Get Ready for Live

Microsoft Office Live has gone live. Are you ready to capitalize?

With the emphasis Microsoft is putting on its Office Live initiative, it would be wise to be ready to roll now that Live has hit the streets. More accurately, you should be thinking about your business strategy with Live. How might you make money with a monthly, subscription-based service hosted by Microsoft?
Microsoft has mentioned the possibilities of sharing advertising and subscription revenue, but that could be problematic at best. There's also the potential to customize the applications that come with Live and the sites you may build with Live. You could configure Live for specific industries or to suit particular customers-but it still sounds like a prospect with fairly slim margins.

Microsoft Office Live isn't an off-the-shelf, shrink-wrapped product, so a shrink-wrapped strategy isn't going to work. Live is a Web-hosting and management service. Live includes a domain name, a pre-built Web site, e-mail accounts branded with your customer's company (hosted by Microsoft), an online document repository, password-protected online workspaces (called Shared Sites) and Web-based tools for managing documents, projects and customer contacts. You and your customers can configure these tools to automate specific tasks and integrate with Office applications like Outlook, Excel and Word.

Microsoft hosts and supports the entire solution, which saves your customers the cost of maintaining and supporting that level of IT infrastructure. This is a significant fact to point out to cost-conscious customers.

There are three levels of Microsoft Office Live:

Microsoft Office Live Basics comes with an established domain name and Microsoft's Site Designer tool, so your customers can create their own Web site within minutes. The Basics package also comes with five branded e-mail accounts, and access to 30MB of Web-based storage. The Web site traffic reports help your customers manage their Web site without needing significant Web experience. Like the other Live solutions, it's built on Windows SharePoint Services technology.

The next step up is Microsoft Office Live Collaboration, which provides a password-protected online work environment. It also includes higher-level business management applications for functions like customer and project management, sales, marketing and human resources. Office Live Collaboration lets your customers create numerous password-protected Web sites, called Shared Sites to promote collaboration.

Microsoft Office Live Essentials provides all the features found in Live Basics and Live Collaboration and adds hosting and Web design services, collaboration tools, and additional business management applications. It also includes access to 50MB of Web-based storage, 50 e-mail accounts (with 2GB of storage each), more advanced Web site traffic reports and Microsoft Office FrontPage 2003 support for advanced Web design.

Share and Share Alike
Shared Sites are for sharing information between internal and external staff and business associates. There are workspaces configured for several categories and functions, including customers, vendors, human resources and small business accounting (SBA):

  • Customer workspace lets your customers share data files with their customers and clients.
  • Human resources workspace stores and protects confidential HR data, like payroll and medical information.
  • Vendor workspace also provides password-protected access to let your customers share data and purchasing information with their vendors and suppliers.
  • SBA workspace lets your customers exchange and update Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting files with their accountants to expedite tax processing.

The Web design and management tools are at the root of Office Live. The Site Designer is a relatively straightforward Web site design tool that should be fairly accessible, even to your customers who don't have much experience in this area.

Site Designer is pre-loaded with Web page templates and navigation formats, so your customers can create and revise multiple Web pages. They can add, modify or replace content, upload images and documents, and preview changes in real time.

A Live Essentials license also includes one domain name. Once an available domain name is identified and their initial site is designed, they can be on the Web almost immediately.

Along with Office Live, your customers will also get 50 e-mail accounts, personalized with their company's name. Each of your customers' e-mail boxes is allotted up to 2GB of space. Office Live also includes instant messaging access using Windows Live. Your customers can chat online or with a mobile phone in text or voice conversations.

Microsoft Office:
Live Basics,
Live Collaboration,
Live Essentials

Microsoft Corp.
Release Date: Nov. 15, 2006
Price: Basics is free, Collaboration and Essentials are each $29.95 per month

Once your customers start managing transactions over the Web and logging site visits, they'll be interested in the Web traffic analysis and reporting tools. They can track how many people are visiting their site and where they're coming from, gauge the effectiveness of various search engines and keywords, and track statistics like individual page views, unique visitors and returning visitors. All this is valuable data as your customers refine their Web strategy and update and modify their Web presence.

Besides the tools for creating, managing and monitoring their Web sites, your Office Live Essentials customers will also have access to more than 20 online business applications. They can use these to manage their business activities, including their customer contacts, individual projects, sales history, employee records and vendor lists. The Office Live applications include: Calendars, Company Assets, To-Do Lists, Documents, Employee Directory, Expenses, Jobs and Hiring, Training, Working Hours, Customer Manager, Customer Support, Project Manager, Sales Campaigns, Collateral, Competition Tracker, Product and Service Items and Estimates.

Competitive Landscape
There are hundreds of Web hosting firms around the world. Many have similar offerings to Microsoft Office Live Basics, but few approach the scope of the online tools and applications included with Live Essentials. Still, you'll want to be ready to point to the tight integration with Office applications, the extensive list of business applications and the complete set of Web design and monitoring tools when making a case for Live Essentials, especially since all of these options come cheaper than Live Essentials.

Many of the hundreds of Web hosting firms compete with Live on the basic hosting level. The firms listed below are some of the current top-rated sites on, and all provide domain names, Web hosting, Web site design, eCommerce kits, marketing and traffic generation support.

Affinity Internet Inc.'s provides up to 5GB of online storage and 500 mailboxes. It claims a customer base of more than 160,000 small businesses worldwide.

Hostway Corp. offers 150GB disk space, 3,000 e-mail boxes, a free domain name, free setup and 24x7 support. Its fees start at $9.95 per month.
Aplus.Net Internet Services provides 170GB Web-based storage, 3,300 e-mail boxes, free setup and a free domain name. Their monthly prices start at $7.46.

HostGator allows for an unlimited number of sites, instant setup, 5GB disk space and 75GB bandwidth. HostGator's fees start at $10 a month.
HostMySite offers a free domain name, free setup and two free months of hosting. Its monthly costs start at $8.95.

Website Source hosting services include unlimited domains and subdomains, 5GB storage, 50GB transfer capacity and DDoS attack protection. Monthly plans with WebSiteSource start at $6.85.

Verio Inc.'s services include a free domain name, 10GB disk space, 200 e-mail boxes, marketing and site design support, blogging and podcasting software. Its monthly costs start at $19.95.

Marketing and Sales
As you would expect with a Web-based set of tools like Office Live, most of the collateral material and sales and marketing materials you'll need to help you get your customers onto Live are available on the Microsoft Web site.

As there may be a bit more customer education that goes along with a Microsoft Office Live sale than with standard, stand-alone applications, there are several articles you can use for your own knowledge or as a reference for your customers. There are detailed pieces entitled:

  • How a private Web site could help your business
  • 10 ways to make your Web site "sticky"
  • The truth about your competition
  • What kind of Web site does your business need?
  • Five reasons to track Web site traffic
  • Five ways to establish your brand online
  • Seven different ways to get customers' e-mail addresses (legitimately)
  • Nine things not to have on your Web site
  • Is your Web site "usable?"

Besides a library of articles, there is a foundation for what is certain to be a lively Microsoft Office Live Community, including blogs and message boards. There are already numerous postings from the beta community, so this is sure to be an active information-sharing center now that Live has gone live.
The Message Boards offer a wealth of information drawn from other Live customers' experiences. All postings on the Getting Started and feedback boards are archived, so you and your customers will always have access to those as well.

Spotlight Highlights

Key Features

  • Expedites Web site development
  • Essentials has comprehensive set of management tools
  • Essentials also has extensive set of business applications

Web hosting firms, including:

  • Affinity Internet Inc. (
  • Hostway Corp.
  • Aplus.Net Internet Services
  • HostGator
  • HostMySite
  • Website Source Inc.
  • Verio


  • Integrates tightly with Office applications
  • Shared Sites promote collaboration

The Final Word
Office Live is indeed live, so you can be ready-no question about it. The world of Web hosting is quite competitive, especially among the small business customers to whom Office Live is targeted. And your place in the Live food chain is still not entirely clear. Are you going to be simply referring customers and advertisers to Microsoft? Are you going to be developing one-off customized solutions and sites?

Get to know Live and keep listening to Microsoft as the company continues to try and clarify its position and intent. You're going to have to be good and ready with a feature/cost comparison pitch when presenting Office Live to your customers. You'll also have to be particularly creative about how you position yourself between Microsoft and your customers.