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.

So far, so good. The problem is, once you log on to get mail to that account by using MOLSB, you'll find menu options within the MOLSB interface for features such as Contact Manager that are available only to the five users defined for the account.

Since "contactus" is only an email account assigned to the Microsoft Office Live Small Business account - and not one of the five free users assigned to the account - it doesn't actually have access to Contact Manager.

Thus, if you log on to get "contactus'" email, you may think you can open Contact Manager, but if you click on that menu option, you'll get an error message. We'd much prefer the service include only links to services a user or email account is entitled to work with.

Web-building and email administration aren't all you can do with Microsoft Office Live Small Business, of course. Managing customer data is a key task of any small business, and that's where Contact Manager comes in. It's an easy-to-use, no-frills customer-relationship management (CRM) application that is suitable for tracking basic customer information.

Is it a full-fledged customer tracking system? By no means. But it's a great deal better than nothing. We've worked with small businesses where each salesperson kept individual client lists, which was a nightmare for the business owner or sales manager. By having the information online and accessible to your entire team from just about anywhere, your salespeople can share the most current data at all times.

Contact Manager has lots of fields, but it lacks flexibility. We couldn't add a new field, for example, to keep track of information specific to our business - there isn't even a free-form comment text field.

On the plus side, if you have a sales team, you may be interested in the Opportunities feature. Enter an opportunity, then assign it to a company or an individual (either customers or members of your own staff, depending on how you use them). There is also a Products list which provides a central place to organise product information (descriptions, prices and markups, and a primitive inventory count).

You can export Contact Manager data to a spreadsheet, or edit entries in grid mode and make the contacts available offline via Outlook 2003 or 2007.

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