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      • I was under the impression that it only support the POP protocol. But there is a section in the docs on connecting email with IMAP (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/outlook/send-receive-from-app). This is what I have done on my Mac (Mail app) and iPhone and to my surprise syncing has worked like a charm!

        This was my big concern when switching to Outlook.com but it either supports IMAP or a version of POP which supports syncing. I’m not hugely well versed on email protocol, but I do believe POP3 supports syncing. Either way, it works. 🙂

      • Microsoft recently implemented IMAP for outlook.com, live.com and live.ca so you’re in sync from every device. I expect older accounts using Hotmail should also have IMAP. This CNET article [http://goo.gl/T9QTu8] worked perfectly for me with a live.com account.

        Nice review Carrie!

  1. Good stuff Carrie! As always =). I never tried hover…. I use GoDaddy for my domains and ONLY my domains. Main reason is I can get a .com domain for like 2 bucks a year, and renewals are also very cheap. I can’t really recommend them for anything else other then that. Hover seems cool, but definitely more pricey, I think I’d have to look into that more.

    Everything else is pretty spot on ESPECIALLY EDD. Probably my favorite plugin ever, EVER! =)

  2. Carrie, first off, I would like to say that I always enjoy reading your posts. As another Fort Worth female web developer/designer using Genesis, I look forward to meeting you at a gathering somewhere sometime. You are a great inspiration to me. 🙂

    It’s interesting that you mention Flywheel, which I have been looking at lately. I worry a bit about managed hosting as a developer/designer, in regards to restrictions and not having total access. I know that they automatically install some must-use plugins, and often forbid other plugins, and sometimes lock down other areas for security and performance, so I wonder if any of those things have caused any problems for you. I have no experience with managed hosting, so I may just be worried about nothing. Flywheel’s Tiny plan is also a bit low on space allowances, page views, etc. I would love to hear if any of those things have been of concern to you or caused any problems.

    • Hey Stefanie,

      Thanks for the comment! You need to make it to a Fort Worth WordPress meetup soon (stay tuned for the January event date)!

      My only frustration with Flywheel so far was inability to install something in the root directory (outside WP). Can’t remember what is was now, but it was something to do with URL mapping and I wasn’t able to swing it. I haven’t tried the same with WPE, so can’t comment there. It’s not often that I need more server access/control than allotted, but I know what you mean that it’s frustrating when you need it and can’t get it. Of course, that’s one thing that makes it more secure than non-managed hosts… people aren’t adding crap willy nilly. 🙂

      You might check out Pressable, too. I don’t have experience with them but am hearing good things. If you follow @wpbacon on the Twitters, ask him about Pressable.

      One more word: Ask up front what happens when there’s page view/space overages. I haven’t had it happen, but have heard it can be akin to international roaming data charges. 🙂 If you think a site might fall in that in-between space, I’d want to make sure a “warning” email is issued prior to upcharges being applied.

      Cheers,

      Carrie

    • Stefanie,

      Thank you for your interest in Flywheel! I wanted to walk through security and restrictions so you know how we handle things.

      We do install a few must-use plugins. These are written or modified by our team to handle things like limiting login attempts and a number of other security settings.

      Carrie mentioned that we block root write access, which was the case during our beta last summer. However, writing to the root of your WordPress site is now possible. This was changed when we launched in September.

      You are also correct that we do not allow a few plugins. These include caching plugins, backup plugins and a few cumbersome security plugins. We disallow these since the plugins are duplicating our efforts and often times produce conflicts that remove the benefits of moving to Flywheel. Also, the reason most of our customers choose to host with us is so they can stop worrying about these things! 🙂

      If there is a unique plugin setup you were interested in knowing if we support, please reach out. You can contact me at ( rick at getflywheel.com ) if you’d like to chat!

      We’re also targeted at designers and developers who manage clients. We make it simple to spin up sites, add collaborators to projects and transfer billing to clients if they wish to own the hosting. You maintain access to all of your sites from one login regardless of whether you own the site or not.

      We would love for you to take Flywheel for a spin!

      -Rick

  3. I have used Bluehost for several years now, and they were also bought by the evil EIG. I’ve pretty much had the same experience. I have about 4 clients on my reseller account and another one or two using them. I am really looking into something else, but also, my cash flow is really low. So, it is all fun now! Thanks for all of the info

    • Yep, I’ve had clients with Bluehost and was an affiliate with them for awhile, but had the same experience. Too many service outages and they’re off mah list!

  4. Sweet post right here!

    For hosting:
    – Linode
    – Digital Ocean
    – Siteground

    Domains:
    – NameCheap (love their API)

    Premium plugins (or at least have premium addons)
    – SearchWP + FacetWP
    – Advanced custom fields
    – WPTouch

    Productivity
    – Wunderlist
    – Trello
    – Screenflow

    • Matt,
      I’d love to link up to a post/review of your picks as their quite different from my own.

      As for similarities… I’ve used NameCheap for SSL. Great price, a good interaction with customer service (my one and only time), but their interface is a disaster area. I HEART Advanced Custom Fields (though I’ve only used their free version). Listened to your podcast interviewing the WPTouch fellow…

      Write it. Go.

      Carrie

  5. I almost freaked when I saw your list, thinking those were your recommendations. Reading on, I saw that some were listed so you could tell us what you didn’t like about them. I’ll tolerate a client whose domain is with GoDaddy, but I won’t touch their hosting, too much hassle.

    Nobody else ever mentions them, but I use Internet.bs for domains and Hosting Zoom for hosting. I’ve been with the latter for years, and their support is superb. The $2.50/month mini plan is a good starter, and it’s easy to upgrade when you become famous.

    • Lane,
      I’m not familiar with Hosting Zoom, but it’s nice when you come across small hosting shops (not just GoDaddy resellers) that can still offer a high level of service/support. Thanks for the tip!

      Carrie

  6. I use Google Apps for my business emails, personal emails and also for our church email accounts. It’s a great service and I’ve been really pleased using it over the last 3 or so years.

    However, if I was signing up today, I wouldn’t touch Google Apps. They’re way expensive for what’s essentially still just an email account. IMAP, Calendar and Drive are very useful but not essential. I was lucky enough to sign up for a couple of accounts in the very early stages when they were offering 50 seat accounts for free! They then reduced it to 10 seats before quickly dropping a free plan.

    I’ve recently started signing clients up with Zoho mail. 5 seat account is free and comes with many of the benefits of Google Apps. They also have a referral scheme so if you signup a friend you get an additional 5 email accounts each for free. With referrals the free accounts can be pushed up to 20 seats which is more than enough for most small clients. I’ve not used it myself but I’ve had good feedback from clients and they have a sweet migration tool that sucks in all your existing email through POP or IMAP.

    • Zoho sounds really promising, especially that migration tool! That’s always the most nerve-wracking part of migrating domains- the fear of screwing up a client’s email.

      Thanks!

  7. Hi Carrie,
    Thanks for the great post! I followed your link to download/test out the WP101 tutorial videos – these may be perfect to install on my clients’ dashboards, and help empower them to learn more about using their websites:) I’m curious though – what have you moved to instead of Aweber?
    Jess

    BTW – Bidsketch is wonderful – easy to use, looks really professional, and my clients love it. They can accept the proposal and sign online (integrates with RightSignature) in just about a minute. I tried others (Quoteroller, etc) but didn’t like them nearly as much.

    • Hi Jess,

      Glad you’re giving WP101 a try! Come back and give an update after your trial on your thoughts…

      I’m using MailChimp. I do an RSS campaign to blast out blog posts and every blue moon compose a one-off newsletter/announcement. The MailChimp UI makes more sense to me than Aweber, too. Not hating on it – I think it is a solid service, just not what I needed.

      Regarding Bidsketch – I’ll have to look at RightSignature (not familiar with it). I agree that Bidsketch beats Quoteroller, at least on canned verbiage.

      Cheers,
      Carrie

  8. Hey Carrie, I’ve just discovered you not too long ago through Google searches. Love your post and thank you for this detailed explanations of the products and services you use. I am currently working on putting a similar list together for my own site. Also THANK YOU for the WP101 plugn recommendation. I just started my business last year and am feeling overwhelmed by the amount of requests for further tutorials. Question: Do you charge your clients to have access to the videos or do you make it a part of a service package? Thanks again!

    • Hey Chrissy,
      Thanks for sticking around. 🙂 I don’t charge extra for WP101, but when I’m pricing my services I include the video access as part of my overall value. In other words, it’s a selling point.

      I’ve also got a screencast tool (Screencast-o-matic) that I use to record quick screencasts of myself using custom features of the site. I’ve found that better than explaining via web cast or phone since the client can keep the video and refer back to it. It’s NOTHING fancy, but I’ve gotten good feedback.

      Cheers,
      Carrie

      • Fantasic! Yes I’ve tried a few Skype conferences with clients and its – frustrating. Heard great things about Screencast also. Good stuff thank you again!

        • Hey Chrissy,
          Forgot to mention it in the post, but join.me is a decent free option if you need to screenshare with a client for some reason. I don’t, usually, but it’s come in handy a couple of times.

          Carrie

  9. Great post, Carrie! I’m with you on HostGator andGoDaddy for the exact same reasons! Happy to have viable alternatives now.

    I’ve been recommending WPEngine and Pressable to clients but will take a look at Flywheel as a less expensive option.

    I’ve also been considering Adobe Creative Cloud but haven’t made the leap yet. Just continuing to use Design CS4 but know soon I’ll need to “move up.” Makes more sense to pay monthly and always have the most current versions to work with; I’ve just not been ready for another monthly payment!

    Just fyi about BidSketch. They now offer a free year if you write an honest review. So I waited until I had client that required invoice, signed up for the free trial and used for a few weeks, then wrote an honest review. And I now have a free year of BidSketch. I’m guessing I’ll have a good idea after a year if this is something I do indeed need.

    Will refer back to this post when looking for SAAS stuff!

    • Yael,

      We would love for you to check out Flywheel. We also make it easy for you to set up sites for your clients and pass billing to them. You’ll maintain access to the sites as a collaborator from your login.

      You can sign up for a free account to take it for a spin here: http://share.getf.ly/w30w0f

      Let us know if you have any questions 🙂

      -Rick

  10. Okay, I see now that Flywheel isn’t actually “less expensive” but does offer the Tiny account for $15. Just curious what your recommendation would be for inexpensive shared hosting option now that HostGator is no longer a viable option. Would love to know what you would recommend.

    • I highly recommend Big Scoots Hosting for my clients who need a good shared plan. Their 100cc plan is perfect for most bloggers, and it’s easy to upgrade if needed down the road. They are a smaller company – not so small that it’s two guys in a basement somewhere, but small enough that the service is excellent and tech support is actually helpful.

      Disclosure: I don’t host with Big Scoots personally because I needed my own server, but I have dealt with them many, many times on behalf of clients and they’ve always been great. Definitely worth a look!

  11. Great list. I’m glad to see another developer mention Quickbooks. Just about every single other developer I’ve talked to uses Freshbooks, but the lack of basic accounting functionality, like being able to reconcile a bank account, was always a deal killer for me. I’m currently still using the desktop version of Quickbooks. Did you lose any important functionality in switching to the online version?

    • Hi Richard,
      I didn’t lose any functionality, but then there’s a WHOLE lot of features in QuickBooks I don’t tap into (i.e. payroll, checks, etc.). I would guess the feature-set is the same, but you could call their sales department to confirm. I’ve always had good luck connecting with them on the phone pretty quickly.

      Cheers,
      Carrie

  12. This is a great moment for me to say thanks for mentioning Flywheel on Twitter recently. It was the little nudge I needed to move my site over to them. They are incredible, and I’m super happy so far!

  13. Hi, Carrie,
    thanks so much for this list. I’m glad to see Hover in there. I love those guys and it was my goDaddy alternative, too. I’ve only had one experience with Google Apps and it was very messy. I also have the same feeling about Scribe: Love the idea/functionality but the cost is prohibitive for a small timer. AWeber same thing, I set my clients up on Mailchimp and use it myself.

    I host on Site5 but after numerous problems with some of their servers and email spam, finally made the leap to dedicated managed VPS. I can charge clients a very reasonable annual hosting fee and cover the costs easily. Plus their support department is exemplary. They migrate for free as well. But I no longer allow clients to store mail on the server. They can get mail forwarded, or buy email through Hover. I will look at Zoho per the comment above.

    Thanks for the link to the WP101 tutorials. I’ve tried creating tutorials and even a ‘book’ for clients but it is difficult to get them to actually use it. A walk-through would take an hour and a half! Hopefully, this will make things much easier.

    You always publish such incredible and relevant content. I really appreciate your willingness to help us out.

  14. Excellent post and great review.
    Over the years I’ve used a lot of hosting companies. Most start well with good service, then for whatever reason become unbearable. Of all I’ve used Hostgator was the worst. They were great for several years, then lied to me about the days of downtime I was experiencing.
    I moved to Siteground by recommendation. For the last six months they have been providing wonderful service, down only once for a few minutes.
    With all the ups and downs with hosting, I’ve become a little jaded and keep waiting for the shoe to drop at Siteground. After all, nothing much matters without a good web host.

    • Yeah, it’s all about the test of time. I think some of the problems come when great hosting companies scale up too quickly and don’t have the infrastructure or hardware to support the growth.

      Fortunately we have the power of choice!

  15. I still use Site5 for VPS. Check out their reseller accounts. Maybe my note above wasn’t as clear as it could be: I was on their shared hosting, but moved to their dedicated VPS plan because when you buy the cheapest hosting alive, your neighbors tend to be email spammers. Lesson learned the hard way – email blacklisting!

  16. Hi Carrie,
    Thanks for this great post. I picked up from one of your previous posts that you were experimenting with the desktop server from Serverpress. I have also tried the free version and am very impressed with it, considering getting the full version soon. How are you going with it? Will that be added to your list in future?
    Tim

    • Hey Tim,
      You’re an astute reader – I have been playing with Desktop Server. 🙂 I’ve got a post planned to review it alongside WP Migrate DB. So far I’m really digging it, especially being able to set up / configure my basic install and then replicate it as a starting point for new projects.

      Carrie

  17. Carrie, loved your recommends and your mention of Chris Lema, the daily blogger. That guy is prolific as heck and the reason I found you. 🙂

    I’ve had issues with site speed on BH so I’m trying to move those clients off. I’m assuming that managed hosting like Flywheel may be the way to go. Thanks for the recommendation. It was very timely with all the recent outages. When you’re ready to do lots of proposals Bidsketch will more than pay for itself. I did a boatload last year as I tried to work with bigger clients. The ease of having most template sections is priceless. What used to take hours of editing in a Word doc now take minutes with Bidsketch. I also love the electronic signature so they don’t have to scan and email back and forth with me for a signed copy. The integration with Freshbooks was key for me. Not sure if it plugs into Quickbooks, but the invoicing is a one button push setting up a client and the initial invoice.

    • My only caution with managed hosts is to know how much bandwidth your allowed on your account. I’ve never had a problem with overage, but have heard if you do you can rack up overage charges like a long distance phone call from the 90s.

      Great tip on Bidsketch/QB – I’ll look to see if that’s possible.
      Cheers,
      Carrie

  18. Awesome post Carrie. These types of reviews are gold for newbies and really any time. Please keep them coming as you try new services. Unfortunately I’ve paid for several domains for a year in advance using doteasy.com. No problems with them but am still thinking of switching to a WP-focused provider.

    Regarding email, I have two domains on Google Apps – I had it when it was free up to 10 users so I’m grandfathered in. It does work well until lately, Apple Mail doesn’t play nice with it sometimes. I’m a little hesitant to move it but I’ll check out some of these recommendations that offer migration.

  19. Very useful writeup, hadn’t heard of flywheel before – I’m trying to decide if that’s a live cam feed of their office they have on their home page or if it’s just a recording/animation.. quite cool in a “I forgot my glasses to day” kind of way!

  20. Very informative. I have a suggestion. You might want to check out Evenflow proposal software. Im on the $20 month plan and I think it’s well worth it.
    Thanks for the tips Carrie.

  21. Carrie,

    This was a helpful post; thanks for your honest reviews! At Lucky Hat Studios, we use FreshBooks for accounting, invoicing and billing. I don’t know when they started doing so, but they allow you to sync with your bank to pull in expenses and categorize them. They also offer great reporting tools. We like them for those features, as well as the nice looking invoices we create and send to clients, who get their own u/p to our company portal (a xyz.freshbooks.com subdomain).

  22. Hey Carrie!

    I’m just revisiting solutions for WP staging and/or a synced/local version of my main WP website. So, my question is do you feel the same love for ManageWP in terms of cloning a site?

    And would you need both the Premium Version of DeskTop Server (love the free version) AND ManageWP to make the proper setup to keep my live site synced/backed up with a local copy of our live site?

    I’m also re-reading your deployment-related post, but I’m not a dev…just looking to have a local copy of our live site, so I can piddle with it, create posts, etc, (especially when stuck on an airplane, etc) check things out and then push approved/reviewed changes to the live site….

    Thanks for the help and updates regarding ongoing love for the products you review here…I realize things may have changed based on your day-to-day experiences.

    BTW, Hover is cool! Thanks or turning me on to them. I’ve sent an email to Hover asking them to do their Valet Transfer Service of all my GD domains…I provided your afflnk (cute duck pic!) and asked that you get credit for turning me on to them…

    Cheers!

    • Hey Steve!

      I do still like the clone feature of ManageWP, but have found that it’s really ideal for very small sites (I’ve had timeouts on larger sites – loosely defining “larger” as older sites with very active blogs).

      I’ve taken to using MigrateDB Pro (giant aff link!) to pull down a live database to replace my local.

      So, very loose workflow would be, develop local on DesktopServer. Use DS to deploy site to live. From there, if I ever need to get the latest database back to local, I use MigrateDB. As for the code, I’m never pulling that back down – my local copy is always “the latest and greatest” (I’m using version control as well).

      Long story short, ManageWP Clone feature is nice, but it’s really just a sort of side bonus to ManageWP (I use it for the ability to manage multiple sites and automate backups).

      I’m working up a webinar series called WordPress Development Workflows you might be interested in. You can stay tuned to that over at wpdevelopmentworkflow.com. 🙂

  23. Thanks Carrie, that’s helpful. I’m just playing with DesktopServer’s plugin for quick deploy now too. And the (free version) plugin, Migrate DB just migrated my sql db like a charm to my desktop…

    I just signed up for your webinar series…sounds cool. Regarding your question on wpdevworkflow: “We’d rather eat rusty barbed wire than spam, you?” Yes, Sally and I would both also rather eat rusty barbed wire than SPAM. Ha!

    Thanks again for your help. Cheers

  24. Hi Carrie, the learning continues for me. You’re right–re comment above about ManageWP–I’ve cancelled ManageWP and, I’ve opted for VaultPress for backups–for now. (VP has a 100% money-back guarantee)

    You talk about Sucuri in this post (I Googled “using DesktopServer with Sucuri WAF” or similar…and this article of yours appeared *again* in the magical SERPs) …and you mention DesktopServer premium too.

    Question: Have you had and experience and/or success deploying a DesktopServer dev site directly to a hosted website where you already have Sucuri firewall running? Do they play well together?

    I’m trying to get a read on DesktopServer Premium and Sucuri firewall interacting together on the same website… Thanks!

    • Hey Steve,
      I haven’t hit that scenario, BUT, when you’re deploying with DS, it does a complete file and database overwrite. In that sense, it would “blow away” the Sucuri plugin running on the live site. I suppose the firewall could block DS from connecting in the first place via its deployment script, but I don’t know. Sounds like a question for their support posse. 🙂

      Carrie

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