Recommendations

Over time I have evolved the online services I use when setting up a site. The following is a list of sites and services I use myself and fully recommend (in some cases for the technically minded only):

  • For DNS hosting – without a doubt CloudFlare is my choice. As well as having a no strings attached free option, they provide not only DNS hosting, but inbuilt (and also free) anti-malware protection for your site, a free CDN system and free SSL for your website.
  • For web, etc hosting – Amazon. Not for the faint of heart, however if you understand how it works, Amazon’s EC2 platform gives a sysadmin amazing tools to setup and manage a server.
  • Closely related to the above is Amazon’s SES for sending emails. While Amazon servers are fairly locked down for sending mail by default, once you remove those blocks it becomes an excellent system for sending bulk (non-spam) messages.
  • For running an actual website, WordPress has become my favourite (Drupal has long held that title). Current day WordPress allows for managing multiple sites from a centralised dashboard, automated security updates, and there are several essential and aweome plugins out there for WordPress (e.g. Woocommerce, WordFence, Jetpack)
  • For office/productivity provisioning – Google Apps for Work (I’m sure O365 would work as well). It is (or can be) a replacement for any number of disparate and un-integrated office services. While it no longer offers a free option, it is quite reasonably priced for small businesses – considering costs of having an office full of other options legally licensed.
  • For backups/data – Dropbox (EDIT: or Google Drive). This service is very simple, but very powerful. It essentially keeps a copy of your whole Dropbox account on every device you install it upon (though mobile devices require extra work to behave that way). And when you can add it to your linux amazon server… yep, automagical backups, stored everywhere you have Dropbox installed.
  • For automagical AWS snapshots! – Skeddly. I just found this, and dang but it does a proper (and CHEAP) job of automating AWS tasks – like creating snapshots.

And here’s a new category for IoT / Automation recommendations:

  • For remote power point control: (Belkin) WeMo – I’ve been using these for years (before I fully got into home automation), and short of flood damage (drowning?) they’ve never failed. Bonus, while they talk to a Belkin cloud server, they can also happily be controlled by a local server.
  • For environment sensing – WirelessTag sensors. I’ve now been using these for years, and they have a lot of positives. They last months on their replaceable button batteries (which are nowadays $5 at BigW for a 4 pack), have a very good range (best I had was finding a lost tag over a fence 50m away), and every sensor can gather temperature, humidity, and motion (either because they are moved, or via P.I.R. motion sensor). Only down side I’ve found so far is that without the internet, they can only send alerts of events (e.g. motion), but not sensor readings (e.g. temperature) they are temporarily bricked (unlike WeMo devices).
  • MQTT and Node-red – for communications between disparate systems, MQTT (e.g. mosquitto) and Node-red can’t be beat. Think of it like self hosted and managed IFTTT. Node-red allows you to glue different systems together, and MQTT is an excellent protocol/platform for general communications between them.
  • Arduino – only for the serious hardware tinkerer, but the possibilities are endless! My favourite is the Wemos boards, which package in nice WiFi to the board.
  • openHAB – as mentioned elsewhere these guys make a great product, which can be configured to work with an awesome amount of different platforms.
  • IFTTT – for anything more complex than openHAB can handle (or that touches on other services on the internet). This site/service has a truly awesome array of supported systems.