Web Services Worth Paying For
Desktop apps? Pshaw. The future's in the cloud, man
When you-know-what hits the fan on your PC, you’re going to kick yourself if the last time you backed up your hard drive to an external device was two years ago. Solution: Stash it on the cloud (no storage limits!)
$50/year (unlimited storage); $25/year (10GB), www.crashplan.com
Photo Storage and Display
A convenient storage site for your original, high-definition pictures (and videos!) that even allows you to transform your library of shots into a digital storefront—and tiered payment options? Sorry, Flickr: You might be a little cheaper in some instances, but you’re not as scalable.
Plenty of fairly inexpensive cloud storage that’s accessible via an easy-to-use web interface or an automatically synchronized folder on your PC? Sounds good to us!
$40/year Basic plan; $150/year Portfolio plan (among others), www.smugmug.com
There are a million cloud storage options out there. We like Box because of its competitive pricing: $15/user/month for a terabyte of storage, which blows Dropbox’s $50/month, 500GB plan out of the water. Shoot, you even get more storage on Box’s free plan!
$15/user/month Business plan (1,000GB storage; 2GB limit per file), www.box.com
Old and busted: going through your MP3 collection, making play-lists, and waiting for them to transfer to your portable device. New hotness: streaming any song you want from the ample library of Spotify songs—the ultimate road trip solution.
$10/month Premium (mobile streaming), www.spotify.com
Spoiler: You can also sign up for a service like Rdio, which offers similar capabilities for similar pricing—check which service contains more of your favorite bands!
What’s this? A paid-for version of Twitter that’s far more open to third-party developer access than the current king of the 140-character-update hill? Perhaps paying for a microblogging service (that supports 256 characters per message and comes with no advertising) will cut down on spam accounts and other digital losers.
$36/year or $5/month, www.app.net
Calling Your Friends
Be brave. Ditch your home landline phone. Switch on over to Skype and pay just 2.3 cents per minute to call landline or mobile numbers from 30 countries around the world—even cheaper if you decide to spring for a Skype subscription!
1:1 dollars-to-Skype Credit ratio; subscription services start at $3/month, www.skype.com
Free two-day shipping for a vast number of products sold on Amazon? If you’re an online shopping junkie, that’s pretty good. Amazon’s free library of streaming TV shows and movies for Prime members, and its Kindle lending library, seal the deal.
Watching Movies and TV
Sorry, Hulu Plus—your insistence on keeping commercials in your paid-for streaming service gives Netflix the upper hand on this one. Pony up the cost of one Happy Meal per month to get unlimited TV and movie streaming across all of your Netflix-friendly devices—not bad!
Travel planning was never easier—or more automated. Sign up for Tripit Pro to receive all sorts of notifications about last-minute changes to your (automatically imported) travel itinerary, in addition to assistance when you’re trying to find alternate flights and a centralized location for tracking your flyer miles/points/rewards across all your favorite carriers.
Video Storage and Presentation
If you’re huge on video, but need an online method for archiving and presenting your work, look no further than Vimeo Plus. You’ll get 5GB of uploads per week, unlimited HD uploads and embeds, and the ability to customize the very player you’ll use to showcase your flicks around the web.
If you’re looking for an easy way to remotely connect to a computer (or network-based storage device) from afar, you’ll want to use No-IP’s Dynamic DNS features. All you’ll have to do is remember a single, unchanging web address to call home versus a constantly changing IP address.
The LastPass app is compelling enough if you’re looking for a web service that’ll safely synchronize your passwords across all of your devices and browsers. The premium version lets you add additional USB-based security for accessing your account à la Blizzard’s authenticator, in addition to unlocking individual smartphone LastPass apps.
Note: This article appeared in the Holiday 2012 issue of the magazine.