A Year With WPEngine

I host a lot of websites at Duce Enterprises. Most of them are WordPress. About a year ago, I made a very wise business decision. I made the jump to managed WordPress hosting through WPEngine (WPE). It was a significant expense for me at the time. As I’ve learned this year, though, that expense was minimal in comparison to the overall value, and the time and cost savings I received.

Three simple reasons why I <3 WPEngine:

  1. Speed. Good grief they are fast. And that affects the user experience and search engine rankings. One client site jumped into the top five after I made the switch, something I hadn’t been able to achieve through other campaigns and techniques. I give credit to the speed improvement I got when jumping to WPE.
  2. Support. This is critical. I must have good customer service or I will walk. I don’t care how awesome your product is. These folks are great. Early on, they had some issues with response time, but they quickly resolved that, and even in those few cases they were very friendly and helpful. Now I know I can jump into their awesome live chat to get a quick answer, or submit a ticket and they’ll take care of everything for me. Need SSL added to a site? Simple. Ticket. Bam. Done.
  3. Peace of mind. This is the big one. I just don’t have to worry about anything. My sites, and my clients’ sites, are just up. And secure. And backed up. And fast.

I’ve never had this level of quality and service with any other host. So, if you’re running WordPress, go get you some WPEngine. It’s worth it.

Bonus: Coupon HappyNewHost14 gets you 30% off through the end of the year.

Don’t Have Online Backup? You’re Nucking Futs!

Hi there. Have you ever had a hard drive fail on you? Plenty of people have probably given you good advice about backing up your computer, and you probably said something like, “yeah, I should do that.” Here’s the deal. Losing a hard drive sucks big huge donkey balls. You don’t want to experience it. You don’t want to have to explain to your family why there will never be any pictures or home videos from the years 2002-2004 because you were lazy or cheap, but mostly lazy.

screaming cat
What a cat would look like if it gave a shit whether or not you had online backup, and you didn’t.

What’s that? You have an external hard drive? Okay, that’s cool. That’s a start. But I bet it’s sitting right next to your computer. So, what happens when mother nature pays a visit, or your kid sets the cat on fire and he runs into the Christmas tree and your house burns down? You lose your main hard drive and your backup. Which means that local back is just NOT ENOUGH.

I get it. There are lots of options for online backup. There are too many things to choose from. You don’t know how to get started.

Let me simplify it for you.

Go get Dropbox if you don’t already have it. Now. No, really, right now. Then, tell your friends and family. You know how much space I got for free from Dropbox? 17GB. Yes, 17GB! But even if you don’t accidentally send your invite code to your entire frickin’ address book, you’ll still get 2Gb for free. That’s a ridiculous amount of free online, synced storage. Maybe not enough for your entire photo collection, but it’s perfect for important documents, business files, etc. Still haven’t signed up? WTF!?

Ok, now that we’ve got Dropbox covered, what about your photo library, or, perhaps, your music library? Enter CrashPlan.

This little boy just found out you lost the only copy of his hip hop party dance from last New Year’s Eve.

$60 a year. That’s it. For unlimited online backup. Yes, unlimited. Now, you shouldn’t go backing up everything, but even if you’re super lazy and didn’t want to selectively backup, CrashPlan can handle that.

Too cheap for $60 a year? Really? Fine. You write a comment or email me with a very good reason you can’t afford CrashPlan and I’ll fucking gift you a year. Why? Because I don’t want you to be the poor sap who has to explain why you have no photos of your dad’s worst Christmas sweater ever, or how you lost that video of your awesome dance moves at your wedding. Okay, maybe that last one is one reason NOT to backup.

Go. Now. Dropbox and CrashPlan.

Boom. Done. You’re welcome.

P.S. Scared of “the cloud”? I’d be more scared of me coming over and finding out you don’t have online backup. Ok. For reals, if you’re scared, let me know and we’ll set up another form of offsite backup.

Review: MakeSomeTime Invoicing App

In my never-ending quest for the perfect project management (PM) system, I recently came across MakeSomeTime (MST). “That’s an interesting name,” was the first thing I thought.

MakeSomeTime Dashboard
MakeSomeTime Dashboard

The interface is shiny and the dashboard is decent, but it is slow, and it doesn’t have the basic feature I require now from a PM tool when adding projects and tasks. In MST, like many other PM tools, you have to enter the task, then click a button, add another task, click a button. Asana and Basecamp understand how painful that can be when setting up a project or just doing a brain dump of tasks and ideas. They allow you to just type and hit enter over and over as you build out your list.

Besides the dashboard, the interface is clunky. There’s a lot of wasted space. Here’s the “add new task” screen.

Adding a Task in MST
Adding a Task in MST

Notice in the background for this project, the actual project details and lists are way down on the screen rather than front and center. Every panel of this interface has a huge header area with counts and data that isn’t really critical. I’d like to see this information on the dashboard, but not taking up this much space on every screen.

The big draw for some people will be the pricing. It’s cheap. Dirt cheap. $3 per month for a freelancer gets you unlimited everything except for additional staff. $25 per year ($2.09 per month) gets you two staff members and unlimited everything and more storage. That’s very cheap.

I tend to spend a lot of time signing up for apps to test and never end up writing my review, so I wanted to throw this one out there while I had a few minutes. My recommendation: stay away from MST unless you are so strapped for cash that you can’t afford a few more dollars per month for a better system like Freshbooks or Harvest. And, if you’re that strapped for cash, you probably shouldn’t be worrying about an invoicing system.

I’ve been testing Teamwork PM’s new version for the last few months. I’ll try to post a review for that one soon as well.


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Choosing Asana Over Basecamp

I have a long history of testing every known tech service or product on the market. I also have a history of never committing to one and the constant state of flux was manageable when I was just doing a few freelance projects on the side.

Since taking my business full time, though, I’ve struggled to find my happy place with a project management tool. Until recently. A few weeks ago, Asana and Harvest introduced time tracking within Asana. This was a great integration for me.

I had been using Basecamp for about six months, but had not completely committed to it. Most of my clients and subcontractors never used it, and it was moderately expensive for a tool that only I was really using. Finally, time tracking and scheduling was pretty weak.

I’ve played with Asana for over a year, but also never committed to it. When I finally decided to switch to Harvest full time from Freshbooks, and I heard that Asana had added Harvest time tracking right inside each task item, I was sold.

So far, it’s worked well. I still have one issue because I have separate Harvest accounts for Duce Enterprises and Learning Ninjas, and only one Asana account with different workspaces. As far as I know, you can only link one Harvest account, so that’s something I’m still working and I’ll let you know what happens.

Basecamp is excellent. It’s simple, easy to manage, has project templates, calendars, and many other features. But it’s limited in time tracking (none in the new version) and is a bit on the pricey side for one user. If you have a team, or a committed group of subcontractors, or clients who love to “watch” a project, then Basecamp is a solid choice.

Most of my clients don’t want to watch the task lists. And if they did, Asana still allows for that (though it’s a bit more work for the client to set up an account and join a project in Asana than in Basecamp). So, for me, Harvest time tracking inside of my task manager was perfect.

I’m still looking for the ultimate calendaring and project management tool. Somebody go build it for me, please!

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