Web Services I Enjoy Paying For

I was having a discussion with a family member over the weekend about paying for services and content on the Internet. He said he couldn’t imagine ‘paying to use the Internet.’ I think his sentiments are pretty common these days. When I was back in college I remember feeling the same way.

My opinion of paid services changed when I interned at Salesforce.com and saw how businesses were leveraging web applications to save time, save money and make money.

Of course I enjoy free services and applications as much as the next guy, but I’m more than happy to pay for high quality services.

Most of the services I pay for sound cheap, but they do end up costing quite a bit combined over time. I do realize that several of the services I pay for overlap and I can live with fewer of them, but I find enough value in each of them to continue paying for the time being.

What web apps, services and sites do you spend your hard-eaned money on?

This is a list of some of the paid web services and sites I subscribe to for personal use:

Picture 51.png1) Pandora One:
Pandora offers tons of free music via web browsers, but the ads can get annoying. For $36 per year Pandora One subscribers get higher quality music, an Adobe Air application that keeps my browser from getting bogged down, no time outs, and no annoying ads.

The $3/month is about what a popular single (on cassette tape) used to cost at Tower Records when I was a kid.

2) Evernote: evernotelogo.gifEvernote’s free service is extremely useful on its own. As Sumocat pointed out, Evernote’s premium service offers some advanced features and more bandwidth. Here’s a matrix of Evernote free vs. paid. Evernote’s cross-platform functionality make $45/year money well spent.

flickr_logo.gif3) Flickr: Flickr’s free service is kinda lame in the fact that it only allows users to easily view the 200 most recent images they’ve uploaded. I often shoot more than 200 pictures in a single day, making that kind of account pretty much useless. A Flickr Pro account is $24.99 per year and allows me to upload all the pics and videos I want. The service is far from perfect and my enthusiasm for Flickr isn’t what it once was after hearing too many horror stories of photos being deleted.

sugarsync_150x60_b.gif4) SugarSync: Sugarsync is part sharing, part collaboration, part backup and part synchronization. I ran into a lot of hiccups with this service when I first started using it, but things have run smoothly since I re-installed the Sugarsync applications back in May on several machines. I’ve since added Sugarsync to my standard arsenal of apps I install on new machines. Rather than synching all of my stuff with the service, I limit my synchs to my documents folders. I simply have too much media to store on mobile devices.

Sugarsync starts for free (2GB limit) and the company’s most popular package costs $9.99 per year and offers 60GB of storage.

smugmug_logo.jpg5)SmugMug: SmugMug is one of my favorite photo sharing web sites. Smugmug’s galleries look great and I’m much more confident in their abilities to safe-guard my photos. I can also use SmugVault to upload and view my RAW files, which I regard as priceless digital negatives. SmugMug starts at $39.95 per year, the service I currently subscribes to costs $59.99 per year and there’s a pro service that allows users to sell prints.

skype_logo.png6) Skype: I spend $2.99 per month so that I can call make unlimited calls to U.S. and Canadian numbers. Skype is one of those applications I can’t live without. I’ve found myself using Skype for voice calls a lot since it’s often impossible to get make a phone call with my iPhone 3GS via AT&T’s wireless service. When AT&T is MIA, I use my Spring MiFi 2200 to place calls via the Skype iPhone app.

I regularly use Skype to IM, chat and video conference all the time. My wife and I used Skype to stay in touch with her parents while they were in India for a few months. My wife’s been able to watch her very-pregnant friend’s belly grow over the past few months even though she’s 3,000 miles away.

I almost feel guilty getting all of this value for just $2.99 per month.

Picture 55.png7)Netflix: I canceled my Netflix subscription a few years ago because I kept forgetting to return DVDs in a timely manner. I’ve since rejoined Netflix because I enjoy having access to the service’s Watch Instantly library. For $8.99 I can check out one DVD at a time and watch an unlimited number of movies on my computers or on my flatscreen via a Roku box.

Picture 52.png8) Wall Street Journal: The Wall Street Journal is the only publication media publication I pay for. I can’t remember exactly how much I pay, but it works out to about $100 per year. The WSJ is a great resource for me to stay in tune with the business world and I definitely get a positive return on my $100 investment each year.