I know that not everyone is a fan of most vendors out there. Whether it's the vendors at a ball game that overprice their wares and get you to drop money than you planned because you have a kid begging for cotton candy, sno cones, and a foam finger or whether it's at an Ed Tech Conference looking to take the few dollars that you have in your budget. I know that some of the true techies firmly believe that they can do it themselves, and for them I applaud. But for others who don't want to spend the time trying to figure out how to do it for free and how to keep it running smoothly- well that's what vendors are for.
I personally love vendors. When I was a tech specialist, they made my life easier. But I was not of the true geek sort and I also knew we had some money earmarked for the type of products we were in need of.
While at GAETC I ran into friends of mine from echalk. For those of you who are not familiar with echalk, they provide SAFE email for your students and teachers. Not only that but you can also customize a very easy to navigate website, host your podcasts, and even video. I like the ability to create a group for a professional development class to where the participants can post questions, share documents, participate in a discussion board, etc. It's just a great tool.
And yes, I could probably build something similar, give everyone an Outlook or other email account that I already have access to, and use another free source for the courseware, but in all honesty - I don't have hours upon hours to do so. Plus, if something breaks it's hard for me to find someone who has time and knowledge to actually help me on things I built myself. However, with echalk, I know I'll have access to a great support staff.
Pretty neat tool that's gotten even better.