Discussion about
frankspin

January 3rd 2014 11:36 am

Why pay for services you can get for free?

Engadget reported early this morning about how Droplr will no longer offer free accounts (www.engadget.com­/2014­/01­/03­/droplr­-rapid­-file­-shar...). If you're unfamiliar with Droplr it's a simple file sharing service for OSX. Most users of the service will probably stop using it, and most of you who have never heard of it probably don't see a point with Dropbox or Google Drive. For me though I will likely pay to keep using the service since it provides the easiest form of sharing possible.

As I was coming to this decision I realized I pay for services that most other people would seek out free alternatives for. Right now I currently, or will be, paying yearly fees on the following services:
  • Fastmail --- Fastmail is nothing more than email (though they offer LDAP and have a calendar in beta) so why pay for it? I'm not keen on Google, Yahoo, et. al and their data mining anymore. With Fastmail I can use a custom domain, get personal storage space, and have a super slick interface.
  • Picturelife --- Everyone has some kind of free photo option now and I was paying for Flickr prior to change over. What I find nice with Picturelife is it has the total package: family sharing, friend sharing, public profiles, built-in memories feature, etc. The services isn't the fastest at rendering but I think it does a better job than Loom.
  • Crashplan --- Much like picture services there is a free option for "data backup" almost anymore. I put that in quotes because people often confuse syncing services with backup services. Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, etc are not data backup options. Crashplan gives me unlimited backup with versioning for less than what some of the previously services provide for a similar price. Not to mention I can mail them a drive to make data backup or recovery easier.
I intentionally didn't include things like music or video streaming, domain hosting, etc because those kind of services don't really have free options. While services like Pandora or Spotify offer free options they're more limited.

So why do I pay for these things? I'm a firm believer that if something is doing one single thing really well it's deserving of my money. I think the above three products offer an experience in their particular field that is above, and better, than free options. I apply this same logic to apps and software too -- I happily paid for a lifetime membership to Plex Pass because I think they offer the best home media solution out there.

So what are some services you happily pay for that friends or family may not pay for because of free/cheaper alternatives?

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21 replies
raptorck

Oh man.

Not only do I pay for Dropbox and their lovely 100GB of space, but that's not even my backup system! To me, it's a sync system.

I also pay for Backblaze, which is somewhat similar to Crashplan.

Basically, I take my data continuity very seriously, though most other things are just left to free alternatives.
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frankspin

I was going to go with Backblaze but at the time they didn't support network drives. Crashplan doesn't officially support them but they offer a tutorial on auto-mounting drives to make them work in Windows.
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Dignan17

I almost always discourage my clients from thinking of Dropbox as a backup. It kind of is, but I prefer having a backup that never gets touched in any way until you need it. Even though you can retrieve stuff from Dropbox, you're still sort of working within it and that rubs me the wrong way.

I'm glad you use a backup service as well...
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frankspin

My issue with Dropbox or Drive as a backup solution is versioning. That is a big convenience of using a true backup service. If we ever have a file suddenly get messed up we can easily revert to a previous version.
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Dignan17

Oh I agree, but can't you do a little of that with Dropbox? I might be wrong about that. I thought Dropbox had some sort of restore history that made people use it as a backup solution...
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frankspin

You can recover a deleted filed but with Crashplan if a file is worked on 5 days in a row I can revert to any one of those changes.
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Dignan17

True, true. You can also really fine tune the backup to tell it how often it keeps things like deleted files, which is useful if you need to free up space on a local drive.

Believe me, I'm not arguing for Dropbox as a backup, I just know there are reasons that people use it as a backup, reasons I try to talk them out of :)
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cass

If there's a service that doesn't have a free, easy-to-use option that meets my use case, I'll usually pony up the cash.

I don't pay for Dropbox because I don't need more space, especially since they're pretty generous with the free storage. I will pay for Backblaze for backups because I need to back up a lot of data that no free option could provide. I'm not even sure if I'd trust a service that would provide backup services for free.
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TgD

Coincidentally, this morning I have been reading reviews of Crashplan. I am looking for something to replace my "paid" (but free through my work) subscription to Mozy
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frankspin

Like any services the speed for backups isn't ideal but it's effective enough.
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raptorck

Is Crashplan the one that lets you send a "seed" backup by shipping them a hard drive with a recent backup on it?
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TgD

It seems they do that, but they are not the only backup solution that offers that service
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frankspin

They do but a lot of services offer that since it's faster than uploading 100s of GB. They will also mail the drive back to you if you need to restore.
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Dignan17

You can send the hard drive away, but I don't really feel it's necessary unless you have bandwidth caps.

Most of the time I set someone up with Crashplan, I strongly suggest a two-part system, where Crashplan backs up to the cloud and a local hard drive. I like having local storage too (plus a restore would be quicker from a local drive).

One of the coolest things about Crashplan - something which I believe separates them from the competition - is the number of places you can back up to:
  1. The cloud (they all do this)
  2. A local drive (most do this)
  3. Another computer on your plan (not many do this)
  4. The computer of a friend with a Crashplan account (don't think anyone does this)
Crashplan actually offers #2-4 for free! That always stuns me.

ps- I know I sound like a shill for Crashplan. Trust me, I'm not. If I had a referral code I'd put it here, but I don't. I wish I did, since I've proselytized their service to everybody I know! :)
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raptorck

Oh, I was specifically asking because it's a feature that COULD help.

My personal backup setup, since I'm on a Mac:

Time Machine to networked drive.
Time Machine to removable drive.
Backblaze.

Tack on Dropbox syncing a good chunk of my data to a few other (non-Mac) devices, and I'm not bomb-proof, but I'm in pretty good shape.
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Dignan17

I've been using Crashplan for over 2.5 years, and I love it. I never have to think about my backups until something bad happens. It gives me such peace of mind, particularly due to the fact that I have my mother's computer on my plan so I don't have to worry about her losing all her photos of trips she took with my late father.

I have confidence in the service, and I've had to make use of it a few times when things like accidental deletions and failed hard drives occur.
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Dignan17

I'm having trouble thinking of services I pay for that have free alternatives.

I adore GMail, so I'd never leave it for another email service (unless they changed it too much). Anything else that's a Google service is something I don't pay another company for.

I'm signed up for Google Music All Access, but I'll probably be dropping that because my wife is on rdio and that makes it more fun (and I don't want two accounts). Besides, there aren't free services that do what rdio and All Access do.

I guess most of the services in my life that apply to this discussion are for my business. I do pay for GoToAssist for work, and there are technically free alternatives I could use like Team Viewer, but they're not as easy for my clients and I can't get unattended access with the alternatives. I could install LogMeIn for unattended access, but you only get a certain number of those for free and I'm up to about 40 computers with GoToAssist.

I also use Freshbooks for invoicing, and there are free services available for that (from Quicken, even), but Freshbooks is better.

I'm also a Crashplan user. Crashplan is fantastic.

There's clearly a reason we pay for services when there are free alternatives. Most of the time it's because the free services don't have all the features we need or want.
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audischwaaa

sorry can't agree, free is awesome. who cares if they use the info to display ads or send you junk mail. that pays for better and better services. i never click on ads anyways. for private files just use a back up hd or if you're really paranoid that you'll lose the data set up a home server with a raid array. take the money a you'll save and invest it for a historic 7-10% return. privacy is an illusion, especially on the internet. if you read the user agreement i bet you'd find that the pay per use companies are selling your data to third parties to some degree too.
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frankspin

"for private files just use a back up hd or if you're really paranoid that you'll lose the data set up a home server with a raid array"

This is not a proper backup, there is still potential for failure.
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raptorck

One word: FIRE!

Rely exclusively on local backups at your own peril.

If/when a critical cloud service goes down, having local files of my music, photos, and docs will keep me up and running. If my equipment all fails at once, I still have online backups.

If I lose all of those at once, well, stock up on canned goods.
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Dignan17

(sorry, this is directed to audischwaaa - I didn't click on the correct reply button)
I had one client who walked into his office one morning and found that a pipe had burst in the office above him. It destroyed all the electronics in his space. Fortunately, I had been there just a couple weeks earlier to install cloud backups, and he got all his data back.

I understand not wanting to pay for stuff, but sometimes it's good to know when to spend your money.

Besides, you don't have to pay for Crashplan. Simply set up an arrangement with a friend and have your computers back up to each other. It's completely free and all your data is encrypted before it leaves your computer so they can't look at it. If you have a work and home computer, just go out and buy two 4TB Western Digital MyBooks and put them on each computer. Then you can back each machine up to the other and you're set. All for free.
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