Office 365 / SharePoint Online Public Facing Websites – A Path Forward

I recently penned an article for SPTechCon commenting on Microsoft ending public facing sites for SharePoint Online and Office 365 (SPO/O365). At the time I wrote the article Microsoft had recommended 3rd party solution, yet had not endorsed any specific replacement solution. Two days after my article Microsoft endorsed two 3rd party vendors. Thanks to Scot Hillier and Todd Baginski for pointing me to Microsoft’s updated knowledge base article. I would like to take a moment to review the recommended solutions, shedding some light on potential paths forward.

In a nut shell, Microsoft had partnered with Wix and GoDaddy to provide a public facing website hosting account at a discounted rate for Office 365 users. As Microsoft points out, both of these options will give you a more robust public facing site than Microsoft was able to offer with SharePoint Online. I do believe there is a caveat which is that this route is still only for small and medium sized businesses but more on that in a bit.

Note that neither of the two recommended third party solutions are offering a flavor of SharePoint in the cloud as part of their public site offering. Both use a custom WCM or with GoDaddy, you could use the very popular WordPress platform. This means that migrating data, content and design from your existing SPO/O365 public facing site will be a manual process for now unless someone comes up with a migration tool. I am not going to hold my breath on this one, for a few reasons. Mainly that it would expensive to create a tool for such a small market that would have a short lifespan.

Also note that there is an additional expense to hosting your public facing website with either recommended solution. Yes, they are offering a discount, but there is a modest additional cost to your O365/SPO expense none the less.


Wix is a hugely popular WCM system that is currently self-reporting over 59 million users. That is a lot of zeros. You might have heard or seen their ads on the radio and TV, they are going to have a fun commercial during Super Bowl XLIX. Wix provides a simple WYSIWYG editor with drag and drop capabilities. You will have far less overall control with your site, but their toolset is very easy to use and you can create a good custom, clean, simple site very quickly. Mobile friendly templates exist (very important!) and you can have a solid site for your small to medium sized business in no time.


GoDaddy has been around for quite a while as well. They also provide a browser based WYSIWYG tool to build a website called “Website Builder”. You can choose between over one hundred different themes, update content, etc.

A bonus with GoDaddy is that they do not require you host a website using Website Builder. If you have some web design experience and feel comfortable with basic site configuration, I suggest you look at WordPress with GoDaddy. There are millions of WordPress based websites, including my blog, but don’t forget that WordPress is now used for most than just blogs. It is a reasonably powerful yet simple WCM for basic to modestly complex public facing sites.

There are thousands of responsive / mobile friendly WordPress themes available, many for free. Also with WordPress you have far greater control of your website. It is not as enterprise ready as SharePoint on-prem, but very cost effective again for small to mid-sized websites.

The Right Direction for You

At this point in time these are the only two vendors endorsed by Microsoft. Although with the lack of SharePoint integration, the difficulty to migrate and the current lack of Microsoft support and documents, some might say that you could find other vendors that would work better for your enterprise at perhaps a better to similar price point. If you already have an existing relationship with a web host provider and you do not intend to use website building tools such as Wix or Website Builder then there is no need to host with either Wix or GoDaddy.

If you are looking for a simple tool to build a public facing website, I suggest you investigate Wix. If on the other hand you are looking for more control and have even minor web design skills, I suggest WordPress with GoDaddy. Those of you who need an enterprise level public facing website and want to leverage your existing SharePoint skillset and knowledge, and want to stay in the cloud, I would recommend SharePoint hosted in Azure.

What’s your thoughts, what has your organization decided to do now that the public facing website option is SPO/O365 has been depreciated? Did Microsoft make a mistake or do you recommend a different solution? Let me know @ericoverfield.



  1. John Fragiskatos says:

    What about the emails? If someone replies to an email thread started in the contact us box of my public website after the site is shutdown will I still get those e-mails?? They always start with: and say: You have received the following message through the Contact Us form on your Web site.

    Also, Will I be able to respond or write back to people who had contacted me before with that service?

    What about my main email I assume it will still work, I am paying $7 a month for it and the soon to be gone webiste.

    Thanks, not finding any info about this online.

    • As far as I can tell, the site is not deleted, it is just no longer publicly accessible.

      Now if someone replies to an email thread that was originally started from a contact us box, if they had replied to you already, then there must have been another “from” or a “reply-to” that was you. I knew of no way that Microsoft was forwarding emails to to an email address associated with the original site that helped generate the thread in the first place.

      Just the public facing site is going away, the other underlying services such as your email, even one tied to the same domain as your public site, should still be available and still be usable for sending and receiving emails.

      I am not sure if I am answering your question, but hopefully this helps.

  2. Thanks for the wonderful input about SPO public facing site being deprecated. I had a lot of clients on SPO and to be very frank with you, it was a mess considering a lot of SharePoint features were turned off. I migrated my clients to I strongly recommend these guys. Easy configuration, and it comes with all the SharePoint Enterprise features. You can get a free SharePoint site using the link below. It’s 100% free

    • Does moving the existing public facing Sharepoint site to NextSharePoint, solve the redirection problem, some of us are concerned about?

      My site currently sits at the bottom of page one or top of page two in generic searches. We have been online for 12 years, all that time on 365 or Sharepoint. For a small fish in an endless sea of websites, this is the only painful part of the process – lack of redirection.

      I don’t care if I have to rebuild from scratch, I do not want to lose generic ranking.

      • Any time you migrate a public facing site to a new system, you risk hurting your SEO and index placement. My best advice is migrate for a reason, when you migrate, continue to improve your site content, navigation, code base, etc. Migrating to modern versions of SP will not necessarily assist with this.

  3. Is it true that a self-hosted (not cloud)) version of Sharepoint will still allow a public facing website?

    • Absolutely true. If you are on-prem – i.e. SharePoint 2013, SharePoint 2016, etc, then yes, you can still host a public, anonymous site. It is only SharePoint Online where we all will be losing this ability soon.

  4. Microsoft doesnt think that there are developers like me that need tos how some functionality to oir clients.

    BIG mistake……

    • I understand your frustration, but I also see MS’s point. SharePoint has problems competing with other WCM’s for most smaller public facing sites, definitely with SP hosted in the cloud. It would be either very expensive to the customer, or a half-hearted attempted. The best I can see is creating a dev tenant that you can then provide limited access to specific clients to showcase progress, work, etc.

      Sorry, I wish I had better news.


  5. Thank you for this article. What I still don’t understand is Sharepoint’s role with Godaddy and WordPress. I have a client who has a Sharepoint account, for email I think, and wants a new, updated WordPress site on Godaddy. She said that “Once the website is on GoDaddy, I follow steps on office 365 to connect.” I have built several WordPress sites hosted in GoDaddy, so it’s just the Sharepoint part I’m struggling with. I’d appreciate any insight. Thank you!

    • There is no true integration that I am aware of, MS just made a deal with GoDaddy to provide a place for O365 users to go for public facing sites. No connection from O365 to GoDaddy exists that I know of.

      My way of looking at it is that MS was unable to provide the services and performance necessary for public facing SP on SPO. MS was unable to provide a service that they could update yet at the same time provide customers with the three to five 9’s uptime required for public sites. Therefore they decided to cut bait but needed to point customers somewhere. GoDaddy fits that role, but with no integration, just a suggestion from MS on where to go for a public facing site.

  6. Thank you for the lovely write up.. I being using O365 for nearly four years now . I started out with the office small business webiste. I have gone through the first change from office small business to Office 365. So I have see it all. It a shame that we have to go through the same thing again total rebuilding of a whole website.. To be frank the rebuilding is not the burning issue for me. my main concern is that Microsoft is saying you cannot do a 302 redirect from your public website url to godaddy sites (You also can’t add HTTP 301 (Moved Permanently) redirects from Office 365 website–formatted URLs to GoDaddy-formatted URLs. To learn more about how these redirects are set up and used, see). I wonder what your take on this..

    • Yes, the redirection is a shame. My suggestion though is to change your DNS for www. and * to your new public provider. You lose links to your old /pages/ pages, but you could always use .htaccess with GoDaddy or others to fake this. At this point, the quicker you move your public site, the better, and just redirect website traffic at the DNS level to your new provider and handle invalid requests there.

  7. Thanks for this article! My organization is just coming around to SharePoint, and I have rolled out a team site for my group with some positive initial experiences and successes. I was just making a case to my boss as to why we should consider a public facing SP site for our external website, but when I started to search around for good examples to show him, I stumbled across your article! While I am upset that this feature is no longer available to us (especially as my entire organization is starting to integrate with SP), my team does tend to prefer the simplicity of tools like WordPress and Wix…

    Do you have any more details on what exactly this SP integration will look like on these other platforms? Is it simply for document libraries and other content? Or will they also be able to integrate announcements, tasks, task processes, and other useful functions of SP team sites? Any more info you have on this would be greatly appreciated.


    • Hi Molly,

      In essence, there is no integration of SPO and the recommend WCM solutions MS recommends. You may just get a discount on the monthly hosting of your public facing site at wix or godaddy. If you are considering hosting your public facing site on an on-premise install, then you are still good to go. I suggest you review for examples of what others have done with SP.


  8. Msft has never really been committed to the public site model, so it’s probably just as well they are finally getting out of a business they clearly don’t get. I’ve long urged them to just provide an anonymous ‘switch’ in SP Online so those that want to create a public site on the team site platform can. But that will never happen.

    • I agree complete, and yes, I would seriously doubt O365 will ever allow us to turn on anonymous access for general SPO sites. Cost, performance and constant updates are the primary factors I believe.

  9. Thanks for the post Eric, it was actually more concise than Microsoft’s.

    My opinion is Microsoft made a mistake, not in deprecating the feature but coming to market in the first place with such an inferior product. This is the problem with most products these days; rush to get crap out the door before the glue even dries, and that glue by the way is used to keep the thing from falling apart.

    Sorry, I don’t call that “Capitalism”, rather, thoughtless greed. Harsh to say but as the old adage goes: “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”.

    I’ve actually been considering dropping the whole SPO/O365 scene as each and every weekend I’d go to sit down and attempt to do something either on the public site or behind the wall, I’d end up spending 90% of my time (and a lot of it) trying to make things that should be simple, work. I found out 9 times out of 10 that if it wasn’t a Tuesday with a full moon, oh well.

    Can you spell frustrated?? And to think I pay to get frustrated.

    Anyway, thanks again and thanks for soliciting comments.

    • I cannot disagree that the public website feature in SPO was half-baked, but I believe the overall SPO offering to be growing more solid every day. The lack of full trust code can be frustrating, but the App model should improve and/or change over time. I still think that O365 / hybrid is the way to go over the next few years, but we will have to see.


  10. Nico Demeuse says:

    Quite frankly the reason we chose Office 365 over Google Apps was the public website. It was so easy – same tool to manage your public site and your team sites, the SharePoint store, the ability to build SharePoint apps… There is no integration between Office 365 and Wix or GoDaddy, we did not needMicrosoft before just to build a website using WordPress or Joomla. I think a lot of small companies will ditch Office 365 for Google Apps, or even WebEx now. (glad we retained the subscription!)

    • We played with Google App at PixelMill and we decided to stick with O365 and Dropbox. Yeah, we do not use OneDrive yet, I still do not like the syncing, or how you have to tweak OneDrive if you want it to replace a network share. Where I am going is that I personally would still stick with O365 over google apps, salesforce, etc, but I will admit, we are a MS shop…

      My recommendation is take your public site to wordpress hosted most anywhere. We use ourselves for hosting wordpress. But really up to you.

  11. Awesome issues here. I’m very happy to look your post.

    Thanks so much and I’m having a look forward to contact you.

    Will you please drop me a e-mail?

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