Email marketing tools

Email marketing, email blasting software

What we’ll look for

The largest number of “Free” contacts allowed

The largest number of “Free” emails per month

Easy email blasts

Statistics on the blast

WordPress Integration with a Plugin

Export capability

Tools we’ve evaluated

Constant contact

Just say no.

ConstantContact

Free trial for your first 60 days.

No risk. No credit card required. Get full access to all our email marketing tools, as well as live expert help and online resources. Start your free trial!

 

 

Send In Blue

Sendinblue is a contact

FREE
Getting started with SendinBlue
9,000 emails / mo.

 

AWeber

Just say no

AWeber

Try AWeber Free for 30 Days

 

CleverReach

 

FREE trial

 

Manage up to 2,500 recipients and send up to 10,000 emails per month absolutely free! The free plan has no fixed term. There is no setup fee and no contractual obligation.

 

Benchmark

A reasonable contender!

Our Free Starter Plan
Send email campaigns to up to 2,000 of your subscribers for $0 per month. Upgrade whenever you’re ready and gain access to additional enterprise features.

2,000
Subscribers
14,000
Emails per month
Free
Cost per month

 

 

Mail Chimp

A reasonable contender!

Mailchimp

Free Plan
Forever Free
Up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month

 

Verticalresponse

 

There are cheaper ones.  Just say no.

Free

Send 4,000 emails per month to up to 300 contacts for free

 

 

 

Mail Jet

 

 

Creating free WordPress backups

As most of us know, backups are critical.  One day you’ll wind up having a hardware failure, or power outage that causes hardware problems, or a corrupt installation, or you’ll wind up breaking your deployment and you’ll need to restore your installation.  For a myriad of reasons, backups — and of course the restoration of that backup — are critical.

This article will continue to grow with each backup utility that I try.  I’ll go forward with testing “another” when there is something flawed with the PlugIn I’m testing.  Now, off to the races!

Criteria

A few criteria for the chosen plugin.  These criteria are apt to grow while I better understand the options that are out there.

    1. Free.  Must be free, completely free, to both backup and restore. 
    2. Must be recent.  Continuous updates are desired.  The plugin must have been updated within the last 90 days.
    3. Unattended backups.  Must be completely autonomous once configured.
    4. Backups stored on free drives, such as Google Drive.
    5. Bonus points for the ability to restore to a different domain. 

PlugIn candidates

Let’s get right into the plugin candidates.

JetPack

JetPack is a comprehensive plugin that provides a lot of free services…. except for free backups.  The paid version provides the following: “Security essentials
Daily backups, one-click restores, spam filtering, and 30-day archive.”  However, one of our top priorities is Free for unattended backups.  JetPack does not meet the criteria we are looking for.

Duplicator

“Duplicator gives WordPress users the ability to migrate, copy, move or clone a site from one location to another and also serves as a simple backup utility. Duplicator handles both serialized and base64 serialized string replacement. Standard WordPress migration and WordPress backups are easily handled by this plugin as are zero downtime migrations.”

DUPLICATOR

  • Move, migrate or clone a WordPress site between domains or hosts with zero downtime
  • Manually backup a WordPress site or parts of a site
  • Perform a full WordPress migration without struggling with messy import/export sql scripts

DUPLICATOR PRO

Duplicator Pro takes Duplicator to the next level with features you’ll really appreciate, such as:

  • Scheduled backups
  • Cloud Storage to Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon S3 and FTP

Duplicator performs perfectly for manually migrating web sites from one host to another, and from one domain to another.  However, the automated backups are not free.  

Duplicator does not offer free unattended backups.

 BackupBuddy

 Was not able to discover a plugin available in the Plugins download area.

BlogVault

“BlogVault is the most reliable backup and restore plugin. Trusted by 220,000 sites and counting, it ensures a stress free WordPress backup and security solution in a single dashboard.”

Backup and Restore

Automatic Daily and Real Time Backups

 

One-click Site Restoration

 

Efficient, Incremental backup

365-day Backup history

Backup to Cloud & Dropbox

Migrate

One-click Migrations

Copy or clone sites

“You do not need to provide your card details to sign up for the free trial.” Lots of promise, but BlogVault does not meet our Free requirement.

UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin

“UpdraftPlus simplifies backups and restoration. It is the world’s highest ranking and most popular scheduled backup plugin, with over a million currently-active installs. Backup your files and database backups into the cloud and restore with a single click!”

Great!  Free, and scheduled backups available

“Backup into the cloud directly to Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon S3 (or compatible), Rackspace Cloud, DreamObjects, FTP, Openstack Swift, Updraft Vault and email. The paid version also backs up to Microsoft OneDrive, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Storage, Backblaze B2, SFTP, SCP, and WebDAV.”

Great!  UpdraftPlus Free will backu to Google Drive, FTP, and email.  Perfect.

Let’s try it out.

 

 

The story of the “as a service” sisters — SaaS PaaS IaaS

As a Service

First, there was the data center and time shared compute engines.  Then there was distributed computing to the desktop.

IT as a Service
IT as a Service

  Today, discussions of cloud computing is all the rage. 

Be it Microsoft’s Office365, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform, or one of the many on site offerings, Cloud Computing is here to stay.   This article will begin by exploring some of the many cloud computing advantages and disadvantages (for there are some!).  Next, we’ll define the three primary “as a service” solutions.  Finally, we’ll apply Cloud Computing architecture and describe how “the cloud” can be used by real live businesses. 

Advantages of Cloud Compute models

Cloud computing
Cloud computing
  1. On-demand.  In Cloud Compute models, the services are “on demand”.  This means that instead of having to rent a physical location, apply for permits, purchase physical servers, standing up those servers in a physical data center, and hiring engineers and staff to run the data center, the Customer can focus on speed to market and stand up the cloud on demand.  This allows the equivalent of “leasing” equipment, instead of forcing large capital outlays.
  2. Rapid elasticity.  In Cloud Compute models, services can be expanded rapidly, and disposed of just as rapidly.  This reduces the concerns for oversizing or undersizing equipment purchases.
  3. Business Continuity Planning and disaster recovery.  Cloud compute offers location abstraction, where the Customer does not have need to control the geographic deployment area.  That said, if properly deployed, Cloud Computing models provide most of the computing infrastructure required to solve business continuity (BCP) and disaster recovery — all built into the deployment. That is, multiple geographically distributed compute solutions can be deployed, all without standing up independent physical locations.  Although this does not solve the entire Business Continuity plan (click here for a more comprehensive discussion of BCP), it goes a long way in the right direction.
  4. Security.  The Host company provides the physical security to the servers and datacenter.  Depending on the solution, the Customer is responsible for various levels of data security.
  5. Improved mobility.  All forms of cloud computing offer improved mobility for the workforce by centralizing the compute stack into a remote addressable solution.  There is no longer a need to create and protect a DMZ – if your employees have an internet connection, they’ll have access to the CSP.  

Disadvantages of Cloud Compute models

Sorry no Internet
Sorry no Internet

The cloud compute model is highly effective, and there are many reasonable advantages of moving to a Cloud Service Provider (CSP).   That said, there are disadvantages to any solution, and CSP is no different.  As with any solution, it is important to consider the CSP risks before fully embracing the architecture. Here we’ll explore some of the disadvantages.

  1. CSP Outages.  Unfortunately, like all cloud stacks, cloud providers also suffer outages.  If an outage does occur, the Customer may feel helpless in relying on the CSP in bringing the system back online.  That said, Outage risks can be overcome by building multiple cloud stacks with multiple CSP’s providing distributed geographic deployment. 
  2. Network outages.  Network outages do and will occur.  In a purely on site solution, Internet Service Provider (ISP) failures do not impact the business.  However, in a cloud solution, the ISP is a primary point of failure.  To manage these risks, multiple ISPs can be employed.
  3. Security.  While CSP’s offer tremendous Security value, there is a risk that policies are not followed.  Depending on the type of business you are running, some of those risks can be transferred by way of contractual language such as Business Associates Agreements in a healthcare environment.  
  4. Vendor lock in.  Vendor concerns exist with shrink wrapped software, and even more concerns exist for cloud services.  The customer must always be cognizant of vendor lock in risks.  For example, the customer should have mitigation plans in place if a vendor goes out of business, or if a contract ends, or if the contract becomes unaffordable.  These plans should be tested on a regular basis to confirm that all data is recoverable and the business is able to continue unabated.  

Types of “As a Service” solutions

Types of cloud
Types of cloud

Although there are many different marketing descriptions, there are three primary “As-A-Service” cloud compute service models.  Here are the three models.

  1. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).  Infrastructure as a Service is the most basic “as a service” model.  IaaS is a solution where the customer is provided the ability to provision processing, storage, networking, and other basic computing components.   The consumer does not control the underlying cloud infrastructure, but does control the operating system and applications.  The Hosting company controls the data center including physical access to the infrastructure, heating and cooling, insurance, and other infrastructure costs. 
  2. Platform as a Service (PaaS).  Platform as a Service is a solution where the Customer is controlling the platform from the point of view of the Operating System.  In PaaS solutions, the Hosting company provides a Platform Deployment Template (or a selection of templates).   For example, a PaaS hosting company may provide templates for Windows 10 or Linux with a specific number of CPUs, specific amount of RAM, and specific hard drive capacity.  The Customer has full control over, and full responsibility, for configuring the Operating System and any associated applications.
  3. Software as a Service (SaaS). Software as a Service is the most controlled “As a Service” solution.  In this environment, the Customer is purchasing access to a software package that is hosted on the Host company’s platform and infrastructure.  Typically, the SaaS solution is accessed via a web interface, or deployed application.  Configuration of the SaaS is limited to configurations within the software itself, not associated with the Platform (the operating system) nor the Infrastructure (for example the number of CPUs).  If there are speed considerations that are purchased, the speed considerations are related to artifacts such as “Transactions per Second” instead of the number of CPUs.

Real life examples

Example
Example

We’ve covered Advantages and Disadvantages of Cloud Service Providers.  Now lets explore where these CSP solutions can be beneficial.

  1. Say, for example, you own a retail store.  You regularly serve 100 customers per day, but on Black Friday your customer base expands 10 fold to 1000 customers.  Through a CSP model, you can rapidly expand the services to handle these additional customers for those days, then tear down the services after the rush.  There is no need to purchase hardware and deploy it in your own data center, just lease the engines to accommodate the surge.
  2. If a business is wrestling with the risks and unknowns of building out a full data center, it may be more reasonable to stand up cloud services as are necessary.  In this way, the business owners can focus on the business instead of managing a data center and the staff to maintain it.
  3. In a SaaS environment, a business does not have to be concerned with regular software updates.  Instead, the CSP host will maintain the SaaS environment, and the business can focus on the business needs.  Security risks are also reduced since the most recent software package is regularly deployed.
  4. If a business experiences a recession or other cut backs, the cloud expenses can quickly be reduced.  Due to rapid elasticity, the business is not at risk of purchasing and maintaining large unused data centers.

Where to go from here

What's next
What’s next

As with any solution, it is a good idea to outline the specific benefits and concerns that you will have as you explore cloud computing.  As a recommendation, I’d say jump to Cloud earlier rather than later, but be confident that the risk plans are defined and managed appropriately for your business.

Reach out to me with any specific questions.  As always, let’s be careful out there! 

 

 

Key acronyms and technologies

  1. AWS – Amazon Web Services
  2. CSP – Cloud Service Provider
  3. ISP – Internet Service Provider
  4. SaaS – Software as a Service
  5. PaaS – Platform as a Service
  6. IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service

References

  1. The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing“,  http://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/Legacy/SP/nistspecialpublication800-145.pdf
  2. “Advantages and Disadvantages of Cloud Computing”,  http://www.levelcloud.net/why-levelcloud/cloud-education-center/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-cloud-computing/
  3. “Google Cloud Platform”, https://cloud.google.com/products/
  4. “Benefits of cloud computing”, https://www.ibm.com/cloud-computing/learn-more/benefits-of-cloud-computing/
  5. “11 Advantages of Cloud Computing and How Your Business Can Benefit From Them”, https://www.skyhighnetworks.com/cloud-security-blog/11-advantages-of-cloud-computing-and-how-your-business-can-benefit-from-them/
  6. “Cloud Computing and Is it Really All That Beneficial?”,  https://www.lifewire.com/cloud-computing-explained-2373125
  7. “Why Move To The Cloud? 10 Benefits Of Cloud Computing”,  https://www.salesforce.com/uk/blog/2015/11/why-move-to-the-cloud-10-benefits-of-cloud-computing.html