By providing two distinct perspectives on the market, the annualWindows IT Pro Editors' Best and Community Choice award programs offer a unique way to recognize the hottest products among the past year's offerings. 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.

For the Community Choice program, we didn't just present a predefined list of products and services that limited your selection. Instead, we let you nominate your favorites, built the voting survey from there, and let everyone participate in the final voting phase.

For our Editors' Best program, we also reached out to readers to find out how the Gold winners help you do your jobs. 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 directly adjacent to the Community Choice winners in each category. Sometimes our editors and readers agreed on favorite products and services in a given category, but more often they didn't.

Choosing favorites from such a competitive field can be a challenge, but this year's winners show an uncommon breadth of functionality and originality.

Do you agree with our editors' choices? Or do our readers' picks carry more weight? Let us know!

Regardless of whether the winners were chosen by editors or readers, you can be sure that all these products are worth serious consideration if you're in the market for a new tool.

Editors' Best & Community Choice Award Categories

 


Best Active Directory and Group Policy Product

Editors’ Best
GOLD

Blackbird Auditor for Active Directory • Blackbird Group • www.blackbird-group.com
SILVER
ADManager Plus • Zoho • www.manageengine.com
BRONZE
GroupID • Imanami • www.imanami.com

Why It Won: Blackbird Auditor for Active Directory—a simple tool that integrates with Windows' native tools—offers real-time visibility into Active Directory (AD).

"Physician heal thyself" gains new meaning when it comes to diagnosing AD problems at a medical institution. In this case, ActiveSync devices were attacking the University of Mississippi Medical Center's AD via an ISA server, says senior systems administrator Josh Munn. "This process would have locked all mobile device users out of AD if we had a lockout policy in place," Munn explains. He'd done his research on all the major solutions and was testing another vendor's AD auditing product but found it complicated and time consuming. Then he discovered Blackbird Auditor for Active Directory. The product, Munn says, "was simple, affordable, and integrated with Windows native tools," and he downloaded and tested it with no issues: "Blackbird was able to help us [see] where the traffic was originating, thus giving a path in which to troubleshoot." Munn likes Blackbird because it lets him "see a baseline of AD traffic and determine whether it is daily, routine, or a possible attack. It also allows me to track what changes are being made to specialized groups within our AD environment. We really enjoy the real-time notifications that it sends if someone attempts to change an administrative group." Would he recommend it? Indeed—and one might say it's just what the IT doctor ordered.

Community Choice
GOLD

ActiveRoles Management Shell for Active Directory • Quest Software • www.quest.com
SILVER
ADManager Plus • Zoho • www.manageengine.com
BRONZE
Change Reporter Suite • NetWrix • www.netwrix.com

Other hot products in this year’s survey
Centrify Suite 2011
DameWare’s NT Utilities
Quest Software’s Active Administrator

 

 

 

Best Antivirus/Anti-Malware Product

Editors’ Best
GOLD

Symantec Endpoint Protection • Symantec • www.symantec.com
SILVER
Endpoint Protection Suite • McAfee • www.mcafee.com
BRONZE
ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4 Business Edition • ESET • www.eset.com

Why It Won: Symantec has been a giant in the security industry for years, and it remains a dominant software provider for enterprise security solutions.

"Many Windows IT Pro readers dislike bloated, resource-sucking endpoint security products," says Jeff James, industry news analyst for Windows IT Pro, "and Symantec responded to the clamor for a more efficient and less resource-intensive security solution with Symantec Endpoint Protection 12 (SEP12). In addition to more efficient resource management, SEP12 leverages Insight (Symantec's cloud and community-based reputation technology) and SONAR, a program feature that Symantec claims is a hybrid behavioralreputation engine that monitors applications, compares them with whitelisted apps, and checks for unusual behavior. For all of these reasons (and more), Symantec wins my vote as Best Antivirus/Anti-Malware product of 2011."

Community Choice
GOLD

Symantec Endpoint Protection • Symantec • www.symantec.com
SILVER
Comodo Internet Security 2011 • Comodo Group • www.comodo.com
BRONZE
ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4 Business Edition • ESET • www.eset.com

Other hot products in this year’s survey...
Kaspersky’s Anti-Virus for Windows Workstations
Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware
Trend Micro’s OfficeScan

 

 

 

Best Auditing and Compliance Product

Editors' Best
GOLD
Centrify DirectAudit • Centrify • www.centrify.com
SILVER
VMware vCenter Configuration Manager • VMware • www.vmware.com
BRONZE
Change Reporter Suite • NetWrix • www.netwrix.com

Why It Won: DirectAudit 2.0 can easily replay a session, display the actual commands that were run in a list, and show both Windows and UNIX/ Linux server sessions in one unified console. "DirectAudit 2.0 has truly useful capabilities," said Sean Deuby, technical director for Windows IT Pro. "Replaying a session, in full-motion video, brings a new degree of insight to auditing sessions because it provides the auditor with an extra degree of context about what the user was doing during his session. Examining only the commands that were executed won't show the auditor what windows the user was opening, and what avenues he was exploring before he actually attempted to execute a command. Plus, Centrify's long track record of integrating UNIX and Linux into AD, and managing them holistically, only adds to its appeal."

Community Choice
GOLD
Centrify DirectAudit • Centrify • www.centrify.com
SILVER
Change Reporter Suite • NetWrix • www.netwrix.com
BRONZE
Control Compliance Suite • Symantec • www.symantec.com

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .
Quest Software's ChangeAuditor for Active Directory
Axceler's ControlPoint
NetIQ Secure Configuration Manager

 

 

 

Best Backup Software Product

Editors' Best
GOLD
AppAssure Backup & Replication Software • AppAssure Software • www.appassure.com
SILVER
Simpana • CommVault • www.commvault.com
BRONZE
Acronis Backup & Recovery • Acronis • www.acronis.com

Why It Won: AppAssure Backup & Replication gives you top-tier backup, compression, deduplication, disaster recovery, and high-availability services in one box at a reasonable price.

Herb Thornton, network administrator at Brundage Bone, says, "My predecessor had a server fail at one of our remote locations. He had to purchase a new server, fly to that location and reinstall everything from scratch, then perform the file backup from tape. That branch didn't have access to its dispatching software for about five days; they had to do everything on paper during that time! A month after I purchased AppAssure, I ran into the same scenario. A server quit and refused to start at one of my remote locations, and nobody was able to diagnose the reason. I was able to take the latest snapshot and fire up a virtualized image of the server. I had the employees remote into their virtualized server and had them back up and dispatching within 20 minutes. I then concentrated on doing a bare-metal restore on another server. I was able to get the server restored to a different unit, test it, and get it shipped to the location by the next day. They simply plugged the replacement server in at their location, I pushed the updated changes back to the replacement server from the virtualized server, and it was business as usual. AppAssure paid for itself that day."

Community Choice
GOLD
Symantec NetBackup • Symantec • www.symantec.com
SILVER
Acronis Backup & Recovery • Acronis • www.acronis.com
BRONZE
Veeam Backup & Replication • Veeam Software • www.veeam.com

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .
Appassure Backup & Replication
NetApp Syncsort Integrated Backup (NSB)
Acronis True Image

 

 

Best Cloud Computing Product or Service

Editors' Best
GOLD
Dropbox • Dropbox • www.dropbox.com
SILVER
Google Apps • Google • www.google.com
BRONZE
Rackspace • Rackspace • www.rackspace.com

Why It Won: Dropbox epitomizes why the cloud computing revolution is so compelling.

"Dropbox is so useful that even IT pros and their managers (who won't formally support Dropbox) use it themselves," says Sean Deuby, technical director for Windows IT Pro. "At a recent IT security conference, a speaker asked the audience how many supported Dropbox. Only a few raised their hands. When asked how many used it themselves, about 60 percent raised their hands. The Dropbox (Software as a Service-SaaS) application and local clients provide a simple yet powerful method, using cloud storage, to share and synchronize files between PCs, tablets, and smartphones. You can share Dropbox folders with others for simple, ad-hoc collaboration that's easier to use than Microsoft SharePoint. And the tablet and mobile app community have embraced Dropbox to integrate it into many popular mobile apps such as QuickOffice."

Community Choice
GOLD
VMware vCloud Director • VMware • www.vmware.com
SILVER
Dropbox • Dropbox • www.dropbox.com
BRONZE
Google Apps • Google • www.google.com

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .
Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2)
Symantec.cloud
Smith Micro Software's SendStuffNow

 

 

Best Deployment/Configuration Product

Editors' Best
GOLD
Desktop Authority • ScriptLogic • www.scriptlogic.com
SILVER
DocAve Deployment Manager • AvePoint • www.avepoint.com
BRONZE

VMware vCenter Configuration Manager • VMware • www.vmware.com

Why It Won: Desktop Authority is a full-featured deployment, configuration, and management product that reduces complicated tasks to simple point-and-click processes.

As the IT director for the college of architecture, design, and construction at Auburn University, Scott Davis must manage numerous output devices for the students and faculty. Because of the nature of these programs, Davis says, "printing here is paramount, and that was really a driving factor to look at ScriptLogic when I did." He had been managing permissions through Visual Basic (VB) scripts, but with the frequent changes of students, classrooms, and levels of permissions, "it was turning into a hydra, it was just incredibly complex." Upon implementing Desktop Authority, Davis "was able to get rid of all those [VB] scripts. I was able to map all the drives, everything, probably within 10 minutes. It literally took a day's worth of work and crunched it down to 15 minutes while I drank my coffee. Of course, we haven't looked back."

Community Choice
GOLD
VMware vCenter Configuration Manager • VMware • www.vmware.com
SILVER
Desktop Central • Zoho • www.manageengine.com
BRONZE
Altiris Deployment Solution • Symantec • www.symantec.com

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .
Symantec's Norton Ghost
Dell's KACE K2000 Deployment Appliance
AvePoint's DocAve Deployment Manager 

 

 

 

Best Hardware: Appliance

Editors’ Best
GOLD
EMC Greenplum Modular Data Computing Appliance (DCA) • EMC • www.emc.com
SILVER
Dell Kace M300 Asset Management Appliance • Dell • www.kace.com
BRONZE
HP E5000 Messaging Systems • HP • www.hp.com

Why It Won: As data sizes continue to grow exponentially, big data analytics is a booming field with lots of growth potential, and EMC—with its Greenplum Modular DCA—is helping to lead the way.

"Midsized-to-large enterprises must deal with rapidly expanding data storage needs as well as pressing business demands to quickly analyze and process vast amounts of structured and unstructured data," says Jeff James, industry news analyst for Windows IT Pro. "Big data analytics is a fast-growing industry, and perhaps no other company is making as big a push as EMC with its Greenplum Modular DCA. Leveraging massively parallel processing (MPP) and Apache Hadoop, the Greenplum DCA helps larger organizations derive value out of their massive stockpiles of customer and corporate data."

Community Choice
GOLD
Barracuda Spam & Virus Firewall • Barracuda Networks • www.barracudanetworks.com
SILVER
Dell KACE K1000 Management Appliance • Dell • www.dell.com
BRONZE
NetBackup 5000 Series • Symantec • www.symantec.com

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .
SonicWALL's NSA Series
HP's Business Decision Appliance
Riverbed Technology's Steelhead product family

 

 

Best Hardware: Laptop

Editors' Best
GOLD
ThinkPad T420s • Lenovo • www.lenovo.com
SILVER
HP ProBook 5330m • HP • www.hp.com
BRONZE
MacBook Pro • Apple • www.apple.com

Why It Won: An impressive combination of specs, design, durability, and competitive pricing make the Lenovo ThinkPad T420s hard to beat.

"The average Windows business laptop has been characterized as being dull and uninspired compared with flashier offerings from Apple and Sony," says Jeff James, industry news analyst for Windows IT Pro, "but that trend is starting to change. Helping lead the charge is Lenovo, which has been introducing business laptops that manage to combine impressive features with quality, performance, and aggressive pricing. One of the best of this breed is the Lenovo ThinkPad T420s, which weighs in at four pounds with a 14" screen and a robust spec sheet, including USB 3.0 and an Intel dual-core i5 CPU. It's a bit pricier than more value-oriented notebooks, but you often get what you pay for."

Community Choice
GOLD
Dell Latitude • Dell • www.dell.com
SILVER
ThinkPad • Lenovo • www.lenovo.com
BRONZE
MacBook Pro • Apple • www.apple.com

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .

HP's EliteBook
Toshiba's Satellite
Dell's Alienware

 

 

 

Best Hardware: Networking

Editors' Best
GOLD
BIG-IP product family • F5 Networks • www.f5.com
SILVER
Barracuda Load Balancer • Barracuda Networks • www.barracudanetworks.com
BRONZE
AX 3000-11 • A10 Networks • www.a10networks.com

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

"We migrated to the F5 BIG-IP from a competitor's solution that wasn't meeting our needs," says Brad Trankina, director of network and information systems at Human Kinetics. "After reviewing several alternatives, we selected BIG-IP because we thought it was the best product on the market. We have been extremely impressed with the performance, stability, and reliability of this enterprise-class product. While the BIG-IP has been a huge improvement over our previous solution, we have been most impressed by the support provided by F5 [Networks]. From implementation through the few occasions we've contacted support, the company has gone above and beyond our expectations. This includes assisting us with issues with our websites after it was determined the problem was not being caused by the BIG-IP."

Community Choice

GOLD
Cisco Catalyst 6500 Series • Cisco Systems • www.cisco.com
SILVER
HP Networking • HP • www.hp.com
BRONZE
Juniper Networks SRX Series • Juniper Networks • www.juniper.net

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .

F5 Networks' BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager
Cisco Nexus 5000
Barracuda Networks' Barracuda Load Balancer

 

 

 

Best Hardware: Server

Editors' Best
GOLD
HP ProLiant DL580 G7 • HP • www.hp.com
SILVER
PowerEdge R910 • Dell • www.dell.com
BRONZE
ThinkServer RD240 • Lenovo • www.lenovo.com

Why It Won: The HP ProLiant DL380 G7 is a terrific high-performance virtualized server, ideal for building the private cloud."One of the most important growing trends in IT is the private cloud," says Michael Otey, technical director for Windows IT Pro, "and one of the core components that goes into building the private cloud is high-performance virtualized servers. The HP DL580 G7 is a 4U rack-mounted server with four sockets supporting Intel Xeon 7500 processors with up to 10 cores, giving it the computing power necessary to handle enterprise-class workloads. Memory can be a limiting factor in the number of virtual machines (VMs) that can run concurrently, and the HP DL580 supports up to 2TB of RAM, making it a highly scalable virtualization platform. HP's Systems Insight Manager and Integrated Lights-Out (iLO) management technology provide robust out-of-band server management capabilities."

Community Choice

GOLD
PowerEdge • Dell • www.dell.com
SILVER
HP ProLiant • HP • www.hp.com
BRONZE (tie)
Cisco Unified Computing System • Cisco • www.cisco.com
IBM BladeCenter • IBM • www.ibm.com

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .

HP BladeSystem
Stratus's ftServer
Lenovo's ThinkServer

 

 

 

Best Hardware: Storage

Editors' Best
GOLD
Hyper ISE • XIO Storage • www.xiostorage.com
SILVER
B1200i • Drobo • www.drobo.com
BRONZE
StorSimple 7010 • StorSimple • www.storsimple.com

Why It Won: At a turning point in the trajectory of the storage industry, XIO-with its awesome Hyper ISE-is pioneering a unique path that focuses on performance rather than capacity. "Microsoft Partner Solutions Center (MPSC) hardware-testing projects are designed to put maximum stress on systems so that customers can have the utmost confidence in deploying them in support of business-critical functions," says David Hayes, director of the MPSC. "In such a demanding context, XIO Hyper ISE performed beyond our wildest expectations with the HDD/ SSD solution that we tested. Where most storage systems have underperformed before, we felt like we hardly put a dent in the Hyper ISE performance potential. We estimate it would take an increase of workload by a factor of 10 to push the Hyper ISE we tested to its actual performance threshold. We're looking forward to deploying it in the MPSC environment."

Community Choice
GOLD
NetApp FAS6200 Series • NetApp • www.netapp.com
SILVER
EMC VNX • EMC • www.emc.com
BRONZE
Dell EqualLogic • Dell • www.dell.com

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .
Dell's PowerVault
EMC's Symmetrix VMAX
HP's Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA)

 

 

 

Best Hardware: Workstation

Editors' Best
GOLD
Dell Precision T7500 • Dell • www.dell.com
SILVER

ThinkStation C20 • Lenovo • www.lenovo.com
BRONZE
HP Pavilion HPE h8m • HP • www.hp.com

Why It Won: Dell Precision workstations give you a personal supercomputer.

"Today's high-performance desktops offer much more processing power than the servers of just a couple of years ago," says Michael Otey, technical director for Windows IT Pro. "With support for dual six-core Xeon X5690 processors and up to 192GB of RAM, the Dell Precision T7500 provides all the power you might want for running multiple development VMs, running resource-intensive graphical rendering programs, or just providing a super-fast application development and testing platform. Dell calls this system 'your own personal supercomputer' because you can optionally have it delivered with the 448 CUDA core NVIDIA Tesla video card. CUDA is an advanced parallel processing architecture, and CUDA-enabled applications can harness the power in the GPU for extreme processing performance."

Community Choice
GOLD
Dell OptiPlex • Dell • www.dell.com
SILVER
Mac Pro • Apple • www.apple.com
BRONZE
HP Compaq • HP • www.hp.com

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .
Dell's Precision
Lenovo's ThinkCenter

 

 

 

Best High-Availability/Disaster-Recovery Product

Editors' Best
GOLD
AppAssure Backup & Replication Software • AppAssure Software • www.appassure.com
SILVER
Veritas Storage Foundation HA for Windows • Symantec • www.symantec.com
BRONZE
CA ARCserve High Availability • CA • www.arcserve.com

Why It Won: AppAssure Backup & Replication Software provides high availability, disaster recovery, backup, deduplication, and compression services in one box at a reasonable price.

"With the cost of tape getting higher, we couldn't back up everything we wanted," says Scott Poole, network manager at Linkage. "With AppAssure, I bought four very inexpensive mini SANs and used one in Massachusetts and one in Georgia, and I'm doing backup of up to 4TB with AppAssure's compression, and already getting 10 times more data than before. I'm using only 2TB even though we can now back up all the non-critical data as well. Not only that, we now have a disaster-recovery plan in place with our office in Atlanta, where I replicate data throughout the day. We're using AppAssure in virtual standby for Exchange Server and SQL Server systems for seamless disaster recovery. AppAssure has come through with flying colors and frankly has made me look like a rock star."

Community Choice
GOLD

Veritas Storage Foundation HA for Windows • Symantec • www.symantec.com
SILVER
VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager • VMware • www.vmware.com
BRONZE
Veeam Backup & Replication • Veeam Software • www.veeam.com

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .
AppAssure's Replay
Commvault's Simpana
FalconStor's Continuous Data Protection (CDP) 

 

 

 

Best Interoperability Product

Editors' Best
GOLD
MapForce • Altova • www.altova.com
SILVER
NETsec GALsync • NETsec • www.netsec.de
BRONZE
Skytap Cloud • Skytap • www.skytap.com

Why It Won: Altova MapForce provides a nocode way to integrate data from multiple, diverse sources through a drag-and-drop interface.

"With data accumulating at increasing rates, from different sources and in different formats, having the ability to pull it all together into one useful report is a must," said B. K. Winstead, senior associate editor for Windows IT Pro. "That's why Altova MapForce is the winner of Editors' Best in the Interoperability category this year. With the drag-and-drop graphical interface, you can create simple one-to-one data mappings-for example, from a Microsoft SQL Server database to an XML file-or more complex mappings with multiple data sources or split to multiple targets and involving various filters from the built-in library, or with your own functions created through the visual function builder. MapForce works with many data types and can output into a variety of code formats for easy implementation-a true 'no code' solution to data integration and mapping."

Community Choice
GOLD
RealVNC • RealVNC • www.realvnc.com
SILVER
Centrify DirectControl • Centrify • www.centrify.com
BRONZE
NTFS for Mac OS X • Paragon Software Group • www.paragon-software.com

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .
Skytap Cloud
NETsec's GALsync
Altova's MapForce

 

 

 

Best Management Suite

Editors' Best
GOLD
Quest One Identity Manager • Quest Software • www.quest.com
SILVER
Spiceworks MyWay • Spiceworks • www.spiceworks.com
BRONZE
Enterprise Management Suite • NetWrix • www.netwrix.com

Why It Won: Quest One Identity Manager is a management suite for that most important component of your IT infrastructure: the digital identities of your users.

"In my experience, most companies have some degree of difficulty managing the life cycle of provisioning, changing, and de-provisioning a user's identity," says Sean Deuby, technical director for Windows IT Pro. "And it's not just the management of a user's account in a central repository such as AD; an identity management system must seamlessly handle identities across multiple stores that might not otherwise share data with each other.
Even though many are looking to the cloud for their future, to be successful there you must get your identity infrastructure in order first. Quest has been actively building out its portfolio of identity and access management (IAM) products, and the acquisition of Voelcker Informatik's ActiveEntry product (now Quest One Identity Manager) brings strong life-cycle management capabilities to its One Identity Solution IAM suite. I especially like One Identity Manager's ability to give users some degree of self-service to control accounts and access rights and permissions without admin intervention."

Community Choice
GOLD
Spiceworks MyWay • Spiceworks • www.spiceworks.com
SILVER
Altiris IT Management Suite • Symantec • www.symantec.com
BRONZE
Veeam ONE • Veeam Software • www.veeam.com

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .

NetWrix's Enterprise Management Suite
HP Insight Management
SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor

 

 

 

 Best Messaging Product

Editors' Best
GOLD
HP E5000 Messaging System • HP • www.hp.com
SILVER
Transend Migrator • Transend • www.transend.com
BRONZE
Mailscape • ENow • www.enowconsulting.com

Why It Won: HP, in partnership with Microsoft, did what was once said couldn't be done: They put an entire Exchange Server environment in a box.

"So much of the talk these days is about Microsoft Offic 365 and the cloud, but not all organizations- large or small-consider the cloud or hosted model to be acceptable to their needs, even while the benefits of a full-featured Microsoft Exchange Server deployment might be too costly or complex to implement," says B. K. Winstead, senior associate editor for Windows IT Pro. "That's why the HP E5000 Messaging System appliance is this year's Editors' Best pick. You get all the benefits of an Exchange 2010 organization in a preconfigured appliance, including the Windows OS, high availability with database availability groups (DAGs), and storage on Direct Attached Storage (DAS). You can choose to have mailboxes with either 1GB or 2.5GB quotas. With the wizard-based set-up tools, you can be up and running with your Exchange environment in a matter of hours. This one is well worth looking into!"

Community Choice
GOLD
Skype for Business • Skype • www.skype.com
SILVER
Exchange Change Reporter • NetWrix • www.netwrix.com
BRONZE
IBM Lotus Domino • IBM • www.ibm.com

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .
ENow's Mailscape
Transend Migrator
GFI Software's GFI MAX MailProtection

 

 

 

 Best Microsoft Product

Editors' Best
GOLD
OneNote 2010 • Microsoft • www.microsoft.com
SILVER
Windows 7 • Microsoft • www.microsoft.com
BRONZE
Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 • Microsoft • www.microsoft.com

Why It Won: Microsoft OneNote, especially its 2010 incarnation, is one of the most underappreciated Microsoft products available today.

"This was a hard choice," says Sean Deuby, technical director for Windows IT Pro. "I really love Windows 7 and the way it's improved the desktop experience. However, I use OneNote 2010 as the repository for pretty much any useful information I might ever want to look at again, both professionally and personally: task lists, product information (such as 10-plus years of AD tidbits), meeting notes, projects . . . it's all in there. In addition to its terrific outlining capabilities, OneNote lets you take screenshots, record audio or video that synchronizes with the notes you're taking, perform real-time collaboration, and publish meeting minutes instantly. I synchronize my three OneNote 2010 notebooks across multiple systems using Windows Live SkyDrive, and it all simply works."

Community Choice
GOLD
Windows 7 Professional • Microsoft • www.microsoft.com
SILVER
Exchange Server 2010 • Microsoft • www.microsoft.com
BRONZE
Windows Server 2008 R2 • Microsoft • www.microsoft.com

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .
Microsoft Office 2010
Microsoft SharePoint 2010
Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2

 

 

 

 Best Mobile and Wireless Product

Editors' Best
GOLD
Windows Phone 7.5 • Microsoft • www.microsoft.com
SILVER
Zenprise MobileManager • Zenprise • www.zenprise.com
BRONZE
Apple iOS • Apple • www.apple.com

Why It Won: Windows Phone 7 was already the superior smartphone platform, but Windows Phone 7.5 is even better.

"Conceptually, [Windows Phone] 7.5 isn't hugely different from its predecessor," said Paul Thurrott, senior technical analyst for Windows IT Pro. "See, Microsoft got the basics right with Windows Phone 7. The foundation is solid. So this time around, it was all about filling in the missing features. This is evolution at its finest. In many ways, Windows Phone 7.5 is to Windows Phone 7 as Windows 7 was to [Windows] Vista: the same basic OS, but streamlined, spit-shined, and made better. There are a few big changes, but most of the many new features in this release are small tweaks to existing features. But these little changes really add up. They're everywhere." Windows Phone 7.5 is a free upgrade for all existing Windows Phone 7 handsets.

Community Choice
GOLD
Apple iOS • Apple • www.apple.com
SILVER
Google Android • Google • www.google.com
BRONZE
Windows Phone • Microsoft • www.microsoft.com

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .
Research In Motion's BlackBerry Professional Software
Rockliffe's AstraSync
Skype

 

 

 

Best Network-Management Product

Editors' Best
GOLD
SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor • SolarWinds • www.solarwinds.com
SILVER
Foglight • Quest Software • www.quest.com
BRONZE
EventSentry • netikus • www.netikus.net

Why It Won: SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor offers excellent enterprise-class networkmanagement capabilities at a reasonable price.

SolarWinds' network-management tools have a fan base that just seems to keep coming back for more. "SolarWind Network Performance Monitor is the Swiss Army knife of monitoring solutions," said John Spanitz, senior systems administrator at Just Born. "Through its unified views, we get a clear picture of what's going on across all aspects of our environment-without having to use a bunch of different tools." SolarWind's modular design lets you pick and choose exactly what you need for your business. The product's network maps are particularly noteworthy, allowing you to pinpoint where problems are occurring in the environment. SolarWinds' support team is almost legendarily responsive, and the company's Thwack community leads the way in vendor/ customer interaction.

Community Choice
GOLD
SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor • SolarWinds • www.solarwinds.com
SILVER
LogMeIn Central • LogMeIn • www.logmein.com
BRONZE
Citrix NetScaler • Citrix • www.citrix.com

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .

Spiceworks MyWay
Paessler's PRTG Network Monitor
Ipswitch's WhatsUp Gold

 

 

 

 Best Patch-Management Product

Editors' Best
GOLD
VMware vCenter Protect Essentials Plus • VMware • www.vmware.com
SILVER
Desktop Central 7 • Zoho • www.manageengine.com
BRONZE
GFI LanGuard 2011 • GFI Software • www.gfi.com

Why It Won: Patch management can be an ugly, thankless task, but VMware vCenter Protect Essentials Plus (formerly Shavlik NetChk Protect) makes it a snap.

"Patch management is one of the most onerous tasks that any IT pro has to deal with," says Jeff James, industry news analyst for Windows IT Pro, "and a good patch-management application can make a huge difference.
Several patch-management programs are available on the market, but only a few offer the number of features that today's IT pros demand. Shavlik has been a leader in the patch-management space for years, and several other patch-management vendors license Shavlik technology for their own products. Shavlik was acquired by VMware in May 2011, and VMware has made it clear that it intends to enhance the Shavlik patch-management product portfolio even further by leveraging VMware's strengths in virtualization and cloud computing."

Community Choice
GOLD
Altiris Client Management Suite • Symantec • www.symantec.com
SILVER
VMware (Shavlik) Patch Management • VMware • www.vmware.com
BRONZE
GFI LanGuard • GFI Software • www.gfi.com

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .
NetIQ Secure Configuration Manager
ScriptLogic's Desktop Authority

 

 

 

Best Scripting Tool

 
Editors' Best
GOLD
Idera PowerShell Plus • BBS Technologies • www.idera.com
SILVER
PowerWF Studio • Devfarm Software • www.powerwf.com
BRONZE
PrimalScript • SAPIEN Technologies • www.sapien.com

Why it Won: PowerShell is quickly becoming one of the most important tools available for systems administrators, and Idera PowerShell Plus makes it easier to learn and use.

"Initially released in 2006, PowerShell has evolved over the years to become an extremely powerful tool for Windows systems administrators," says Jeff James, industry news analyst for Windows IT Pro. "But not everyone is keen on spending much time banging out code from the command line, and that's where one of the many PowerShell integrated development environments (IDEs) come into play. There are several options on the market, but Idera PowerShell Plus is one of the best. Idera purchased Tobias Weltner's PowerShellPlus several years ago, and Idera has begun to finally update the product on a more aggressive schedule. Version 4.0 introduced a revamped UI and enhanced script debugging, and 4.1 introduces version control using MSCCI-compliant plugins and new scriptable APIs to automate the PowerShell Plus IDE."

Community Choice
GOLD
PowerGUI Pro • Quest Software • www.quest.com
SILVER
Idera PowerShell Plus • BBS Technologies • www.idera.com
BRONZE
PrimalScript • SAPIEN Technologies • www.sapien.com

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .

Specops Software's Specops Command
FastTrack Software's FastTrack Scripting Host

 

 

 

Best Security Product

Editors' Best
GOLD
QualysGuard Security and Compliance Suite • Qualys • www.qualys.com
SILVER
Enterprise Random Password Manager • Lieberman Software • www.liebsoft.com
BRONZE
Specops Password Reset • Specops Software • www.specopssoft.com

Why It Won: Qualys has emerged as a leading security vendor, and the QualysGuard Security and Compliance Suite is a major reason.

"With IT resources distributed throughout the cloud and in on-premises environments," says Jeff James, industry news analyst for Windows IT Pro, "finding a comprehensive security solution that can cover all the bases can be a challenge. Throw in auditing, compliance, and vulnerability assessment needs, and the task becomes even more daunting. That's where the QualysGuard Security and Compliance Suite enters the scene by providing a one-stop solution for all of these disparate IT security needs. A management console lets admins control all QualysGuard features from a single pane of glass, and extensive reporting features allow IT managers to receive the correct information when and how they want to receive it. SaaS security solutions are just beginning to gain traction in the market, and Qualys is blazing the trail."

Community Choice
GOLD
Symantec Endpoint Protection • Symantec • www.symantec.com
SILVER
Centrify Suite Platinum Edition • Centrify • www.centrify.com
BRONZE
Malwarebytes Anti-Malware • Malwarebytes • www.malwarebytes.org

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .

Cisco's Access Control Server
NetWrix's Change Reporter Suite
Avecto's Privilege Guard

 

 

 

Best SharePoint Product

Editors' Best
GOLD
ControlPoint • Axceler • www.axceler.com
SILVER
Security Suite for SharePoint • TITUS • www.titus.com
BRONZE
Longitude Search for SharePoint and FAST • BA Insight • www.bainsight.com

Why It Won: Axceler's ControlPoint offers comprehensive management and control of SharePoint, enabling organizations to use SharePoint to its fullest extent without sacrificing security, compliance, or administrator sanity.

"On any given day," said Caroline Marwitz, senior editor at Windows IT Pro, "a single organization might use SharePoint for missioncritical capabilities such as records management and team collaboration sites, for extranet purposes such as creating portals for customers and clients, and for intranet purposes such as posting HR information and inhouse application links. Axceler's ControlPoint solution helps organizations take advantage of SharePoint's Swiss Army knife capabilities, enabling SharePoint admins to take care of all aspects of a SharePoint implementation, offering control through permissions management, in-depth activity and storage analysis, content management, governance policy enforcement, and proactive management with alerts and scheduled analyses. As SharePoint use explodes in the financial, educational, government, life sciences, professional services, and energy sectors, ControlPoint lets admins help their organizations to get the most out of SharePoint while staying firmly within the boundaries of compliance."

Community Choice
GOLD
SharePoint Change Reporter • NetWrix • www.netwrix.com
SILVER
DocAve software for Microsoft SharePoint • AvePoint • www.avepoint.com
BRONZE
ControlPoint • Axceler • www.axceler.com

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .

AppAssure Software's DocRetriever
HP TRIM for SharePoint
Metalogix Software's StoragePoint

 

 

 

Best System Utility

Editors' Best
GOLD
Windows Sysinternals Suite • Microsoft • www.microsoft.com
SILVER
LogMeIn Pro • LogMeIn • www.logmein.com
BRONZE
Snort • Snort • www.snort.org

Why It Won: Quite simply, the Windows Sysinternals Suite is industry-standard perfection.

"The Sysinternals Suite is an essential collection of 67 system-troubleshooting tools that every Windows administrator should have," says Michael Otey, technical director for Windows IT Pro. "The depth and breadth of these tools is amazing. For example, tools such as Process Explorer and Process Monitor are easier to use and provide deeper insight into your running jobs than Windows' built-in tools. DiskMon lets you track your hard disk utilization, and RootKitRevealer shows any API discrepancies that might indicate the presence of a rootkit. If that wasn't enough, the ZoomIT utility is great for presentations, allowing you to magnify sections of your screen and even make simple drawings and annotations."

Community Choice
GOLD
Diskeeper • Diskeeper • www.diskeeper.com
SILVER
Disk Space Monitor • NetWrix • www.netwrix.com
BRONZE
Paragon Alignment Tool • Paragon Software Group • www.paragon-software.com

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .

Microsoft Windows Sysinternals Suite
Smith Micro Software's SendStuffNow
Scooter Software's Beyond Compare

 

 

 

Best Systems Monitoring Product

Editors' Best
GOLD
HP Operations Manager • HP • www.hp.com
SILVER
NetIQ AppManager Suite • NetIQ • www.netiq.com
BRONZE
Applications Manager • Zoho • www.manageengine.com

Why It Won: HP Operations Manager monitors pretty much everything you can think of in the data-center infrastructure.

"Vertically up the stack, HP Operations Manager monitors hardware components, VMware or Microsoft hypervisors, Microsoft and Linux/UNIX OSs, and the applications that run on them," says Sean Deuby, technical director for Windows IT Pro. "Horizontally across many types of hardware, it can also collect events from other event monitors or network, storage, or application components to be a manager of managers. I especially like the dynamic Services view of Operations Manager, where you can start with a top-level line of business service (such as Ordering) icon, and drill deeper and deeper into a complicated service hierarchy until you reach the actual  systems themselves. Service interruptions deep in the hierarchy, though flagged themselves, don't necessarily cause the high-level service to be flagged; only if the interruption is detected to impact the entire service will the summary icon show a warning."

Community Choice
GOLD
HP Operations Manager • HP • www.hp.com
SILVER
Service Monitor • NetWrix • www.netwrix.com
BRONZE
NetIQ AppManager • NetIQ • www.netiq.com

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .

Zoho's Applications Manager
Nagios Enterprises' Nagios
Citrix GoToManage

 

 

 

Best Task Automation Product

Editors' Best
GOLD
AutoMate • Network Automation • www.networkautomation.com
SILVER
Automation Anywhere • Automation Anywhere • www.automationanywhere.com
BRONZE
NetIQ Aegis • NetIQ • www.netiq.com

Why It Won: AutoMate continues to make automation application development intuitive and user-friendly, and has brought an array of new features to the table.

"IT professionals only have so much time in a day to dedicate toward a particular task," says Blair Greenwood, editorial assistant for Windows IT Pro. "IT pros need to find solutions that help streamline business processes. AutoMate helps users increase the speed and accuracy of business processes through task automation. The new version of AutoMate, AutoMate 8, includes task automation support for cloud-based Share Point automation. Users can manage lists, list items, documents, and roles on any SharePoint server. In addition, AutoMate 8 supports task automation for VMware, Amazon Web Services, and Exchange 2010. AutoMate 8 is incredibly easy to use and features a revamped task builder that helps users create automation applications on the fly."

Community Choice
GOLD
Automation Anywhere • Automation Anywhere • www.automationanywhere.com
SILVER
NetIQ Aegis • NetIQ • www.netiq.com
BRONZE
AutoMate • Network Automation • www.networkautomation.com

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .

Siber Systems' RoboForm
Specops Software's Specops Command
Advanced Systems Concepts' ActiveBatch 

 

 

 

Best Training and Certification Product or Service

Editors' Best
GOLD
Mountain View Systems' Certifi cation Boot Camp • Mountain View Systems • www.mntview.com
SILVER
CBT Nuggets • CBT Nuggets • www.cbtnuggets.com
BRONZE
Transcender Test Prep Practice Exams • Kaplan • www.transcender.com

Why It Won: As certifications become increasingly important for displaying highly specialized knowledge to potential employers, Mountain View Systems' Certification Boot Camp remains one of the best programs to quickly study and take a certification exam.

For Rick Roach, infrastructure manager and communications manager for the City of Odessa, Texas, Mountain View Systems is his first choice for certification training every time. "I attended James [Carrion]'s very first class on NT 4.0 in Denver in 1998. James's teaching style and depth of knowledge is incomparable. I attended [Mountain View Systems] in Fort Collins, Colorado, for my MCSE upgrade to 2000 in 2001. Again there are no complaints. James's teaching method gives you everything you need to do the job. During this time, I received my Microsoft training certification and was teaching Microsoft certification classes at a New Horizons franchise I was a partner in. Every class I taught I tried to emulate James. He taught me a great deal about giving instruction and passing on knowledge. I would not really call his classes a boot camp because he covers everything and does not teach the test. I went to work as Network Manager at the City of Odessa, Texas, in 2002. I recommend Mountain View Systems to anyone wanting to learn to do the job. I send my people there now. I am scheduled to go back this November to refresh my Microsoft certifications. As a five-time returning customer, I can say they do it right!"

Community Choice
GOLD
TrainSignal Premium Computer Training Videos • TrainSignal • www.trainsignal.com
SILVER
Citrix GoToTraining • Citrix • www.citrix.com
BRONZE
HP ExpertONE • HP • www.hp.com

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .

SQLskills
Transcender's Test Prep Practice Exams
TestOut's LabSims

 

 

 

Best Virtualization Product

Editors' Best
GOLD
VMware vSphere • VMware • www.vmware.com
SILVER
DataCore SANsymphony-V • DataCore Software • www.datacore.com
BRONZE
Virtualization Manager • SolarWinds • www.solarwinds.com

Why It Won: Microsoft Hyper-V is coming on strong, but VMware vSphere still rules the virtualization roost.

"VMware has been leading Microsoft in the virtualization market for years," says Jeff James, industry news analyst for Windows IT Pro, "and vSphere 5 continues that tradition. Although Microsoft Hyper-V gets a massive upgrade in Windows Server 8, Microsoft's latest server OS won't be available until late 2012. VMware isn't standing still, so we'll likely see yet another revision of vSphere before the next Hyper-V hits the market. Can VMware hold off Microsoft's big push in the virtualization space? Time will tell, but VMware will likely remain the virtualization platform of choice for most businesses in the near future, and vSphere 5 should help VMware maintain its leadership position."

Community Choice
GOLD
Citrix XenServer • Citrix Systems • www.citrix.com
SILVER
VMware vSphere • VMware • www.vmware.com
BRONZE
VMware Change Reporter • NetWrix • www.netwrix.com

Other hot products in this year's survey . . .

VMware Workstation
VMware ESXi
Citrix XenDesktop

 

 

 

Best Free or Open-Source IT Tool

Editors' Best

GOLD
Spiceworks • Spiceworks • www.spiceworks.com
SILVER
LogMeIn Free • LogMeIn • www.logmein.com
BRONZE
Dell KACE Secure Browser • Dell • www.dell.com

Why It Won: Spiceworks is a unique free tool that helps users complete an array of tasks, including network monitoring, UPS power management, Help desk solutions, and much more.

Justin Davison, senior systems engineer of IT operations at RJ Lee Group, uses Spiceworks for software compliance and change management. "We take advantage of the Spiceworks community as a great source of information, not just for solving problems that we're having but also to poke our heads up and see what other IT pros are doing and how they're handling different issues and situations." Davison said that his company often saves money by taking the community's ideas back to the organization. Davison also said Spiceworks provides a suite of tools that encapsulate day-to-day tasks. "In the past, I would look for free single-purpose tools and I would spend a lot of time trying to integrate them and keep them updated. Spiceworks really gives me a multi-tool instead of a screwdriver. It's become an absolutely critical piece of my IT infrastructure. I don't know how I would go back to not using it. If you asked me what to compare Spiceworks to, I would be comparing it to some pretty expensive software suites."

Community Choice

GOLD
Spiceworks • Spiceworks • www.spiceworks.com
SILVER
Google Apps • Google • www.google.com
BRONZE (tie)
Notepad++ • Notepad++ • www.notepad-plus-plus.org
Skype • Skype • www.skype.com

Other hot tools in this year's survey . . .

Malwarebytes Centrify Express
AVG Technologies' AVG Free