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Self hosting sites and services relies on a number of different tools and services to be successful. More than that it requires integrations between tools to be available and to work properly. You see, a ton of services big and small come together to make a solution work. There is a host of stuff that sits in this website and behind it that “makes stuff happen”. For example integrations with Google products, mail servers, security, marketing tools, SEO, Amazon, and lots more.
To be fair a lot of these tools, services and integrations are written by the open source community to freely give of their time to complete these projects and make them work either individually or as part of a group. This is a good thing.
The problem lies however when projects stop being developed and then either get discontinued or withdrawn, or even worse just get abandoned only for errors to crop up or even a site to get hacked without warning. Take your eye off the ball in a self hosted environment and there is the possibility for all hell to break loose.
In the past few months I have been getting more and more announcements sent to me that tools, integrations, plugins and more are being discontinued, “sunsetted” or even withdrawn. That or support for certain environments or browsers is being stopped in forthcoming versions.
I used to get 1-3 of these a year. I have had about 15 in 2017 alone. This worries me as it means a lot of extra time in locating replacement “parts” and then testing and deploying these parts, when an environment build should be finished and then just in maintenance and business as usual mode. It does cause a few issues for the operator of the site.
I do hope this trend does not escalate any further. The open source community do a lot of good and valuable work and should be praised for it. I realise that some of this comes down to time and other commitments.
I for one, hope this dies down and that the trend does not escalate.
My Virtual Office product has now been live for just over 6 months and has attracted some wonderful new customers who are all very happy with the service they are receiving. Virtual Office puts your business into the browser with access available from any device.
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A confusing title but this blog does have something to do with clouds, of the technology kind, that is.
A conversation regarding public versus private cloud was had between me and a mate yesterday. You read public cloud, I read data all over the place on Dropbox, OneDrive, Hotmail and other free or freemium apps. I read private cloud you read this sort of stuff but for massive companies. I don’t. I don’t need to. I run my own private cloud. There is no Sharepoint, no SAP, no Salesforce or any other web based MegaCorp tools in my cloud for that matter.
What there is however is a lean, mean, fighting machine of software and tools. These are all free to use and you can purchase enterprise versions as well. I can access anything I need to do any business I need anywhere on God’s earth and all of my information is accessible and secure.
So how we achieve this and what tools do I use?
For a start there are a nice little bundle of HTML and PHP scripts that tie quite a few things together for me. They have a variety of functions and the php scripts provide some monitoring, security and a few handy little tools such as my little travel booking engine. But this is only the start.
For CRM. I have used Vtiger, Sugar and SuiteCRM, the last one of these is the best incarnation of the same product so far in my opinion. However it is no longer suitable for my business. So everything is now rolled into a GroupWare product.
GroupWare I here you say? The first thought into the heads of my techie friends is likely to be “Lotus Ruddy Notes!” ( Some might replace ruddy with a word begginignwith the letter F). Err No. In terms of web based PHP software this sector had in my opinion a ruddy terrible time of it. I have been testing EGroupWare on and off for a few years and I now believe with the latest version, that they have got it right. Oh and the CRM suits my business nicely.
Project Management. Quite simply DotProject rules the roost! It has some way to go to match its senior peers of Microsoft Project and Primavera but boy can this product punch well above its weight.
File and document sharing. Now this is the hot one of the moment. Owncloud used to be amazing, I used to love this tool for document and File Sharing oh and giving me access to ebooks, music and movies from home, whilst on the move. It used to eat Dropbox for breakfast. Unfortunately it has now become too bloated. I cannot really recommend this any longer, it can also knock other applications out by virtue of the PHP settings it needs. But there is a new kid on the block in the form of Pydio, this is where Owncloud should be, especially in terms of speed.
Front Accounting is showing the way in terms of a rock solid, private, cloud based accountancy package. Even with my love hate relationship off accounting, this is a nifty tool. No XERO or other such tools here.
A number of other tools add to the mix above such as paste, my own private pastebin website, PhpList for managing mailshots, RoundCube for email. SeoPanel for search engine analysis. Tiny RSS is an excellent RSS feed parser. I also have a podcast tool for producing my Podcasts. There are few other things in there as well which make up the rest.
As for websites. I need a damn good reason now to use anything but WordPress. It has simply become the best website management tool on earth in my opinion.
SO there we have it, this what is up there in my private cloud, Simba! And a bloody good stack of tools it is too!
I was chatting to a mate of mine the other day who also runs a small business. The question he asked me was this: “What does a tech expert use to run his business?” I thought I would transpose my lengthy answer which was delivered over two pints of London Pride into a blog. So here goes. Phones I use an iPhone 4s and a Blackberry Curve to have two mobile lines. I am actually not happy these days with either phone and will soon be ditching one of my lines. I will not be replacing the Blackberry. I will replace the iPhone with a Samsung Galaxy S4. Tablet – I’m very happy with my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0. Especially since I installed Cyanogen on it. Laptops 3 of em! 1x Toshiba with a 15.6 screen that never leaves the house. A great Lenovo with a 12.5 screen and an Acer Netbook which provides sterling service when I am travelling. I like to travel as light as possible and the Acer works a treat. Usual configuration on all over these is Windows 7, Office 2010 and Adobe CS5 along with a few techie tools. I swear by Firefox as a browser. I swear by SanDisk for all memory cards and memory sticks. I have a stack of Excel spreadsheets for bookkeeping statistical analysis and complex calculations such as valuations and complex environment sizing. I have a backup to My office that runs Portable Apps. This a great tool for creating an office on a memory stick :- ) Online tools I keep a lot of stuff in the Cloud. Here’s the real good stuff that I use.
- Piwik – I use this for monitoring my websites.
- Gmail – I divert most of my email addresses here.
- V Tiger – I use this for customer management.
- Squirrel Mail – I use this for webmail on 1 domain.
- Net2Ftp – Excellent web based ftp tool.
- Tiki Wiki – Use this a information dump works really well
- Owncloud – Great tool with fantastic plugins. Eats Dropbox for breakfast!
- Seopanel – Excellent web based tool for monitoring search engine exposure
- WordPress – I love WordPress for creating websites in fact nearly all of my sites now are on WordPress. I used to swear by Joomla but WordPress is now so much the better tool.
So there we have it a quick overview of what the expert chooses.