Microsoft is taking its Office Live service live and out of beta on November 15, expanding its offerings for small businesses both in content and its availability overseas.
Office Live is a set of Internet-based services for small businesses, designed to get them up and running online quickly. Microsoft (Quote) launched the service in February and more than 160,000 small businesses took part in the beta.
One of those businesses was the Sequoia Lodge in Kernville, Calif., a remote vacation lodge outside of Bakersfield.
Lodge owner Brenda Derrow had made a previous effort with an independent Web hosting provider, but the site went without an update for five years and had next to no information or photos on it.
"You have to be able to show people what you've got here, and the old Web site didn't do that," said Derrow. But her Office Live experiment has been a big success, and that's due to Microsoft making more of an effort than the last hosting provider she worked with.
"This was my first attempt, so I've learned along with Microsoft helping me put it together. I'm doing a lot of bookings online now. It gets you kinda pumped because you can see how much traffic you're getting, and that helps," she said.
On its emergence from beta, Office Live will expand internationally to offer services in France, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom. The final or finished version of Office Live will also add several features.
These include: a beta version of adManager, which integrates with Microsoft's adCenter and Live Local; integration with Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2007; increasing the number of design tools and templates from 100,000 to 150,000 and additional storage space, company branded email accounts and calendars and support for Windows Live Messenger.
Microsoft said it's trying to help out these small businesses by taking away the technical concern. "Our focus was really on helping small businesses to become visible. About 50 percent of small businesses in the U.S. don't have a Web presence and that can be a real competitive disadvantage," said Marja Koopmans, director of partner strategy at Microsoft.
The basic service starts with a company domain name, a Web site with 500 MB of storage, branded email accounts and design tools. The next step up, at $19.95 per month, adds more storage and email plus Office Live Business Contact Manager and online Workspaces plus integration with Outlook and Windows Mobile-powered phones.
Microsoft Office Live Premium, the top of the line services, is $39.95 per month. It ups the capacity to 2GB of storage, offers 50 company branded email addresses and offers more Internet-based applications.
The only online feature not allowed, said Koopmans, is server-to-server code, which she said is only something seen in large enterprises that wouldn't need Office Live in the first place.