Office Live Small Business is closed, but customers still grapple with migration

The MIcrosoft e-mail and website hosting service shut down days ago, but many small businesses haven't yet moved to another service

By , IDG News Service |  Small Business, Microsoft, Office Live Small Business

"This was all very stressful. I thought I would only have to have my site down for a week originally while I worked this all out. Try to imagine having to tell my fanbase that the site would be down for the better part of a month while we work things out," she said. "Understand, when you're trying to build a brand, you can't afford to have that much down time. People lose interest and look elsewhere for their entertainment."

The number of Microsoft partners making migration tools and services available has been growing, responding to the demand for help from customers. One such partner is SkyKick, whose Office Live Switching Application automatically moves a company's website and email, calendar and contacts, including their

> domain, from Office Live to Office 365.

"We've designed it so that anyone can move their business in just 10 minutes of their time, with no IT experience required," said SkyKick Co-CEO Todd Schwartz via email.

The OLSB closure and migration process hasn't provided good publicity for Microsoft, which is in a dogfight with Google in the market for cloud-based e-mail and collaboration suites. Microsoft's Office 365 competes directly with Google Apps. The small business-segment is an important one in this market, accounting for most of the initial Office 365 sign-ups.

Unsurprisingly, another point of contention for small business customers has been cost, because Office 365 is generally more expensive than OLSB, and having to hire a Microsoft partner to carry out the transition adds to the cost.

OLSB is free, with optional fee-based add-ons. In comparison, the Office 365 plan for small businesses, called P1, costs $6 per user, per month, and more if customers add the option of Office Professional Plus, an upgrade over the standard Office Web Apps.

While Office 365 has more features overall than OLSB does, the question for OLSB customers is whether they will use the additional features they're paying more for.

"OLSB appealed to a lot of different people, especially because of the free website. Office 365 is targeted at meeting the needs of small business owners and professionals. Many OLSB customers won't see Office 365 as a good fit, especially since Office 365 isn't free," reads a Web page on the official OLSB website.

But OLSB customer Haygood said, "Office 365 isn't really better. It's maybe different -- on the surface, that is. I'd have happily paid to stay at OLSB what I'll be paying for Office 365 just to keep what I had, with a few improvements to the site hosting/design software and the Web Apps."

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