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Putting everything together - Free tools for startups

A month ago, we launched Shyahi. Beyond learning the in’s and out’s of launching a startup, over the last few months while developing Shyahi we also learned that every small business needs a toolbox for efficiency. Below are some free tools that we used to put Shyahi together.

  1. Heroku: The first on the list is Heroku, a cloud application platform. With Heroku, you don’t need to think about servers at all. Its been really easy to work with Heroku, they have excellent support and the free tier works great for the beginning with relatively low traffic. There are some quirks with Nodejs deployment on Heroku, but once you get around those, its very easy to push new updates and deploy new versions, specially if you are already using Git for version management.
  2. BitBucket: We use BitBucket by Atlassian for source code management and revision control. There have been several comparisons between BitBucket and Github and while Github is still the leader for open source code storage, BitBucket isn’t far behind specially in terms of the capabilities of the platform. And it provides free private repositories with limited number of users which is perfect for small startups like ours. 
  3. MongoHQ: After taking care of revision control and application deployment, the next thing we looked at was hosting the database and the obvious choice here: MongoHQ. Its really quick to get an account, create production and development instances for database and its one of the fastest and most optimized install of MongoDB available. It provides a smooth path to grow the database and have a free plan available for relatively small databases. 
  4. Ink File Picker: Handling file uploads for a web app is a mess. This is where File Picker comes in. It takes out all the pain from file uploads and provides a wonderful api for handling them. Even better, it comes with builtin support for files on Facebook, Instagram, Evernote, and many others. It also provides a very simple way to perform post-processing on the uploads, including image resizing, cropping, and converting. All this on a free plan (with limited number of uploads per month). Perfect!
  5. Amazon S3: File Picker automatically stores files to their servers for upto a limit. But as the storage starts increasing, we need to move the files from their servers to a different storage service. It makes this really easy by integrating with S3 to allow storing the uploads to your Amazon S3 account. Again, there’s a free tier available on Amazon S3 to get started for small companies.
  6. Google Analytics: Does this need a description?
  7. DNS services: All apps on Heroku are accessible via their app subdomain. In order to allow custom domains, we have to create a DNS mapping from our domain to herokuapp. We first used Zerigo because it comes free for a limited number of queries per month and is easy to setup with Heroku. However, we randomly encountered weird Sinatra errors that prevented the user’s from signing up. We now use Amazon Route 53 which isn’t free but pretty cheap. Requires a slightly more involved process to set up with Heroku but it has been working without any bugs ever since we switched to it. 
  8. Email: Google Apps isn’t free anymore. The next best option that we could think of was windows live domains for hosting our email accounts. Its free too. Easy to setup and the UI for isn’t bad too.
  9. Buffer: You want to keep your social media updated with great posts. This is where buffer fits in. You can queue posts up and connect multiple accounts on  Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and Google Plus and it will post them automatically at predefined times. 
  10. Evernote: The more you add, the more useful Evernote becomes. We use it for organizing the tasks, managing lists for marketing, future features etc. Everything about Shyahi is in our notebook on Evernote. Sharing notebooks (with write permissions) isn’t free, but you can use the same account on multiple systems and it works just fine (with occasional conflicts).

This is our Startup Toolbox at Shyahi — what do you use?

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