Microsoft is shutting down its SharePoint Online Public Websites service, a free Website offering for small and midsize business (SMB) Office 365 customers, the company announced.
Beginning next month, the Redmond, Wash.-based software company will no longer accept sign-up for SharePoint Online Public Websites. "Customers who currently use this feature will continue to have access to the feature for a minimum of two years following the changeover date. New customers who subscribe to Office 365 after the changeover date won't have access to this feature," announced Microsoft in an online support document.
SharePoint Online Public Websites, as its name suggest, is a template-driven toolset that enables SMBs to construct a public-facing Website. Features include custom domain names, search engine optimization tools, social media integration and search-friendly URLs.
Starting next month, new customers will get need to look elsewhere. "Moving forward, Office 365 customers will have the option to subscribe to third-party solutions by using links from Office 365." The company plans to release more guidance come January 2015. Office 365 Message Center will alert current customers to the change.
The Public Websites perk is going away to make room for future, presumably high-value, Office 365 capabilities. "Today, we're making a difficult decision to discontinue the SharePoint Online Public Website feature. This lets us then focus on future investments while broadening our partnership with industry leaders," said the company.
Microsoft has already forged strong ties with a major provider of services for SMBs. In January, the company announced a partnership with domain registration and Web hosting heavyweight GoDaddy. Under the agreement's terms, GoDaddy offers domain-based email, cloud storage, and Microsoft's Office 365 productivity and collaboration tools.
"Combining our small-business expertise together with Microsoft's productivity offerings opens new doors for small businesses to easily get the tools they need to get more done in their day," said Steven Aldrich, senior vice president of business applications at GoDaddy, in a statement at the time. "We've created a simple way to attach Office 365 to a domain name, helping small-business owners look professional and work anywhere, making the business of running their business easier."
The companies have also teamed on Get Online Today. The offering combines domain name services with GoDaddy's Website Builder and email powered by Microsoft's Office 365 for $11.99 per month ($1.00 per month for the first year).
Office 365 pricing will remain unchanged after the move, but customers won't leave empty-handed. "Third-party solutions will be offered at discounted pricing rates for Office 365 customers where available," stated Microsoft.
Current Public Websites users are in charge of manually migrating their data, said Microsoft. "To avoid disruption and data loss, customers should back up all content and data from the SharePoint Online Public Website before switching to any new solution or service. This will minimize potential disruptions."