On the Internet there is a weird user expectation that everything should be free. Over the past couple of years I’ve been bucking this trend and have determined that spending a bit of money on what is both a hobby and an integral part of my existence in our modern, connected world is something I’m willing to throw a bit of money towards.
I don’t want to be the product; I want to be the customer. Paying money for a service to avoid my usage being a vector to sell advertising is a trade-off I am happy to make.
The other nice thing about paying for services is that it facilitates access to genuinely useful customer support. As a paying customer companies tend to care a little more about ensuring satisfaction. Having problems solved by a system administrator instead of wasting my own time futzing about can make a subscription worthwhile. I value my time, and where money can buy time, I’m in.
I thought I’d take a quick audit and look at the areas online where I am willingly paying money in favour of a free option.
The biggest change was a move away from many Google services. While Google offers its GSuite as a paid option (and a pretty good one at that), I elected to go a different route.
I’ve always preferred native apps and have never loved the Gmail web interface. As a free service it’s fine but if I’m paying real money I don’t want to be spending it on something I don’t enjoy using.
If I were an Android user, the Google situation might be more compelling. On iOS, however, there always seems to be a little friction between what Google wants and what Apple is prepared to give.
So I bid adieu to Google, and took my business elsewhere.
My Paid Providers
- Mail & Calendars: Fastmail. I evaluated Office 365, GSuite and Zoho when making the choice. I only wanted really good email and calendars; I didn't need online storage, office applications, and other bolt-on services. I like that Fastmail is an Australian firm and that it has a focus on standards compliance.
- Domain registration: Zuver. The little brother of VentraIP. It is a great no-frills option, and they were having a product sale when I signed up.
- Web hosting: VentraIP. Another Australian company that offers great support service. Their servers are fast and I am provided a web hosting solution that is perfect for my needs.
- Personal finance: YNAB. Our family is in the best financial position of all time thanks largely to YNAB. No arguments about money in our home! The cost of this service is a pittance compared with the value (both monetary and stress relief) it has delivered.
- Password security: 1Password for Families. The best security is not even knowing your own passwords. I am totally willing to pay to ensure all my online accounts (plus credit card details, etc.) are unique, random and locked down. It's peace of mind.
- Entertainment: Netflix and Spotify. I'm hardly a special snowflake here, right? Broadcast media is dead to me.
- Photo Storage: iCloud 50Gb. Apple has me over a barrel here. Despite maintaining local backups, the ubiquity of photos being available to all my devices is too good not to take up.
Bits and Bobs
I also pay for a few other subscription apps and online services but I don’t consider them to be part of my “infrastructure” so am not going to list them all here.
The Customer is the One Who Pays
Money makes the world go around. It pays employee wages, funds infrastructure acquisition and incentivises the implementation of new ideas. I’d rather be a direct customer paying my own way, and helping companies do good work than rely on the largesse of search and banner advertising to underwrite my online activity.
While I pay the bills, I call the shots. This is true in all business, and online services shouldn’t be seen any differently.