If you use or are interested in using SharePoint's Public Website feature, Microsoft has some bad news for you.
After weeks of rumors, the company has officially confirmed that, starting January 2015, the Public Website feature in SharePoint Online will no longer be available to new Office 365 subscribers and will eventually be phased out for current users.
Public Website, a SharePoint Online feature that lets businesses create simple homepages under the Office 365 platform, is likely being discontinued due to lack of usage. Microsoft says it is pulling the plug on the service to focus its resources on "future investments." [Microsoft Office 365 Personal: More Affordable for Small Businesses]
Here's what the discontinuation of Public Website means and how it affects current users.
For existing customers
If you currently use Public Website, you have until January 2017 to save your data and continue your online presence by switching over to an alternative.
To help you with the change, Office 365 will be releasing a list of partners that easily integrate with the platform. These services will be offered at a discounted rate and offer more robust tools than Public Website has to offer.
You don't have to choose from Office 365's official list of vendors, however. If you prefer, you can also migrate to a third-party solution of your choice that better fulfills your business needs.
To make sure you're ready for the transition, Microsoft first advises customers to back up all of their content and data from Public Website before they switch to a different provider. The company will provide more information regarding migration in January 2015 and will issue at least a one-year notice before the Public Website is officially discontinued. Office 365 administrators will also receive a message with more information via the Office 365 Message Center.
Note that if you are a current Office 365 subscriber, but have yet to access SharePoint Online, you will not have access to Public Website once it has been discontinued unless you activate your page by the end of January 2015.
For new Office 365 customers
New Office 365 users will not have access to SharePoint Online Public Website after the end of January 2015. Like existing Public Website users, new customers also have the option of using third-party services.