Windows IT Pro's annual Editors' Best and Community Choice award programs offer a unique way to recognize the hottest products among the past year's offerings. Choosing favorites from such a competitive field—not to mention in the midst of such a financially unstable market—can be a challenge, but this year's winners show an uncommon breadth of functionality and originality.

Our Editors' Best program highlights products that Windows IT Pro editors and contributors believe are worthy of recognition, whereas our Community Choice program lets our readers decide which products are the best. As we did last year—rather than presenting a predefined list of products and services that limited your selection to our choices—we opened up the Community Choice nomination process to all. We let you nominate your favorite products and services, built the voting survey from there, and let everyone participate in the final voting phase. For the Gold winners of both Editors' Best and Community Choice, we even reached out to readers and spoke to them about how the product or service helps them do their job. We spoke to real users about real experiences, and we hope these testimonials benefit you in your environment.

In these pages, you'll find our Gold, Silver, and Bronze Editors' Best winners in each category directly adjacent to our Community Choice winners. Sometimes our editors and readers have agreed on favorite products and services in a given category, but more often they haven't. Do you agree with the choices our editors have made? Or do the picks that our readers have made carry more weight? Let us know! Regardless of whether these winners were chosen by editors or readers, you can be sure that all these products are worthy of serious consideration if you're in the market for a new tool.

 

Best Active Directory and Group Policy Product

Editors' Best

Gold: Active Administrator • ScriptLogic • www.scriptlogic.com

Silver: Ensim Unify Active Directory Manager • Ensim• www.ensim.com

Bronze: Active Directory Change Reporter • NetWrix • www.netwrix.com

Why It Won: Active Administrator consistently gets rave reviews from administrators in the trenches who appreciate how it simplifies managing the complex beast that is Active Directory (AD).

Simplifying management of a multi-domain AD environment and improving AD security is key for John Daniely, security analyst at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Before we implemented Active Administrator, it was very difficult and time-consuming to determine what changes were made in either domain—and by whom—when things weren't working as expected. With Active Administrator, we're able to easily report on any changes made to AD on either domain within minutes. We've even set up scheduled daily reports that are emailed and stored to a secure network location, detailing user and group changes, password resets, lockouts, and changes to GPOs that can be reviewed for suspicious or unauthorized activity." With Active Administrator, Daniely says, AD administrators can also streamline new user creation and delegate appropriate rights. And when users report access problems with company systems, Active Administrator's AD object restore capability comes to the rescue.

 

Community Choice

Gold: Active Directory Change Reporter • NetWrix • www.netwrix.com

Silver: NetIQ Directory and Resource Administrator • NetIQ • www.netiq.com

Bronze: Active Administrator • ScriptLogic • www.scriptlogic.com

"Start with the great freeware version, but know that you'll soon be upgrading to the rich toolset of Active Directory Change Reporter's commercial version."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • Centrify's DirectControl
  • ScriptLogic's Desktop Authority
  • Quest Software's ActiveRoles Server

 

Best Antivirus and Anti-Malware Product

Editors' Best

Gold: Kaspersky Anti-Virus for Windows Workstations • Kaspersky Lab • www.kaspersky.com

Silver: BitDefender Antivirus Pro 2011 • BitDefender • www.bitdefender.com

Bronze: ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4 • ESET • www.eset.com

Why It Won: Kaspersky Anti-Virus for Windows Workstations provides centralized protection of workstations on a corporate network from malware, potentially dangerous programs, network attacks, and unwanted mail.

Mike Kavka is a network engineer who uses Kaspersky's enterprise antivirus suite. According to Mike, Kaspersky's protection is "superior to Symantec, Trend, and McAfee. Overall, it uses fewer resources most of the time." In addition, he notes that "updates to Kaspersky's database happen more frequently than most products (sometimes multiple times a day)." Although Mike did note some downsides to the product, he says that "once tweaked, Kaspersky is an excellent security suite, and the clients I have set it up for have had a huge drop in malware infections."

 

Community Choice

Gold: Symantec Endpoint Protection 11 • Symantec • www.symantec.com

Silver: Endpoint Security and Data Protection • Sophos • www.sophos.com

Bronze: AVG Internet Security • AVG • www.avg.com

"Symantec's Endpoint Protection has become stronger and faster throughout its evolution."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • Malwarebytes's Anti-Malware
  • Kaspersky's Anti-Virus for Windows Workstations
  • Sunbelt Software's VIPRE Enterprise

 

Best Auditing and Compliance Product

Editors' Best

Gold: Blackbird Management Suite • Blackbird Group • www.blackbird-group.com

Silver: ChangeAuditor for Active Directory • Quest Software • www.quest.com

Bronze: ELM Enterprise Manager •TNT Software • www.tntsoftware.com

Why It Won: The Blackbird Management Suite provides comprehensive auditing for AD and the Windows file system with real-time alerting.

"The Blackbird Management Suite provides best-of-breed auditing for AD and the Windows file system," said Michael Otey, technical director for Windows IT Pro. "For AD, the Blackbird Management Suite provides auditing, protection from unwanted changes, and change management with workflow. For the Windows file system, it enables the administrator to track who, what, where, when for all file-system changes. Real-time alerts can notify the administrator about changes to any critical components. It's a great product."

 

Community Choice

Gold: NetWrix Change Reporter Suite • NetWrix • www.netwrix.com

Gold: Enterprise Vault • Symantec • www.symantec.com

Bronze: NetIQ Secure Configuration Manager • NetIQ • www.netiq.com

"I love NetWrix's modular design!"

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • Centrify's DirectAudit
  • Idera's SQL compliance manager
  • GFI's EventsManager

Best Backup Software Product

Editors' Best

Gold: Symantec Backup Exec 2010 • Symantec • www.symantec.com

Silver: Acronis Backup and Security 2010 • Acronis • www.acronis.com

Bronze: Backup My Info! • Backup My info! • www.backupmyinfo.com

Why It Won: Backup Exec 2010 offers unparalleled ease of installation and operation, modular flexibility, speed, reliability, and cost/benefit ratio.

"With Backup Exec 2010, we experienced an immediate cost reduction in IT operations," said Bryce White, director of information systems at Strategic Hotels & Resorts. "Our payback period for new hardware and software was less than three months—almost unheard of in IT ops. Also, three days into our test phase, a user account was accidentally deleted from Active Directory; the restore operation (including checking online Help) took less than five minutes. The affected user was never aware of the potential problem. Here's a story for you: Our network manager and I were both out of town for a week in June, and we hired a temporary support engineer to cover immediate user needs. He was able to perform a file restore for one of our users—on his own, never having used the product before. It's that user-friendly."

 

Community Choice

Gold: Symantec Backup Exec 2010 • Symantec • www.symantec.com

Silver: Acronis Backup and Security 2010 • Acronis • www.acronis.com

Bronze: CommVault Simpana 9 • CommVault • www.commvault.com

"Backup Exec 2010 is a phenomenal product."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • Symantec's Norton Ghost
  • BackupMyInfo!
  • Veeam Backup & Replication

 

Best Cloud Computing Product or Service

Editors' Best

Gold: Amazon Web Services • Amazon • www.amazon.com

Silver: Google Apps • Google • www.google.com

Bronze: Salesforce.com • Salesforce.com • www.salesforce.com

Why It Won: Amazon Web Services has a reputation as an easy and cost-effective way to run tests in the cloud.

"It's a highly scalable, reliable, fast, and inexpensive storage infrastructure," said Michael K. Campbell about Simple Storage Services (S3), part of Amazon Web Services, in an April 2010 article ("Amazon's S3 for ASP.NET Web Developers."

 

Community Choice

Gold: Google Apps • Google • www.google.com

Silver: Amazon Web Services • Amazon.com • www.amazon.com

Bronze: Salesforce.com • www.salesforce.com

"Google Apps is a fabulous service, and it's also one of the best deals out there."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • Rackspace's Mosso
  • HP's Cloud Assure
  • Iron Mountain's CloudRecovery

 

Best Deployment/Configuration Product

Editors Best

Gold: Specops Deploy • Specops Software • www.specopssoft.com

Silver: Numara Deployment Manager • Numara Software • www.numarasoftware.com

Bronze: InstallAware Studio 9 • InstallAware Software • www.installaware.com

Why It Won: Specops Deploy requires no additional hardware and uses existing infrastructure to help manage the deployment of applications and OSs; its competitive pricing and the real-time feedback it offers admins are extra benefits.

"I think that if an organization is sophisticated enough to have a Windows domain with AD, it would be reasonable to have Specops Deploy in your tool kit," says Mike Lypp, a systems administrator for a large automotive retail outlet. "Microsoft just never made deployments this manageable. I'm fairly self-sufficient when it comes to deployments, as I was using the Windows MSI technology prior to purchasing Specops. With Windows, it's a 'hope for the best' scenario that is mostly blind. With Specops Deploy, I know exactly what's happening, where the errors are by computer name, and which error is causing an issue. I can be proactive in solving the issue simply because I know about it! Prior to having this product, I was reliant on software manufacturers to provide a useable MSI package. I now have the flexibility to truly deploy legacy installers with equal success."

 

Community Choice

Gold: Symantec Ghost Solution Suite 2.5 • Symantec • www.symantec.com

Silver: Desktop Authority • ScriptLogic • www.scriptlogic.com

Bronze: Novell ZENworks Configuration Management • Novell • www.novell.com

"Symantec's industry-standard Ghost just gets the job done."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • Symantec's Wise Installation Studio
  • Specops Software's Specops Deploy
  • Flexera Software's InstallShield

 

Best Hardware: Server

Editors' Best

Gold: HP ProLiant • HP • www.hp.com

Silver: Dell PowerEdge • Dell • www.dell.com

Bronze: Lenovo ThinkServer • Lenovo • www.lenovo.com

Why It Won: Support for up to 256GB of RAM and AMD's new 12-core Opteron processors make the HP ProLiant DL385 G7 a great choice for running resource-intensive workloads such as virtualization and database services.

"My more precise choice for this award," said Michael Otey, technical director for Windows IT Pro, "is the HP ProLiant DL385 G7—a super-powerful 2U rack-mounted server. Supporting up to 256GB of RAM and dual 12-core AMD Opteron 6100 processors, this compact server can handle enterprise-size workloads. In addition, HP's integrated Insight Manager provides remote lights-out asset management, system monitoring, and firmware upgrades. You just can't do any better than that."

 

Community Choice

Gold: Dell PowerEdge • Dell • www.dell.com

Silver: HP ProLiant • HP • www.hp.com

Bronze: IBM System x • IBM • www.ibm.com

"Dell hits the sweet spot again with the PowerEdge series."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • Lenovo's ThinkServer
  • Apple's Xserve
  • Oracle's Sun Fire Server

 

Best Hardware: Workstation

Editors' Best

Gold: Dell Precision • Dell • www.dell.com

Silver: Lenovo ThinkStation • Lenovo • www.lenovo.com

Bronze: Mac Pro • Apple • www.apple.com

Why It Won: Dell Precision workstations offer competitive pricing and are a familiar fixture for many in the corporate world, which can be useful when calculating the training needs of Help desk staff and end users.

"With its support for dual 6-core processors and up to 72GB of RAM, the Dell Precision T5500 is a powerhouse workstation that's capable of handling any task on the desktop," said Michael Otey, technical director for Windows IT Pro. "Dell calls this system your own 'personal supercomputer'—for good reason. The Dell Precision T5500 is more powerful than many servers! If that wasn't enough, you can also add an optional NVidia Tesla C1060 GPU for high-performance processing of scientific, medical, and engineering applications." Adds Ken Savoy, infrastructure services director at Penton Media, "Dell is competitively priced, and we've always had good experience with Dell desktops and laptops."

 

Community Choice

Gold: Dell OptiPlex • Dell • www.dell.com

Silver: Mac Pro • Apple • www.apple.com

Bronze: HP Compaq • HP • www.hp.com

"The Dell OptiPlex is amazingly quiet, low-profile, and efficient—perfect for my environment!"

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • Dell's Precision
  • Lenovo's ThinkStation
  • HP's Z Series

Best Hardware: Laptop

Editors' Best

Gold: HP Envy • HP • www.hp.com

Silver: Lenovo ThinkPad • Lenovo • www.lenovo.com

Bronze: Dell Latitude • Dell • www.dell.com

Why it won: Multiple contributors to Windows IT Pro singled out HP’s Envy models. These laptops manage to be powerful, easy to travel with, and reasonably priced at the same time.

"I finally found the unit to replace my aging Dell Latitude," said Windows IT Pro technical director Michael Otey. "Like its name suggests, HP Envy 14 has everything you want in a powerful but still highly mobile laptop. The Envy can be equipped with a quad-core Intel Core 17 processor, 7200 RPM drives, and even though it’s super-thin at 1.1 inches, it still has a slot-in optical drive. Unlike most 14-inch laptops, it provides a bigger 14.5-inch display with 1600 by 900 resolution and a backlit keyboard."

 

Community Choice

Gold: Dell Latitude • Dell • www.dell.com

Silver: Apple MacBook Pro • Apple • www.apple.com

Bronze: Lenovo ThinkPad • Lenovo • www.lenovo.com

"The Latitude is a quick little thing loved by our mobile workers."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • HP's EliteBook
  • Toshiba's Satellite

 

Best Hardware: Networking

Editors' Best

Gold: BIG-IP • F5 Networks • www.f5.com

Silver: AirMax • Ubiquiti Networks • www.ubnt.com

Bronze: Cisco routers and switches • Cisco Systems • www.cisco.com

Why It Won: F5 BIG-IP offers impressive load-balancing and application-delivery functionality. It's a versatile, easy-to-deploy, high-performance juggernaut.

"Many people are familiar with the F5 BIG-IP product by name," said Michael Dragone, systems engineer, "but most might not be aware of the flexibility and breadth of this offering. The BIG-IP is traditionally thought of as a hardware load balancer, but it's much more than that. You have your choice of BIG-IP appliances that can scale from a unit sized for a small enterprise up to a unit ready for a multi-site international organization, or you can get the system as a preconfigured VMware virtual machine that you can deploy for testing purposes. You can also add functionality easily; F5 offers modules such as a web application firewall and WAN optimization. The hardware can function in a redundant configuration in the event of an appliance failure. Although it's a bit expensive, F5 BIG-IP is well worth the investment."

 

Community Choice

Gold: Cisco routers and switches • Cisco Systems • www.cisco.com

Silver: ProCurve switches • HP • www.hp.com

Bronze: EtherFast switches • Linksys • www.linksys.com

"I've never had any problems after implementing Cisco gear."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • Netgear's routers and switches
  • D-Link's routers and switches
  • F5 Networks's BIG-IP

 

Best Hardware: Storage

Editors' Best

Gold: DroboElite • Data Robotics • www.drobo.com

Silver: PowerVault • Dell • www.dell.com

Bronze: HP StorageWorks • HP • www.hp.com

Why It Won: The DroboElite is truly a set-it-and-forget-it iSCSI backup system. It's inexpensive, easy to use, and yet powerful for the small-to-midsized business (SMB) storage environment.

"The DroboElite fits well into my environment," said Ivan Breit, lead systems administrator for Whalen Furniture. "My previous storage system had failed, and I replaced it with the DroboElite, which ended up saving me thousands of dollars compared with other systems I was considering. Since implementing the DroboElite, my VMware backup environment has performed flawlessly. I'm also considering doing some restructuring of my virtualized environment and I am going to use the iSCSI connectivity of the DroboElite to provide primary storage for my VMs during the transition. The DroboElite is a flexible storage solution that meets my needs, and the BeyondRAID technology does exactly what it's supposed to do."

 

Community Choice

Gold: EMC CLARiiON • EMC • www.emc.com

Silver: Dell PowerVault • Dell • www.dell.com

Bronze: HP StorageWorks Backup System • HP • www.hp.com

"Great build quality, powerful performance, and low price—the CLARiiON series is a winner."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • NetApp's FAS3100
  • Intel's SSD drives
  • Hitachi's HDS SAN

 

Best Hardware: Appliance

Editor's Best

Gold: SonicWALL SSL VPN series • SonicWALL • www.sonicwall.com

Silver: Dell KACE K1000 Management Appliance • Dell • www.kace.com

Bronze: Adonis DNS/DHCP Appliances• Bluecat Networks • www.bluecatnetworks.com

Why It Won: SonicWALL's SSL VPNs offer a viable solution for small-to-midsized business (SMBs) to provide remote access to web applications and corporate networks.

"We're currently using the SonicWALL email/antispam appliances and software and SSL VPN for remote access (SSL VPN 2000)," said Robert Del Rio, vice president and principal associate at Hexagon Transportation Consultants. "We typically have no issues with remote access to our network. Our IT consultant is able to quickly resolve any issues remotely the few times that the network is not accessible. SonicWALL provides a reliable product that meets our needs for individual remote access. There has been no need to shop other competitors."

 

Community Choice

Gold: Cisco ASA 5500 Series • Cisco Systems • www.cisco.com

Silver: NetApp FAS3100 • NetApp • www.netapp.com

Bronze: Barracuda Spam & Virus Firewall • Barracuda Networks • www.barracudanetworks.com

"The Cisco ASA 5500 performs exquisitely at so many security tasks."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • SonicWALL's NSA 2400
  • Sophos's Email Security and Control Appliance
  • WatchGuard Technologies's Firebox X

Best High Availability/Disaster Recovery Product

Editors' Best

Gold: CA ARCserve High Availability • CA • www.arcserve.com

Silver: Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery 2010 • Symantec • www.symantec.com

Bronze: Acronis True Image Echo Server • Acronis • www.acronis.com

Why It Won: CA ARCserve High Availability is top-tier when it comes to minimizing the kinds of system downtime and data loss that can bring your business to a halt.

David Jao, director of corporate IT of Hazen and Sawyer, has used CA ARCserve High Availability for over a year in his 700-user environment, and talks up the product's ease of deployment and reliability. "It's simpler to deploy and use than Exchange Server 2010 database availability groups (DAGs). We found it ideal for an under-1,000-mailbox SMB that needed only one mail server with a full redundant server at a remote location for disaster recovery. The switchover is almost seamless to our users, as tested on our preproduction Exchange 2010 server. The only required client interaction was an Outlook client restart. The native Exchange DAG solution would have required four servers and WAN-routing modifications to achieve the same redundancy. Knock on wood—it's working as advertised."

 

Community Choice

Gold: Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery 2010 • Symantec • www.symantec.com

Silver: Acronis True Image Echo Server • Acronis • www.acronis.com

Silver: VMware Site Recovery Manager • VMware • www.vmware.com

"We love Symantec's ease of use and simple interface."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • CommVault's Simpana 9
  • NetApp's SnapMirror
  • HP's Data Protector

 

Best Interoperability Product

Editors' Best

Gold: ExtremeZ-IP • Group Logic • www.grouplogic.com

Silver: CMT for Coexistence • Binary Tree • www.binarytree.com

Bronze: Zoho.com • Zoho • www.zoho.com

Why It Won: ExtremeZ-IP is the leading product for integrating Macs into a corporate Windows environment.

"ExtremeZ-IP is a very strong product and is backed by even stronger sales and technical support," said Jeff Beith, business analyst for Iovate Health Sciences. "The experience has been nothing but positive. Along the path of implementation, we had a variety of questions that were always answered quickly and accurately. We have also been delighted with the fact that once the software has been installed, there is no other maintenance work to be done. Once it is implemented, it just works! ExtremeZ-IP is purely a server-based solution for integrating Macs into a Windows environment, which allows for centralized administration and a seamless experience for the users. It also supports DFS and clustering, which allows us to maintain a single high-availability solution."

 

Community Choice

Gold: Centrify Suite 2010 • Centrify • www.centrify.com

Silver: Quest Authentication Services • Quest Software • www.quest.com

Bronze: Altiris Notification Server • Symantec • www.symantec.com

"The Centrify suite is efficient and easy to use."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • SystemTools Software's Hyena 8.1
  • Binary Tree's CMT for Coexistence
  • Likewise's Likewise-CIFS

 

Best Management Suite

Editors Best

Gold: Spiceworks • Spiceworks • www.spiceworks.com

Silver: NetIQ AppManager Suite • NetIQ • www.netiq.com

Bronze: Altiris Client Management Suite • Symantec • www.symantec.com

Why it won: Spiceworks combines management, monitoring, inventory control, and ticketing into one product. A full-featured free version with advertising makes it easy to get started with Spiceworks.

In his review of the free version of Spiceworks, Michael Dragone said, "Overall, I was impressed with Spiceworks. The most compelling feature of the product, aside from the $0 price tag, is the way all the components tie in together. You don't have to maintain separate lists of assets or use another interface to query a network device. Everything is integrated in the single Spiceworks interface."

 

Community Choice

Gold: Spiceworks • Spiceworks • www.spiceworks.com

Silver: Altiris Client Management Suite • Symantec • www.symantec.com

Bronze: NetIQ AppManager Suite • NetIQ • www.netiq.com

"Spiceworks is a compelling, comprehensive product, even in its free version."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • NetWrix's Enterprise Management Suite
  • HP's Insight Control Suite 3.1
  • Blackbird Group's Blackbird Management Suite

 

Best Messaging Product

Editors Best

Gold: Mailscape • ENow • www.enowconsulting.com

Silver: BlackBerry Enterprise Server • Research In Motion • www.blackberry.com

Bronze: OWA Suite for Exchange 2007 • Messageware • www.messageware.com

Why It Won: Mailscape provides a simple view into your complex messaging environment to help you proactively address problems before they affect end users.

What first attracted John O'Neill, Sr., corporate director of IT for Molded Fiber Glass, to ENow's Mailscape Exchange Server monitoring product was its "apparent simplicity." The product features a dashboard with red, yellow, and green lights indicating the health of each monitored server. "I chose it right then and there because it gave me what I needed for my support staff to keep a browser window open and just watch the lights so they could try and be more proactive even though they're overburdened," O'Neill said. "Then we learned that it had all these reports and more underlying features that actually help us move forward with our Exchange 2010 migration. The ability to have information real-time and make fast decisions is the best advantage I think a team can have."

 

Community Choice

Gold: Skype 4.2 • Skype • www.skype.com

Silver: BlackBerry Enterprise Instant Messaging • Research In Motion • www.blackberry.com

Bronze: Symantec Brightmail Gateway • Symantec • www.symantec.com

"I've loved Skype since the first day I used it."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • Mozilla's Thunderbird with Lightning
  • Meebo's Meebo
  • Kerio Technology's Kerio Connect

 

Best Microsoft Product

Editors' Best

Gold: Windows Server 2008 R2 • Microsoft • www.microsoft.com

Silver: Windows 7 • Microsoft • www.microsoft.com

Bronze: Exchange Server 2010 SP1 • Microsoft • www.microsoft.com

Why It Won: Although Windows 7 is a close second, Server 2008 R2 seems to offer more in the way of new features and functionality for the IT pro.

"I've been using Windows Server since it was invented," said Sean Deuby, Active Directory (AD) expert and technical director for Windows IT Pro, "and I've watched the progression of its usability for administrators along the way. Server 2008 R2 is by far the most refined Windows Server version to administer with, for example, best-practice analyzers built in to nearly every major role the server can assume. Improvements in Hyper-V, IIS, and PowerShell expand the product's existing capabilities. And I think the requirement for x64 hardware—what some see as a disadvantage—can actually be an advantage when you tie the upgrade to your company's hardware refresh cycle because R2 makes full use of the latest processor technology for both performance and energy savings."

 

Community Choice

Gold: Windows 7 • Microsoft • www.microsoft.com

Silver: Office 2010 • Microsoft • www.microsoft.com

Bronze: Windows Server 2008 R2 • Microsoft • www.microsoft.com

"Windows 7 is just easier and faster and more efficient and more fun than any previous version."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • Microsoft SharePoint 2010
  • Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2009 R2
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2

Best Mobile and Wireless Product

Editors' Best

Gold: Zenprise MobileManager • Zenprise • www.zenprise.com

Silver: BoxTone Mobile Service Management • BoxTone • www.boxtone.com

Bronze: Android • Google • www.android.com

Why It Won: Zenprise MobileManager provides complete management of your mobile devices and infrastructure and includes a huge, integrated knowledge base to help solve problems.

Several years ago, Matthew H. Morse, IT architect and senior administrator for Varian Medical Systems, recognized the growing importance and complexity of mobile devices to his business. The company has 60 offices worldwide, and the IT department supports around 1,800 BlackBerry users and1,300 Apple iPhone users. "We have to have something that will help us monitor, maintain, and support these mobile devices as well as be able to see what's going on with the infrastructure," Morse said. After researching the market, Morse chose Zenprise Mobile Manager. "We've been a customer now for over three years and have been very pleased with how the product not only monitors the BlackBerry mobile service at the device level but also tells me how my Exchange environment is performing, my AD and domain controllers, the SQL Server environment that supports it, and so on."

 

Community Choice

Gold: Android • Google • www.google.com

Silver: iPhone OS • Apple • www.apple.com

Bronze: BlackBerry Enterprise Server • Research In Motion • www.blackberry.com

"Android is such a fun device for gadget lovers."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • Google's Google Voice
  • Kaspersky's Mobile Security
  • Zenprise's Zenprise Mobile Manager

 

Best Network-Management Product

Editors' Best

Gold: Orion Network Performance Monitor • SolarWinds • www.solarwinds.com

Silver: EventSentry • NETIKUS.NET • www.netikus.net

Bronze: Spiceworks 4.1 • Spiceworks • www.spiceworks.com

Why It Won: Network problem diagnosis and resolution has never been easier, thanks to Orion's centralized management interface.

In his praise of Orion, John Spanitz—senior systems administrator at Just Born, Inc.—points to a network-management problem he experienced a while back. "A user complained that the Internet was slow, and first-level support experienced the same sluggishness. Into Orion we went, accessing the Network Performance Monitor tab and pulling up the firewall interfaces. Utilization was higher than normal, but no cause for alarm. On the Network Traffic Analyzer tab, we observed the type of traffic flowing through the firewalls—no surprise that it was port 80, and the heavy user is our web gateway. One click on the web gateway in Netflow revealed the culprit: A user had download a huge software package. In short order, we routed the issue back to first-level support to follow up with the offending user. Thanks to Orion, we quickly located and diagnosed the problem. If we had wanted to, we could have shut down the port the user was on right there in Orion, but we're a friendly bunch, so we didn't take it to that level—but with Orion's Network Configuration Manager, we could have!"

 

Community Choice

Gold: SpiceWorks 4.1 • SpiceWorks • www.spiceworks.com

Silver: Altiris Client Management Suite • Symantec • www.symantec.com

Bronze: Orion Network Performance Monitor • SolarWinds • www.solarwinds.com

"Spiceworks is a standout choice for detailed SMB network monitoring."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • Cisco Systems's NetFlow 9
  • EMC's Ionix Network Configuration Manager
  • Wireshark 1.2

 

Best Patch-Management Product

Editors' Best

Gold: GFI LANguard 9 • GFI Software • www.gfi.com

Silver: Shavlik NetChk Protect • Shavlik Technologies • www.shavlik.com

Bronze: Kaseya Patch Management • Kaseya • www.kaseya.com

Why It Won: GFI LANguard scans the network and ports for security vulnerabilities, then lets administrators easily deploy and manage patches.

Eli Mergel, director of IT for AllianceBernstein's security department, has used GFI LANguard for several years—three of them in his current position. He likes the product's ease of use, layout, and updates, but he notes that the most important feature for his organization, which has roughly 6,000 users, is the patch management. "I love that you can select a set of computers and set a time for rollout. It has saved me from coming in on numerous weekends to do manual patch management." Eli used GFI LANguard before it did patch management (i.e., when it was just a network scanner), and he notes that the "capability to roll out patches, exclude devices, and have different sets of logons for different computers" is a huge improvement. "It's a major product now. We couldn't operate without it."

 

Community Choice

Gold: Altiris Client Management Suite • Symantec • www.symantec.com

Silver: Windows Update Checker • NetWrix • www.netwrix.com

Bronze: Novell ZENworks Patch Management • Novell • www.novell.com

"Altiris has reduced our TCO for all systems; we're managing and troubleshooting our network from anywhere. Good stuff!"

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • GFI's LANguard 9
  • Shavlik Technologies's Shavlik NetChk Protect
  • ScriptLogic's Desktop Authority 8

 

Best Scripting Tool

Editors' Best

Gold: PowerShell Plus Professional Edition 3.5 • Idera • www.idera.com

Silver: PrimalScript 2009 • SAPIEN Technologies • www.sapien.com

Bronze: PowerGUI Pro • Quest Software • www.quest.com

Why It Won: PowerShell Plus features a user-friendly GUI console, an advanced script editor and debugger, and a comprehensive interactive learning center—all integrated into one product.

"I've been a script junkie for a long time," said Aleksandar Nikolic. As the system administrator at DDOR Novi Sad, he uses PowerShell Plus for many tasks, including automating AD management and creating auditing scripts that keep his systems secure. "From the very beginning, I was impressed by the effectiveness of PowerShell Plus. Its powerful console can be embedded into an editor, so I can get the best of both worlds—CLI and GUI. Also, three well-known PowerShell script repositories are available directly from the editor, so I can download a script, modify it to satisfy my needs, and easily add it to my personal QuickClick Library. Idera has listened to users' feedback and PowerShell Plus now has the best support available for remoting. It has reusable remote settings, which I often preconfigure for future usage."

 

Community Choice

Gold: PowerGUI Pro • Quest Software • www.quest.com

Silver: PowerShell Plus Professional Edition 3.5 • Idera • www.idera.com

Bronze: Admin Script Editor • iTripoli • www.itripoli.com

"PowerGUI's script editor has become quite full-featured!"

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • Network Automation's AutoMate 7
  • FastTrack Software's Scripting Host
  • SAPIEN Technologies's PrimalScript 2009

Best Security Product

Editors' Best

Gold: Avecto Privilege Guard 2.5 • Avecto • www.avecto.com

Silver: RSA Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Suite • EMC • www.rsa.com

Bronze: Splunk 4.1 • Splunk • www.splunk.com

Why It Won: Privilege Guard uses the principle of least privilege to let administrators easily secure their server environments. Admin-level rights can be assigned to applications, tasks, and scripts rather than individual users.

Jeff Douglas, senior advisor for Infrastructure Services Sensitive at National Government Services, has been using Privilege Guard since February 2010. Jeff likes "the ease of use in creating policies to be able to limit the rights required to be granted to our users." In addition, he notes that when his organization had some performance issues with an application after implementing Privilege Guard, Avecto responded to their support request within hours and quickly identified and solved the problem. According to Jeff, "the product support has been the best part of our experience!"

 

Community Choice

Gold: NetIQ Security Manager • NetIQ • www.netiq.com

Silver: Symantec Endpoint Protection • Symantec • www.symantec.com

Bronze: Sophos Endpoint Security and Data Protection • Sophos • www.sophos.com

"NetIQ Security Manager has really reduced compliance and security headaches for us."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • Citrix's Access Gateway
  • Avecto's Privilege Guard 2.5
  • Splunk 4.1

 

Best SharePoint Product

Editors' Best

Gold: Social Sites for SharePoint 2010 • NewsGator • www.newsgator.com

Silver: Idera SharePoint admin toolset 2.0 • Idera • www.idera.com

Bronze: SharePoint Website Accelerator • Aptimize • www.aptimize.com

Why It Won: SharePoint is only as useful as the ease with which users can use it—and NewsGator offers a way to help users find information, share ideas, and collaborate with their peers, making SharePoint collaborative in real-life and not just on paper.

Social Sites for SharePoint 2010 has helped Medtronic, a global leader in medical technology, to enhance its SharePoint collaboration capabilities, according to Mary Maida, information solutions manager at Medtronic. The company is far-flung, with 120 locations—an ideal poster child for using SharePoint for collaboration. Medtronic uses SharePoint primarily for internal websites, Maida said. However, in spite of SharePoint's capabilities, the company still wanted a way to enhance SharePoint "to help make people and information more obvious." NewsGator's familiarity with the SharePoint environment made it "a natural fit" to work with Medtronic, Maida said. "We encourage employees to connect in new ways. The use of Social Sites makes it easy for employees to asynchronously engage in open knowledge sharing that drives learning, new ideas, and innovation." Maida said that since the company started using Social Sites a year ago, she's been "encouraged by the increasing engagement of our employees."

 

Community Choice

Gold: Symantec Enterprise Vault for SharePoint • Symantec • www.symantec.com

Silver: EMC SourceOne for Microsoft SharePoint • EMC • www.emc.com

Bronze: NetWrix SharePoint Change Reporter • NetWrix • www.netwrix.com

"Symantec's automatic archiving offers a ton of value."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • Colligo Network's Colligo Contributor Pro for SharePoint 2010
  • Axceler's ControlPoint 3 for Microsoft SharePoint
  • Quest Software's Site Administrator for SharePoint

 

Best System Utility

Editors' Best

Gold: System Mechanic Business • iolo technologies • www.iolo.com

Silver: TuneUp Utilities 2010 • TuneUp • www.tune-up.com

Bronze: Diskeeper 2010 Professional • Diskeeper • www.diskeeper.com

Why It Won: The award-winning System Mechanic software isn't just for personal PC use anymore. With System Mechanic Business, small organizations can speed up and clean up users' PCs without blowing their IT budget.

"I assist school districts with their technology needs," said Kirk Moore, a tech support specialist at Education Service Center, Region XI, Texas. At one school, some computers were running slow and experiencing other problems. "Because the school had a small budget and a small tech support staff—me—I needed something that would help keep the PCs running for another year at peak performance. I decided to purchase System Mechanic Business. I installed it on a few teachers' computers and ran it a few times to clean up the drive and registry, defrag, etc. When I turned the computers back over to the teachers, they were thrilled. They were able to be productive again. I'm now supporting a new school. The principal was complaining about his computer being slow and getting error messages or just locking up every so often. I installed one of my licensed copies on his computer and asked him to try it out. I told him that if the program worked and he was happy, we could purchase a 100-user license to install on the teachers' computers. Well, after a few days, I was placing an order for the school. System Mechanic has saved me so much time—time that I can focus on other projects."

 

Community Choice

Gold: Norton SystemWorks • Symantec • www.symantec.com

Silver: WinZip 12.1 • WinZip • www.winzip.com

Bronze: Acronis Disk Director • Acronis • www.acronis.com

"I had a sluggish, mostly unresponsive computer, and after letting Norton SystemWorks loose on it, the system is now as fast as it used to be."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • Microsoft's Sysinternals Suite
  • Malwarebytes's Anti-Malware
  • Wireshark 1.2

 

Best Systems Monitoring Product

Editors' Best

Gold: HP Operations Manager • HP • www.hp.com

Silver: Applications Manager • ManageEngine • www.manageengine.com

Bronze: Service Monitor • NetWrix • www.netwrix.com

Why it won: HP Operations Manager is a comprehensive solution for managing both your physical and virtual infrastructure.

"HP Operations Manager provided automated monitoring of both servers and applications like SQL Server and Exchange, allowing you to manage your entire infrastructure through a 'single pane of glass,'" said Windows IT Pro technical director Michael Otey. "Operations Manager can monitor using agents or it can be run agentless. It has the ability to perform automated problem resolution and can forward alerts via SMS, pagers, and email."

 

Community Choice

Gold: HP Operations Manager • HP • www.hp.com

Silver: Service Monitor • NetWrix • www.netwrix.com

Bronze: Applications Manager • ManageEngine • www.manageengine.com

"HP Operations Manager is comprehensive and dependable."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • Spiceworks's Spiceworks
  • LogicMonitor's LogicMonitor
  • TNT Software's ELM Enterprise Manager

Best Task Automation Product

Best Task Automation Product

Gold: Kaseya Small-Medium Enterprise Edition • Kaseya • www.kaseya.com

Silver: AutoMate 7 • Network Automation • www.networkautomation.com

Bronze: Desktop Authority • ScriptLogic • www.scriptlogic.com

Why It Won: Developed with the needs of small and midsized IT departments in mind, Kaseya Small-Medium Enterprise Edition helps cost-conscious IT departments automate routine IT tasks.

"Ockham had grown to a point where it was necessary to maintain an internal IT department," said Jeff Burdine, the information services manager at Ockham Development Group. "When we were looking for a PC management tool, we were initially just trying to fill a need for a remote control tool that would allow us to troubleshoot users' issues without running all over the office. In addition, we have a number of remote sites and traveling users accessing our network. I tested software from several vendors and even tried some of the open-source products that were out there. It seemed every one of them could cover our local clients very well, but many of them failed when trying to support laptop computers that were offsite. After a few more weeks of searching, I decided that we would use a number of solutions to get the job done. Then, as a last resort, I checked out Kaseya's website. That's when I discovered Kaseya SMEE. I had never heard of it before and I figured it would be a capital expense far exceeding my budget. I was thrilled when I heard the pricing and I was even more thrilled when I found out that all the functionality I was looking for would be in one package."

 

Community Choice

Gold: Altiris Client Management Suite • Symantec • www.symantec.com

Silver: NetIQ Aegis • NetIQ • www.netiq.com

Bronze: Desktop Authority • ScriptLogic • www.scriptlogic.com

"Altiris Client Management Suite is by far the best in the market for multi-platform, multi-device client management."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • Network Automation's AutoMate 7
  • Specops Software's Specops Command
  • AvePoint's DocAve Deployment Manager for Microsoft SharePoint

 

Best Training and Certification Product or Service

Editors' Best

Gold: TrainSignal Premium Computer Training Videos • TrainSignal • www.trainsignal.com

Silver: Clip Training Web-Based Training • Clip Training • www.cliptraining.com

Bronze: AppDev OnDemand Training • AppDev Products • www.appdev.com

Why It Won: Train Signal offers one of the most comprehensive libraries of certification training of any vendor, touching across every topic relevant to Windows IT pros.

"In 2007, I lost my job after three months of probation because I had not met the skill set the company was looking for," said Theodore Darko, systems administrator for the Department of Homeland Security. "Words are not enough to begin to explain my experience with Train Signal or the pros of the company's video products. After using Train Signal's video tutorials less than two months after I was laid off, I got a new job that paid $15,000 more annually than what I was making before. On that note, I can vehemently say that Train Signal videos are truly the best on Earth! And they have made me the engineer that I am today."

 

Community Choice

Gold: TrainSignal Premium Computer Training Videos • TrainSignal • www.trainsignal.com

Silver: TestOut Professional Training for IT Certification • TestOut • www.testout.com

Bronze: VMware Certified Professional Program • VMware • www.vmware.com

"TrainSignal offers very polished, excellent instruction."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • TestKing's IT Testing and Certification
  • AppDev's OnDemand Training
  • Clip Training's Web-Based Training

 

Best Virtualization Product

Editors' Best

Gold: VMware vSphere 4 • VMware • www.vmware.com

Silver: Citrix XenDesktop 4 • Citrix Systems • www.citrix.com

Bronze: NetWrix VMware Change Reporter • NetWrix • www.netwrix.com

Why it won: VMware's hypervisor is the most common in IT installations, and generally acknowledged as having the most advanced virtualization technology on the market.

In a blog entry, Windows IT Pro author Greg Shields said of vSphere's 4.1 update, "This update swings the capabilities we’ve come to think of as 'must have' well into the court of affordability for small and medium businesses." He also said, "Huzzah to VMware for throwing a bone to SMB pocketbooks, while at the same time offering the new technologies that enterprises demand." Windows IT Pro technical director Michael Otey said, "VMware’s vSphere is designed to enable IT to build an internal cloud where all resources are virtualized, and it provides dynamic management of the virtual infrastructure."

 

Community Choice

Gold: VMware vSphere • VMware • www.vmware.com

Silver: Symantec Endpoint Virtualization Suite • Symantec • www.symantec.com

Bronze: NetWrix VMware Change Reporter • NetWrix • www.netwrix.com

"VMware vSphere is simply the most important, sophisticated virtualization product on the market."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey …

  • VMware's VMware Workstation
  • Oracle's VirtualBox
  • Citrix's XenServer

 

Best Free or Open Source IT Tool

Editors' Best

Gold: Spiceworks • Spiceworks • www.spiceworks.com

Silver: PrimalPad Community Edition • SAPIEN Technologies • www.sapien.com

Bronze: SYDI-Server • SYDI • sydiproject.com

Why It Won: Whereas most free tools help IT pros perform one or two types of tasks (e.g., inventorying computers), Spiceworks helps IT pros perform many different types of tasks, including inventorying, monitoring, troubleshooting, and reporting.

"I chose Spiceworks because it provides both hardware and software inventory without any agent on the client side," said Stephen Lyons, IT manager at GEA Pharma Systems AG. "It also includes a Help desk system. It's exceptionally well supported by a great bunch of friendly people. And it's available for a superb price—it's free. The Spiceworks community is also a big plus point. The community is made up of like-minded souls who don't mind providing what help they can on a multitude of subjects. The product is frequently updated; beta version 5 is currently available for testing. Updates to the current version (version 4.7 at the time of writing) are in relation to bug fixes and feature requests from the Spiceworks community. If I was to do this again, would I go with Spiceworks? Oh yes, without a doubt."

 

Community Choice

Gold: Spiceworks • Spiceworks • www.spiceworks.com

Silver: VMware Server • VMware • www.vmware.com

Bronze: Firefox 3.6 • Mozilla • www.mozilla.com

"Would I recommend Spiceworks to others? Most certainly—and I actively do!"

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey . . .

  • Google's Chrome
  • NetWrix's Active Directory Change Reporter
  • FileZilla