Microsoft and GoDaddy team up. Good for the customer?

On the surface, it reads like a sure win for small businesses and startups. Microsoft announced it is partnering with GoDaddy to bring Office 365 services to small businesses owners.  Office 365 will be offered as GoDaddy’s exclusive core business-class email and productivity service to its small-business clientele. This partnership supports GoDaddy’s ongoing push to deliver premium small-business management solutions. Costs are cheap. Plans start at $3.99 per user each month for 5GB of email storage and 2GB of space on SkyDrive. So whats the problem? GoDaddy’s perceived image. In the last couple of years the hosting company has come under a lot of fire. From sexual advertising tactics to a former CEO, Bob Parsons killing elephants in Africa, I would say objectively, GoDaddy has been seen previously as a company willing to engage in dodgy practices, including support of SOPA, which suggest that they did’nt previously care about internet freedoms. They later backtracked on this position after calls for a boycott.

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I am quite surprised at Microsoft’s choice of partner, even though the new CEO, Blake Irving is ex Microsoft, but I can see the attractive lure… if you are totally unaware of the GoDaddy brand. “Combining our small-business expertise together with Microsoft’s productivity offerings opens new doors for small businesses to easily get the tools they need to get more done in their day,” said GoDaddy’s Steven Aldrich, senior vice president of Business Applications. “We’ve created a simple way to attach Office 365 to a domain name, helping small-business owners look professional and work anywhere, making the business of running their business easier.” Not a bad pitch Steven and I can certainly see why a lot of lean start-ups might take up the offer.

Office 365 offers business-class email, shared calendars, instant messaging, online conferencing and access to the most up-to-date documents. These capabilities are delivered as a cloud service available to users wherever they are, online or offline and across a variety of devices, offering access to the most up-to-date versions of the files and tools they need to get things done. Unlike some offerings designed for consumers or small businesses, Office 365 includes built-in security features that help deflect malware, spam, phishing attacks and other threats.

And cheap hosting is cheap hosting right? Just wait until something goes wrong. While I am sure that GoDaddy has been hard at work on their brand perception, it seems they are simply not associated with sterling customer service. It is alleged by former customers that it is hard to leave. What they do possess, is a lot of customers to buy into office 365.

The biggest risk as I see it is if you subscribe for Office 365 through a partner channel, you also lose the ability to raise support tickets directly with Microsoft, and you have no other choice but to use the partner’s support. If you can live with that, then Office 365 for GoDaddy is already available in the US and Canada and will offered to the rest of the world later this year. Tread carefully.