If you’re just starting out with building an online business, then the plethora of tools and technologies available to do the job can really overwhelm you. When I started out with building my first blog a few years back, it was a real struggle to streamline everything and make things run smoothly. Over these years, I’ve tried and tested hundreds of different tools and services and have now settled with a set of tools and services that never let me down. Using these tools will help you get started with the right foundation and will save you lots of time.
1. Domain Registrar
We use GoDaddy for all our domain registrations. From a domain registration perspective, GoDaddy is transparent and provides a very functional interface to manage these domains. I’ve tried other domain registrars in the past and have suffered due to that. With one such company, I actually lost a domain as they refused to give me control over it. After that incident, I’ve been hosting all my domains with GoDaddy and have never had any problem with them.
2. Web Hosting
Currently we use ASmallOrange for our hosting. We are on a Cloud VPS plan with 4 cores and 4GB RAM. Earlier I’ve hosted my websites with GoDaddy and with RackSpace. I think moving to ASmallOrange was one of the best decisions we’ve made. In the past 2 years with ASmallOrange, we’ve never faced a downtime, their staff responds mostly within one hour, and they are ready to help you with any problem and even resolve your server issues.
3. Business Email
For email we use Google Apps for Organizations. For one of our websites http://financetrain.com we signed up for Google Apps when it was free and continue to enjoy the benefits. For new accounts, however, they charge a small fee per user. For BlueKlip, we’re using Zoho Mail which is also a great service.
4. Transactional Mails
If you’re not familiar with the term, transactional emails are automated notifications for user actions on websites such as contact mails, welcome mails, password reminders, order summary, etc. These are very important and you don’t want anything to go wrong here. But this is one area where we’ve struggled the most. We used to use SMTP relays from GoDaddy but for us it didn’t work well since we had trouble with email reachability. We also tried our own SMTP server but that’s a real pain to setup and maintain. Now we use SendGrid SMTP service for all our transactional mails. They have a solid API which seamlessly integrates into any website. For use, we use a WordPress SMTP plugin for this integration.
5. Email Marketing
We currently use MadMimi for email marketing, list building and newsletters. Before MadMimi, it was MailChimp. However, as our list grew, MailChimp became quite expensive and we moved to MadMimi. Both the services are good, and MailChimp has some additional features. We chose MadMimi over MailChimp purely for cost reasons. There are plenty of other email marketing services, but our recommendation would be to choose one of these two.
6. Content Management System
Nothing else but WordPress! This is the CMS of our choice and we use it for all kinds of sites be it blogs, business sites, or online courses, or any other thing. WordPress is very flexible and can meet most website needs. I will do a separate post for our WordPress setup and the plugins we rely on.
7. Payment Gateway and eCommerce Solution
For selling our products and services, we use FastSpring. FastSpring provides complete solution for ecommerce and subscriptions. All our sites use FastSpring for selling and frankly speaking, we really haven’t tried any other service for this purpose.
Payments from FastSpring and other sources are usually received into our Paypal account from which they get automatically transferred to our bank account. Some sources directly pay into our bank accounts.
9. Content Delivery Network
A CDN can really help you boost your website performance. We currently don’t use a CDN for all our sites. But for the ones we do, we use Amazon S3 for static file storage and CloudFront for CDN. This combination works well and is quite inexpensive. We also use Amazon S3 offsite backs for our clients’ websites.
10. Social Sharing
We use BufferApp for sharing and scheduling our content to our social media account. We currently post on four social media accounts and Buffer makes it a breeze to schedule posts. Now, we’ve also started using Pablo to create images for our social media posts.
Please share in the comments below, what tools you use everyday that help you run your online business smoothly.