I thought I would take some time to write about all the different tools I use during my crazy entrepreneurial experiments. Let’s just say that over the years of me experimenting with web dev, game dev, Linux, Bitcoin, system building and more I have tried a lot of different things.
WAY back when I first used Yahoo hosting for my domains, this was well before Google was really big and they didn’t even offer the service. Then Godaddy.com and Network Solutions became a thing so I moved onto those. These days, however, I stick with namecheap.com you just can’t go wrong the prices. A Namecheap domain is usually around $10 with privacy included and there is almost always a coupon to be found. You can also get a single email address for $9.99 a YEAR. Meanwhile, Godaddy.com is charging $11.99 for the domain, $7.99 for the privacy and $2.99 per month for just email.
I typically like to start with 1-year domains unless I am sure to keep them for awhile and 1 year of email since it just makes everything so much cleaner to have a *@domain.com. Namecheap also makes it easy to add a catch-all email so you can promote different names ([email protected], [email protected], [email protected]) and still receive it to the one account.
Let’s start with the bare bones of my transition from free (terrible) hosting to shared and now onto VPS. We have all been there with the FREE hosting when you first start out you really don’t want to invest too much money and hey why not take that offer for FREE hosting. All they want is a small ad somewhere on the page. Well let’s just say that it’s a terrible idea, the ads you have no control over, the server so over sold its a few concurrent views and it may go down and that 100mb storage is just silly. I once tried to host a Bitcoin faucet off of one of these. This was during the early days of Bitcoin when you could actually make some money from ads on a site that gave out small amounts Bitcoin. Shortly (hours) after listing it on bitcointalk.com it crashed the web server.
After that first attempt I switch over to Hostgator which many people raved about at the time and many still do to this day. I again just signed up for the cheapest possible service. I really don’t remember having hardly any issues at all during this time so that’s good on them. The problem with shared hosting is your in a box. You are only allowed to do so much if you want a different version of PHP because the one running on the server now is older than your computer you may not have much luck. Yes they can fix issues and they can update services at some point but you may be stuck waiting for awhile. I know a few services today still running PHP 5.4 release in 2012!
One step below your very own server! I have tried many of the top VPS companies, AWS, Digital Ocean, Linode, OVH, and Vultr and they are all pretty much the same. Linode is a little lacking in the front-end department, Digital Ocean and Vultr have sleek front end system and AWS can be very confusing to the beginner. I used Digital Ocean exclusively for awhile when I was hosting a bunch of bitcoin and altcoin projects but have since moved over to Vultr. They just gave me an offer I could not refuse! Awhile back they had a promotion where they would match up to $100 in deposited funds. So I now had over $200 worth of server credits which at their lowest server price ($2.5) would last me a VERY long time. The $2.5 server gets your 512mb ram, 20GB storage, and 1 vCPU which is plenty to run a single website or a few low traffic ones. I did later find out that the credit expires after 1 year so I have been running a bigger VPS with backups to try and burn through the extra credits.
Services and Software
There are three very big and very important services I use to get my sites and projects up and running quickly.
WordPress / WooCommerce
This probably lready knew since you are reading this current on a WordPress site. At first, I really wasn’t a fan of WordPress but I realized at some point that I was looking at it all wrong. I always thought it was more like Squarespace or Wix, but it’s not and never will be a site builder. It’s very much a framework with all the tools to create whatever you want but you really have learn how to use them. Most people could look at Squarespace or Wix and figure out in a few hours how to get a website up and running. With WordPress, it has taken me a few months and a few plugins to get what I want out of it.
WooCommerce is my number 1 favorite plugin for WordPress, I use it to run a few of my e-commerce stores such as WearWisco and ZeldaTreasures. It has been a great asset and I plan to use it for a very long time. I have tried and definitely like the ease of use with Shopify but the fees quickly made it apparent that if you need to take a break and regroup you still need to pay. Woocommcer allows me to keep jumping from project to project (I know, I should focus). Most good plugins on Shopify charge a fee and not just one time, they are almost all monthly fees! Before long I was paying $50-60 a month on a site that was a just side project and multiply that a few times if you have a couple different stores going. I can see the value in Shopify when you have a big store for sure but not starting out. I am willing to bet that they make the majority of their money from failed stores.
Themes and Plugins
At the moment I am really enjoying GeneratePress’s premium theme, you can really customize a lot and very quickly. Mix that with Elementor Pro and you have a great base under one of the easiest drag and drop WordPress site creators that rival Squarespace and Wix!
My next favorite tool is my newest addition, Serverpilot.io has been a huge time saver. When you are running a VPS you have to do a lot of manual tasks such as maintenance, security updates, and more. Serverpilot takes all those annoying things and automates it. Sure some VPS services offer iso installs and they are great to have but there is still something that you will have to do manually or regular upkeep. When you first spin up a clean server you can add it to you Serverpilot.io account for FREE and it will automatically install PHP, MYSQL, APACHE, NGNIX and all the latest security updates. From this point on you will be working with Serverpilot mostly instead of SSH. I can add additional sites with in seconds and for a $10 a month I have unlimited SSL for all my sites and more statistical features. I can also change the PHP version on the fly which has come in handy more than once. This service has truly revolutionized my workflow, it’s simple and effective.
Now I might get some slack for CloudFlare but let’s face it nothing comes close to their FREE service. I use them for my DNS and to speed up site speed but minimizing and caching my sites. They also offer FREE shared SSL which can be very helpful for many instances including SEO. They offer so many features that I can’t list them all here but I can say this is a cornerstone to my workflow. This pretty much sums up all the tools or services that I have tried and now love and I hope this may help you decided to use them your self.