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    Office live small business is closed, but customers still grapplewith migration - Real Time GPS Car Tracker Manufacturer

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      Frustrated small business owners are struggling with a variety oftechnical issues, including lengthy delays in the process ofverifying ownership of the Internet domains they're transferringfrom OLSB to Office 365 and other third-party hosts, according toposts made on the official OLSB Community site , the official Office 365 Facebook page , discussion forums , social media sites and blogs. Microsoft started dismantling OLSB and turning off customerwebsites after midnight U.S. Pacific Time on Tuesday, though thecompany pledged to maintain Windows Live Hotmail custom emailaddresses hosted by the service for six months. Microsoft is also providing an online form that OLSB customers can fill out to recover lost website data.

      Microsoft on Friday declined to comment when asked how many OLSBcustomers missed the deadline to migrate. Microsoft first announced its intention to close OLSB about 18months ago and launched the suite's replacement, Office 365, inJune of last year. Customers also have the option to migrate tonon-Microsoft email and website hosting providers such as GoDaddy. The decision to close OLSB was unpopular from the beginning,leading many customers to question why the service had to be shutdown at all. Complaints have also centered on the perception that Microsoft didvery little to help OLSB customers migrate from the service.

      Thecustomer base is made up largely of small businesses, whichtypically have limited technology knowledge and resources. Specifically, Microsoft never developed a tool to automate themigration process. At a late stage, around March, several Microsoftpartners began offering fee-based migration software tools and ITservices. In addition to the domain-verification delays, many customers havealso had serious difficulties transferring their OLSB-hostedwebsites over to Office 365. Not only is the process a manual oneinvolving copying and pasting of pages and their content, but inaddition, the platforms are different, so many custom features anddesign elements have to be manually recreated. Real Time GPS Car Tracker

      For that reason, many users are reporting formatting problems in the transition, especially if the websites have custom design features . A Microsoft spokeswoman earlier this week said via email: "We'recommunicating directly with OLSB users via email, the OLSBcommunity, the OLSB website and through notifications in theservice to help them transition to Office 365 or another provider." Microsoft has an online transition center for OLSB where it published, among other things, a transition guide forcustomers willing to do the migration manually. One customer who took on the task of migrating her e-mail domainand website to Office 365 was Elaine Haygood, CEO of Lens Caps Productions , an independent multimedia production company in Chicago. "I did the migration on my own, but I soon realized that theprocess was made harder than it had to be," said Haygood, whosecompany started using OLSB in 2005 for email, web hosting, intranetand document and data storage. Not surprisingly, the email component is particularly important forher business operations. Real Time GPS Car Tracker Manufacturer

      ""My business email is critical. I use itfor automated billing, dealing with service providers, trackingorders of supplies, as well as my social media," she said. It took her more than one week to transfer her company's domainfrom OLSB to Office 365. Many features and functions of her websitedidn't carry over to Office 365. "I still maintain a 'basic' business info site on Office 365. Fleet GPS Systems

      A lotof the things we were able to do with OLSB's Design Wizard aren'tsupported on Office 365. I've seen posting instructions onworkarounds, but it's very complex, and you'd need more than mymeager skills to do so," Haygood said via email. Haygood is still working on her company's website on Office 365, although she finds the design capabilities of theservice "less than basic." Thus, she has opted to spin off thecontent aimed at fans of her company's work -- including webcomics, graphic novels and animation -- in another website hosted on Wix , which she finds is much more suitable for high-traffic,entertainment-oriented sites. "This was all very stressful.

      I thought I would only have to havemy site down for a week originally while I worked this all out. Tryto imagine having to tell my fanbase that the site would be downfor 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 affordto have that much down time. People lose interest and lookelsewhere for their entertainment." The number of Microsoft partners making migration tools andservices available has been growing, responding to the demand forhelp from customers. One such partner is SkyKick, whose Office LiveSwitching Application automatically moves a company's website andemail, calendar and contacts, including their domain, from Office Live to Office 365. "We've designed it so that anyone can move their business in just10 minutes of their time, with no IT experience required," saidSkyKick Co-CEO Todd Schwartz via email.

      The OLSB closure and migration process hasn't provided goodpublicity for Microsoft, which is in a dogfight with Google in themarket for cloud-based e-mail and collaboration suites. Microsoft'sOffice 365 competes directly with Google Apps. The smallbusiness-segment is an important one in this market, accounting formost of the initial Office 365 sign-ups. Unsurprisingly, another point of contention for small businesscustomers has been cost, because Office 365 is generally moreexpensive than OLSB, and having to hire a Microsoft partner tocarry out the transition adds to the cost.

      OLSB is free, with optional fee-based add-ons. In comparison, theOffice 365 plan for small businesses, called P1, costs US$6 peruser, per month, and more if customers add the option of OfficeProfessional Plus, an upgrade over the standard Office Web Apps. While Office 365 has more features overall than OLSB does, thequestion for OLSB customers is whether they will use the additionalfeatures they're paying more for. "OLSB appealed to a lot of different people, especially because ofthe free website. Office 365 is targeted at meeting the needs ofsmall business owners and professionals.

      Many OLSB customers won'tsee Office 365 as a good fit, especially since Office 365 isn'tfree," 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 happilypaid to stay at OLSB what I'll be paying for Office 365 just tokeep what I had, with a few improvements to the site hosting/designsoftware and the Web Apps." Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaborationsuites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breakingnews for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG .

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        • 2013.10.08 Tuesday
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