Tag Archive: Free


Hopefully the shortest post yet :)

I was previously using GeoScaling (http://www.geoscaling.com/) to provide DNS for my domain names but they’ve had a few 24hr+ outages in the last year and this has caused havoc with (mainly with my e-mail as sending servers have been unable to resolve/deliver mail to my domain).

I anticipated it was time to cough up some cash for a professional, paid for service with guaranteed uptime, but stumbled across another free option- CloudFare (http://www.cloudflare.com). The switch was pretty seamless and (to the best of my knowledge) they’ve had no downtime since I migrated. They have a much larger infrastructure (presumably due to the paid for services they also offer) and even the free services supports a CDN style caching if you wish to save your webserver’s bandwidth.

I’m often seriously impressed by cheap (or possibly even free/open-source) alternatives to enterprise software- so decided to look into purchasing some form of support ticket / helpdesk / issue tracking system to help me get on top of things.

I had a fairly small list of requirements:

  • Cheap (I will be the sole user so cannot justify much expense)
  • E-mail Integration (Clients must be able to e-mail support@blah.com and a ticket is automatically created. Updates must then be sent from support@blah.com to the clients)
  • Web based (I need to be able to access from anywhere, any o/s etc)
  • Time tracking (I want to be able to log “time spent” against each update to help with billing)
  • Hosted (It would be nice not to have to host myself and have some form of uptime guarantee and limited level of suppport)

I did a lot of googling and spent quite a bit of time on wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_issue-tracking_systems) and looking at each individual solution. I found a few offerings that I liked:

Help Scout ()

 

  • Free for up to 3 users, 150 tickets/month
  • Brilliant simple, neat effective hosted web front end (and novel concept)
  • Unfortunately it is a little too “simple” and doesn’t offer many features- it really is just notes (no time logging etc)

Zendesk (http://www.zendesk.com)

 

  • Price looked reasonable at first ($9/month/agent for the starter package) but e-mail integration (domain mapping) is only available in the regular and plus+ flavours ($29/month/agents and $59/month/agent respectively)
  • Nice hosted neat interface
  • Good e-mail integration (really like the rules/actions/macros you can setup to streamline/automate workflows)
  • No time tracking (they offer the ability to add custom fields to the ticket but not to individual updates- a bit limiting)

I was still unconvinced and realised I was going to have to compromise on some aspect of the chosen solution. I started looking at products which don’t offer hosted packages or where their host-it-yourself package is considerably cheaper. Nothing excited me until I stumbled across:

Web Help Desk (http://www.webhelpdesk.com)

 

  • Quite pricey for a hosted solution but if hosting yourself free for a single user license- perfect!
  • Excellent e-mail integration
  • Clean modern web interface
  • Ability to track time against individual updates
  • Tons of other features (runs on all platforms, supports multiple database server technologies, reporting etc)

I am now using Web Help Desk! I will treat it like a trial for the first month (I think I will have definitely decided by that time whether it has any serious flaws). After a month I will treat it as a production system!

L

New Software/Services

It’s been a little while since my last update but i’ve been busy as usual… Expect a few consecutive posts this morning! The first relates to a few “new” products/services (none of these are necessarily new on the market but they are new to me).

Microsoft Hohm

Microsoft’s home energy monitoring service. Maybe somewhat comparible to google’s offering google powermeter. Unfortunately the Microsoft service is not yet available outside of the United States.

Google Sketchup

Google’s 3D modelling software (I think also capable of 2D modelling).

I don’t actually have a need for CAD/modelling software but the main industry in which I work (events) use various applications for floorplans/room layouts etc. When a colleague mentioned google sketchup I thought I’d take a look out of interest- I was instantly impressed. Checkout some of the training videos on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/SketchUpVideo#grid/user/F001616C0ADF4245

LogMeIn Hamachi

I’ve been using LogMeIn as a remote access solution (free alternative to Citrix’s GotoMyPC) for some time now but the annoyances, primarily screen lag & the inability to use local tools on remote servers compared to “real” VPN solutions were getting to be a royal pain…!

https://secure.logmein.com/products/hamachi2/flash/LogMeIn_Hamachi2.swf

LogMeIn launched Hamachi some time back but I’d not had a chance to test it out until yesterday. It turns out to be a real cool bit of kit- especially if you’re working with multiple networks and want an easy way of hopping between them remotely. Now I can use SQL Server Management Studio, Crystal Reports, Remote Desktop etc all from my local machine!

JoinMe

Yet another offering from LogMeIn which a colleague brought to my attention- this time, a free alternative to GotoMeeting or even LogMeIn’s remote support tool LogMeIn Rescue.

It’s great to see so many new products/services appearing and even “greater” to see many of them are free!

L

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