We were fairly content as Microsoft customers. We had three domains through Office Live, and we had been with Microsoft for years. Then, out of nowhere earlier this year, Microsoft announced they were transitioning to a new system, and that existing customers would not only have to pay a monthly fee (that's excusable in my mind), but that we would have to manually transfer all our website content and e-mails to the new system. According to Microsoft, one should expect each transition to take at least a few hours; it's not a simple process. On top of it all, we only had a couple months to make the move.
In fact, the whole transition process from Office Live to 365 seems remarkably slipshod and convoluted. Why can't Microsoft make something that works seamlessly--like say, an Apple product? I've always been ambivalent towards Microsoft, but now I'm starting to see them as increasingly irrelevant. On top of that, they've managed to really alienate longtime customers this time 'round.
I tried to begin the transition process a couple times, but, let's face it, I'm an English major--not a techie. I was getting frustrated enough to write on the topic in my silly blog, The Restless Auditor. I gave it my best, and I even inquired into hiring someone to make the changes for me. Then, I lost all patience that remained...
Finally, I decided to explore alternative solutions. Through chat boards like this one, I heard of other options which were not only arguably better and more user friendly, but they were also FREE. As a state government worker and writer on the side, I particularly like the free part!
For some mysterious reason, a lot of smart people have been asking me for advice on this transition. So, I thought I'd outline what I did. If you have any questions, feel free to let me know. They're free--as long as you follow my blog(s). (Just kidding.)
Keep in mind that this is very rough. These are just the broad brush strokes of a somewhat complicated painting, and it just outlines one direction you may wish to pursue. By the way, you can check out our sites at Karl Erickson and Kimberly Erickson. (My site, in particular, remains a work-in-progress.)
1. Backup important e-mails and consider saving a copy of your websites onto your hard drive.
2. Go to manage domains section of your Office Live account. Initiate the domain transfer to Melbourne IT.
3. Create the user account at Melbourne IT and go ahead and activate the DNS Management option setting under "Manage Services." (You may wish to transfer your domains at some point to a site like Register.com. You'll find that they're cheaper--but the transfer process can be time-consuming when things don't go right.)
4. Go to Weebly.com, and follow the simple directions to create a new website--for FREE!
5. At this point, I just copied some information over from the original site to the new Weebly pages. (This worked especially well for artwork and other images.)
6. Once done at Weebly, go ahead and cancel your Office Live account. Be prepared to lose your e-mailing ability from those accounts soon. (There was a 24-hour delay, or so, for me.)
7. Follow the clear directions at Weebly to setup your Google App domain e-mail for FREE--depending on number of users.
8. The Google App process is not bad, and their support is actually quite good. (I was surprised to receive a call from one of their polite technicians--with a British accent no less.) If you encounter problems, my suggestion is to take a break and come back to it the next day.
10. Remember to keep track of the usernames and passwords you decide upon, and don't be afraid to follow the instructions for contacting their support.
11. My one suggestion for Weebly and Google Apps' required domain verification is to read the Weebly instructions carefully. They really did a great job at making a powerful yet intuitive user interface accompanied by remarkably understandable instructions; they're in English!
10. When you're ready to flip the switch and turn on your domain, you just need to follow the DNS instructions in order to basically project your Weebly website onto your domain. This may take a few hours before it's up. I did it the night before, then it was up the next morning.
Hope this helped! Don't forget...Weebly may wobble, but it won't fall down. (Sorry, couldn't resist!)