that offers platforms to help legal, corporate, government, and nonprofit clients better understand their markets and audiences. They also increase accessibility to legal and journalistic documents. With over 10,000 employees worldwide and customers in 160 countries, LexisNexis IT professionals manage a lot of moving parts every day. 

The Situation 

Because LexisNexis was split among multiple uncooperative environments — including RDS, VMWare ESX, and Citrix — the company was overloaded with frustrating and inefficient processes that were costing them a lot of money. LexisNexis needed to simplify their system and save on costs, and their research showed that migrating to Azure was the best way to do both those things. 

The Solution

LexisNexis engaged Coretek to design a Citrix Cloud-compatible solution using Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD), and Coretek recommended Nerdio Manager to facilitate the migration. Nerdio was able to work with the customer to deploy a pilot program to a few hundred users, running Azure alongside Citrix Cloud, within just a few days. After the successful pilot, Nerdio’s auto-scale function made it easy for LexisNexis to extend the solution to thousands of users.


The Results

LexisNexis now runs Nerdio Manager across their organization, enabling synchronicity and consistency and resulting in a 50% year over year cost savings. This new streamlined system has eliminated the need for expensive onsite infrastructure, solved the confusing multi-software departmental billing issues, and reduced their overall software costs. 

“LexisNexis now runs Nerdio Manager across their organization, enabling synchronicity and consistency and resulting in a 50% year over year cost savings.”

LexisNexis is currently hosting several thousand users on AVD, and with Nerdio’s help, their administrators are managing the day-to-day operations easily and efficiently, with about a 75% decrease in support needs. Most importantly, the performance of their infrastructure has improved significantly: LexisNexis’s former solution was rated at 35/100 and Nerdio Manager is running at above 90/100. 

“LexisNexis’s former solution was rated at 35/100 and Nerdio Manager is running at above 90/100.” 


Find Nerdio in the Azure Marketplace: nerdio. co/nme


Nerdio Manager for Enterprise Case Study: Grant Thornton


Learn how Grant Thornton LLP, the sixth-largest accounting organization in the U.S., tackled a complex migration to Azure Virtual Desktop with the help of Nerdio Manager for Enterprise — their very own “Easy Button” for a challenging software. 

About Grant Thronton LLP

Grant Thornton LLP is one of the world’s largest accounting and advising firms, with over 8,500 employees, 550 partners, and annual revenue of nearly $2 billion in 2019. Founded in 1986 and headquartered in Chicago, IL, Grant Thornton LLP has 51 offices in the U.S. and hundreds of member firms across the globe. 

The Situation 

Grant Thornton LLP worked with a team of overseas developers, who needed access to the business’s files and data via a secure connection, to maintain compliance within U.S. regulations. The company had already decided to migrate to Microsoft Azure, but the environment was too complex for them to do it alone — they needed a knowledgeable partner to help them onboard. Their first step was to run a test case, migrating a limited number of users to Azure to prove out the technology and make sure it was going to be a fit. 

The Solution

Nerdio Manager provided Grant Thornton LLP with the “Easy Button” they were seeking, making AVD management painless and intuitive where before it had been inaccessibly complicated. Nerdio helped the company set up their AVD environment in just a few days, enabling them to test Azure with Nerdio Manager and get a feel for its value, which was illustrated immediately: with Nerdio, the company is saving $20,000 a month on computing and storage fees. 

Not only did Nerdio Manager for Enterprise enable Grant Thornton LLP to onboard a new, complex system quickly and easily, but they also empowered them to provide their overseas developers with access to company data while allowing them to “lock down” the desktops for better security. The company is saving $20,000 a month by using Nerdio Manager; with 330 concurrent users, their spend is now under $3,000. The value of the Nerdio partnership is so clear that Grant Thornton LLP is now looking for opportunities to expand to more user cases on a global level. At the moment they have three countries with their own Nerdio instance, and are actively seeking more. 


Find Nerdio in the Azure Marketplace: nerdio. co/nme

Nerdio Manager for Enterprise Case Study: Epiq

Case Study

Global Legal Services Enterprise Agency Migrates to Microsoft Azure and Saves Thousands Per Month with Nerdio Manager for Enterprise 

About Epiq

Epiq is a global provider of legal services, serving law firms, corporations, financial institutions, and government agencies. They help customers take on large-scale, complex legal tasks and streamline the administration of business operations, class action and mass tort, court reporting, eDiscovery, regulatory, compliance, restructuring, and bankruptcy matters. 

The Situation

EPIQ Legal Document Review—Changing with the Times   

As a trusted provider of legal services, Epiq works with data that is important, private, and sensitive to its customers. Counted on to handle the legal eDiscovery process for its customers, Epiq must be sure its data is accurate and secure. 

Epiq’s legal eDiscovery model helps legal clients, law firms, corporations, government agencies, and others to manage their data and have confidence that the information they have, puts them in a position for the best possible legal outcome. 

The sheer volume of sensitive information handled by this enterprise organization is daunting, so costs must be carefully managed, and a large, flexibly sized team needs the right virtual and remote tools to properly complete their tasks in an efficient manner. 

Business Needs 

  • Solve the challenges associated with connecting and managing a large, remote, and constantly changing eDiscovery review team 
  • Give that team the tools and job-flexibility that the new virtual environment demands 
  • Overcome the technical challenges associated with security and confidentiality 
  • Control associated Microsoft Azure costs 

Epiq’s document review services staff count fluctuates frequently based on customer demand. Historically, these team members worked in brick-and-mortar facilities. Epiq was already moving to a more flexible work model, even before the seismic changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The task was brought into sharp relief: implement a way for the team to work from geographically distributed locations, with users logging into a virtual desktop environment to perform eDiscovery documentation. Their proof-of-concept project with Microsoft’s Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) revealed that the native auto-scaling in the product was difficult to control, and they needed to explore alternatives to lower costs. The Microsoft team recommended a potential solution; Nerdio Manager for Enterprise

Epiq’s Document Review Services (DRS) team can onboard and serve hundreds of client document review projects in a year. Usability, flexibility and scalability are key attributes for their technology partners. As team members move quickly from project to project and task to task, Nerdio Manager for Enterprise enables their tech support to keep pace. “Nerdio helps the entire DRS business unit be more 

The Solution 

The Need for Speed – From Proof of Concept to Implementation 

Already moving toward a flexible, virtualized environment, the Epiq team was prompted by the business realities of the COVID-19 crisis. They needed to move quickly, but intelligently, forward with their initiatives. Nerdio became their partner in adding speed and efficiency. 

“We were already going down that route, taking things into the cloud, doing document review, hosting virtual machines. COVID forced us to do it immediately,” said Wright. 

Although Epiq was initially skeptical of bringing in a third-party solution, the Nerdio team put any anxiety away in short order. “We were really impressed by how easy it was to set up and administer. Especially the auto-scaling functionality,” said Wright. “The Nerdio team really helped us understand what would work best for our use case.” 

“The biggest takeaway from all this is how Nerdio helped us increase efficiency and decrease cost in the wake of COVID. It was quick and easy to identify how Nerdio helped us. Looking back, we wish we had pulled the trigger on Nerdio sooner.” 

– Drew Wright, Senior Manager of Information Technology, DRS for Epiq

The Results 

Saving Time & Significantly Lowering Costs 

Epiq evolved its business practices, both to support the document review team with the best technology, but also to respond to that workforce’s need for physical and geographic flexibility. 

Wright says, “Nerdio has saved our team countless hours. Time we can spend on other important things — supporting users and acting more strategically.” In a business where time is of the essence, Nerdio proved its worth quickly. As Wright tells it, “Epiq turned a very large workforce virtual in about two weeks. Being able to layer on a tool like Nerdio, and seeing increased functionality, scalability, and significant cost-savings was just invaluable to us.” 

Nerdio’s Advanced Microsoft Azure auto-scaling capabilities drove significant monthly savings on Azure storage and compute costs–by about five times, in fact. “What we spend on Nerdio has been offset manifold by the savings. Probably within two weeks, we noticed a significant improvement in cost, because Nerdio was doing what AVD’s standard auto-scaling couldn’t.” 


Find Nerdio in the Azure Marketplace:

Nerdio Manager for Enterprise Case Study: Oportun

Case Study

Financial Services Enterprise Organization Saves Over $10,000 a Month with Nerdio Manager for Enterprise

About Oportun

Since 2005, Oportun has offered financial services assistance aimed at the approximately 100 million people in the United States who are typically shut out of the financial mainstream because they don’t have a credit score or have a limited credit history.

Their mission-based, technology-powered approach is designed to be inclusive, affordable, and empowering. By lending money to hardworking, low-to-moderate-income individuals, they help their customers move forward in their lives, demonstrate their creditworthiness, and establish the credit history they need to access new opportunities.

Oportun has provided more than 3.8 million affordable small-dollar loans that have saved customers an estimated $1.7 billion in interest and fees compared to alternative lenders, according to a study commissioned by Oportun and conducted by the Financial Health Network, a leading nonprofit authority on consumer financial health.

The Situation

Distributed Workforce in Need of Cost Optimization  

Oportun developed proprietary technology around the loan process and essential analytics programs that are keys to their success. “The analytics are really required to understand our customer base and perform the financial calculations required. Our IT team is a crucial part of our business,” said Erin Hasani, Microsoft Associate Architect at Oportun.

The company needed to support a widely distributed team. With workers overseas in India, the IT leaders at Oportun chose Microsoft Azure and Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD). Following a proof of concept implementation of AVD, Oportun identified gaps and areas where performance needed improvement. “Managing costs was the biggest thing we wanted to address,” said Hasani. “We didn’t want to run machines 24/7 due to cost considerations and we were also focused on giving end-users more visibility into their machines.”

The Solution

Easily & Quickly Implement Advanced AutoScaling to Lower Costs   

Microsoft recommended Nerdio Manager for Enterprise as a perfect solution to the challenges Oportun had encountered. Nerdio is a Microsoft partner and the definitive Azure deployment, management, and optimization solution for AVD environments. 

“We wanted something that was more robust, supported, and ready to go than native AVD alone, and that’s where Nerdio came in,”

– Erin Hasani, Microsoft Associate Architect at Oportun

Nerdio’s advanced AutoScaling technology allows a customer to easily adjust their Azure usage based on their needs. This can save a company up to 70% on Azure compute and storage costs. After a single week in the proof-of-concept stage, Oportun moved Nerdio Manager for Enterprise into production. “We had targets to start around efficiency, especially regarding personal desktops, and Nerdio was able to fill that gap incredibly quickly. “The automation features with Nerdio are ‘set and forget’ for the most part, and as users, we just reap the benefits,” said Hasani. 

The Nerdio team worked with their counterparts at Oportun to make the process fast and efficient.  As Hasani noted, “Nerdio’s features and the ease of use stood out to us. It was especially notable compared to the other solutions we researched.”

Designed to extend the native  AVD experience, Nerdio helps users manage and optimize Microsoft’s powerful tools.  “Nerdio integrates with AVD very smoothly. Deployment was a breeze,” Hasani said.

The Results

Major Time & Cost Savings Achieved  

Once Nerdio’s solution was up and running. The results were clear and compelling. According to Hasani, “There were no crazy requirements. Integration was very straightforward with what we had on-premises. If it sounds easy, it’s because it was!”

The benefits came in several forms, most noticeably in time savings for the Oportun IT team and the direct costs associated with Azure. With Nerdio’s capabilities, there was no need to run the machines around the clock. The AutoScaling capabilities and shared desktop features allow Oportun to scale up and down more efficiently. “Without a tool like Nerdio, we couldn’t achieve that,” said Hasani.

“We deal with lots of images. Managing all of them can be a painful process. Nerdio makes it a breeze – much easier than what Microsoft’s native tools can provide.” – Erin Hasani, Microsoft Associate Architect at Oportun

Major cost savings have also been realized: “Auto-Scaling with Nerdio is saving us $10,000 a month. The added cost of the solution is nothing compared to what we save,” according to Hasani.

“Nerdio is really scalable. We’re not deploying thousands of desktops, but we’re seeing savings even with one or two hundred desktops.”

Simply put, Nerdio’s capabilities make life easier for the Oportun team. “The Nerdio solution is great at automating and being as ‘hands-off’ as possible, which frees up time for our engineers,” Hasani said. “The portal is very user-friendly for them, enabling them to spin up host pools and deploy machines easily. Choosing Nerdio was a no-brainer. Once you see something this good you don’t have to look somewhere else.”