Microsoft's Office Live Web service was designed for small businesses that needed an easy solution for creating websites and business emails. Microsoft Office Live Small Business offers a single service with a number of pay-for add-ons.

Microsoft's Office Live Web service was designed for small businesses that needed an easy, low-cost solution for creating and hosting websites and business-branded emails.

When Microsoft Office Live Web was first introduced in November 2006, there were three versions: Basics, Essentials and Premium. The latest, reconfigured version - now called Microsoft Office Live Small Business (MOLSB) - simplifies things by offering a single service with a number of pay-for add-ons.

The free web-building, web-hosting and email service adds a selection of online business applications such as a contact manager and document repository, and it offers several for-pay add-on services to promote your site or help you sell products online.

While many providers can offer an online service or two, a sharable spreadsheet, or a word-processing application, we haven't found any that also include an integrated interface for a web-design tool and basic (mostly free) online applications that enable your company's shared data can be accessed anywhere.

Our only complaint: Microsoft Office Live Small Business's response time is sluggish throughout all the modules we tested when compared with other online services (especially Intuit's QuickBase), even though we were using a broadband connection.

We'll chalk up Microsoft Office Live Small Business's below-average performance to the fact that we tested a prerelease version of the service, but performance is something that Microsoft will want to boost if the service is to be truly valuable.

The one sure reason you'll abandon a service, even one that's as useful and low-cost as Microsoft Office Live Small Business, is if you spend more time impatiently tapping your fingers on your desk than productively tapping them on your keyboard.

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