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 once you understand how it works Amazon’s EC2 platform gives a sysadmin amazing tools to setup and manage a server. I’ll soon be venturing into Azure (Microsoft’s equivalent).
  • 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 awesome plugins out there for WordPress (e.g. Woocommerce, WordFence, Jetpack)
  • For office/productivity provisioning – Google Apps for Work (O365 works 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 automatic AWS snapshots! – Skeddly. I’ve used this for years, and 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 lighting: LIFX – I’m not in love with these (in particular their reliability) but I’ve been using them for years now and they have served well enough. They can be controlled via phone/desktop app, IFTTT and local API calls (if you know how).
  • For environment sensing – WirelessTag sensors. I’ve now been using these for several years, and they have a lot of positives. They last months to years on their replaceable CR2032 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 Colorbond 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 locally 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 hardware tinkerer, but the possibilities are endless! My favourites are 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.
  • 20201030: Unfortunately IFTTT have largely removed their free offering, so I’m replacing it with a locally hosted node-red server for home automation. I’ve also retired my openHAB server in favour of node-red for handling the automations. It handles the intuitive automations itself well (particularly coupled with Google voice assistant), and leaves the product apps for fine control of devices when required.
  • 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.