Free is always a great price! In the Internet era, more and more great—and completely free—IT information resources are available all the time. Not surprisingly, one of the most prolific providers of IT information is Microsoft. Microsoft offers an excellent collection of free ebooks—far too many to list in this column. These ebooks cover IT topics such as Windows Server 2012, SQL Server, SharePoint, Exchange Server, Office, and development. Most of these ebooks are available in PDF, and some are also available in EPUB and MOBI formats. Here are 10 of the top (free) Microsoft ebooks.

1. Introducing Windows Server 2012 RTM Edition

As you would expect, Introducing Windows Server 2012 RTM Edition covers all the new features in Windows Server 2012. The new version of this ebook is completely up-to-date and includes the latest release to manufacturing (RTM) enhancements in Server 2012. It covers all the new virtualization, networking, and storage enhancements.

2. Introducing Microsoft SQL Server 2012

This ebook covers the latest SQL Server 2012 release. The first part covers database administration and provides a guide to the various editions of SQL Server, as well as the new AlwaysOn high availability features. Introducing Microsoft SQL Server 2012 also covers business intelligence development and provides a guide to the SQL Server 2012 Business Intelligence subsystems, including Integration Services, Data Quality, Services, Master Data Services, Analysis Services, and Reporting Services.

3. Office 365 Guides for Professionals and Small Businesses

Office 365 is quickly becoming one of Microsoft's real cloud success stories; Office 365 Guides for Professionals and Small Businesses covers setting up and using Office 365 in a small business environment. Subsequent chapters dive into the details, such as setting up users' accounts, document and calendar sharing, as well as domain and phone integration.

4. Governance Guide for Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010

Governance Guide for Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 is a guide for establishing SharePoint governance for solutions and sites. The first section of this book introduces the concepts of governance, then introduces the SharePoint governance tools. The remainder of the ebook dives into the details of establishing SharePoint services and implementing information architectures.

5. Windows Azure Prescriptive Guidance

Considering Microsoft's push to the cloud, it's no surprise that the company offers a collection of Windows Azure ebook resources. Windows Azure Prescriptive Guidance covers planning and designing Windows Azure applications, messaging, and Azure integration with BizTalk and Visual Studio.

6. Windows Azure and SQL Database Tutorials

This ebook provides a set of tutorials designed to teach you how to use the Windows Azure SQL Database. Windows Azure and SQL Database Tutorials includes information about using the Windows Azure web role and setting up a Windows Azure SQL database. It also covers advanced capabilities, such as creating an OData service, using the Windows Azure BLOB service, and using the Windows Azure worker role.

7. TCP/IP Fundamentals for Microsoft Windows

Understanding TCP/IP is one of the core skills of the Windows administrator. TCP/IP Fundamentals for Microsoft Windows covers only Windows Server 2008 and not Server 2012, but the coverage of core TCP/IP concepts is good. The book provides an overview of TCP/IP and the Windows Server implementation and tools, and subsequent chapters dive into IPv4, IPv6, subnetting, DHCP, and DNS. Finally, the book explains several configuration scenarios.

8. Microsoft Lync Server 2010 Resource Kit

Unlike the other ebooks in this column, Microsoft Lync Server 2010 Resource Kit is delivered as a set of 19 chapters in a zip file, and each chapter is a separate Word document. Each chapter covers a different Lync technology, including Lync addressing services, archiving and monitoring, client administration, direct Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), external user access, instant messaging, and SharePoint integration.

9. Programming Windows 8 Apps with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript

No set of Microsoft ebooks would be complete without some Windows client programming books. Programming Windows 8 Apps with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript tells you how to create Windows 8 applications using standards-based technologies such as HTML 5, CSS, and JavaScript. The book also provides a quick start to building Windows 8 apps with Blend for Visual Studio, and discusses app anatomy, page navigation, and layout, keeping track of app state, and using sensors.

10. Own Your Future

Not all of the Microsoft ebooks are about technologies. There are also a few ebooks that cover IT careers, which seems appropriate in this era of the cloud. Own Your Future covers charting career growth as well as pointing out opportunities for education, certification, and enhancing business skills.

Unfortunately, there's no one place that I know of where you can find listings for all the free Microsoft ebooks. Microsoft's Eric Ligman has compiled a Huge Collection, a Large Collection, and Another Large Collection of Free Microsoft eBooks in his blog. You can also check out Microsoft's E-Book Gallery for Microsoft Technologies.