Rahul Pitre, author of the new book Microsoft Office Live Small Business: Beginner’s Guide, offered to write up an explanation for how IT professionals, particularly those at small or medium businesses, could tap into the hosted software package’s power to make their lives easier and their businesses more effective. Interested in reading more? Pitre’s offered a free download of chapter 2 to get a taste for what material his guide covers.
The name Microsoft Office Live Small Business has a familiar ring to it. It sounds like yet another edition of the Microsoft Office of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook fame. Or like Office Online, Microsoft Office’s online resource site. Or even like one of the several new Windows Live services. It’s not.
Let me repeat that.
Office Live Small Business has absolutely nothing to do with Microsoft Office, Office Online, or Windows Live. It’s actually a package of hosted technology infrastructure and online business services for small business. It’s comprised of
- A public web site and online tools to build, promote, and maintain it
- An e-commerce storefront and online tools to build and manage it
- A business-branded e-mail service with webmail, desktop, mobile, and instant messenger support
- A private web site that hosts business applications and document libraries for collaborating with co-workers, clients, vendors, and other associates
- Supplementary services and utilities such as hosting, domain name registration, web analytics, search engine advertisement placement service, and a desktop accounting application.
If you maintain IT infrastructures for a small business, you know first-hand how hard it is to keep your infrastructure up and running. Guarding it against security threats is even harder. And managing it efficiently on a day-to-day basis requires nothing short of divine intervention.
When you sign up for Office Live Small Business, you can say goodbye to these headaches. For all practical purposes, the folks at Office Live Small Business set up your servers, install operating systems and applications, monitor software updates, install your applications, ensure that the applications are always available, and protect your data. That leaves you with doing what you do best – running your business.
The infrastructure serves two basic functions. It provides:
- An affordable, secure, reliable, and redundant hosted server environment for running Office Live Small Business
- A managed software platform, application programming interfaces (APIs), and services such as security and authentication.
Office Live Small Business is built upon Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (WSS 3.0). Together with its cousin Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS), WSS 3.0 comprises SharePoint technologies. You can build sophisticated business applications with SharePoint technologies because they have a wide range of application services built-in. As a result, these technologies are quite popular with big corporations. However, you won’t find too many small businesses using them. Not that small businesses wouldn’t benefit from them; the trouble is that adopting them requires an elaborate IT infrastructure and a small army of IT guys to attend to it. That’s something many small businesses can’t afford. I know; I’m a small-business owner too.
Office Live Small Business’s infrastructure layer deals a decisive blow to these woes. You don’t have to own, maintain, or support a computing infrastructure for running your business applications. An Office Live Small Business subscription creates a state-of-the-art virtual IT department for you and brings industrial-strength technology infrastructure within your reach. Finally.
An IT infrastructure, no matter how fabulous, won’t do you much good unless you have a suitable suite of business applications running on it. Office Live Small Business’s services layer fills that void. It consists of an ASP.Net based public web site, a Windows Live Mail driven e-mail service, an e-commerce enabled online storefront, a WSS 3.0-based private web site, and a few knick-knacks.
Although Office Live Small Business is a pretty comprehensive package, most people get started with it by building their own public web site. Office Live Small Business makes it easy for just about anyone to build a professional-looking public web site quickly. The tools for building it are built-in. They consist of:
- Site Designer, a site design tool
- Page Editor, a page design tool
- Image Uploader, an image editing and management tool
- Document Uploader, a page document uploading and management tool
- Page Manager, a web site and content management tool
Tightly integrated with this set of tools is a web analytics software package called Reports. Along with adManager, a search engine advertising service, it ably helps you publicize your web site and drive traffic to it.
Site Designer and Page Editor are based loosely on the now-defunct Microsoft FrontPage. Like FrontPage, they use templates, themes and styles – design elements that are built into the environment. Templates, themes and styles consist of pre-formatted page layouts, consistent font schemes, easy-to-use navigation schemes, and a set of quality images to go with them. Even if you’ve never built a web site before, you’ll be able to build one on your own in minutes simply by clicking around the design tools.
Obviously, these design tools are for beginners. Although quite robust, they’re no match for professional web design tools. If you’re an accomplished site designer, you might find them to be somewhat restrictive. But don’t despair. Office Live Small Business lets you scrap the built-in design tools in favor of your favorite third-party design tool.
If you don’t have a web site, you are making do with a Hotmail address, or if you are unhappy with your current site, take a look at Office Live Small Business. It might pleasantly surprise you.
About the author:
Rahul Pitre has been writing software of one sort or another for twenty-five years, the last dozen or so of which he has spent developing mostly web sites and web applications. He runs Acxede, a software consulting and training firm in New York, where he oversees web application and content development for a variety of clients. He holds masters degrees in Business Administration and Computer Information Systems.
His new book, Microsoft Office Live Small Business: Beginner’s Guide, walks a complete novice through building an attractive, well-organized, and findable web site with Office Live Small Business.
You can reach Rahul at http://www.acxede.net.