Microsoft Office Live is a domain registrar and web hosting service for small business that looking to establish an online presence or set up website. Office Live allows the company to register any available domain name, create a fully functional professional website, track visitors to the site, plus plenty of integrated services such as online Web design, AdManager a Google AdWords alike ad management platform, contact manager for organizing customer information and sales management, workspace where you can share information such as Word documents and Excel spreadsheets with your customers, integration with Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2007, and tools for eBay, PayPal, and credit monitoring through Equifax. In the package, Office Live hopes to attract new customers, generate repeat business and helps business to stay on top.

Microsoft Office Live (discontinued) is available at three levels of service or edition. First level is advertising-support Office Live Basics which is free and include free domain name along with Web site storage that can hold up to 500MB of data and e-mail management for up to 25 accounts with 2GB of storage each. Office Live Essentials costs $19.95 a month and offers 1 GB hard disk space plus 50 email accounts with other additional tools. While Office Live Premium with price of $39.95 a month gives you 2 GB storage space with all the features and functionality.

Update: Microsoft Office Live renamed Microsoft Office Live Small Business, which was superseded by Office 365. Another part of Microsoft Office Live, Office Live Workspace, which was superseded by OneDrive.

PC World (dead link) takes a look on Microsoft Office Live hosting service and concludes that “Unfortunately, I found the service’s Web Designer to be somewhat unreliable. Office Live’s services aren’t especially unique too. You can get most of them, such as Web and e-mail hosting, elsewhere. However, Office Live’s suite of services does make an attractive bundle, especially adManager. The free Office Live Basics sounds tempting, but only a stingy business owner would permit Microsoft-supplied advertisements, possibly from competitors, to run on the company’s Web site. As for Live Premium, I’m not persuaded that it delivers sufficient value to justify the extra 20 bucks a month. Overall, despite some flaws, Microsoft Office Live makes it easy for a small business to create a basic Web site and more.”

CRN (dead link) reviews Microsoft Office Live and concludes that the latest changes in Office Live considerably improve its ease of use and overall functionality for novice users. Office Live can help small businesses transition from static Web sites to interactive Web sites, though without providing transactional capabilities. Microsoft plans to add online shopping transactions in a future release, so customers currently can only advertise services and products and interact with customers. The new Office Live Site Designer tool now has many more templates and stock photography to speed up site development. Office Live allows the import of custom HTML from other third-party design tools as well. Developers can even add simple Ajax functionality to pages. With custom coding, transactions can be linked indirectly to items displayed on a page. Developers can easily associate items with PayPal links, for example.

InformationWeek compares Microsoft Office Live with Google Apps For Your Domain in term of initial setup, home page creation, email, calendar and integration, with conclusion that overall, Google Apps for Your Domain is a clear winner. It offers superior e-mail, better site management, and has a group calendar, an important component to running a small business and something that Office Live lacks. However, if you’re mainly looking for a free service that has excellent Web site creation tools, you’ll want Office Live. The truth is, though, you can’t beat free, so whichever site you choose, you’ll end up being a winner.