Microsoft this morning announced the second generation version of its Office Live Small Business service, which provides an easy-to-use set of online tools aimed at helping small business owners establish and manage their businesses. This week's update is the first major change to the service since it was launched as Office Live back in late 2006.

"Having a professional Web site is as essential to running a small business as having business cards," says Office Live Small Business director of product management and marketing Baris Cetinok. "By making it simple and affordable to develop and maintain a Web site, and offering user-friendly sales and marketing features, Office Live Small Business provides a one-stop shop to help small businesses easily take, promote and manage their businesses online."

The new version of Office Live Small Business offers a number of new features. These include a Store Manager, which lets you sell products on your own Web site and via eBay for a monthly fee; easily customizable Web design capabilities; support for Mozilla Firefox 2.0; email, contacts, and calendar synchronization with Microsoft Outlook; tools like email marketing, contacts manager, and adManager that are aimed at attracting new customers; enhanced reporting; and more.

Office Live Small Business is available in a free version that supplies a free domain name and Web hosting, 500 MB of online storage space, 25 company-branded email accounts, and basic reporting features. Other versions of the service are available for $20 to $40 a month, and Microsoft is making some features available on an a la carte basis.

I'll be reviewing Office Live Small Business soon on the SuperSite for Windows, but readers interested in signing up for the service or learning more now can visit the Office Live Small Business Web site.
http://www.smallbusiness.officelive.com/