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Microsoft offers web hosting and free domains

Now available, web hosting from the company we all love to hate: Microsoft. Microsoft Office Live Small Business is offering a year of free top level domain registration along with web hosting. When’s the last time Microsoft ever offered anything for free? It’s a miracle! Or is it?

One former Microsoft Office Live user perfectly encapsulated the experience by saying, “Trying to cancel Microsoft Office Live Small Business is like trying to perform some sort of miracle!” Evidently, the miracle is in trying to leave.

Let’s start off by saying this isn’t the first time Microsoft has offered web hosting. Microsoft Office Live Small Business began in beta in February 2006. At that time, they offered “free for life” domains, and nearly 600,000 people took them up on that offer. Since then, Microsoft has restricted their free domain name offering to one year, with a $14.95 fee every year after that. It sounds reasonable only if you don’t know that drastically less expensive domain registrars exist. A lot of first time small business owners salivate at the brand name Microsoft, but Microsoft does not always equal the best business option. Let’s learn from 3 years of others’ experience with Microsoft Office Live.

What they offer

Microsoft Office Live offers a free website, with up to 500 MB of storage. For novice designers, Microsoft Office Live also provides a gallery of templates and other site creation tools. Users receive up to 100 email accounts. Of course, the best part of this offer is the free domain name, which is made available through Microsoft’s partnership with Australian registrar Melbourne IT Limited.

What they don’t offer

Customer service. These two words have never been uttered by Microsoft. Any person who’s had any problem with any program made by Microsoft, and had the misguided desire to call Microsoft for help know exactly what I’m talking about. The scenario of using Microsoft to get a free domain name and then dumping it after a year is not likely to go as smoothly as you think. I’ve read nightmares of users who were caught in an endless game of “hot potato” between Microsoft and Melbourne IT, where companies denied responsibility. The simple rule is to buy a domain separate from where you host.

Speaking of hosting, does anyone else cringe at the idea of Microsoft hosting your site? As a host, it’s only suitable to those who only need a basic web page. The templates are painfully ugly, but the best option available. Although users can upload html files, this is not an easy feat for a beginner. They don’t offer PHP or MySQL, so goodbye user-friendly WordPress.

Microsoft is practically unavoidable for most computer users, but it’s definitely avoidable as a web host. Not only is it avoidable, but it should be avoided. The temptation of a “free” domain name fades once you realize that you’ll definitely pay for it in the end.

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