The SaaS products we used in 2013

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A while back I wrote a post about some of the tools we use, and I thought an updated list of all the SaaS products we use to run our business might be a nice way to end the year.

We spent just over $12,000 on hosted software in 2013, not counting our Engine Yard server hosting. While this money is a real expense, I find it to be worth every single penny and can't imagine running this business without these great tools. Hopefully there's something in here that you'll find useful too.

Developer Tools

Code ClimateIf I were give out a SaaS product of the year it would probably go to Code Climate. Derek wrote a fantastic blog post about how we use Code Climate so I won't repeat it here. It's difficult to overstate how big of an impact it's had on our team.

GithubWe use github to host most of our code repositories. It's pretty popular and you probably don't need an explanation from us as to what it is.

BeanstalkWe also use beanstalk to host some of our repositories - primarily for the fantastic deployment tools that come with it. Note, if you just need deployment tools, check out It's made by the same fine folks over at Wildbit.

PostmarkOur chosen provider for the transactional email delivery of all our products as well as all of our client projects. Easy to use, with a lovely interface, and built by the team at Wildbit.

Twilo and TropoTwilio and Tropo are pretty big competitors. We use them both to send and receive SMS messages for our products and customer projects alike.

FormstackWhenever we need a form that we don't want to build ourself, we use Formstack. I did a full write up of Formstack a couple years ago that's still pretty relevant.

ChartbeatIf one of our apps has a problem or a spike in users, chartbeat alerts us to this reality. 

SemaphoreHosted Continuous Integration testing for Rails applications. It links up to your Github account and runs your automated tests with every commit.

AirbrakeWhen a user of any product we build gets an error, we're alerted of the error by Airbrake. It's a great way to fix issues fast and we've even had times where we've emailed a customer to tell them we noticed they ran into an error and that it had been fixed before they even had time to email us. 

Project Management and Team Communication

BasecampThe first SaaS product I ever purchased. We still use it every day to manage our projects, communicate as a team, and work with our clients. The iOS app sets a new standard for what business apps can do on the iPhone and the web app is a joy to use. With Jason Zimdars at the helm it's never been better.

Blossom - Blossom is a card based application similar to Trello and other Agile/Kanban type tools, but it's simpler and sort of feels like a 37signals inspired product. We loved the clarity it gave us as to who was working on what, and what development state a feature was in. But we regularly struggled keeping the two in sync. If we only worked on one internal product we may very well have moved to Blossom entirely, but it's file storage and conversation features just aren't powerful enough for what we need considering the number of projects we have.

Hipchat - For group chat needs we left Campfire this year and moved to Hipchat. We like being able to quickly have one on one communications, the ability so set a status, and the desktop and mobile apps are superior than Campfire's. I should note though: there is a very real increase in interruptions with hipchat over campfire and I often consider moving back to Campfire. As of now it's a net win being on Hipchat but it's not without it's tradeoffs.

Google HangoutsWe use Google Hangouts constantly. Whether interviewing job candidates, having team discussions, or just wanting to have a conversation while feeling more connected we use google hangouts.

Sales and Marketing

BiteSize PRThis app is really more of a service powered by humans who look out for reporters who want to interview experts in a particular field. When they find a good fit they write up a pitch that you can approve which gets sent from your email. Super useful and it's how I got profiled in the Chicago Tribune.

ToutWe use tout to send a lot of emails but still sound human. Tout allows you to templatize emails that you send often so you don't have to rewrite the same things over and over again, while still allowing you to customize pieces to individual recipients.

HighriseWe use Highrise to store all customer contact information, email communications, notes and tasks for customer follow-ups.

IntercomIntercom allows you to see how people who try out your software are interacting with your product. It allows you to see who is the most active, least active, likely to convert, etc. You can also use it to message people who meet certain criteria and a host of other things. We probably only use a fraction of it's power but we still find it super useful.

LuckyOrangeA type of analytics tool, Luck Orange lets you watch how users are interacting with the marketing pages on your site so you can see how people are using it, what's working and what isn't.

Heap Analytics and KissMetricsWe used both in 2013 - neither to the extent we should. Hopefully we'll get our analytics act together in 2014 and I'll be able to share something more intelligent here next year.

SquarespaceWe started building a ton of websites for ourselves on Squarespace this year. The Tula blog, Project Idealism and the Tula documentation site are all powered by Squarespace. It's powerful, easy to use, and can be used as a website, blog or e-commerce store. I'm not exaggerating by saying that we turned down tens of thousands of dollars in revenue this year by pointing people to Squarespace because it would serve them better than a custom made website. If you need a website, check them out.

Payment Processing

RecurlyWe use recurly to process all payments that are made for our software products. I like that we aren't reliant on a single gateway for processing payments. They had a major incident this year where they basically locked themselves out from accessing credit card data stored on their systems. The way they handled it made me like them even more. We started using them before Stripe came out and I like them a lot - but if we were starting over today I'm not sure I'd choose them over Stripe.

StripeStripe powers all the credit card payments we conduct inside Tula Software. They are fantastic, and if you need to accept credit cards for anything you should check them out.

SquareSquare allows you to process credit cards with your phone. It's magic. Everyone should have a Square account.

General Business and Miscellaneous

LessAccountingThere are a ton of options for accounting software. We chose LessAccounting because it's easy to use, and the founders are super nice guys who are active in the developer community.

TickWe use tick to track our time, make sure we're hitting budgets and provide clients with detailed history of what we were working on and when we were working on it. 

TgethrTgethr is a group email application that makes it very easy to create a group email address and add people to it. Whenever I need some lightweight way to communicate with a small group of people I use Tgethr.

FreshdeskWe use freshdesk to handle all our customer support requests that come in for Tula. It's very easy to use, integrates very nicely with email, and has helped us provide great support for our Tula customers.

DropboxWe started using Dropbox more than ever this year. (And then basecamp went and built a super nice Google Docs integration so we might be moving in that direction in 2014.)

TeuxDeuxA super simple todo list that doesn't cost much money at all. 

SimplecastWe use simplecast to publish the Project Idealism podcast. I LOVE IT. It's super easy to use and makes creating and publishing a podcast as easy as writing a blog post. If you've ever thought about starting a podcast but didn't know where to start, look no further than Simplecast. 

SaaS is the new rent

When I look at this list, it reinforces my belief that SaaS is the new rent. For every one of these tools I can explain why we use them, why they are worth what they cost and how they help our team to be more efficient. 

I love each and every one of these products because they make our team and our company better.

To all of you - thanks for the great products you put out in the world - our 2013 wouldn't have been as great without you.