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Ask HN: Tools of the trade, 2010 edition
240 points by joshu on Oct 7, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 92 comments
When I first started delicious, we had to host most of the services ourselves. CVS, mail, mailing lists, etc etc etc.

These days, lots of that stuff is available as SaaS. What are the tools and services people use instead of hosting their own?

(I'm not talking about actual production services like EC2 and Heroku and whatnot. We can go over this in another thread.)

Acunote ( http://www.acunote.com ) - project management, wiki, issue tracking, scrum software

Tarsnap ( http://www.tarsnap.com ) - offsite backup

DnsMadeEasy ( http://www.dnsmadeeasy.com ) - DNS

TrustCommerce ( http://www.trustcommerce.com ) - CC gateway

Google Apps ( http://www.google.com/apps ) - email

AuthorityLabs ( http://authoritylabs.com ) - SEO rank monitoring

GitHub ( http://github.com ) - OSS projects vss

GitHub isn't just for OSS (you'll have to pay though)

Seconding Tarsnap. Can't recommend it enough.

Tarsnap costs 2-3x more than Amazon S3, and S3 is already several times more expensive than it should be. What is the advantage of Tarsnap over S3 and one of its many clients?

Tarsnap also does encryption and compression. Now you might be able to implement something like that better then cperciva, but I know I sure as hell am not capable of implementing any system as secure as reliable as him. Does this knowledge cost money? Yes. Is it worth it? Well, that depends on you.

As does CrashPlan, and deduplication too, and it's cheaper than S3. It also runs on Solaris, Windows, etc., using file system monitoring to pick up changes.

JungleDisk does encryption and you only have to pay for S3 usage after the one-off license fee.

Is that offer still available? I was under the impression that any new subscribers had to pay a monthly fee and it had been that way for a year or more.

Efficient secure Snapshotted backups. It says so in the 'Design' section. (maybe that ought to be on the front page as well) http://www.tarsnap.com/design.html

One point which rarely gets mentioned is that to use S3 you need to have the access codes on the server. So theoretically a malicious individual could break into your server and delete all your files on that box and then wipe all the files on S3.

Tarsnap enables you to separate out the ability to write/read/delete. So a compromised box could at worst be used to inflate your tarsnap bill but not to wipe out all your backups.

S3/AWS multi-factor authentication, in combination with bucket versioning, ensures that if you can keep a redundant offsite record of your key and version information, you can always retrieve your data. An attacker requires your key fob to permanently delete an item. Of course, you'll need to physically secure your key fob.


It has been a while since I looked at S3 and didn't spot multi-factor authentication at the time. At only $13for the fob it seems like an interesting alternative.

Thanks for the follow-up.

http://www.restbackup.com/ also provides protection from deletion. Rest Backup has an HTTP REST API so you can do backup & restore with curl.

I'm launching the Rest Backup beta next week.

I'm using duplicity with s3 instead.

it does one thing very well

price gouging?

Can you comment on your ability to successfully restore from backup?

I know of organisations that diligently back up their data, but fail to regularly check that they can restore from backups.

I've restored a couple times and done some tests, the transfer speed seemed a little slow but I don't know if it was on tarsnaps end or mine.

The server that I've done and tested restores for is only about 1.5 gb of information/configs.

The one time I had a huge failure and needed to restore I found Tarsnap amazingly slow. Between that and the overly complicated pricing I'm going to consider something else going forward.

As of 8:15pm PST I've updated the spreadsheet.

CloudKick ( http://cloudkick.com ) - Configurable server monitoring with SMS alerts. Love this service.

CoTweet ( http://cotweet.com ) - Shared Twitter account management. Great for support and guerrilla marketing.

Uservoice ( http://uservoice.com ) - User feedback and support management.

Dropbox ( http://dropbox.com ) - File sharing - we share the business dropbox with our individual dropboxes to share files.

Droplr ( http://droplr.com ) - Screenshot capture and sharing. Also allows for file sharing.

As mentioned by others:

GitHub ( http://github.com ) - VCS

Google Apps ( http://www.google.com/a ) - Email and documents.

Pivotal Tracker ( http://www.pivotaltracker.com ) - Project management and issue tracking.

Wordpress ( http://wordpress.com ) - Blog.

These are very specific to Rails, but extremely useful:

New Relic RPM ( http://newrelic.com ) - Deeply integrated Ruby on Rails app monitoring and performance measurement. Immensely helpful for troubleshooting and analysis, including slow query detection/explanation, etc.

Hoptoad ( http://www.hoptoadapp.com ) - Rails exception monitoring and alerting.

LogicMonitor (http://www.LogicMonitor.com) - SaaS based, covers everything (servers, databases, storage, routers, apps, etc)

Pivotal Tracker ( http://www.pivotaltracker.com/ ) -> Tracking feature backlog, release planning.

Am I the only one who finds Pivotal Tracker's UX horrible to the point of being unusable?

I worked with a team that insisted on Pivotal Tracker and aside from its crashing my Fluid SSB every half hour or so, the text areas were way to small to type in comfortably. I found myself having to write the story in a text editor then pasting it in to PT. With that columnar layout, it just seemed like everything was cramped into spaces that were just way too small. Plus it doesn't track the history of a story. If it was assigned to Joe, then Larry, then Tom, there's no history of that chain of ownership.

Are we using the same Pivotal Tracker? :-)

I love the UI. It's got just what you need for an agile project - similar to 37signals design philosophy of less is less.

History is most definitely tracked - and is incredibly granular. Click on any story, then the View History button. Every change is recorded there.

Why fluid crashes? Well - I doubt it's Pivotal's fault as such. I've used Chrome, Firefox, Opera on it without issue. Clients use IE and apart from when they were using IE6 (support wasn't brilliant - but then again that browser is the bane of my life) they seem to get along with Pivotal just fine.

So it might possibly be just you. I definitely prefer pivotal to JIRA - but you may get better mileage?

SendGrid - sends emails with high deliverability http://sendgrid.com/

Braintree Payment Systems - charges credit cards http://www.braintreepaymentsolutions.com/

Server Density - monitors our servers from the inside http://www.serverdensity.com/

Recurly for recurring billing (http://recurly.com/) (they just added support for VAT, ideal for us in the UK, and they support SagePay UK as a payment gateway as well as PayPal)

Unfuddle (http://unfuddle.com/) and github (http://github.com/) for bug tracking.

JungleDisk (http://www.jungledisk.com/) for off-site backup. Uses your S3 account to store encrypted backups.

Server Density (http://www.serverdensity.com/) for monitoring

UserVoice (http://uservoice.com/) for customer feedback

Chargify ( http://chargify.com ) -> recurring payments.

Campaign monitor (http://campaignmonitor.com )-> email campaigns.

Github (http://github.com ) -> vcs.

Lighthouse ( http://lighthouseapp.com ) -> bug tracking.

Tender ( http://tenderapp.com ) -> customer support.

Thanks for including Chargify

Other threads I want to do:

- web-includable services that integrate into a web page

- production services (aws heroku etc.)

upvoted, definitely would like to see this.

I think it would be interesting to go one further and (if it's appropriate for HN) to have one thread per vertical with discussion on different vendors and solution providers.

An example would be email campaign management providers come to mind (Mail Chimp vs Aweber vs Constant Contact vs others). I'm not really interested in a blog post from a single person but what the HN crowd think having used these tools in anger out there.

Would love to see the HN hive mind take on both, fire away.

do 'em

JIRA Studio - http://www.atlassian.com/hosted/studio/

BitBucket - http://bitbucket.org/

Salesforce - http://salesforce.com/

Gapps - http://apps.google.com/

ZenDesk - http://zendesk.com/

EasyDNS - http://easydns.com

most of these aren't cheap, but through a process of trial and error I found out that they are the best.

I'm a grad student right now, so I'm using tools for a different purpose, but thought I'd list them anyway:

Dropbox - backup and sharing with research group and collaborators

Mendeley - cloud based article and citation management (great for bibtex)

Google Code with Mercurial - OSS projects that are tied into my research

EC2 - large scale, distributed simulations (data stored on S3)

Remember The Milk - trying to manage my tasks

I've used GitHub and Unfuddle for source code. Both are great.

SendGrid for email delivery from my apps.

Google Apps for email on our domains.

S3 to host images/videos (we deal with a lot of them).

I've tried just about every mailing list service there is. I haven't "fell in love" with any of them but MailChimp and Campaign Monitor are my favorites.

Of course, there are now several recurring billing services. I've tried a few and have mixed feelings. Real slow response on support requests from a couple–which IMO is bad for a company that touches your money.

For customer support tickets, we had a home-built rails app but are currently transitioning to ZenDesk. Tender Support is another option.

Delicious (http://www.delicious.com/) - keeping track of important bookmarks and sharing with colleagues :-)

PS: This post is going to my delicious account

>keeping track of important bookmarks and sharing with colleagues

Nice idea! Definitely superior to sharing links by IM/email. Thank you! :)

Pinboard (http://pinboard.in) is my choice for sharing bookmarks.

At Timetric:

Amazon AWS (EC2, S3, Cloudfront) (plus a little bit of Google App Engine)

GitHub (source control)

Pivotal Tracker (dev team backlog)

Highrise (biz dev tracking)

Mailchimp (mailing lists)

Moo (printable stuff - largely business cards)

Dropbox (shared folders)

Google Apps (email, docs)

Google Analytics (analytics)

Xero (accounting)

Stuff we do internally which we could probably outsource somehow, but it doesn't make sense: Roundup (bug tracking), Jabber, munin.

i still seem to want to host everything myself (email, dns, backups, etc). old habits die hard.

the only saas i use is Corduroy (http://corduroysite.com/) for invoicing, writing checks, downloading bank transactions, and receiving payments. but i wrote and host that too.

I'm really into Postmark as an SMTP replacement for transactional emails - http://www.postmarkapp.com

And MailChimp for mailing lists.

Chargify ( http://chargify.com/ ) - recurring billing

DNSimple ( http://dnsimple.com/ ) - domain and dns management

GitHub ( http://github.com/ ) - source code

DropBox ( http://dropbox.com/ ) - file sharing

PivotalTracker ( http://pivotaltracker.com ) - feature/issue tracking

SendGrid ( http://sendgrid.com ) - outbound app email

GetSatisfaction ( http://getsatisfaction.com/ ) - for community support

Google Apps for mail and docs

Google Analytics for web site analytics

MixPanel ( http://mixpanel.com/ ) for deeper application analytics

Harvest ( http://harvestapp.com/ ) for time tracking and billing

Pingdom ( http://pingdom.com/ ) for monitoring

I've been liking http://www.freshbooks.com/ for invoices.

+1 for freshbooks. Met some of the team a little over a year ago. Great group of folks.

I've seen a few recommendations for Mailchimp, and I'm wondering if anyone else has used Sailthru ( http://www.sailthru.com ). We've been using them at zootoo.com for well over 2 years, both for transactional emails and campaigns, and have been extremely happy. They're also way ahead of Mailchimp and other email SaaS providers with their Horizon customer tracking tool that enables customized newsletters based on the individuals browsing habits (Horizon is in beta right now but has been written about in the press).

Full disclosure - I know the owners personally and have worked with them in the past, but that doesn't take away from how awesome the product is.

Google Apps is the big one for us - especially mail and calendars. I run Redmine off Ubuntu Server inside VirtualBox...can't think of anything else we might be using. It is tempting to switch to Chargify but we're still on Auth.net for the time being.

Why do you run redmine in VirtualBox? Isn't it ruby?

What does it being ruby have to do with anything? I run it in VB because I don't have a spare machine for it. My desktop runs Windows 7, with a CentOS VM for dev work and a Ubuntu Server BM for gitosis and Redmine.

At zferral.com:

Mailchimp (http://mailchimp.com) = email marketing

BatchBook (http://BatchBook.com) = CRM

Dropbox (http://dropbox.com) = File Sharing

Google Apps = Webmail

Chargify (http://chargify.com) = Recurring Billing

Zendesk (http://zendesk.com) = Support

SnapEngage (http://snapabug.com) = Proactive Chat

StatsMix (http://statsmix.com) = Analytics

zferral (http://zferral.com) = Affiliate and referral mgt

^^own product

Edit: now that I think about it, this is a perfect use-case for Quora:


What do people think of this - it feels like this is sort of siphoning off legitimate conversation for HN to a somewhat-rival community.

(I'm sure many of us use both Quora and HN, but there is definitely overlap like this)

There's also a number of HN people that wouldn't be able to participate due to not having Facebook or Twitter accounts and thus being unable to have a Quora account.

++. No way in hell I am letting Quora know who all my friends are, without first checking out the site and building trust. OpenID (like stackoverflow) or GTFO.

Quora - no external hyperlinks - HN wins.

Hacker News is bad at a persistent conversation of this type though, it will drop off the front page in a day and no one will add to it further. Something like this benefits from longer conversation though as it is a day to day and ever changing discussion.

So we'll do it again next year. It works for every other topic.

If the problem with a point-in-time conversation of this kind is that it goes stale, the problem with wiki-style "persistent conversations" is that they also go stale, only piecemeal, like Swiss cheese. You visit the wiki and have no idea which bits are new, and which are old, and whether or not two things that happen to be next to each other were written in the same year or with any reference to each other.

If the wiki were periodically edited, in toto, by someone who cared, this problem could be avoided. But most are not.

People are happy to have the same conversations again, only different. Conversing on HN is not drudgery to be automated away. We like rituals. We like the classics. And new people like going through the classic exercises that their predecessors did.

I guess I use the standard toolset most people here use, with one thing no one else has mentioned.

I have a cheap ($100/year) Dreamhost account, which has unlimited domains, and unlimited mysql databases.

I use the websites for experiments and my blog etc, but the good thing is that it comes with unlimited subversion hosting, trac, and jabber accounts.

(I hesitate to mention this here, because it's a bit of a pyramid scheme in that you can give $90 discounts to your friends and then get an affiliate cut, but even that is actually pretty good (they end up with $10 subversion). Email me for a code if you are interested.)

Gitorious (http://www.gitorious.org)

Seems like everyone's on Github here, but we host it ourselves (no open source activity, unfortunately.. =()

Redmine (http://www.redmine.org)

For tickets, development plans. Tied into git.

OSQA (http://www.osqa.net/)

In evaluation for now: Internal "knowledgebase" stackoverflow clone for product related things

Hudson (http://www.hudson-ci.org)

Continuous integration (although I'm just now trying to get this behemoth to start using it..)

Josh, check out Cloudomatic.com . We catalog most of the SaaS apps there. Not organized by what companies are using, but should give you a good idea of all the tools out there (way more than you think).

I kinda want to limit it to stuff in wide usage.

Not to mention that it's nice to see what everyone within the HN network are using. I respect you guys and what you use and why.

My list is very similar to everyone but:

Linode(http://www.linode.com) dns, hosting. I find them cheaper and easier than EC2

Dropbox (http://www.dropbox.com) Shared folders

Google Apps (http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/business/index.html) Easy way to get email calendar docs ...

GitHub (http://github.com)

TaskPoint http://www.taskpoint.com issue tracking, project management and team collaboration

I've had good experience with DNSMadeEasy.com. We actually kept DNS/bind configs in version control and used XFR to let DNSMadeEasy slurp them up.


Sauce Labs ( http://saucelabs.com ) - automated functional testing with Selenium

bitbucket (http://bitbucket.org) - mercurial vss, similar to github

with unlimited public AND private repositories.

At Playtomic:

- mongohq.com for some MongoDB databases, gradually shifting some bits and pieces over to that

- Google Apps for email

- Google Analytics for the website

- Amazon S3 for file storage

- tadalist.com for stuff I should be doing now

- dnspark.net for my DNS stuff, I have enough servers to do this myself pretty robustly but @ 200m hits a day and growing I'd much rather pay $13 a year and use them.



StrongMail - email server & deliverability

FogBugz - bug tracking

ScrewTurn Wiki - (free) internal wiki for dev team (we're a .NET shop; YMMV)

ZenDesk - support help info/knowledge base

RightNow - support ticketing and chat

Google Analytics - for broad technical analysis of our users

Leads360 - we (well, our sales ppl) use our own product for CRM/lead management

What do teams use for single-sign-on or password management with so many hosted services?

I've had good experiences with http://www.bugnotes.com/home.php for bug tracking. Also provides exports of all data in an SQLite DB or in CSV format if desired.

What a great question, I was looking for this data for a presentation at gave at FOWA 2010 last week. See slide 30


Google Chrome - (Bookmark Syncing across Home & Work)

Google Apps - Email, Video Chat & Calender

Market Samurai - SEO

Google Analytics - SEO

Chargify - Payments

Geckoboard - Live Dashboard

Basecamp - Project Management (Mainly to-do's)

Dropbox - File Backup

Mailchimp - Email (Cant recommend them enough)

Xero - Accounts

Zopim - Customer Service / Lead Capture

Load Impact - Website Stress Testing



SendGrid - transactional and mass email

PivotalTracker - daily todo

FogBugz - customer support via email

SourceRepo - Git hosting


Google apps - Email, Calendar, Docs, GTalk

Yammer - Not seriously used

Pivotal Tracker - Managing stories

SalesForce - CRM

There is a ton of good & well-sorted stuff at


Collected by a couple of UK startups (Songkick, Huddle, etc.)

I'll roll up all the answers into a spreadsheet or table soon.

Not into Quora? As several people answer it opens up a community-editable answer summary to bring them all together.

Isn't Quora more about asking a specific question with a more specific obtainable answer?

Ie the open question here is "what tools are people using?" where as on Quora it would have to be "what are the best tools to use"... not sure they're exactly the same.

Shrug. Harder to organize. Maybe when it's done?

We use:

Salesforce for CRM

Google Apps for Mail, Chat, non-sensitive Doc sharing

Mailchimp for Mailshots

Gradwell for VoIP

Github for source control

Evernote (https://www.evernote.com/) Notes service. Clients available for Mac, Windows, iPad etc.

Still in Emacs, waiting for something better to show up.

http://circonus.com/ - SaaS Nagios and Ganglia replacement

http://www.trada.com/ Crowdsourced SEM

I tried it but it wasn't self-serve. Someone had to contact me and ask me a few questions. I didn't like that.

Is it still like that? Do you have a minimum budget to spend?

For backup, I've been quite pleased with CrashPlan.

compare/contrast: 1.3 years ago


macosx | ubuntu

emacs, eclipse

version control tool of your choice (mercurial | git | svn)

python, bash, java.

a brain.

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