Online Web Services: Stay with Free or Move to Paid?

Free for 30 days

A couple of years ago, I blogged about paying for software and online services. I made the point then that it was possible to run a completely free set-up, particularly with online services. At the time, many sites were setting up and encouraging users in with free offers. Some are still offering a limited service or limited functionality for free, for example, many online storage sites offer 2 to 5 GB free storage and you pay if you need more. That seems fair. But coincidentally, recently two online services I use dropped their free offerings, presumably because their business plan wasn’t quite working out. You’re left trying to decide is it worth sticking with them and paying or moving to another free service. I chose the latter option in both cases as there are still good free offerings to be found online.

Wapple

The Wapple Architect Mobile Plugin mobilizes your WordPress blog, site and admin pages. I installed it 3 years ago and blogged then about getting this blog mobile ready. A recent email from Wapple said that, beyond 10th January 2013, sites will no longer optimise for mobile devices if you have chosen not to upgrade and that they could no longer offer the plugin for free. To continue using Wapple, prices start from  £5/$8. Not much really, but I received a Google Nexus 10 tablet recently and when I view my blog, it appears as if it’s optimised for a smaller mobile phone screen and not for the tablet. I may have missed a plugin setting somewhere to rectify this but anyway, I decided to uninstall the Wapple plugin and install the WPtouch plugin instead – they still offer a free version. I’m not altogether satisfied with it but I’ll stick with it until I get a responsive theme up and running here that will automatically adapt my site for phones and tablets and will mean one less plugin to install and run.

CX

I’ve been using CX for cloud syncing and file storage and mentioned them when I blogged about scheduling automatic daily backups of changed files to cloud storage. They offer 10GB of free storage but in December, they decided that accounts inactive for 15 days would be frozen. Upgrading to a paid account would unfreeze it. In addition, the Desktop Sync tool would no longer be offered on free accounts. I needed the sync tool to automatically backup my files to the cloud, so I’ve had to close my account with CX. Fortunately, there are still many cloud storage services offering free storage without restrictions. I decided to move to Microsoft SkyDrive instead with 7GB of free storage and so far I’m very pleased with it.

So whether you pay for online services is a matter of choice. If you look around, you can still find lots of good free offerings online but I suspect that as sites come to grips with their business plans and try to increase revenues, some will fold or cut back/drop their free offerings. Make use of them while you can – but don’t assume they’ll be there forever… or free forever.

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