Microsoft Offers Improved Blogging Tools to Windows Hosters

Microsoft has released an updated suite of tools for hosting providers, which will make it easier for Windows hosting customers to create blogs and online forums.

The Web Site Starters included in the suite (Microsoft Solutions for Windows-Based Hosting Version 3.5) are designed to help hosting partners improve their efficiency and lower the costs of Windows hosting. The new release integrates Telligent's Community Server blogging system and DotNetNuke, an open source content management system designed for Microsoft's ASP.NET platform.

The explosion of interest in blogs in the past year has increased customer demand for user-friendly weblog apps. Technorati says it now monitors more than 10 million blogs, while Feedster tracks more than 6.8 million RSS feeds. But the fast-growing blog software and hosting market has been dominated by programs designed for the Apache web server, rather than Windows servers. That includes publishing tools like Movable Type, WordPress and Drupal, as well as hosted blogging services such as Blogger, LiveJournal and Tucows' Blogware, a private-label service for hosting resellers.

Community Server allows Microsoft hosting customers to easily create blogs and photo albums. Microsoft is now using Community Server for its in-house weblogs at blogs.msdn.com and blogs.technet.com. It has recently been adopted by Go Daddy for use in its Windows hosting accounts. "With DotNetNuke and Telligent Community Server, we are able to offer our customers a number of new compelling applications and services," said Warren Adelman, chief operating officer at GoDaddy. "For example, our customers can take advantage of portal builders, forums, blogs and photo galleries. These commonly requested applications will help us attract more customers to our Windows-based offers."

Windows hosting currently represent about 2 percent of the sites hosted at Go Daddy, which is the world's second-largest Linux host after 1&1 Internet. But Windows Server 2003 is gaining market share, and now runs on more than 5.6 million hostnames worldwide, up from 2.14 million a year ago. Much of that gain consists of upgrades from Windows 2000 or Windows NT4. But Microsoft says hundreds of hosting providers have joined its hosting program since it introduced broader support for hosting automation software in the November 2004 update to Version 3.0 of the hosting suite. Hosting automation software plays a critical role in hosting business models, reducing support costs by shifting many site management functions to customers, who can use a "control panel" web interface to manage e-mail and install scripts and applications.

That's why version 3.5 includes features to enhance the efficiency of shared hosting providers using Windows. "The latest version of the solution should further empower service providers to reduce costs while increasing revenue per user," notes Pascal Martin, general manager for Hosting Solutions at Microsoft. Security is another emphasis in version 3.5, which integrates Windows Server 2003 SP1 and Windows Server Update Services that allow improved targeting of updates for download and deployment.