Using Office 365 for a public website have always been a simple but not so sweet ride. Microsoft never got that one right and most likely, that is why they are discontinuing that part of Office 365.

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According to this support document existing websites will have two years to migrate and new tenants won’t have the feature at all. At the same time they announced that the Public Website feature is going to be replaced with some 3rd party vendor. I’m thinking something like WordPress.com would be a good bet. Since WP.com inherited the old MySpace sites, they have some insights with Microsoft. But it’s just a guess, don’t hold me on that.

In my opinion this is far from optional though. I would very much like to stay in the SharePoint eco-system and I think that Microsoft should just drop the flimsy CMS-feature of the current SiteCollection and just allow the standard Publishing features to be activated. Thus giving me and all other Office 365 consultants the opportunity to create a business model where we can offer our clients website, intranet/extranet, e-mail, IM and CRM all-in-one, using Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and Dynamics CRM.

How about migrating my site to a new one?

For existing costumers there is no easy way. Microsoft states:

To avoid disruption and data loss, customers should back up all content and data from the SharePoint Online Public Website before they switch to any new solution or service. This will minimize potential disruptions.

This just means that as a website owner you are more or less on your own. Microsoft will provide more information in January 2015 but expect that you need to buy (with some discounts perhaps) a new website solution somewhere else and migrate your content to that solution. If you are not comfortable with this – hint hint – give me a buzz and let me help you out.

How to the new solutions compare to the existing ones?

Since Microsoft haven’t revealed anything yet, it’s hard to say. Even though they do state:

The existing SharePoint Online Public Website feature was designed for customers who need only a basic online presence. These new solutions will provide more robust tools and solutions that are required to deliver, support, and manage a fuller online presence.

That is more like saying, “it’s more than likely going to be better, but we don’t know yet”.

Pricing. Will Office 365 get cheaper when a feature like that is discontinued?

In short: no. The new third-party solutions will have some discounts, but as a whole, your Office 365 licenses won’t budge. As Microsoft states:

This change is aligned with our commitment to deliver a superior productivity experience in Office 365. Therefore, the change won’t affect the pricing of Office 365.

In my opinion I think there are two arguments to consider, the above one not being realistic:

  1. Price increase, you pay the same, but get less value. So this is in fact a hidden increase of price.
  2. Traffic is unpredictable. On closed sites, traffic is way more predictable, than on public websites. My guess is that Microsoft have a hard time figuring out how to handle the unpredictable nature of website traffic on their BASF’s (Big Ass Server Farms)

Stay tuned for more information.