Subscriptions make great presents - Holiday Gift Guide
To kick things off, I wanted to talk about a gift idea for the computer user who doesn't really need any new software: subscriptions. Nothing says I love you like a year's worth of unlimited domestic VoIP phone calls, or the security of knowing your files are securely backed up to an offsite storage space. Well, maybe not nothing, but certainly few things. Here are a few ideas for subscription based services you might want to buy for your loved ones. Feel free to add your own ideas or argue with my choice of services in the comments.
Skype provides a free way for Windows, Mac, and Linux users to make free voice or video calls to one another. But you can also buy credit or monthly subscriptions to make calls to regular telephones. You can also purchase a phone number that people can call to ring you on Skype.
Prices range from a few cents a minute for domestic calls, to $9.95 a month for unlimited international calls. For less than $36 a year you can buy a plan that will allow users to make unlimited domestic calls in the US and Canada. $60 a year will get you a SkypeIn phone number. If you purchase both an unlimited calling plan and a SkypeIn number, the price is even lower. And there are a ton of other options available.
Skype isn't the only game in town. You might also want to check out Gizmo5 or newcomer VoxOx.
There are a lot of ways to lose your valuable data. Your hard drive could die; your laptop could fall onto the concrete and crack; or your computer could be stolen. The best insurance policy is to backup all of your important files. While backing up to an external hard drive that you store in the closet might protect you against some disasters, if your house burns down you're out of luck. That's why online backup services exist.
Most of us probably don't think about the importance of off-site backups until the first time we lose valuable data like a folder filled with family photographs, or the only copy of the latest draft of your doctoral dissertation. But rather than waiting for your loved ones to come to you and ask you how to recover their missing data, why not buy them a year's subscription to Carbonite, Mozy, or SugarSync?
These services offer backup plans that range from $2.49 per month to around $60 per year.
Domain names and web hosting
While there are plenty of services out there that will let you create a blog or web site for free, sometimes it's nice to have a personalized site with a one-of-a-kind name like bradkicksass.com. Seriously, someone has registered that domain, but I swear, it's not me!
There are a number of domain hosts that offer .com, .net, or .org domains for $10 per year or less, and if you're really cheap, you can often buy a .info address for as little as $1.95. But really, if this is a present, try to find a .com, OK? Or if you're looking for a really clever domain name, you might want to check out DomainFinder, a service that helps you come up with truly unique domain names like ma.tt or bradlind.er.
Even if you doubt your grandmother will ever do anything with her domain name, it's nice to have the option. Once you have a domain name, you can associate it with a free blog hosted on Blogger.com or some similar services. Or if you want to go all out, you can spruce up your gift with a year's worth of web hosting.
I'm not even going to begin to pretend that I can tell you which company will provide the best hosting for your needs. Web hosting plans can range from as little as a few dollars per year to hundreds of dollars every month. For most personal web sites, a shared hosting plan that costs less than $100 a year will probably be plenty. If you have any advice on finding a good domain or web hosting service, feel free to sound off in the comments.