Tis the season to subscribe: What's on my annual service renewal lists

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Tis the season to subscribe: What's on my annual service renewal lists

As November rolls around, it's generally time for me to take stock, look at my current service subscriptions (as opposed to entertainment subscriptions like Netflix and Hulu) and weigh what items I'm going to invest in for the next twelve months. Some of my subscriptions are annual choices. They time out after 12 months. Others are ongoing, so a time to evaluate and choose is especially helpful.

Of course, services are a highly personal thing. The ones I subscribe to may or may not meet your needs and vice versa. So I've tried to keep my list of the services I'm considering fairly general and Apple consumer specific. If you have suggestions to add, please drop them in the comments -- and let me know if you run across particular deals that crop up near Black Friday.

Offsite Backup. Time Machine, which I swear by, will get you only so far in life. Unless you're backing up offsite, you're exposing your data to enormous risk. Any physical damage to your workspace will probably affect your onsite backups as well as your main system. Offsite means greater peace of mind.

Personally, I'm a Crashplan customer due to the unlimited backups and reasonable yearly fees. (Plus Mike Evangelist really sold me on the service.) Regardless of which provider you go with, you really should be thinking about adding an offsite plan to your Black Friday grab bag. Last year, Crashplan offered an insanely sweet deal for new customers (which I missed out on by two freaking weeks) so keep your eyes open for theirs and other deals on the day.

VPN Service. If you lean towards the Wi-Fi lifestyle (and I do), when hanging out at Panera, Einsteins, Starbucks, and so forth, you'll probably want to consider picking up a VPN subscription for the year. There's a lot of give and take between Wi-Fi and onboard cellular, but the biggest difference is security.

When you grab data directly over cellular, you can generally feel pretty good about privacy. Using shared Wi Fi means compromise -- speed, reliability, transparency. Using VPN enables you to shop, read mail, and perform other personal tasks without worrying about snooping.

I've been using Witopia this year and it's been pretty good. I find it much better for light surfing and email when on the go than for privacy when at home, so about 90% of my use has been on my iPad and MacBook Air. Although I had intended to use VPN for day-to-day work, I found that heavy data loads (such as downloading new versions of Xcode) over VPN is just an exercise in frustration.

Cloud. I want my data wherever I am. I'm a big fan of Dropbox and not such a big fan of iCloud but that's just me. Your mileage will, of course, vary -- and there are many new providers now out there in the field. This is a really good time of year to hunt for cloud deals for pro level accounts. Just be aware that real life stories like Everpix demonstrate why you need to be very, very careful as to where you trust your data.

Online Apps. Unlike last year, this is the year that subscribing to cloud-based applications really took off. You might want to take a peek at Adobe, Microsoft Office, or Apple's iWork to see if their offerings might be what you need for next year. I'm intrigued by iWork in particular, and looking forward to seeing how well it transforms my work flow from desk-based to mobile.

What services do you subscribe to? And which ones are you considering testing for the first time this year?

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