As the end of the year approaches, many folks find their attention turning to gift-giving. Here are my holiday picks for the Exchange Server administrator on your list.

Let's start with something free--free is always good, right? If you're an Exchange 2000 Server licensee who signed up for Software Assurance (SA), you're eligible for a no-cost license of Microsoft Live Communications Server 2003 (and its associated Client Access Licenses--CALs). This product replaces Exchange 2000's Instant Messaging (IM) product. (If you haven't signed up for SA, you can always buy Live Communications Server.)

Moving up the price scale a bit, have you ever wanted to recover email from a database without first restoring the database to a recovery server? If the answer is yes, a product that lets you recover data from an unmounted .edb file (e.g., Kroll Ontrack's Ontrack PowerControls, Aelita Software's Aelita Recovery Manager for Exchange) might be for you. Such products can be a real lifesaver when you're in a hurry.

As far as cool gadgets go, check out Microsoft's new line of Smart Personal Object Technology (SPOT) watches ( http://www.microsoft.com/spot ), which can receive radio signals to deliver stock quotes, weather, news, traffic, or other information. I'm nearly drooling at the idea of being able to step off an airplane and have my watch automatically set itself and tell me the forecasted weather.

Many administrators I know like spicy food. (I'm not sure why. Having grown up in southern Louisiana, I have a large extended family that glories in eating stuff hot enough to peel paint; maybe I just gravitate to people who remind me of my cousins.) I recently learned of Blair's Death Rain habanero potato chips, supposedly the hottest chip you can buy. I have some on order; if you're interested, drop me an email message and I'll let you know whether they're a worthy gift for the snack-happy admin on your list.

Lastly, in lieu of giving gifts, why not make a donation to a worthwhile charitable organization? A few years ago, I was delighted when my sister gave me a duck. Actually, she made a donation to the Heifer Project ( http://www.heifer.org ), which used the money to send a pair of ducks to a family in a developing nation. Instead of an impossibly dense fruitcake or a gift basket of crumbly cheese and mystery pseudo-sausage, why not give someone a bull, beehive, or water buffalo? Just think of the conversation that could start at the water cooler!