As you're trying to come up with great gifts for the holidays, software likely isn't the first thing that comes to mind. It can make a great gift for the right person, though, especially when they're not willing to shell out the cash themselves (as so few people are). Here are some of our favorite (and your favorite) premium Web services that not only boost productivity, but dish out a little holiday cheer too.
Note: Most of these are monthly subscriptions, so you can gift them however you like. Giving someone a few months or a year of a service is a great gift that you can tweak for your budget, and leave yourself room for the same gift next year if they really like it.
If a service doesn't offer a gift option, you can always use a prepaid credit card and give it to them for use with the service you're gifting.
SUBSCRIPTIONS UNDER $5 A MONTH
A personalized domain name
It may sound silly for the No. 1 item on our list, but it's the cheapest subscription you can give, costing only $3.99 a year (that's 33 cents a month), and it's something everyone should have. They may not know it, but a personalized domain name can come in extremely handy, and will only get more important as time goes on. They can post their online CV or resume there, redirect it to their Twitter or Facebook page, and further control how the Internet sees you. The quicker you snatch it up before someone else with the same name, the better. We've linked to Namecheap below, since that's your favorite domain registrar, but check out our Hive Five for a few other options.
- Buy a Domain Name from Namecheap ($3.99/year)
If you have a friend who still isn't backing up their data, it's the perfect time to give them the gift of bulletproof backup thanks to Crashplan. Even if they're backing up to an external drive, that isn't good enough — they need something in the cloud so no matter what happens, their backups are always accessible and they don't become another sad story of lost data. Crashplan is our favorite option, being cheap and easy to set up, so get them in the habit now. If you're particularly cheap, RobotTaco notes that you can get a free subscription right now from this page.
- Gift Crashplan+ ($1.50/month for 10GB of space, $3/month for unlimited)
LastPass and Xmarks Premium
If you know someone with multiple computers, the gift of synchronization can be a wonderful thing. Give them a combined subscription to LastPass and Xmarks for their passwords, bookmarks, history, open tabs, and everything else so they're able to browse easily from any computer.
Xmarks is convenient, but LastPass is the most important app here, as it gives you the enhanced security everyone should have — make sure they create good passwords and turn on two-factor authentication, while you're at it, so they don't fall prey to the ever-increasing number of hacks happening nowadays.
The pro versions give you access to the mobile apps for each service, more secure two-factor authentication with a thumb drive or YubiKey, plus an ad-free experience and priority support. You can buy each service separately, but buying them both together gets you a pretty sweet discount.
- Buy LastPass Premium ($12/year) or Buy Both Together for $20/year
- Buy Xmarks Premium ($12/year) or Buy Both Together for $20/year
Everyone loves Pandora, but no one likes ads interrupting their music. Reader jrod3737recommended a subscription to Pandora One as a gift for just about anyone: it not only ditches the ads, but lets you use the Pandora desktop client, customize your experience with skins, and listen to higher quality audio all day long. You can either buy a month-to-month subscription or grab an entire year for a discounted price.
- Gift Pandora One ($3.99/month or $36/year)
Evernote is still your favorite note-taking application, and it's only gotten better lately. If you know someone that isn't using Evernote yet — particularly if they need some extra organization in their life— a subscription to Evernote Premium is a great way to get them started. A premium subscription gets you more space per month, offline notebooks, collaborative notes, better speed, PDF search, priority support, an ad-free experience, and more. It's the perfect way to take someone's organization from good to awesome with one simple download.
- Gift Evernote Premium ($5/month or $45/year)
SUBSCRIPTIONS UNDER $10 A MONTH
Amazon Prime's combination of two-day shipping and sizable library of streaming TV shows and movies makes a fantastic gift for ... well, anyone who ever uses Amazon. And if they don't use Amazon, they will once they can buy anything with free two-day shipping. Of course, you could always share your two-day shipping benefits with them, but getting them their own subscription lets them stream movies too, which is always nice — especially if they have a home theater PC or streaming set-top box in their living room.
- Buy Amazon Prime ($8/month or $79/year)
Netflix and Hulu Plus
For the true TV addict, grab them a subscription to Netflix and/or Hulu Plus so they can watch all their favorite movies and TV shows on demand. Netflix is great for movies and TV shows alike, while Hulu Plus is particularly good for watching current seasons of shows as they air. Both subscriptions let you stream to a set-top box, too, and are the perfect companions for ditching an expensive cable subscription. Grab one or both for your friends and help set them free from the shackles of cable TV.
If your friend has truly embraced streaming and switched to Spotify for their music-listening needs, they need a premium subscription.
Not only will it get rid of the ads (which the cheaper "Unlimited" subscription will also do), but it gives them higher-quality audio and lets them listen on their iPhone or Android phone, truly completing the Spotify experience.
It may not be ready to replace most people's libraries, but if you know someone whose fallen in love with it, you should help them go all-out with a Premium subscription.
- Gift Spotify Premium ($9.99/month for Premium, $4.99/month for Unlimited
FOR THE BIG SPENDERS: SUBSCRIPTIONS $10 A MONTH AND UP
A VPN for privacy and international browsing
A VPN (virtual private network) may seem like an ultra geeky gift, but it's something not everyone knows they need, and nobody wants to pay for. However, it can be useful for all sorts of people, but especially good for users looking for an extra bit of privacy (like bittorrent users) or, as reader JeshuaSanmentions, those living internationally (who want to watch Hulu or listen to Spotify when it isn't available in their country). Every user is different, so hit the link below to see some of the VPNs we recommend.
- Choose a VPN (Subscriptions range from $7.99/month to $38/month)
Extra Dropbox space
Dropbox is one of our all-time favorite Web services, and while you can grab a lot of space for free, sometimes you just need to pony up for a premium subscription. A subscription to expanded space can be great for students, video editors with large files, or people that just want to sync their large musicor photo libraries across computers. Alternatively, you can also grab someone one of the cheaper options, like Google Drive, Skydrive, or Box.
- Buy Dropbox (Starts at $9.99/month for 100GB)
A special thanks goes out to everyone who provided suggestions last week! It made putting together these guides a lot easier, and a better fit for you.
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