Room 118 Solutions - Web Application Development & Programming

Our Small-Business-In-The-Cloud Boilerplate – Part II: Internal

This is the second half of my series on the services we use here at Room 118 to operate efficiently and entirely in the cloud.  If you missed Part I, check it out for a list of services we use to interact with our customers.  Now, on to Part II, the services we use internally to manage our business.

Most of the services listed below are free, offer free trials, or offer a free “basic” package – so if you’re a small startup with little cash, this will get you up and running with a solid cloud-based infrastructure with very little upfront cost.

Note: Links marked with are affiliate links.  Depending on the program, this means we either receive a discount in services or a commission if you register.  Your rates will remain the same whether or not you use our affiliate link.  Thanks for supporting us!

What we use it for: Keeping business documents and customer data in sync
Cost: Free for 2GB; pay plans starting at 50GB for 9.99/month
Why we love it: We receive the latest designs for a project, Chris drops them somewhere in our shared Dropbox folder, I have virtually instant access to them on my Linux desktop, Android phone, and iPad.  Enough said.  It stays out of our way, does its job well, securely (all files are encrypted), and supports just about every operating system and mobile device under the sun.
Caveat: Shared folders use space in everyone’s Dropbox account, so two 2GB accounts doesn’t equal 4GB of shared space.  If you need a lot of data storage, it could be pricey for a team, because 50GB would cost (number of team members) x $9.99/month.  If you require a lot of space and need to share it with a team, check out JungleDisk.  We’ve never used them, but have them bookmarked for when we inevitably run out of room in our Dropbox accounts.

What we use it for:  Hosting our website, our git repos, and our customers’ development sites
Cost:  Plans start at $20/month
Why we love it: They’re a dependable and flexible VPS provider.   Their management interface is slick, and their uptime is superb.  This recommendation obviously only applies to other development teams, or the very technically inclined, but I had to mention them nonetheless.  If you’re just looking for a basic shared web host, check out A2 Hosting , we have a lot of love for them, too.
Caveat:  The storage included with each plan is small compared to their competitors.  If you expect to need a lot of storage, and don’t want to hand it off to another service, like Amazon S3, then Slicehost could become a pretty expensive solution, pretty quick.

ServicePayCycle (now Intuit Online Payroll)
What we use it for: Payroll
Cost:  Free for 30 days, then $39/month for state and federal filings and $1.50/employee (the first one is included)
Why we love it:  They’re reasonably priced and once you have your account set up, running payroll is easy.  They electronically file the necessary forms to the IRS and your state government, EFT your taxes to them, and direct deposit your employees.  Most payroll companies provide the same basic services, so it comes down to cost and the quality of their web app.  PayCycle’s is nice, and they e-mail us when we have to do something, sort of like an annoying accountant, without the expense.  If your bank offers payroll services, you might as well go with them, especially of it’s Bank of America, their payroll app is slick.
Caveat:  Your payroll service will only do what you tell it to, meaning you have to have some sense of what your responsibilities are, which vary depending on your type of business entity and where you’re located.  PayCycle has some very friendly support, which can point you in the right direction, and they also have some well written articles to get you started.  Google, the IRS, and your state government’s website are your friends.

What we use it for: Keeping our many credentials in sync and secure
Cost:  Free; $1/month for premium
Why we love it: Shortly after you start running your business in the cloud, you’re going to realize you have more passwords than you can handle.  Where do you store them?  You don’t want to use the same password for every service.  How do you securely share them with your partner(s)?  In addition to the credentials for every service pertaining to the company, if you’re in our line of work, you’ve also got a whole slew of credentials for your customers.  LastPass will manage all of these and sync them everywhere you have LastPass installed.  It’ll automatically fill out login forms for you, let you store “secure notes” (i.e. access information for services other than websites, or the answers to your security questions), and it has plugins for every popular browser and platform.
Caveat:  The only thing standing in between that Nigerian hacker and every single password related to your business is your LastPass master password, so try to come up with something better than “password”.  No, not “password123” either.

That concludes this mini-series, you should now be well on your way to setting up a solid infrastructure for running your business.  Using these services, you’ll be spending less time managing your business, and more time doing what you love — which is why you started your business in the first place!  The view is nice from the cloud, isn’t it?

Jim Ryan

About Jim Ryan

Jim has been working with computers for as long as he can remember. He started programming when he was 12, and developed his first web application for hire when he was 16. Jim is as adept with hardware as he is with software. He's worked with countless languages on a variety of platforms, from gaming consoles to Android handsets to desktop applications, but his first and true love will always be the Web. For Jim, coding is more than a hobby or a job, it's his passion.

When he's not at his computer (which is rare), Jim's exploring Manhattan or enjoying a nice (gluten-free) meal with friends. He loves meeting new people, whether it be at home or when traveling the globe. Jim tries to learn something new everyday.

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