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.

Collaboration tools

Your Microsoft Office Live Small Business account includes your choice of any or all of 20 free business applications. Two of these - Document Manager and Team Workspace - are installed by default.

Document Manager lets you share documents among members of your team (those you've added to your account). You can require approval of a document before it's added to a site (it sits in a "pending" state until it's approved), keep versions and require a document be checked out before it can be edited.

We found it easy to add individual files or groups of files to the library. Checking in and out files is just as easy, and the interface is simple enough that any users will understand that a current document is being updated by someone on your team.

You can define folders within the library. If you want to organise some documents or set different security permissions in another library, simply add an additional Document Manager application.

There are some limitations. We found a way to allow a user to be an administrator (manage the entire library), editor (update any document) or reader (read-only access) for the entire Document Manager application, but we couldn't assign specific access rights at the document level.

To get around this, we created a separate instance of Document Manager for each set of security permissions we wanted to set up - one library allowed all to edit any document, another allowed only us to edit the document and all others to read them. It's not an ideal solution, but for many small businesses, it may be a satisfactory compromise.

Team Workspace, the other preinstalled business application, is perfect for posting announcements and calendar events, listing links to your own or external web pages, and creating a document library. We created a list of events in the Team Workspace and published the list to the web, and Microsoft Office Live Small Business automatically created a page containing the events and incorporated the new page into our site.

We then opened the Microsoft Office Live Small Business website editor, picked the fields from the list that we wanted to include (such as event title, start time, end time and description), and the page was created.

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