We’re all accustomed to websites and applications being free online, but sometimes a tool or app is so essential that it’s definitely worth a subscription. Here are five online tools and services (with a web development bent) that I use and would not hesitate to recommend:
1. Source control: Beanstalk (USD15/month)
Again, while I have the technical abilities to set up an Subversion server, it’s so much easier to let someone else deal with it :). Beanstalk provide 3GB of space and an excellent feature set including easy repository browsing, backups, automatic deployments and integration with many other web-based development tools. It’s fast, it’s always up, and it provides peace of mind (which is one of the points of source control after all).
2. Shared web hosting: Bluehost (USD6.95/month)
After securing the domain of your dreams, $6.95/month is very little extra to pay for excellent shared hosting from the market leader. I’ve been a happy customer of Bluehost for many years. They’re way cheaper than a dedicated host or VPS and, unless you’re running a really big site – or foolishly wrote said site in Java 😉 – its probably more than enough for your needs. Unlimited space, unlimited addon domains, and a full Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP stack to play with. You can also get shell access and much more.
3. Project management: Basecamp (USD24/month)
There’s no way we could cope with running multiple development projects at ReignDesign without Basecamp. It’s web-based project management software which allows you to manage Milestones, Messages, Todos, Writeboards and Files for multiple people on multiple projects. It’s very easy to use, and it’s transformed the way we communicate.
4. Personal VPN: My Private Network (GBP5/month)
Being based in China, we often run up against websites which are temporarily or permanently inaccessible. GBP5/month bought me a personal VPN with My Private Network in the UK. While their website isn’t very well presented, I have no complaints about the VPN service, which is extremely reliable. You dont have the hassle of constantly looking for new proxies. I can even watch UK IP address-restricted TV shows 🙂
5. Photo hosting: Smugmug (USD59.95/year)
I used to use the free Gallery 2, but found it ate up the resources on my server and was a hassle to maintain and upgrade. I signed up for SmugMug’s Premium service and was immediately impressed by the level of customer service and the high-quality design of the photo pages. I liked the fact you could use a custom subdomain (in my case photos.mattmayer.com) and add custom HTML/JS so that the galleries integrate with the design of the rest of your site.