Since Cloud Coach is all about living in working in harmony with technology, I thought it would be fitting to look back over the last year at the various pieces of technology that have made my business possible.
I've tried to list them in order of when I first started using the platform, along with my notes about whether I'd choose it again if I was starting over.
Website Platform: WordPress
I've written a lot about wordpress, including a complete guide to launching your own website in a weekend. You don't need me to tell you that wordpress is industry standard for blogging. It's flexible, modular, and has online armies of developers, designers and people willing to help. That said, wordpress isn't always the best option for a website. If you're not really looking for a blog, there are other DIY options that will get you up and running faster and will be easier to maintain.
The Verdict: Overall, I am very pleased with my decision to launch Cloud Coach on WordPress. I don't see leaving this platform any time soon.
I've been with BlueHost for a long time, and I've been happy with their service. I go into a lot more detail about why I recommend BlueHost here.
The Verdict: If you're just starting out with a self-hosted WordPress blog, BlueHost is a great option. It will be a long time before you ever outgrow the shared hosting environment. I'll be sticking with them in 2012.
Mailing List Provider: Aweber
Aweber is another standard name in the blogging arena. While it's not the cheapest, Aweber is a very reliable mailing list provider with solid customer support and all the bells and whistles, including the ability to set up sequences of emails (also known as auto responders). I provide a comparison of mailing list providers in my free course, PreSold and Hooked.
The Verdict: I'm happy with Aweber and plan to stay with them. I have slight pangs of regret when I look at mailing list services like InfusionSoft which incorporate eCommerce features and mailing list features, but at this point the investment in such a service just doesn't warrant itself.
Shopping Cart: eJunkie
eJunkie is about the easiest and cheapest way to sell a product online. It's just $5 per month, and for that price you get a ton of features. I was able to set it up to integrate with Aweber, so that anyone who bought my product was automatically added to the member list. Beyond that, I had some trouble with integration, plus I don't think it's the most straight forward software to use. Now that I'm looking at how to implement an affiliate program for my products, I'm less enthusiastic about the options that eJunkie provides.
The Verdict: I will probably start looking for a new shopping cart provider that has more options when it comes to affiliate sales and better integration with other services (like WordPress, Aweber, etc.)
Membership Site Plugin: BuddyPress
I first started looking into membership site products when I was preparing the launch of the Inbox Zero Training Program. I wanted to go with something that was free to start out, since I didn't know if the product would sell or not. Buddypress is really more geared towards creating your own little social network, not creating a membership site. So the system does not integrate well with payment processors.
The Verdict: I'm currently redesigning the Inbox Zero Training program, and I discovered that I could use a couple of wordpress plugins and WordPress's built in user registration engine to create my membership site. I was constantly having to wrangle with Buddypress to get it to work, so I'm happy to be migrating off the system. In the future, I will probably go with something that costs some cash up front, but is meant specifically for membership sites (like wishlist member)
All put together, these resources allow me to run my business for just $44.99 per month. Not bad for overhead, eh? As I mentioned in the article, I will probably be looking to upgrade my shopping cart software, and my membership site software in the coming year. A new shopping cart service will probably double what I spend monthly, but that is still manageable. The membership software is a big up-front cost to buy the wordpress plugin, but once you pay for it, it's yours.
How was Your Year in Technology?
I'm curious what technology you used this year to either run your business, or run your life in the technology realm. What has worked for you and what are you thinking of replacing?
In the comments: Share what your number one favorite technology resource you used this year and why.