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Email is the worst, and attempted hack on Sen. Claire McCaskill shows why

id=”article-body” class=”row” section=”article-body”> James Martin/CNET I’d like to break up with email, but I can’t.

I used to think of email as a lifeline that let me stay in touch with friends and family regardless of where I went. Then email changed and now my inbox throngs with surveys, coupons and newsletters from any retailer I made the mistake of doing business with online.  

Worse, email hasn’t simply gotten annoying, it’s dangerous. Email’s susceptibility to hacking was clear on Thursday, when The Daily Beast reported that Russian hackers had targeted Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri who’s up for re-election in November. They used a phishing attack, which tempts targets to give up their passwords using fraudulent emails or websites. 

McCaskill said the hacking attempt wasn’t successful. Still, it was eerily similar to the 2016 hack of John Podesta’s email account. Hackers tricked Podesta, who was running Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, by sending him a fraudulent email that prompted him to enter his password into a fake website that mimicked the Google password reset page. That’s the same approach hackers took with McCaskill, only this time they spoofed a Microsoft web page.

Now playing: Watch this: Justice Department indicts 12 Russian cyberspies suspected… 1:59 The hack of Podesta’s account appears to have led to thousands of his emails being published on WikiLeaks.

This is what has me looking sideways at email right now. The inbox is more than just a growing guilt-pile of unanswered personal messages buried under hundreds of sale offers. It’s also an essential tool for hackers who US intelligence officials believe are trying to interfere with US democracy. 

A spoof that’s not funny

Crappy email is everywhere. Worldwide, more than 281 billion emails are sent every day, according to market research firm Radicati. A large portion of that is spam, the messages that are the most common attack route for malicious software or links to malicious websites, according to cybersecurity firm F-secure. Spam filters and antimalware software can help protect us from the worst of these attacks. But there’s still one big trick hackers can use to access our accounts and hack our machines through email.

It’s called impersonation. With this approach, hackers use email addresses and websites that look like they come from legitimate companies to get valuable information from victims.

You should not be talking about national security matters in the same place you talk about risotto recipes. Wickr CEO Joel Wallenstrom “It turns out impersonation is both the easiest and most common way that people get tricked on email,” said Alexander Garcia Tobar, CEO of email security company Valimail.

Hackers have some sneaky tricks for getting people to fall for this, including what’s called a “full domain spoof.” That lets them send emails that look exactly like they’re coming from from a legitimate email address. There’s a tool for stopping this that the owner of a web domain can use. It’s called DMARC, but it hasn’t been adopted by all email providers. 

Even if hackers can’t send an email that looks fully legitimate, they might be able to send it from a domain that contains a slight misspelling. Or they might use the “Friendly From” field in an email header to pose as someone they’re not. For example, Paypal warns customers they could receive an email from someone who appears in their inboxes as “PayPal Services” even though the sender’s email address is really something as random as

Targeting the inboxes of political staffers

In the case of the McCaskill attack, hackers tailored a password reset web page for one of McCaskill’s staff members. It already had his email address entered in the form. We don’t know how hackers sent the staffer the link to that page, but it could have come in an email that relied on more spoofing techniques to look even more legitimate.

Hackers might not have gotten McCaskill this time, but they’ll keep trying. Tom Burt, Microsoft’s vice president for customer security and trust, said last week at the Aspen Security Forum that the company has identified three candidates for Congress who were targeted with a phishing campaign using a fake Microsoft web page. Even if McCaskill is one of those three, the others might still be susceptible.

Alternatives to email

Candidates for political office — as well as you and I — can rely on communication tools other than email. In April, the Democratic National Committee announced it was partnering with encrypted messaging services Wickr and Signal to offer more secure communication tools to candidates. 

Wickr Pro lets users recall and betalda undersökningar (watch this video) delete individual messages they’ve sent.

Wickr Wickr CEO Joel Wallenstrom told CNET that his company is providing tools that make messages harder to steal, and allows campaigns to automatically delete messages it won’t need after a certain period of time. Users can also recall and delete specific messages immediately. The messages aren’t stored on Wickr’s server and they’re scrambled up with encryption as they travel to their intended recipients. 

All of that helps prevent campaigns from creating an easily hacked archive of sensitive information, which is what the email inbox has become.

The process addresses “this concept of keeping everything for 10 years, whether you need it or not,” Wallenstrom said.

As part of its partnership with the DNC, Wickr is offering tools it already provides to corporate clients. These allow users to create a chat room with specific people and then set a deadline for when messages in that room will be erased. 

The idea is for campaign staffers to have a place where they can talk about plans for a specific event, discuss recent polling numbers, or exchange files related to a specific part of the campaign during the time they need it. Then when those messages aren’t needed anymore, they’re gone.

There are still reasons to use email

Obviously some messages are important to keep around for the long term. That’s not just for convenience — it can also be legally required. 

Many politicians are subject to public records laws, such as the Freedom of Information Act. So when they win and become an elected official, they have to preserve their communications going forward. But that doesn’t apply to Congress, so senators like McCaskill can use encrypted messaging apps for a campaign and to communicate with staffers.

And as much as I hate to admit it, email is still essential for modern communication. For campaigns, it’s how they reach donors, potential volunteers and members of the media. Campaigns use email because — unlike instant messaging, which requires the sender and recipient to use the same app — they have to take into account everyone’s tech preferences. Email will go to whatever address you send it to, no matter what email service it is. 

“Here’s the thing about email,” Valimail’s Garcia Tobar said. “Nobody owns it.” You can’t say the same for any other messaging service.

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Still, campaign staffers and regular people alike can make a choice to talk about sensitive topics on more secure platforms than email. That was the mistake of Podesta, who appeared to use his email to discuss everything from campaign business to cooking tips, Wickr’s Wallenstrom said.

“You should not be talking about national security matters in the same place you talk about risotto recipes,” he said.

That’s solid advice. For myself, I’ll keep talking with my friends on messaging apps and fondly remembering the days when my relationship with email was carefree — instead of a dangerous chore.

Correction, 9:56 a.m.: This story has been updated to indicate that members of Congress aren’t required to preserve their communications.

Security: Stay up-to-date on the latest in breaches, hacks, fixes and all those cybersecurity issues that keep you up at night.

Blockchain Decoded: CNET looks at the tech powering bitcoin — and soon, too, a myriad services that will change your life.

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Best cloud services for small businesses

id=”article-body” class=”row” section=”article-body”> When it comes to cloud services and software-as-a-service (SaaS), we’re all familiar with the usual cloud providers. But for small businesses and larger enterprises, there’s a huge world of opportunity and available resources beyond those best-known cloud storage and cloud computing services: Google, Dropbox, Salesforce, Amazon and Microsoft.

In this guide to services for business, we’re looking at 24 incredibly valuable services that solve real-world business problems. A few of you may have heard about before. Many may be new to you. All are capable of providing nearly instant benefit — without you having to make any infrastructure investment whatsoever.

CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of these products and services featured on this page.

With that, let’s get started with our first cloud-based service…

1. Approval Donkey

Cloud-based approval workflows

Free version: Up to three workflows

Plus program: $13 per month

How many times has a project come to a screaming halt, simply because the next approval in the chain never happened?

Often, these bottlenecks aren’t because a higher-up didn’t actually want the project to go through, but simply never got around to signing off. The approval email might have gotten lost or, if you’re still on paper approvals, buried in a huge inbox mound.

Approval Donkey (which has our nomination for best cloud-based service name ever) automates this process. It can integrate with hundreds of other applications using Zapier (see below) and provides a centralized interface. You can set up certain approval workflow patterns, which move the approval along a pre-defined chain. You can also track the status of any approval and see if there are any bottlenecks.

If you’re dealing with accounting and finance approval flows, stakeholder approval flows or operations and administration approval flows, give Approval Donkey a try. There’s a free version that allows for up to three workflows, and a Plus program at $13 a month.

Check out Approval Donkey deals 2. Asana

Work manager application

Free version: Up to 15 members, limited features

Paid version: $9.99 per month

Imagine if your favorite to-do manager and Slack got together and had kids. That’s Asana. Asana is a project management app that organizes projects across teams. It manages sets of tasks across people and groups and allows for connected conversations, reporting and tracking.

What makes Asana stand out is that all of the project-related work is transparent to the team members, visible, and easily accessible. If you’ve been managing projects through a pile of spreadsheets or emailing attachments to everyone, Asana will be like a breath of fresh air. All your project’s documents can also be embedded with the project, for everyone to work on and collaborate together.

Asana has a free version for up to 15 members, but it has limited features. If you want to expand beyond 15 people to large teams, SSO, custom fields, specialty dashboards, and the rest of the project management kitchen sink, Asana runs $9.99 a month. There’s also an enterprise version if you need to go really big.

Check out Asana deals 3. Airtable

Mix of cloud-based spreadsheet and database

Free version: Manage up to 1,200 elements, limited features

Paid version: $10 per month

Airtable is an interesting product. It’s billed as part spreadsheet and part database, but it’s really a flexible information manager that can look a bit like Trello, a bit like Google Docs, and a bit like a structured Evernote.

Airtable allows you to store information, structure it, share it among collaborators, and work on it in a variety of forms. The key is that Airtable comes with a wide range of templates, so you can structure your data to look like an inventory, a Kanban chart, a calendar, a catalog or whatever fits your project.

If Asana helps you manage the stages of your project and the inter-team communication, Airtable helps you manage the stuff that your project is made up of. There’s a free version that lets you manage up to 1,200 elements and store up to 2GB of data, along with two weeks of revision tracking. Move up to $10 per month and you get more data, more items and six months of revision tracking, along with support.

Check out Airtable deals 4. Backblaze

Easy and less expensive cloud storage

Free version: N/A

Paid version: $5 per machine every month

Backblaze is trying to straddle two aspects of the cloud storage market: End-user backups and object-based cloud storage.

In the end-user backup market, they’re competing with the likes of Carbonite and CrashPlan by providing a very simple-to-set-up backup mechanism for end-user machines. Let’s be clear: This isn’t cloud sync like Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive. You’re not mirroring portions of your cloud storage on your local machine. Instead, Backblaze offers a set-it-and-forget-it backup system that keeps copies of your local data (including some system files) in the cloud.

For end-users, BackBlaze is $5 per machine every month. You can backup any drive inside the machine, as well as any drive connected via a USB connection. This won’t back up your personal NAS boxes, but it’s still pretty generous.

Backblaze also competes against object-based cloud storage like that offered by Amazon S3 and Azure. Backblaze’s service is called B2. Like other object-based cloud storage providers, you’re going to pay both a monthly cloud storage fee, plus a download fee for any data you want back. Backblaze’s differentiation is that it’s generally less expensive than the big guys, yet still offers a rich API and some nice integrations, including into the Synology NAS boxes we reviewed previously.

There’s one other thing to like about Backblaze: Its data center approach. It regularly reports on hard drive reliability and even the challenges of running a data center. In a world where most cloud storage providers are opaque, Backblaze’s transparency is a breath of fresh air.

Check out Backblaze deals5. Cloudphone

Virtual PBX

Free version: N/A

Paid version: Starts at $12 per month for one local number 

When my first small business started to grow into offices, we needed a phone system. This was back in the days when landlines were common. We needed a way for calls to come into a central location and for them to be routed to individual extensions.

I wound up paying way more than I wanted for an AT&T Spirit system, which was the smallest PBX-like system I could find that could handle enough employees. It required wiring, physical phones, a central box, and so much more. It was a hassle.

Today, of course, we have the cloud. We don’t need physical boxes or phones. We don’t even need landlines. But we still need to be able to route calls, have automated attendant services, business voice mail, conference calling and business phone numbers (because no one wants to give out a personal number to every customer).

Enter Cloud Phone. It’s like having a fully functional corporate PBX without all the hassle. It turns individual smartphones into business phones, allowing your employees to work anywhere and still be on the corporate phone system.

There’s no free plan, but the company has a 30-day money-back guarantee. The base plan starts at $12 per month for one local number and three extensions, and goes up to $49 per month for five local numbers and unlimited extensions.

Check out Cloudphone deals 6. Cloudways

Managed IaaS with hand-holding

Free version: N/A

Paid version: Starts at $10 per month

Cloudways is cool in a way only an over-worked geek or overwhelmed web developer would understand. To fully grok this service, we need to chunk up a bit and look at infrastructure as a service. Elsewhere in this guide, we profiled Digital Ocean, a service that provides virtual cloud servers nearly instantly. We discussed how Digital Ocean makes it easier to deploy servers than Amazon’s AWS, which is complex and sometimes arcane.

The problem with Digital Ocean (and don’t get me wrong, we like them a lot) is that their support stops at the OS install. They’ll help you set up the virtual metal of their servers, and they provide a lot of good documentation for configuring the apps, but if you’re stuck on how to perform a Linux security update or configure the apps that run on their servers, you’re on your own.

That’s where Cloudways comes in. Cloudways actually runs on top of AWS and Digital Ocean (and a bunch of other IaaS platforms as well). When you buy infrastructure on Cloudways, you can specify the underlying infrastructure provider. They’ll automatically do the configuration, set up your servers, and customize (usually, with a single click) your applications on those servers. Plus, they offer actual humans 24-7-365 that can provide you with support.

With an entry price of $10/month for 1GB virtual RAM, one virtual core, and 1TB of storage, Cloudways is just about twice the price of Digital Ocean. But if having someone available on the other end of a chat window at 3AM who can help you fix your security problems or set up automated deployment makes you feel warm and fuzzy, the few extra bucks may well be worth it.

Check out Cloudways deals 7. Digital Ocean

Alternative to AWS

Free version: N/A

Paid version: Starts at $5 per month

Digital Ocean provides IaaS (infrastructure as a service) services. You can create virtual machines in the cloud, load them up with resources, and operate them as if they were physical servers. In addition to cloud-based virtual machines, Digital Ocean recently added cloud-based object storage.

What I like about Digital Ocean over Amazon’s AWS is the simplicity. You create droplets (Digital Ocean’s term for virtual machines), provision them with RAM and processing power, decide what region you want them to run, and you’re up. You can preload the VMs with a relatively wide range of configurations, from WordPress to Ubuntu, a prebuilt LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP) stack, an e-commerce stack and more.

Don’t get me wrong. You still need some solid geek skills. Once you start configuring your own virtual Linux environment, you’re on your own for the Linux part of the project. But setting up the actual virtual machine droplets and performing IaaS administration is a breeze.

Increasing RAM footprint is pretty much a button-press away. You can easily scale up and down RAM, but once you increase your virtual disk storage, you can’t go back without migrating your configuration to another droplet.

Standard droplets and spaces start at $5 per month. Depending on what kind of resource load you need, that can go up (and up). Digital Ocean is pretty scalable. I wouldn’t want to run Netflix or Hulu on it, but for most good-size projects, Digital Ocean is definitely a good IaaS solution.

Check out Digital Ocean dealsRead also: Cloud storage becomes the de facto data lake | What’s the best cloud storage for you? | Eliminating storage failures in the cloud | TechRepublic: Cloud storage confusion leading to major security issues  

8. Drip

Marketing automation

Free version: For less than 100 subscribers

Paid version: Starts at $43 per month for up to 2,500 subscribers

Drip bills itself as “the CRM Salesforce didn’t build,” but that’s both confusing and misleading. Drip isn’t a Salesforce-style CRM at all. Instead, it’s a marketing automation tool that automates customer interactions, mostly via email. Think of it as a list manager on steroids.

Drip takes its name from the practice of drip marketing. The idea of this is that a pre-written set of messages are sent out to customers or prospects over a period of time. One message might welcome a prospect to a mailing list. Another might introduce one or two products. Another might provide an “exclusive discount,” and so on.

The Drip service integrates with many different shopping carts and lead capture tools. Once a customer’s contact is brought into Drip, it can be subject to any number of campaigns, which are drip mailings sent out over time. This is a very powerful way to maintain customer engagement and to do so without direct labor on the part of individual sales folks or marketers.

If you have less than 100 subscribers, Drip is free. It’s $43 per month for up to 2,500 subscribers. Drip’s prices go up as you add subscribers. For that rate, you can have an unlimited number of “sends,” or the messages you send out.

Check out Drip Cloud deals 9. Help Scout

Help desk software

Free version: N/A

Paid version: Base $10-a-month program per support provide, requires at least three provider licenses

Help Scout helps your small business manage support interactions with customers. While the core of Help Scout is a shared email support environment, Help Scout has integrations that allow it to manage incoming voice calls, voice mail, and more.

Each customer interaction gets a ticket. Help Scout can route customer requests to individual agents, as well as prevent collisions (when more than one agent tries to manage a ticket). The product has a support chat component as well as a centralized knowledge base, precanned replies, customer satisfaction ratings, and automated workflows.

We like Help Scout a lot because it’s easy to set up, but it can be extended in so many ways, whether that’s integrating into Salesforce, your e-commerce system, or just your website.

There’s a base $10-a-month program per support provider, but you need to purchase at least three provider licenses. Sadly, individual developers managing their own support need not apply. If you have a greater number of support providers, there are more advanced programs that add workflow, add providers and add inboxes. The company does offer a free 15-day trial.

Check out Helpscout deals 10. Hootsuite

Social media management

Free version: Up to three social profiles

Paid version: Starts at $29 per month for 10 profiles

Despite (or, perhaps, because of) its odd mix of what-I-ate-for-breakfast reports, random news, Presidential tweets, and cat pictures, social media has become an incredibly powerful force for corporate communications.

The problem for marketing managers is that the signal-to-noise ratio favors the noise. Without help, it’s almost impossible to sift through all the chaos across services, ranging from Twitter to Facebook to YouTube to Instagram (and others), to pick out what’s important to your company.

That’s where Hootsuite comes in. Hootsuite allows you to schedule and prepare corporate messaging across many popular social networks, listen for requests from consumers and prospects, watch for key trends, and keep up with the constant flow. We particularly like the browser extension that allows you to immediately grab the article you’re currently reading and share it to your audience or queue it for later transmission.

There’s a free plan for monitoring up to three social profiles. The price then goes up, starting at $29 per month for 10 profiles and one user all the way up to enterprise levels, where an entire marketing team can manage tons of social profiles across different departments or groups.

Let’s be clear about one thing: If you’re not doing social listening, you’re putting your company at risk. You need a social media management tool like Hootsuite (or one of its competitors, like Buffer), because that’s where your customers are at all times.

Check out Hootsuite deals 11. HubSpot

Inbound marketing

Free version: Base plan

Paid version: Goes up as you add services

Most of us are familiar with the concept of outbound marketing. That’s the practice of sending mailings, making phone calls, and otherwise putting ourselves in front of customers. It’s what you’d consider traditional marcom.

Inbound marketing is a buzzword for what is, essentially, the opposite. It’s creating an environment where you attract interactions to you. Inbound marketing can be used to drive all the content creation, social media, SEO optimization, mail list subscription campaigns, and other activities where customers self-select their interest in your products.

HubSpot manages this process. It does a bunch of the things other services in this directory perform (like social media monitoring, mail list management, landing pages, SEO), but it integrates it all together into one platform. Rather than logging into a bunch of different services that probably won’t share data, you can consolidate it all in HubSpot.

HubSpot isn’t for everyone. Pricing is free for a base plan, but it quickly goes up as you add services. But if you’re running a marketing-oriented company and you want a single, central solution to manage most of the process, HubSpot may be ideal for you.

Check out Hubspot deals

12. Jira

Beyond bug and issue tracking

Free version: N/A

Paid version: Starts at $10 per month for up to 10 users

Jira is a tool for software development teams. That doesn’t mean you need to be running a software company to benefit from Jira. Any organization that has software projects — whether for internal use or for market — can benefit from the tools Jira provides.

Jira is known for being a bug- and issue-tracker. It allows you to create a database of bugs and development issues, track how they’re being handled, and follow up on fixes and solutions.

But Jira adds a number of agile team coordination tools, including scrum and kanban boards. While the boards look similar, Jira’s implementation of scrum focuses on schedules and sprints, while its kanban implementation focuses on ongoing improvement. The Jira scrum boards also provide for management and roles.

If you’re thinking Jira’s scrum and kanban boards look a lot like Trello, you’d be right. Jira is owned by Atlassian, which bought Trello last year for $425 million. That’s a heck of a lot of money for a virtual post-it note board, but once you start looking at agile development, the synergies become obvious.

Beyond organizing agile development, Jira also provides for a wide range of powerful reporting oriented at the agile development process. This allows teams of developers to work together while also managing workflow, production velocity, and quality.

Jira offers a free seven-day trial, and then it’s $10 per month for up to 10 users. If you have more than 10 users, the price is $7 per month for every user. There’s also an enterprise solution, so if your small team grows big, Jira can grow with you.

Check out Jira deals 13. MailChimp

Mailing list management

Free version: Up to 2,000 subscribers and a 12,000 emails

Paid version: Pricing goes up, depending on the number of subscribers and services used

If you can have an approval donkey, you might as well have a mail chimpanzee. MailChimp is a mailing list management service that, like Drip and HubSpot, does basic marketing automation via email.

What we like about MailChimp is that its very careful about list management, has a great management dashboard, and excellent integrations with tools like shopping carts and blogging systems. The company also provides sign-up templates and other tools that allow you to easily integrate mailing list capture into your website.

Recently, MailChimp added display ad retargeting to its offerings. This allows you to display ads in Google’s advertising network automatically. The idea is that if someone visits your site, they may get distracted. But as they surf other sites, they’ll see Google ads for your products and services. By doing this automatically as part of MailChimp’s automation process, you don’t need to schedule or run ads. Just pay Google for the clicks as they come in.

MailChimp provides a free plan for up to 2,000 subscribers and a generous 12,000 emails a month. After that, pricing goes up, depending on the number of subscribers you maintain and the services you use.

Check out Mailchimp deals 14. Shopify

Turn-key ecommerce

Free version: N/A

Paid version: Starts at $9 per month for lite version

There are a ton of e-commerce and web-hosting cloud providers, but we chose to spotlight Shopify because it’s about as complete an e-commerce experience as you’re likely to find.

Not only will Shopify set up an online store for you, the company offers mobile apps and two variations of “chip-and-swipe” readers for use in physical point-of-sale retail environments. The company has a full cash register option as well. Add in integrations with Pinterest, Facebook selling, and Amazon, and you have an end-to-end selling system that gives you a lot of choice in setting up both (or either) your online store or physical selling environment.

We like how Shopify comes with a bunch of nice templates, and for those of you running online shops, there are tight shipping integrations with DHL, UPS and the USPS.

Shopify offers a 14-day free trial, a $9 per month lite version, and then it starts at $29 per month for a basic plan that provides a whole host of services. There are transaction fees for credit card processing, but they’re in line with most other services.

Check out Shopify deals

15. SurveyMonkey

Survey building and tracking

Free version: Unlimited surveys with up to 10 questions and 100 responses

Paid version: Services start at $34 per month and go up depending on how many respondents and how many team members

Earlier, we showed you MailChimp. Now, we’re looking at SurveyMonkey. For the record, chimps are not monkeys. Chimpanzees are actually members of the great ape family, have longer life spans, and are greater tool users. That said, SurveyMonkey is a great tool for researching opinions and determining sentiment.

As you might have guessed, SurveyMonkey lets you design and field surveys online. Surveys can be simple, or have multiple stages based on the information you’re trying to gather. What we particularly like about SurveyMonkey is the many different types of questions and formats you can include in your survey. You can even turn a survey into a quiz.

Additionally, SurveyMonkey supports robust report and analysis tools, allowing you to explore the data you’ve gathered in a variety of ways — including real-time results.

Of particular note is an add-on service offered by SurveyMoney, where it’ll find folks to fill out your surveys. So, if you need to gather data and you don’t have an available audience, SurveyMonkey can help you get one. That alone can be a huge boon for certain projects.

The company offers a generous free version that allows unlimited surveys with up to 10 questions and a hundred responses. Beyond that, services start at $34 per month and go up depending on how many respondents and betalda undersökningar; Nouw`s recent blog post, how many team members you have. The company also offers enterprise services, particularly for measuring customer satisfaction.

Check out SurveyMonkey deals

16. Teachable

Cloud-based learning management system

Free version: N/A

Paid version: Starts at $39 per month for a basic plan

Online learning is a fast-growing field. Not only have traditional universities embraced online learning as a way to extend their reach, many companies and trainers have found they can reach a wider audience and bring their knowledge to more people.

The appeal is strong to learners as well. Folks are busy and need to fit in their learning process around work and life responsibilities. Online learning allows students to learn where and when they want, at whatever pace works for them.

Teachable helps create online courses. It combines the necessary learning management features of course preparation, grading, and reporting with the business necessities of a great landing page and payment processing. In addition, Teachable allows you to create quizzes and group class discussions. It also provides integrations with conferencing and video collaboration software.

Teachable starts at $39 per month for a basic plan. Unfortunately, the company does keep a full 5 percent of fees paid. If you want to avoid these transaction fees, you’ll need to upgrade to the $99 per month professional plan, which also adds additional services and priority support.

Check out Teachable deals

17. Twilio

Add voice services and SMS messages to cloud apps

Free version: N/A

Paid version: Pricing is pay-as-you-go

Twilio is another service aimed mostly at software developers. Twilio provides a series of communications APIs (applications programming interfaces) that developers can use in their applications. These include inbound and outbound SMS messaging, voice and chat.

What makes Twilio particularly interesting is that the company provides all the communications infrastructure to back-end the communications services. This means that if you want to add SMS messaging into your app, all you need to do is add the code. There’s no need to negotiate with carriers, build out infrastructure, or anything else. Just code and go. The same applies for voice services, chat, video conferencing, screen sharing, and more.

Pricing is pay as you go, which means you can pay a predetermined fee based on the number of messages, number of calls, etc. There is a free layer for basic coding, but the company watermarks the interactions. That allows you to get a feel for how the code will work without paying, but you’ll definitely need to upgrade to a paying account before customers encounter your apps.

Check out Twilio deals 18. Unbounce

Drag-and-drop landing pages

Free version: N/A

Paid version: Entry-level program is $79 per month, pricing goes up for more features and landing pages

In the world of web analytics, the bounce rate is a measure of how many visitors do a quick hit and split on a webpage. This happens often as a result of a search. A user finds a result in a search that seems interesting and clicks into the site — only to find that the destination site doesn’t have what he or she was hoping to find. That user then leaves, bouncing on out.

Unbounce is a service that helps you build landing pages that… wait for it… bounce less. Hence the name Unbounce. The service has a webpage builder with a large array of very highly customizable templates. You can drag and drop elements to create the destination page that best meets your needs.

Unbounce also allows you to A/B test your pages, so you can experiment with different approaches and see which format works better. You can also use tools for lead capture, capture on scroll and more. You can test and customize your pages, so they work well on mobile devices as well as computer screens.

Unbounce offers a 30-day free trial. After that, the entry-level program is $79 per month, which gets you 75 published landing pages. Prices go up, but so do the features and number of landing pages. The company also offers an agency program, so if you build pages for your clients, you’ll have special tools to help you manage those projects.

Check out Unbounce deals 19. VirtualPBX

A virtual PBX service for the mobile age

Free version: N/A

Paid version: $12.99/month for up to 1,000 US minutes

Earlier, we talked about CloudPhone and called it a virtual PBX. Now, we’re looking at service called VirtualPBX. So, what makes it different from CloudPhone?

From my perspective, the most interesting and forward-thinking aspect of VirtualPBX is how it integrates smartphones into the solution. For every other PBX-like solution I’ve seen, some sort of fiddly fussing has to be done on the part of the users to connect into the PBX. Either a special app has to be launched, or numbers forward to other numbers, or… well, the idea is that it’s an aftermarket solution not built into the phone.

But what VirtualPBX does is issue you phones as if they were the carrier. You can get Apple and Google phones, so you’re not sacrificing performance. But your phone number is part of the PBX, outgoing calls are part of the PBX, and your phone is completely integrated into the PBX system. Yes, you can also have landline phones as well, but we know that we’re all so much more mobile-centric these days.

This approach also allows you some very advanced capabilities if you want it. VirtualPBX has the ability to integrate web hooks with more than 750 other applications, including click-to-call from SalesForce – on your mobile device!

Other features we like is the ability to make calls using nothing but your browser, international numbers and the ability to send and receive faxes.

There’s no free plan, but there is a 14-day free trial. Starting plans are $12.99/month for up to 1,000 US minutes, with two local or toll-free numbers. If you don’t want to count minutes at all, go for the $34.99 plan, which lets you talk as long as you want.

Check out VirtualPBX deals20. WuFoo

Online form generator and database

Free version: Up to 5 forms and 100 form entries

Paid version: Base price of $19 per month, pricing goes up with more forms and features

If there is any category of SaaS service that has an almost unending number of similar service providers, its online forms. You can even build very powerful forms right in Google’s apps. That said, we chose to spotlight forms-builder WuFoo pretty much (OK, mostly) because of its name. It’s whimsical, and who doesn’t need a bit of whimsy these days?

Actually, we really like that WuFoo goes beyond traditional form-filling by allowing you to design forms that upload files. That way, you can build out a form that captures more than just text. You can build a form that captures images, PDFs, or other files as well.

Another feature we like is that WuFoo integrates with many other web services, ranging from CRMs to project management services. This allows you to extend your existing applications with custom forms and have the mash-up work well together. WuFoo forms can also be integrated with payment processing services, so you can create forms that result in transactions.

WuFoo is free for up to 5 forms and 100 form entries. If you want the file upload feature or other integrations, you’ll need to pay the base price of $19 per month. Pricing goes up as you add more forms and more features. You can start accepting payments with their $39-per-month plan. WuFoo is owned by SurveyMonkey, the survey service we spotlighted earlier in this guide.

Check out WooFoo deals 21. Xero

Accounting alternative to QuickBooks

Free version: N/A

Paid version: Starts at $9 per month

If there’s one thing you never want to see in your banking software, it’s a zero (or negative) balance. On the other hand, if you’re looking for accounting software, you might want to consider Xero. It’s pronounced the same, but has an X.

Xero is often viewed head-to-head against QuickBooks Online. In reviews, both are considered very strong competitors. QuickBooks tends to have slightly better integrations and features for the US domestic market, while Xero is particularly strong in the UK, New Zealand and Australia.

The differences between these products is subtle. If you’re building a larger business, you may find yourself drawn to the wide range of features and automation capabilities of Xero. If you want a more straightforward entry-level tool, you might prefer QuickBooks.

Xero isn’t the only competitor to QuickBooks. There’s also FreshBooks and ZohoBooks, along with a range of free accounting services like Wave and ZipBooks, which make their money off your transactions and add-on services.

Xero has a 30-day free trial. The company’s starter plan is $9 per month for just a few invoices, transactions and bills. In practice, you’re probably not going to be able to get much value out of the service until you start using their $30-per-month plan. There are also premium plans available, which allow for multiple currencies and teams of users.

Check out Xero deals 22. Zapier

Inter-application automation system for cloud apps

Free version: Simple two-step Zaps

Paid version: $20 per month

If you’ve ever tried to automate smart home devices like light bulbs, you may be familiar with a service called IFTTT, which stands for “If This Then That.” IFTTT connects web applications. So, if Weather Underground indicates rain, then set the living room Hue lights to blue. If the weather is going to be sunny, then set them to yellow.

The idea is the output of one web application triggers the behavior of another. Zapier takes that to a whole new level, allowing you to link more than just one input and one output, but entire sequences of behaviors across many different sites. These sequences are called Zaps.

You can, for example, create a Zap that monitors Twitter, and based on certain phrases, triggers a new help log in Help Scout while also posting a note on Slack. Or, you could create a Zap that watches Shopify, and when a new sale occurs, records the customer information in MailChimp and sends a text via Twilio.

Zapier is incredibly powerful. While it involves creating workflows, real programming skill isn’t required. As such, line-of-business managers can use Zapier to create mashups quickly. While IT can certainly get involved, you’re looking at mashup apps that take minutes or hours to create, not weeks or months.

Think of Zapier as the connective glue that ties together almost all the other web services highlighted in this guide. If you want to make some simple two-step Zaps, that’s free. There is a 14-day trial for Zaps with more steps. After that, it’s $20 per month. There’s also a team-based service that allows for many users and unified billing. That’s priced higher.

Check out Zapier deals23. Zoho One

Almost everything (and more) that G Suite does, without the Google

Free version: N/A

Paid version: $30 per month for every user annually or $35 per month for every user if you pay month-by-month

At its core, Zoho One has a web office offering, comparable with G Suite or Office Online. But there’s more. Zoho One is actually 40 different web apps, along with companion mobile apps.

There’s a full-featured CRM application, a help desk application, a complete accounting application, a survey system, a conferencing and chat system, an e-commerce system, an HR management system and on and on and on.

What’s more impressive is that these aren’t little mini-apps. Each application is a fully powered solution, the sort of thing a web startup would create and would be its entire business. Zoho has more than 40 of these — and they’re all very good and very complete.

There’s a 30-day free trial. After that, all the apps, together in a bundle, are $30 per month for every user if you pay annually, and $35 per month for every user if you pay month-by-month.

Check out Zoho deals24. Zoom

Video conferencing alternative to Skype, GoToMeeting and Hangouts

Free version: Free for up to 100 participants

Paid version: Basic program is $14.99 per month or $149 for a year

Zoom is a video conferencing and webinar alternative to Skype, GoToMeeting and Hangouts. While it offers many of the same features as the market leaders, in my experience, Zoom has been a more solid application than Skype, less expensive than GoToMeeting, and has better in-the-video-conference management tools than Hangouts.

It’s also easier for participants to join meetings. Unlike either Skype or Hangouts, your participants don’t need to register and create an account. All they need to do is have the web URL provided for the meeting. Click it, install a little helper app, and go.

That means you’re no longer stuck just before a meeting explaining to the one manager without a Gmail account how to set up a full account, just to be able to join a meeting.

Zoom is free for up to 100 participants — as long as your meeting is less than 40 minutes. If you want your meetings to run longer and want to add cloud-based recording, scheduling, and some administration features, the basic program is $14.99 per month or $149 for a year. There’s a slightly more expensive program that allows you to use your own branding (rather than that of Zoom).

Zoom also offers a webinar management system that handles registrations and promotions to create virtual, live events. That starts at $54 per month and scales to enterprise level, depending on your needs.

Check out Zoom deals Build your own cloud service with InMotion Hosting

In this guide, we’ve spotlighted 24 cloud-based services that can take your business to the next level. But what if you want to create your own cloud-based service? Then you need a hosting provider that can scale with you.

InMotion is the top-rated, 5-out-of-5 hosting provider in our Best Web Hosting Providers for 2018 directory. They impressed us with its wide range of services, hands-on site migration assistance, and all-SSD infrastructure.

The company also offers managed hosting (where it does a lot of the work for you), virtual private servers, and dedicated server hosting. If you want to build a web application that requires its own data center, but you don’t want to build (or pay for) the data center, then InMotion is a great option.

Let’s be clear, though: You don’t have to start big. InMotion’s basic plan starts at $3.49 per month. It also offers 24-7 support, so you can start small and just grow and grow and grow, without having to find another hosting or infrastructure solution.

Wrapping it all up

In this guide, I’ve shown you 24 lesser-known web services that can take your business to new heights instantly. This goes to the core of the cloud.

When I started my first online company, it took months of infrastructure development. We had to run lines, order gear, build servers, install everything, and provision everything. It was expensive, because we had to buy enough to accommodate what we thought would be our peak demand.

If you couldn’t build the infrastructure and get the dedicated internet cables run to your building, you just couldn’t be in business.

Today, all it takes for your small business is a credit card number. No matter what sort of solution you want, just go to the service provider’s website, create an account, fill out a few forms, and you can be up and running. All the heavy lifting (sometimes quite literally) is done for you.

With the services we’ve spotlighted here, you can focus on your business operations and let each of these companies do what they do best: Provide top-notch web applications that help you find, win, and keep customers.

Read more:

Which Cloud storage service is right for you

Comments Internet Software Notification on Notification off Mobile

Getting Paid For Filling Out Online Surveys

If you were not planning to buy a car when you joined, but your are now, then check to see if you’ve indicated so on your profile. Check your profile now and then to update your responses and buying habits. Login regularly to see if any surveys are available to take, Sometimes a company will post an unannounced survey. Most sites have a member’s area for survey takers.

His write-ups suggest people on the ways to earn money by utilizing free-time. The author of this post loves to write articles on various topics of online paid surveys , betalda undersökningar på internet (click to find out more) genuine paid survey panels and much more.

In January, Facebook landed in hot water over a similar operation — the Facebook Research VPN app. Participants between the ages of 13 and 35 were paid $20 per month plus referral fees in exchange for handing over their phone and web activity to the company. 

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Share Finance chief Duncan Tatton-Brown said the research shows ‘sales lost is coming down and the customer attractiveness to the new offer is coming up’. Saudi Aramco up as its value jumps to £1.5 trillion during…

Before you join any survey site, read over the FAQ and Terms, Check to see if the site pays cash, points, prizes, or a combination of the three. Look at their payout policies, pay particular attention to how they payout. Some sites may only payout after you’ve accumulated so many points or dollars and you will have to request the payout.

Slack courts its free users to upgrade to the paid service, whereas Microsoft has used the popularity of its Office software to attract people to its Teams service. As a result, Slack is perceived as a more popular product among startups and young companies, O’Donnell said. The difference in approach between Microsoft and Slack in particular is rather stark.

It is a good idea for people interested in earning extra income by taking surveys to research the companies offering the surveys before giving them their time or money. If the companies advertising their surveys must pay the directory, then the directory has an incentive to connect them to people willing to do the surveys in order to keep their business. Survey companies with professional, well maintained websites are usually pretty reputable. One way to tell which sites are legitimate is to look for survey directories that require the sites posting the surveys to pay to be listed. They are normally top marketing firms with good reputations. Cheaply designed websites are often good indicators of less reputable and potentially misleading opportunities.

Legally owned companies will not do so, and thus it is up to the participant to search legal and reliable companies before signing up. There is always bad people hanging around, and it is best to do some research on the companies beforehand. • Others believe that these are part of the strategy used to fill their email accounts with spam mails.

Screenshot by Marrian Zhou/CNET Besides targeted advertising, i360 offers Walk, an app that directs door-to-door campaign volunteers in real time, letting them see who lives in a specific house and what household information is available about the residents.

Shopify offers a 14-day free trial, a $9 per month lite version, and then it starts at $29 per month for a basic plan that provides a whole host of services. There are transaction fees for credit card processing, but they’re in line with most other services.

If you’ve done a good job at cultivating relationships with your online visitors some of them will do it just because you ask them to. There are many ways to do referral marketing. You can just point blank asked people to tell their friends about something you are promoting.

Stick to companies that have more positive feedback than negative ones. This is a sure way to find out if the company is legit and if they actually pay you cash for your time and efforts. Read reviews about paid surveys to see if other people like you were really paid and if they did not have a hard time getting compensation for their work.

Just imagine being able to walk around a room or draw on a whiteboard and not have to worry about people missing anything,” Karandeep Anand, Facebook’s head of Workplace, said Tuesday in Menlo Park, California, at the company’s second annual leadership conference. “This is really the next level of video calling.

Nor do I associate terrorists with any sort of organized protest. I don’t associate terrorists with prosecution or legal, law-abiding action of any sort. ‘Religious extremists’ is an extremely poor description. For me, that description brings up images of terrorists, and that is an image that directly conflicts with two other words in the sentence: prosecuted and protests. The description of ‘religious extremists’ convolutes the entire question and, in my opinion, would confuse the person taking the survey and most likely yield useless data.

How to Find the Right Paid Survey Sites Without Getting Scammed

Millions of people are looking for ways to work at home. It can be done. They see it being done and wonder why they can’t find ways to legitimately make money from home like others do. All they find are scams that look too good to be true—and usually are. One of the most popular ways to make money from home is by filling out surveys for cash. Companies pay consumers to answer questions regarding products and their use of many daily items and in return for it they give them anywhere from a few dollars to a hundred dollars. These companies need this information in order to fine tune their products and advertising campaigns to fit the needs of buyers. Unfortunately, many paid survey sites are amongst those work from home deals that look too good to be true. They promise big payoffs but in reality all they do is create a lot of work, jam email boxes with tons of surveys and betalda undersökningar på internet – My Site – the need to sign up for hundreds of different sites that will in turn flood your in box more and in the end only pay a few pennies, or offer gifts that you have to build up huge numbers of surveys to get.

Some of these companies require very large balances before they pay out making it frustrating when you are only getting small payouts. Knowing what to look for to avoid being scammed by these companies is even harder because you can easily get caught up with the switch of needing to purchase products in order to get paid at the end of the surveys they send. By the time you have gone through a twenty page survey you are so desperate to get paid for it the temptation to buy the products is so great you end up spending more than the survey is worth. What they don’t tell you is that you do not have to go that far in the survey in order to be paid for it. All you have to do is fill out the questionnaire part consisting of the pages prior to the offers. However, some of those companies don’t play fair when it comes to that catch either. They hold off approving the surveys that haven’t resulted in purchases.

Because paid for survey companies are so popular they are springing up everywhere and it can be very confusing for the average person. Which ones are good and which ones aren’t can be difficult to see from an initial inspection regardless of how diligent you are about checking them out. Usually the only way to know is to sign up, work the system and sometimes waste your time for a week or two until you discover the truth. The fact is there are very good companies out there but weeding them out from the rest can be a trying endeavor. Two important points to consider when looking for a paid survey site:

• Read the TOS: The TOS (Terms of Service) will tell you up front if the company you are signing up with sells information to third parties. Make sure they strictly prohibit the sale of your information to others or you will have even more mail in your inbox and possibly your home mail box as well.

• Avoid companies that pay in ‘points’ or prizes. You want real hard cash. That is the only way to make a fair living from taking surveys. Payment in other items like prizes can be nice if you aren’t interested in earning an income but just want exciting items arriving in your mail from time to time, but for those actually interested in working from home cash is the only payment that makes sense.

Getting paid to take surveys can be a profitable situation. You will not get rich, and it is actually work that needs to be completed, but you can get paid to work from home if you know what to look for in a paid survey company.

The Truth and Myths About Paid Surveys


• Anyone can participate in online paid surveys, even those without any experience. The requirement for earning that extra bit is the willingness to sacrifice some time and effort.

• Although one will not earn much, however participation in online paid surveys will provide some relief to the burden caused by bills. One may not earn a lot, but at least there is a small sum of extra money to spend on.

• Depending on the companies, not all companies offer cash payment. Some paid with small gifts and samples of their products. Thus, one must read carefully of what the companies offer. If they are offering useful products such as household items and food, the participant can save a bit of money.


• One will have to pay for getting a list of survey sites, which is not true. Although there are sites asking for payment, it is likely that these are scams. One need not pay and takes a bit of time and effort to find the free ones online.

• A participant will not get rich from participating in online paid surveys, which may be promised by some scam companies. One will be able to earn a few hundred of dollars each month, but nothing more.

• Some people believe that all online paid surveys are cheating them. This is not true as it is a strategy used by trustworthy companies globally to collect information on the market. They are taking advantage of the convenience of betalda undersökningar på internet (sites) and offering a small payment to the participants is a show of gratitude.

• Others believe that these are part of the strategy used to fill their email accounts with spam mails. Legally owned companies will not do so, and thus it is up to the participant to search legal and reliable companies before signing up. There is always bad people hanging around, and it is best to do some research on the companies beforehand.

• It is another thought that people can cheat the survey sites with false information. One may be able to get through it once or twice, however it is common for people to get caught and banned.

Taking part in online surveys is secure and safe as long as one has done his homework before signing up. This will not only give the participant extra income, but flexibility as it can be done anywhere and anytime as one wishes.