Jean-Baptiste Soufron

Top 5 Cloud Services that I will keep on paying in 2011: Google, Spotify, Dropbox, Basecamp and a VPN…

my old desk, with my cat on it

Once in a while, it’s a good thing to look back at how much money you spend, and how you spend it.

As you can guess, I love to try new things out, and I am a familiar reader of lifehacker. So it did not come as a surprise when a friend called me the other day because he had a problem with his gmail account becoming full with tons of stuff that it was complicated to delete. No problemo Amigo, just buy additional storage for your gmail account. The link is at the bottom of the page: 5$ a year for 20 Go, 20$ for 80, and so on.

Until then, I had not realized how many paying Cloud Services I had already subscribed to. There is the hype and the fun of trying new things, but I am actually using these services on a regular basis - sometimes on a daily one.

Then I realized that One interesting - and worrying - thing with these Cloud Services is that you don’t have a place that centralizes everything. You cannot even easily check on your bank records as some services will charge you every month, other every three months, some of them will do it every year.

By the way, no need to say that I would dig something like that - we could call it cloudkeeper or something ?

Thus came the idea to begin 2011 with a little list of what’s really necessary and how much money it costs me. I cannot really make the entire list of everything I use, but I can come with a first list of what’s really important for me - and that I pay for.

  1. Google Additional Storage is a must-have. Gmail and other Google services come with a right amount of storage for the average user, but the more you use it, the smaller it becomes. Needless to say that this is the perfect freemium model. Google’s offer is quite honest in my mind. The prices are fine with me, and the storage is shared between Gmail, Picasa Web Albums, and Google Docs. You get extra space in all these services. I don’t know of any Google Docs user who would need it to keep more text documents, but it’s a breeze for the people who take a lot of pictures and upload them on Picasa - especially from their smartphone, and also for email heavy-users.
  2. Spotify is the coolest music service you can get today. It’s even better than to download mp3 and upload them on your iPod or your mp3 player. Yes. Too bad it’s not available in the US yet. I begun using the free version in 2009. But I switched to the premium version at 9,99€ a month after I got my android phone in order to be able to listen to my playlists with it. After that, all was fine. I can use it while I am running, or in the street. The quality of the sound is perfect. The service is top-notch. There are tons of songs available. And the interface is so easy to use that it’s a pleasure to navigate in it to discover new stuff - an experience I had forgot since Kazaa and Soulseek. Spotify also propose a 4,99€/month option. It’s cheaper, but its only advantage is to get rid of their incredibly annoying commercials.
  3. Dropbox became a staple of web workers, and I am no exception. The basic idea behind the service is so simple it’s one of those “how come nobody did it before” service. I have a laptop and a desktop computer, and I often need to share heavy files with my colleagues. Before moving to Dropbox, I used to maintain an FTP repository on Desktop computer, but it implied to keep it on a fixed IP address, to setup its server, to be careful that the house keeper would not turn it off, and so on. Dropbox is a very simple program that you install on each of your computers. Then, it creates a Dropbox folder on each of them, and it syncs every file between them - plus it allow you to access these files through Dropbox website. And you can also share files and folders with your friends and colleagues. So simple that I used all my free space in a few months and that I went for a 9,99$/month option for 50 Gb. Then I followed lifehacker’s advice and put a TrueCrypt folder in it, and now I have an encrypted hard drive online ready to keep all my secrets. I also use it to share multimedia files - music, videos, etc. between my computer. Wonderful. 
  4. Basecamp is sturdy. It’s a project management software that I use to manage the todo lists that I give to other people, and to setup milestones comprised of several of these lists. I begun using it when I created Amusement Magazine with my colleague Abdel Bounane. At the time, the free option was enough for us. Then I went on to work with Cap Digital and had to find a way to organize the small team of my collaborators. That’s when I needed to decide on a paying option. Basecamp developers are the famous guys from 37signals.com. I love them - go read their blog and buy their books, but their software would benefit from a little touch of girly polish. It’s really an engineer’s product. It works really fine though. At 49,99$ a month, it’s the more expensive service that I subscribed to, but it forced me to adopt a method of management that saved my life more than once. Now that I know how to organize myself more though, I am not so sure I will keep it.
  5. Hidemynet, a Virtual Private Network service. As I explained it in a earlier note, VPN will be one of the trend of 2011. I had to try to see what it looked like! I tried to setup my own VPN a few months ago when I went to China, but I failed miserably - it worked but it was so slow that it was totally inefficient for web surfing or whatever other purposes I had. After reading a post from Korben, I decided to chose this one. At 5$ a month, it’s not very expensive and they answered the few questions that I had. I don’t know if I will use it very much but I am happy to know how to install it, and what kind of function is provides. I’ll see in a few months if I continue to pay for it.

That’s for the essentials that I want to keep - or that I will at least think before stopping in 2011.

But now I should go to the other list. And begin to save some money.  

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