Small Business

The second Office Live offering, which complements the online workspace, is Office Live Small Business. This provides a number of small applets, which work together to help provide an individual or business with an online presence, but the single biggest part of this is a set of tools to design a website. Microsoft again offers to host a small Office Live website free, though if it grows too big it does expect something for its trouble.

When you sign up for Office Live Small Business, you're given a default Office Live domain, but most people will want something which hides the Office Live connection and this is possible by opting to register your own domain. All the common types are available: .com and as well as some more esoteric ones, like .info, .net and .eu.

Registration is carried out by a third-party company, but the domain is yours and can be moved away from Office Live, should you decide to move the site elsewhere, or take it in-house. The annual registration fee, which is around eight pounds per year, depending on site type, is very reasonable and you get the first year free - the first two years are free on domains.

Registration through Office Live doesn't tie you into the Microsoft system, either. If you register a useful domain and then, for whatever reason, decide to move the site to a different host, you can take the domain with you without any penalty. This is as it should be, of course, but there are many horror tales of site hosts charging ‘transfer fees' of up to £100, so it's good to know you're not tying yourself in by registering here. See the video on setting up Office Live Workspace and Office Live Small Business accompanying this feature.

Microsoft provides a lot of help with building a website. The website designer, while basic in comparison with dedicated software such as Dreamweaver, or even WebPlus, offers a lot of help, with pre-designed pages and colour schemes. It comes with an Office 2007 look, complete with Ribbon navigation in a couple of tabs, labelled Page Editor and Site Designer.

The Site Designer is where you do the macro work on your site, incorporating a theme, style and colour scheme and laying out the menus down the left-hand side, across the top, or both. Themes are divided down into 26 different categories, with titles like Automotive, Lawn & Garden and even Pet Supplies & Services, though dishearteningly, there's no Journalism category.

Each category offers a different look for the site and between two and six generic photos to illustrate it, so if any of these fit your needs, using themes can be a very quick and easy way of designing a site. You don't have to rely on Microsoft's choice of photos, though, as you can upload any of your own images to a personal image gallery, to make them look more individual.


This video shows how to register with Microsoft Office Live and Office Live Small Business


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