I'm often asked about the tools and software we use to run Trackur. Not the actual technology behind our software—although PHP, Lucene, Solr and MySQL are key, for those interested—but the third party tools that help us to run the business-side of things.
I'm a big fan of the cloud, and you'll see that most of the tools we use are cloud-hosted. Here are the ones that help us with our day to day needs:
Trackur used to be hosted by RackSpace. Unfortunately, we outgrew their cloud offering and balked at the cost of their dedicated servers. Fortunately, we discovered HostDime, which offers great service and low pricing. They're also keenly aware of the importance of social media monitoring. After all, they saw we were looking for a new hosting company and reached out to us. Their customers also reached out to us. The comfort of existing happy customers and the fact that we knew we could always get a hold of them (either by e-mail or Twitter) tipped the decision in their favor.
If hadn't already built Trackur, I would have loved to have built Zendesk. It has truly improved the way we handle customer service requests. Not only does the tool let us keep track of all questions, tickets and support requests, but we can build out a nice FAQ section to provide self-service support to our customers. The best thing I can say about Zendesk is that it provides all the tools for just one person to support 37,000 users!
We don't often need to provide training to our customers, but when we do, we use GoToMeeting—boy, did that just sound like a commercial for Dos Equis? For around $50 a month, we can host online training sessions and show customers how to get the most out of Trackur's dashboard.
I used to be a fan of Quickbooks, then I switched to a Mac. From that point on, the experience with Quickbooks gradually became sour. After months of searching for a simple, affordable online alternative, I discovered Kashoo. Now, I can easily manage my accounts, billing and reporting from my browser. That means I can file anything from anywhere!
After a rocky start—which involved a mix-up in monthly charges—managing our e-mail campaigns has been smooth sailing with MailChimp. In fact, they make it so easy, a chimpanzee could do it. Even better, their API allows us to automatically connect our own customer database with MailChimp's e-mail software. They even offer a very generous free account for those starting out.
The mere mention of PayPal can be polarizing. Some people love it, some hate it. Why do we use it for Trackur's billing? In a word, simplicity. It's very easy to connect PayPal to our billing system and not having to deal with a merchant account is worth it to us. Those that gripe about PayPal's chargeback or payment holding policies have never worked with a real merchant account provider. In a previous company, we had a provider hold back $100k in processed payments for no good reason. That almost killed off the business!
Skype and Google Voice
It's been 6 years since I've had an office with a land line. These days, I use Skype for all outgoing calls, and a Google Voice number for screening all incoming calls—their voicemail transcripts are awesome. Using Skype over the years, I have put up with some pretty lousy call quality and many dropped calls, but the past 12 months have been outstanding—crystal clear and no dropped calls!
Other free tools
Of course, there are many other free tools that we either use at Trackur, or help me personally to conduct my business. They include Basecamp, Dropbox, Hootsuite, Google Analytics, Remember the Milk and Yammer.
What are your favorite online tools for helping you run your business?