Much as it pains me…
That time has come when we need to move on. In December 2014, Microsoft announced that they would no longer allow O365 customers to take advantage of (what I thought was a great service) a public facing SharePoint web site with their subscription. True, SharePoint was never the best platform for this but if your budget was tight and your needs were simple then this was a great option for many small and medium sized businesses – mine included.
I had a different motive for using the public face of SharePoint and that was that my business is in the SharePoint consultancy and product development space. In fact SharePoint/O365 is all we do at Kaboodle Software. My reasoning was that if we couldn’t get a half decent public facing web site up and running in O365 that would only serve to undermine our credibility as a business. I believe this known as dogfooding!
Now, I’m not saying the Kaboodle public web site is particularly awesome but it did serve our needs quite well. Although, we really did have to bend it (probably to the point of breaking the licensing agreement if we could ever read or understand the small print) to get it to do what we wanted (favicons, promoted links and even just having a blog as a child site, to name but a few of our crude genetic mutations).
We seem to have been in the minority with this approach though. In fact I can’t think of another player in the SharePoint space that decided to dogfood (although I’m sure there must be some)! So, what does this tell us. Well, to me it says that there must be easier and better options for an Internet presences and the announcement a little over 2 years ago seems to suggest that Microsoft has chosen to agree with this.
Indeed if you try and create a public facing web site in O365 today then Microsoft will cordially invited you to use a different technology, WIX and Go Daddy are named explicitly. So it would seem that public facing on O365 is dead, dead as a doornail, deader than Jacob Marely, deader even than the Windows Phone.
Should you be worried?
Those who got in and created a public facing site before the shutters came down on the 9th March 2015 were ok, and Microsoft made a public commitment to keep the service alive for 2 years. Hang about, that’s March 2017, I mean that’s next month, 5 weeks from now – crikey!
Now before we panic too much, Microsoft has not announced that the service will be switched off in March 2017 but rather this is just their run out date on the commitment. My guess is that they will go for the “soft death” option and keep the service running for a while yet. However, with no news on this coming from Redmond this is indeed just a guess. One would hope that an exit strategy is clearly articulated by Microsoft but I’m not holding my breath and they do have a track record of springing things upon us in O365 land.
On a side rant, I never asked them to redesign SharePoint document libraries to make them look like OneDrive and confuse the hell out of everyone and break all the custom solutions we had built to extend document libraries using the cloud app model. Nor did I ask them to switch off coded Sandbox solutions, demanding that we re-architect several solutions and with the new development model on the horizon it makes me wonder if the investment we have made in provider hosted apps was a wise one. Rant over.
The bottom line is that only a fool would rely on the generosity and hitherto silence, of Microsoft to keep O365 public facing alive after next month. Don’t panic, but now is the time to take some proactive action, if you don’t want to get caught with your trousers down.
So what must I do to be saved?
So, if you’re an O365 public facing customer now is the time to act (no pun intended), if you haven’t done so already.
But what to do? Well, that’s up to you and there are many choices available but I can tell you what I’ve decided to do and that is to move the public facing side of Kaboodle over to WordPress.
So why WordPress? Well there are many reasons really, here are just a few.
- It seems to be reasonably affordable, even my business subscription (which you need if you want to remove all the WordPress branding and have access to premium themes) will cost less than $250 a year. I should point out that I am using WordPress.com i.e. having them host my site rather than hosting it myself or paying someone else to.
- WordPress claim to “Power”27% of the Internet. Even if that’s a tad optomistic, there is little doubt that these guys are major league players.
- If you pick the right theme, WordPress sites look beautiful. The typography is clean and to be honest when you look at SharePoint blog sites in comparison they just look completely amateurish.
- WordPress is of course primarily a blogging environment which has now overflowed into a more general web technology. But blogging is woven into its fabric. As I plan to use this blog as a primary means of driving traffic to the site it make sense to use something that was designed with this in mind.
- Despite being skillfully written and containing invaluable content, the truth was that my O365 hosted blog articles simply weren’t being read. The problem is that people only come across my stuff when they use their favourite search engine. What I need is to be proactive and push stuff through social channels and my expectation is that WordPress will help me there.
So there we have it. My first blog entry in WordPress is all about why I have decided to move to WordPress. Not really through choice but through a need to take action before I get left high and try by Microsoft when they actually get around to switching off the public facing service of O365. You have been warned!
Stop Press News – Microsoft have just announced the death plan for the public facing web site. Read about it in my latest “Death of a Salesman” post.