17 services for hosting and business

While doing our taxes this month, I was a little surprised just how much I spend for various web apps and services to help run Riverfold. While I could trim some of them, most are essential and save a lot of time. I thought it would be interesting to write up some of the most important ones.

Linode: I’ve moved nearly everything to Linode. I like their style: just basic, solid hosting, with good features but not an overwhelming number of services or fancy stuff. They’ve recently increased their RAM and added SSD. I have servers there for Nginx/Unicorn, MySQL, Redis, and Elasticsearch. I also use their load balancer and Longview stats app. This link uses my referral code.

Amazon Web Services: I no longer use EC2, but I have some DNS hosted in Amazon’s Route 53. I also use S3 for backups and a new feature that’s coming to Sunlit soon.

Heroku: Before moving to Linode, most of my stuff was on Heroku. Now I only have one small app and database there, and I’ll be completely moved off by the end of the year. I’m including it here for completeness only. It’s a great option to get started if you don’t want to be a part-time system administrator, but I think Marco sums up nicely why you want to use Linux servers instead.

Stripe: Can’t say enough good things about Stripe. Watermark, Searchpath, Tweet Marker, and Core Intuition Jobs all use it for credit card processing. It’s the best.

Gauges: As much as I always loved Mint, as my business grew to several web apps and web sites, I looked for a new stats package that could support any number of sites, and which would work better across hosts, since I don’t need to run the database. I’ve been very happy with this.

AppFigures: I’ve used this for years to track Tweet Library sales. It’s great. I also like that I can enter other people’s popular apps and get an idea of how they’re trending if they make it to the top lists.

Blinksale: Kind of an ancient invoicing app that hasn’t changed at all in years, but it works so I keep using it. Originally started by the folks who would go on to do Gowalla.

Beanstalk: I moved the source for all my Riverfold projects here because it can do Subversion and Git well. I sometimes wonder if I should move to GitHub instead, since I do use GitHub and have a couple tiny public repositories there, but I like that Beanstalk is focused only on private hosting. No social; just a well-designed web app.

Postmark: Run by the same team as Beanstalk. I switched to this after Sendgrid had some PR problems you may remember. Email receipts and whatnot go through Postmark now.

Dreamhost: Still using this for email and a few static or PHP sites. It’s cheap and works well. Not much benefit in moving away from it, though I prefer my more important web apps to be hosted on Linode.

DNSimple: I have a few domains here and hope to have all of them moved over eventually. I want to have a single place for DNS. Right now I have registration and DNS hosting spread across Dreamhost, Amazon, and Network Solutions. Makes it difficult to remember where everything is and to keep track of expirations.

Buffer: This company has been on my radar since someone asked me to support it in Tweet Library. They also have a really interesting blog where they share revenue, salaries, subscribers, web traffic, and other usually private details from a company. I admire that a lot. Daniel and I use it to automate sending Core Intuition Jobs links to Twitter, App.net, and Facebook.

Mapbox: We use Mapbox throughout Sunlit. I wrote more about why here.

FogBugz: In the past I’ve build my own bug tracker, used Jira, Redmine, GitHub issues, and others I’m forgetting. They all have problems so for Riverfold I keep it simple with hosted FogBugz. To complement this I use OmniFocus for non-bug tasks.

Zendesk: For too long I was just using Apple’s Mail.app to handle support email. Now support email goes to Zendesk, where I can better track and reply to it. The downside is I’ve had a couple cases of people not seeing the replies, possibly because the HTML email is more often flagged as spam. Need to investigate whether I can switch it to plaintext, but otherwise I’m happy.

Keen.io: I was inspired to try this after reading Justin’s post on analytics. I’m experimenting with it to get better insight into how people are using my apps. So far so good.

Tapstream: Just started using this to help track Twitter ads and other links, to see what marketing actually converts to App Store sales. The web app is good, they responded to a support question the same day, and I love that the SDK is just a handful of .m files that can be dropped into an iOS project.

And that’s it. I may have left a few things out (like consumer-focused apps Dropbox, App.net, and Twitter), but these certainly cover the major services I use now. In the old days it was common to just have one server that did everything. Now there are so many specialized services. While it seems like a lot to manage, each one does a much better job than I could do with a home-grown solution.

Update 9/16/2016: I still like all of these services, but since originally written I’ve consolidated Beanstalk and FogBugz to GitHub; Postmark to Mailchimp; and stopped using Gauges, Keen, and Tapstream.