Microsoft Expanding Online Services

In the past, it was often too difficult or expensive for small businesses to use the full suite of Microsoft business applications. Last November, Microsoft announced Microsoft Online Services for businesses of 5,000 employees or more, and today, they announced that they were expanding availability of Online Services to businesses of any size. Also announced today is a free beta trial of the services. From today’s press release:

“Based on the proven, business-class software available in Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, the new services enable businesses to access e-mail, calendaring, contacts, shared workspaces, and webconferencing and videoconferencing over the Web. The new services are managed through a single Web-based interface, designed to meet the needs of IT professionals. Through this security-enhanced interface, IT professionals can monitor the performance of the services, add and configure users, submit and track support requests, and manage users and licenses.”

With Exchange Online and SharePoint Online, Microsoft is embracing cloud computing for businesses much they way that they have embraced it for regular users with Microsoft Windows Live. The real question is whether businesses are any more ready than regular people to depend that heavily on the Internet for all of their office applications.