Microsoft online services

Navigating the plethora of Microsoft's online solutions can be confusing. Here's a high-level overview to help you choose.

Document-centric services

Office Live Workspace

Microsoft’s first try at online editing of documents, Office Live Workspace was free for all kinds of users. The service has been discontinued in January 2011 and was replaced with “Office Web Apps on SkyDrive”.

Office Web Apps on SkyDrive

Targeted towards home users and students, this free solution allows users to view and edit documents through most web browsers, share them and collaborate on Office documents with others.

Documents from SkyDrive can easily be opened in the full versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, if the user has them installed, but purchasing these applications is not required to use Office Web Apps on SkyDrive.

Go to Office Web Apps on SkyDrive

docs.com

Like Office Web Apps on SkyDrive, docs.com lets home users create and share Office documents for free and through a web browser. The main difference is a deep integration of docs.com with Facebook, making docs.com a more attractive solution for social collaboration with Facebook friends, classmates and coworkers.

Go to docs.com

Office Web Apps on-premises

Business users who purchase Office 2010 through volume licensing can run Office Web Apps for their users on own servers by installing SharePoint 2010.

Learn more about deploying Office Web Apps

E-mail centric services

Windows Live Hotmail

One of the world’s most popular e-mail services for personal use, Hotmail gives users a huge inbox accessible through most web browsers and the choice of an address under one of hotmail.com or several other domains.

Go to Windows Live Hotmail

Windows Live for your domain

A free solution for groups which includes Hotmail with a group-owned domain. Targeted towards personal users such as football clubs.

Sign up for Windows Live for your domain at the Windows Live Admin Center

Office Live Small Business

This solution for small businesses includes Microsoft-hosted e-mail under a business-owned domain, website hosting and online document storage (though apparently no editing), all for free. Additional storage space can be purchased for a small fee.

Office Live Small Business is still available, but will be replaced with Office 365 for small businesses after October 2011.

Read more about Office Live Small Business

Microsoft Online Services

Microsoft Online Services is a professional line of hosted services sold directly by Microsoft and targeted towards businesses of any size. Offerings include mix-and-match services such as hosted Exchange, SharePoint, Office Live Meeting, Dynamics CRM, Windows InTune and more, priced per service, user and month.

Read more about Microsoft Online Services

Office 365

Currently in beta, Office 365 seems to be meant to replace the functionality currently offered through Office Live Small Business and Microsoft Online Services. It is going to offer hosted Exchange, SharePoint and Lync services together with licenses to run Office Professional Plus on customer workstations at different service levels priced between $2 and $27 per user and month.

Go to Office 365

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