Creative ways to save on technology

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It’s a good practice to perform maintenance in your company occasionally. Deep cleaning with a purpose, to save money. The biggest reason people won’t perform deep cleaning is time and difficulty associated with the change. Instead, they keep paying month after month when they could, with a little effort, save money. I will describe how you can save thousands of dollars by eliminating unneeded services and replacing them with lower-cost options in just one weekend.

These are the essential tools and services online businesses use regularly. Some companies can get many free, especially when the usage is low, or your team is 1-5.

For each topic, you’ll find a brief overview, quick-win, and deeper savings that could save you big time with a bit more effort.

Domain Name Registration and Renewal

Quick wins
Don’t renew domains you don’t want or foresee needing soon. I know this may be hard to do, and you may thin what if you need it, but can’t buy it later? If you haven’t used it in many years, the truth is you probably won’t use it. Login to your domain registrar i.e. Godaddy, Namecheap, Hover, or your web hosting provider if you registered your domain and cancel or turn off auto-renew. When renewal time comes around, you won’t be paying for that $10-20 domain registration.

Deeper savings
Consolidate domains into a single, lower-cost registrar. In recent years I’ve recommended our customers move their domains to Namecheap. Why? Low-cost pricing and privacy protection at no extra cost. The difficulty with consolidating domains is it takes time and careful planning.

These are the basic steps for migrating domains from one registrar to another. If you have 20-30 domain names to migrate then use the bulk-transfer tool Namecheap offers – it will save you time. The entire process can take 15-30 minutes per domain or longer. The investment over a three to five year time period can be substantial if you have many domains or don’t enjoy the difficulty managing them at multiple companies.

  1. Unlock your domain
  2. Get your domain transfer Auth-Code
  3. Double-check your domain registration contact information
  4. Transfer DNS to another service. If you’re hosting DNS at your domain registrar, I suggest moving your DNS records before the transfer, this will minimize or eliminate any downtime. There are a few free services for DNS. Cloudflare or Namecheap Free DNS you should investigate those and move all DNS records.
  5. Initiate the transfer. Transferring a domain name WILL renew your domain for a year.
  6. Approve the transfer
  7. Wait and check both current and new registrar for a status update.

Domain Name Services, DNS

As mentioned in the previous section, you are likely managing DNS at your domain name registrar or a free service like Cloudflare. There’s usually no good reason to pay for DNS hosting for your website.

Quick wins
If you happen to be paying for DNS hosting ask if your provider has a free plan and downgrade.

Deeper discounts
Move your DNS to a free provider like Cloudflare or Free DNS by Namecheap. This involves creating the DNS zone for your domain name at the new provider and carefully copying each record (entry) in the DNS zone to your new provider. Once you’ve done this, at your domain registrar, change the Name Servers for your domain name to your new DNS provider. I would also encourage you to consolidate DNS to simplify management.

Web Hosting

Every website on the internet with content is hosted somewhere. If you have a specific type of CMS like WordPress, Drupal, DotNetNuke, Mura, Hugo or your website or app is custom coded, you’ll have a host that supports your technology stack. Prices vary but have become increasingly competitive, with small specialized firms gaining strength because of their niche. The most crucial characteristic of a good web hosting provider is uptime, the second is customer service, and the third would be tools to navigate their services.

Quick wins
Can you downgrade the plan you’re using? Downgrading can be an instant win, especially if you use a fraction of the services provided. Usually, web hosting fees are charged monthly. For example, we were assisting a customer paying $29.95/moth for basic web hosting. We were able to downgrade her hosting to a $10/month plan with minimal effort.

Deeper savings
Move web hosting providers. Migrating your hosting involves careful planning. See the general steps below.

  1. Identify a web hosting provider that offers lower cost hosting for your technology stack, reputable uptime and customer support.
  2. Email them in advance to ask if they offer assistance with migrations
  3. Make a backup of your current website files and database
  4. Move copy files to the new hosting provider
  5. Move the database to your new hosting provider, update your database connection strings
  6. Trick your computer into allowing you to see your site at the new host, verify it’s working as expected. Be sure to check the HTTPS version of your site and make sure you have a new certificate at the new hosting provider.
  7. Change your DNS record for @ (root) and www and/or any other sub-domains records
  8. Migrate your email accounts if applicable
  9. Change your MX records if applicable
  10. After and ONLY after you verify all services are working, cancel your previous domain.

SSL Secure Socket Layer (aka the lock in your browser)

Your website probably has one. You may or may not be paying for it, but you should find out because it’s something you don’t have to pay for except for special situations. In the past few years, certificates have gained substantial popularity because, well — it keeps interactions between your website and visitors secure. Google ranks you higher versus other websites that do NOT use SSL. There have also been many free services emerge which offer SSL’s. Your web hosting provider probably offers free and paid versions. Again, you may not need the paid SSL.

Quick wins
If your web hosting provider offer free SSL’s, and you currently pay for an SSL, ask them to cancel your current SSL renewal – which is usually paid yearly and replace it with the free one. You can easily save $50/year by doing this. I’ve not paid for a full-priced SSL in about ten years!

Deeper savings
See the Quick wins above – that’s about all there is to it. If, by chance, you host your software and do NOT use a web hosting provider, check out Certbot for Linux Apache and Nginx. Lastly, if you must have a paid certificate or have specific needs for a higher-tier SSL such as Extended Validation, go to SSLs for the cheapest options. Installing certificates can be a challenge and require multiple steps, but most hosting providers have documentation and SSLs provides some guidance.

Email

We all use email! You can save money here if you are using a paid service.

Quick wins
Review all your email accounts; are there any not needed any longer? If so, remove them from your company. Most email services have the option to transfer old records to a specified account. If you’re worried that you might miss something first reset the account’s password, login, and then shut down anything sending email to the account – once that’s done remove it.

Deeper savings
Most web hosting providers offer email. If your web hosting provider does and you’re currently using Gmail’s paid business email hosting you could/should consider moving to the free email offered by your web hosting provider. Why? It can save you several hundred dollars per year. The savings may NOT be worth losing access to a calendar or docs service you enjoy – but be sure. Don’t lose sight of the goal: eliminating unneeded expenses. Maybe instead of using Google Drive, you can use the free version of Dropbox.

Website Monitoring

Web site monitoring used to be free with limitations. Now many services offer Website Monitoring (aka Uptime Monitoring) for $5+ /month. I think this is crazy considering web hosting itself costs that much for a small website – but people have to know when their website is up so it’s something you might use. I’ve used almost every service available. Some have perks, such as performance analytics or SMS. Know what you need and weigh the cost.

Quick wins
Identify a free service that offers uptime monitoring for your website. If you NEED SMS/text notifications if your website goes down, then find out if your cellular provider provides an email to text option – most do. Use the free service with an email to text option. Making this switch can put money back into your pocket almost instantly while not diminishing your uptime-awareness.

Deeper savings
If you have multiple websites to monitor, it may not be possible to downgrade to a free plan. Alternatively, go shopping for a new provider. You’ll need to move the uptime monitoring and reconfigure your notification settings but considering substantial savings, it may be an instant big-win for you or your department. You could also consider asking a friend in IT or IT department if you’re at a larger company to monitor the uptime for you with their monitoring tools – you may be surprised at the free help you’ll get just by asking.

Analytics and Error Reporting

This category covers a range of tools. Most times, these tools are related to website traffic and user behavior. I’ve also lumped in error reporting because we use this at Expert Ready for customer projects to keep a close watch out for errors and bugs

Quick wins
Google Analytics is free, so there’s usually not much savings to be gained here. If you use other analytics packages, though, you might identify the similar metrics you’re trying to identify and do that with Google Analytics instead. Likewise, if you’re using New Relic or Bug Snag for performance, error, or bug monitoring, downgrade your plan to the lowest or free plan. Or if you’re not using the service effectively – close the account until you need it again.

Deeper savings
Big savings here most commonly applies to higher-end analytics, performance, error, and bug capturing and reporting. Identify what you need to know i.e. errors or specific performance metrics – can you write code or know someone who does (hint Expert Ready does!)? Write code for your software that records and reports the information to you by email. At first, it may seem like a lot of work but it can save you hundreds of dollars per month depending on the tools you can cancel.

Survey, Contact and Sales Forms

Forms are surveys or a multi-step process to get customers or potential customers to register or answer survey questions. The most popular version of a form used today is the contact form on a website.

Quick wins
You can use Hubspot forms for free. It’s easy to integrate on almost any website and saves the information into Hubspot. You could also link to a Google form included with Gmail business account or free Gmail account.

Deeper savings
For lead-funnels use a service like ConvertKit, which offers a free newsletter registration form coupled with a Zapier automation to categorize them within your CRM or create a task in Asana for example. Consider using two free services to replace one paid and expensive form or lead page service, which ties these actions together for you. The downside is the additional complexity – although, after 12 months of savings, it may seem like a smart move. To be sure you remember how you set up the automation, write a quick document about it.

Plugins

If you’re using WordPress or another platform whereby you can addon features (most free, some paid) you might save some money by removing and not renewing these plugins. Because we are an agency, we tend to purchase the unlimited and lifetime versions at a much higher price. In turn, we provide the benefit of these paid plugins to customers who host their websites with us or utilize our WordPress maintenance, uptime monitoring, backup, plugin updates, and more for WordPress.

Quick wins
Identify if you need a paid plugin any longer. If you’re not actively using it or seeing the benefit, let it lapse or cancel it. Remember to delete it if you’re not using it. Leaving plugins installed is a security risk.

Deeper savings
Replacing paid plugins with free plugins is tricky but can be worth it. If you find replacements for paid plugins, switch them and test before you remove the old plugin, and as always, be sure to backup your website BEFORE making substantial changes just in case you need to roll back to the previous version.

In this post, we touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to saving money on your technology, but it is a great start to see immediate savings within areas every business utilizes.

If you have questions about any of these areas, please use our website contact form to send us a note.

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Jon Cavanaugh

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