Our annual Windows IT Pro Editors' Best and Community Choice award programs give us a unique way to recognize the hottest products on the market for the current year. Our Editors' Best program highlights products that Windows IT Pro editors and contributors believe are worthy of recognition, whereas our Community Choice program lets readers like you decide which products are the best.

Our editors always face a challenge when choosing their Editors' Best favorites from such a competitive and multifaceted field. But we feel, as always, that this year's winners show an uncommon breadth of functionality and originality. As for Community Choice, we followed the same process as in previous years by opening 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.

In these pages, you'll find our Gold, Silver, and Bronze Editors' Best winners in each category directly adjacent to your 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/Group Policy Product
  • Best Antivirus/Anti-Malware Product
  • Best Auditing/Compliance Product
  • Best Backup and Recovery Product
  • Best Cloud Computing Service
  • Best Deployment/Configuration Product
  • Best Hardware: Server
  • Best Hardware: Workstation
  • Best Hardware: Portable Computer
  • Best Hardware: Storage
  • Best Hardware: Networking
  • Best Hardware: Appliance
  • Best High Availability Product
  • Best Interoperability Product
  • Best Management Suite
  • Best Messaging Product
  • Best Microsoft Product
  • Best Mobile and Wireless Product
  • Best Network Management Product
  • Best Patch Management Product
  • Best Scripting Tool
  • Best Security Product
  • Best SharePoint Product
  • Best System Utility
  • Best Systems Management Product
  • Best Task Automation Product
  • Best Training Product or Service
  • Best Virtualization Product
  • Best Free Tool
  • Best Vendor Tech Support
     

Best Active Directory/Group Policy Product

Editors' Best

Gold: RadiantOne Virtual Directory Server • Radiant Logic
Silver: ADManager Plus • ManageEngine
Bronze: ActiveRoles Server • Dell (formerly Quest Software)

Why It Won: More than ever, Active Directory (AD) isn't the only identity store that IT pros need to deal with. There are UNIX/Linux directories, HR databases, and application identity databases, and they probably don't communicate with one another. And now, you must also present a unified identity namespace to whatever identity bridge (on-premises federation servers or cloud-based Identity as a Service—IDaaS) you'll use to extend your identity to the cloud for Software as a Service (SaaS) applications. RadiantOne Virtual Directory Server (VDS) is a fast, flexible, and relatively inexpensive solution compared with traditional metadirectory service implementations. Its biggest benefit is that it unifies your AD implementation and other identities into an enterprise directory, but once you have the product in place, there are additional unique capabilities it can provide you.

Community Choice

Gold: NetWrix Active Directory Change Reporter • NetWrix
Silver: ADManager Plus • ManageEngine
Bronze: Centrify Suite • Centrify

"Netwrix's Active Directory Change Reporter is slick—a great time saver for us!"

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
Dell ActiveRoles Server (formerly Quest Software)
DameWare Remote Support (formerly DameWare NT Utilities)
Avecto Privilege Guard

**********************************

Best Antivirus/Anti-Malware Product

Editors' Best

Gold: Symantec Endpoint Protection • Symantec
Silver: ESET Endpoint Security • ESET
Bronze: GFI VIPRE Antivirus Business • GFI Software

Why It Won: IT pros look for effective and reputable endpoint antivirus solutions that won't bog systems down. Symantec Endpoint Protection continues to fulfill that need with a lightweight solution that provides security for both physical and virtual systems. The solution leverages the company's security-based reputation technology, Symantec Insight, which provides valuable features such as browser intrusion prevention, enhanced client deployment, recovery capabilities, and support for Linux and Apple Macintosh systems. Symantec continues to be a leader in the security industry by providing quality and lightweight endpoint security solutions.

Community Choice

malwarebytes-smGold: Malwarebytes for Small Business • Malwarebytes
Silver: Symantec Endpoint Protection • Symantec
Bronze: Kaspersky Anti-Virus • Kaspersky Lab

"Malwarebytes is top of the line when it comes to killing tough viruses!"

 

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
McAfee SaaS Endpoint Protection Suite
Sophos Endpoint Protection
ESET NOD32 Antivirus

**********************************

Best Auditing/Compliance Product

Editors' Best

Gold: Blackbird Privilege Explorer for File System • Blackbird Group
Silver: STEALTHbits Data & Access Governance • STEALTHbits Technologies
Bronze: Centrify Suite Standard Edition • Centrify

Why It Won: Although Microsoft SharePoint has the greatest mindshare at the moment, the reality is that the majority of corporate data is still kept on file servers. One of the most difficult management tasks for Windows administrators is figuring out what network resources a particular user has access to. Blackbird Privilege Explorer for File System gives you insight into user access in both historical and real-time modes. And what puts Blackbird Privilege Explorer for File System ahead of the competition is its "per heartbeat" licensing, which charges only for active users instead of every user account. This makes it affordable for organizations such as universities, which often have a moderate number of active students but a far greater number of slightly active alumni accounts.

Community Choice

Gold: NetWrix Change Reporter Suite • NetWrix
Silver: DocAve Report Center for Microsoft SharePoint 2010 • AvePoint
Bronze: NetIQ Secure Configuration Manager • NetIQ

"NetWrix Change Reporter Suite is great when the auditors show up—I just hand them the reports."

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
Centrify Suite Enterprise Edition
ManageEngine ADAudit Plus
Axceler ControlPoint

**********************************

Best Backup and Recovery Product

Editors' Best

Gold: Veeam Backup & Replication • Veeam Software
Silver: Acronis True Image • Acronis
Bronze: EMC Avamar • EMC

Why It Won: In today's increasingly virtual world, Veeam Backup & Replication is rising in prominence and power. Built specifically to provide fast backup and recovery of virtual machines (VMs), whether on VMware or Hyper-V, Veeam Backup & Replication lets you protect your entire virtual infrastructure from a unified console. It offers industry-leading features such as Instant VM Recovery, Instant File-Level Recovery, 2-in-1 backup and replication, and built-in de-duplication. Our own Alan Sugano wrote a glowing recommendation for this product in the September 2012 issue of Windows IT Pro: "I was so impressed with Veeam Backup & Replication that I replaced my existing virtualization backup solution with it. In addition, I now recommend it to my clients as the preferred backup solution in a vSphere 5 environment. I can't think of a stronger recommendation than that."

Community Choice

Gold: Veeam Backup & Replication • Veeam Software
Silver: Backup Exec • Symantec
Bronze: Acronis Backup & Recovery • Acronis

"VEEAM rocks! Backup nightmares are ancient history now."

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
AvePoint DocAve Backup and Recovery for Microsoft SharePoint 2010
NetIQ PlateSpin Protect
CommVault Simpana

**********************************

Best Cloud Computing Product

Editors' Best

Gold: TripIt • Concur Technologies
Silver: Dropbox • Dropbox
Bronze: Unified Email Management (UEM) • Mimecast

Why It Won: TripIt isn't, strictly speaking, an IT pro application, but it's quickly becoming a must-have for anyone who travels regularly for business—including IT pros. If you've never used it, TripIt is a cloud service that takes travel itineraries, hotel reservations, rental car reservations, and a variety of other types of travel information (such as airbnb.com reservations) and consolidates them into a simple and easy-to-use web service. The TripIt app is available for all mobile platforms. Its classic app front-end/cloud back-end architecture provides the traveler with a pocket reference for his or her travel. If you upgrade to TripIt Pro, you get real-time flight alerts (at the same time the gate agents get them), baggage claim notifications, and the ability to immediately share travel information with a trusted group. The business version allows a travel organizer to manage a team's travel schedules as well. It's on my short list of indispensable apps/cloud services on any mobile platform I use.

Community Choice

Gold: Dropbox • Dropbox
Silver: Google Apps for Business • Google
Bronze: Amazon Web Services • Amazon Web Services

"DropBox is dead easy to use—lets you quickly share items by literally dropping them in a box for people to access!"

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
AvePoint DocAve Online for Microsoft SharePoint
NetIQ Cloud Manager
SkyDox Business Edition

**********************************

Best Deployment/Configuration Product

Editors' Best

Gold: Specops Deploy • Specops Software
Silver: Desktop Authority • Dell (formerly Quest Software)
Bronze: VMware vCenter Configuration Manager • VMware

Why It Won: The process of manually rolling out an OS across an organization's network can be tedious and time consuming. Although there are a several third-party deployment products that can help automate the process, Specops Deploy is an exceptional deployment tool for any IT pro because of its usability, painless installation, virtual application deployment capabilities, and ability to leverage Active Directory (AD) and Group Policy. Specops Deploy requires no additional software, and its real-time feedback capabilities and competitive pricing makes this deployment solution an easy choice to boot.

Community Choice

Gold: VMware vCenter Configuration Manager • VMware
Silver: ZENworks Configuration Management • Novell
Bronze: XenDesktop • Citrix Systems

"VMware vCenter Configuration Manager—no comment necessary because it does all the talking!"

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
Symantec Altiris Deployment Solution
Dell KACE K2000 Deployment Appliance
SmartDeploy Enterprise

**********************************

Best Hardware: Server

Editors' Best

Gold: HP ProLiant DL380p Gen8 • HP
Silver: PowerEdge R815 Rack Server • Dell
Bronze: Cisco UCS C260 M2 Rack Server • Cisco Systems

Why It Won: The HP ProLiant DL380p provides an unprecedented amount of processing power in a very compact package. It carries forward all the HP management features that you've come to expect, such as the Integrated Lights-Out (iLO) management system, but it also includes a number of new features designed to make it easier to set up and manage, including the new tool-less case design, FlexibleLOM technology, and Active Health System. Representing the latest in rack-mounted server technology, the HP ProLiant DL380p received an extremely positive review from our own Michael Otey in our October 2012 issue.

Community Choice

Gold: PowerEdge Series • Dell
Silver: HP ProLiant • HP
Bronze: Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) • Cisco Systems

"I have developed an emotional bond with our PowerEdge servers. I love them."

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
HP BladeSystem
IBM System x
Intel Xeon

**********************************

Best Hardware: Workstation

Editors' Best

Gold: HP Pavilion HPE h9 • HP
Silver: Dell XPS 8500 • Dell
Bronze: ThinkStation D30 • Lenovo

Why It Won: The HP Pavilion HPE h9 is a powerful but affordable Core i7 quad-core desktop that's capable of functioning as an administrative, development, graphics, or virtualization platform. The system supports up to 32GB of Double Data Rate 3 (DDR3) RAM and can be equipped with optional 256GB solid state disk (SSD) drives. A built-in liquid cooling system keeps the system very quiet. This is a solid, well-balanced workstation that can handle just about any productivity need.

Community Choice

Gold: OptiPlex • Dell
Silver: ThinkCentre • Lenovo
Bronze: HP Pavilion • HP

"If there's one desktop for business, Dell OptiPlex is the answer."

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
Dell Precision workstations
HP Z800 workstations

**********************************

Best Hardware: Portable Computer

Editors' Best

Gold: ThinkPad X1 Carbon • Lenovo
Silver: Series 9 • Samsung
Bronze: ASUS Zenbook UX31 • ASUS

Why It Won: This is a tough time to review portable computers because Windows 8 and a new generation of innovative new form factors are on the way. But in what will surely be the last Editor's Best category that doesn't include tablets, convertibles, and other hybrid PCs, the final generation of ultrabook PCs that lack multi-touch capabilities is the best yet. And if you accept that ultrabooks are the top of the heap when it comes to Windows 7-based portable computers, it should come as no surprise that the single best machine in this market segment, bar none, is the ThinkPad. Weighing less than 3 pounds, Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon offers superior portability while offering more than 7 hours of battery life in real-world use, integrated broadband wireless capability, and a high-resolution 1600 ´ 900 display. But what puts it over the top is the ThinkPad typing experience. You'll never find a better keyboard than those offered by Lenovo. Although the X1 Carbon's thinness does mean a bit of key travel loss compared with other ThinkPads, this machine stands alone in the ultrabook category. The only thing that ThinkPad is lacking is a 15" version. For that, you need to turn to Samsung, whose 15" Series 9 machine is an excellent compromise.

Community Choice

Gold: Latitude • Dell
Silver: ThinkPad • Lenovo
Bronze: MacBook Pro • Apple

"Dell Latitude can stand up to any traveler—durable and powerful. I have been deploying the Dell Latitude since its inception!"

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
HP EliteBook Notebook PCs
Apple MacBook Air

**********************************

Best Hardware: Storage

Editors' Best

Gold: Hyper ISE • X-IO
Silver: VNX Family • EMC
Bronze: FAS2200 Series • NetApp

Why It Won: X-IO has been on the radar of Windows IT Pro for a couple years now, when the company took surprising honors in the 2011 Best of Microsoft TechEd awards. (X-IO went on to capture two high-profile awards at the 2012 show.) Since then, X-IO's signature powerhouse, the Hyper ISE, has taken great strides in the storage realm. This is a performance-driven storage system that fuses together solid state disks (SSDs) and hard disk drives (HDDs) into a single pool of capacity managed by Continuous Adaptive Data Placement (CADP), the component that elevates this solution into the stratosphere, providing real-time provisioning of workloads to the right disk resources. The performance numbers of the X-IO Hyper ISE continue to skyrocket, blowing away the competition in all kinds of real-world data-intensive applications and environments. This is a system that provides SSD performance at HDD prices, and it's outperforming storage systems that are far more expensive.

Community Choice

Gold: VNX Family • EMC
Silver: FAS2200 Series • NetApp
Bronze: EqualLogic • Dell

"Why buy one VNX 5500 when you can spend twice as much and get two?"

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
Dell Compellent
HP EVA Storage
Seagate Hard Drives

**********************************

Best Hardware: Networking

Editors' Best

Gold: BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM) • F5 Networks
Silver: NetScaler Application Delivery Controller • Citrix Systems
Bronze: Arista 7500 Series • Arista Networks

Why It Won: Here at Windows IT Pro, we've watched F5 Networks evolve from an eager, young load-balancing business into the powerhouse market leader that it is today. The company's flagship product, BIG-IP LTM, increases your operational efficiency and ensures peak network performance by providing a flexible, high-performance application delivery system. With its application-centric perspective, BIG-IP LTM optimizes your network infrastructure to deliver availability, security, and performance for critical business applications. Putting this system over the top is its easy-to-use management interface, ideal for today's general-purpose IT pro.

Community Choice

Gold: Cisco Catalyst 6500 Series Switches • Cisco Systems
Silver: HP Networking Switches • HP
Bronze: SRX Series Services Gateways • Juniper Networks

"Cisco Catalyst = gold standard."

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
Cisco Nexus Series Switches
Citrix Systems NetScaler Application Delivery Controller
F5 Networks BIG-IP LTM

**********************************

Best Hardware: Appliance

Editors' Best

Gold: HP VirtualSystem • HP
Silver: FalconStor NSS VS Series HA Appliance • FalconStor Software
Bronze: Greenplum Data Computing Appliance • EMC

Why It Won: The HP VirtualSystem appliance removes the complexity of implementing high-performance and scalable virtualization in the enterprise. This preconfigured appliance has been expressly designed by HP and Microsoft to speed up the deployment of high-performance virtualization platforms. The preconfigured server, networking, and storage subsystems remove the trial-and-error guesswork involved in designing highly scalable virtualization servers.

Community Choice

Gold: Dell KACE K1000 Systems Management Appliance • Dell KACE
Silver: Barracuda Spam & Virus Firewall • Barracuda Networks
Bronze: BIG-IP Product Suite • F5 Networks

"The KACE K1000 saves me time every day!"

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
Dell SonicWALL Network Security Appliance (NSA) Series
Symantec NetBackup Appliance
Riverbed Technology Steelhead Family

**********************************

Best High Availability Product

Editors' Best

Gold: CA ARCserve High Availability • CA Technologies
Silver: LoadMaster 5300 • KEMP Technologies
Bronze: Double-Take Availability • Vision Solutions

Why It Won: CA ARCserve High Availability is a top-notch solution that protects all aspects of the Windows environment, including system state, applications, and data. The environment is protected through physical-to-virtual and virtual-to-virtual replication and failover to a Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware ESX, VMware vSphere, or Citrix XenServer replica server. Offering seamless and automatic failover and failback, CA ARCserve High Availability provides high availability for your most critical applications, including Microsoft Exchange Server, SQL Server, and SharePoint, as well as your other business-specific applications. Knowing that a single interruption or loss can mean irreparable damage to your business, there's no more stress-reducing product you could add to your environment.

Community Choice

Gold: VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager • VMware
Silver: Veeam Backup & Replication • Veeam Software
Bronze: DocAve High Availability for Microsoft SharePoint • AvePoint

"VMware Site Recovery Manager is the best, because when you need this type of product, there's no room for errors, wasted time, or corrupted VMs."

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
Symantec System Recovery (formerly Backup Exec System Recovery)
NetIQ PlateSpin Forge

**********************************

Best Interoperability Product

Editors' Best

Gold: Kelverion Integration Packs for System Center 2012 • Kelverion
Silver: Centrify Suite • Centrify
Bronze: ExtremeZ-IP • GroupLogic

Why It Won: Kelverion's Integration Packs for System Center 2012 extend the integration and automation capabilities of Microsoft System Center 2012 and System Center 2012 Orchestrator to other major systems, improving IT efficiency. Today, many organizations have difficulty dealing with the IT silos created by using multiple management systems for multiple IT services. Integrating the data from these management systems can make the difference between an inefficient IT department and one that runs smoothly—and that's where Kelverion's Integration Packs come in. IT expert and Windows IT Pro author John Savill says, "System Center Orchestrator provides not only an integration and automation foundation for System Center 2012 but also the entire data center. With the Integration Packs from Kelverion, that integration story becomes so much more powerful, making Orchestrator and System Center 2012 that much more useful." Interestingly, Kelverion was founded by former employees of Opalis, which was acquired by Microsoft and became Orchestrator.

Community Choice

Gold: RealVNC • RealVNC
Silver: Centrify Suite • Centrify
Bronze: ExtremeZ-IP • GroupLogic

"RealVNC made me fat! I don't need to move anymore!"

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
Paragon Software Group NTFS for Mac OS X 10
Binary Tree CMT for Coexistence

**********************************

Best Management Suite

Editors' Best

Gold: Altiris IT Management Suite • Symantec
Silver: SolarWinds • SolarWinds
Bronze: Desktop Authority Dell (formerly Quest Software)

Symantec2-sm

Why It Won: Symantec's Altiris IT Management Suite gives you the framework you need to simplify monitoring and management of your IT environment for both client and server systems. It works across multiple platforms—Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and virtual environments—and provides you with real-time data about your systems, helping you to make the best decisions. The suite includes provisioning and software rollout, license management, and patch management. With add-ons, you can also incorporate mobile management and Help desk services. It's a complete, cost-effective lifecycle management solution.

Community Choice

Gold: VMware vCenter Operations Management Suite • VMware
Silver: Spiceworks MyWay • Spiceworks
Bronze: SolarWinds • SolarWinds

"VMware Ops Manager gives you a clear view into your environment."

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
NetWrix Enterprise Management Suite
Axceler ControlPoint
NetIQ AppManager

**********************************

Best Messaging Product

Editors' Best

Gold: Mail Disclaimers • Exclaimer
Silver: Mailscape • ENow
Bronze: NetWrix Exchange Change Reporter • NetWrix

Why It Won: Sometimes the seemingly simple things prove to be truly impressive. Such is the case with Exclaimer Mail Disclaimers. The product's basic premise is that it gives an organization control over email signatures and disclaimers that are applied to every message sent through Microsoft Exchange Server. However, when you take a closer look, you'll see that Mail Disclaimers lets you take control of company branding in a broad sense. Using rules-based logic, you can apply different messaging to different types of messages, such as internal versus external sends. Various groups in your organization, based on Active Directory (AD), can also be set up with individualized signatures to promote their own projects. You can even set a date range on specific templates to indicate when they should be applied. The list of features goes on. Exclaimer put a lot of good work into this product over the years, and any organization could benefit from checking it out.

Community Choice

Gold: Skype—Business Version • Skype
Silver: Barracuda Spam & Virus Firewall • Barracuda Networks
Bronze: Lotus Domino • IBM

skype1-sm

"Believe the hype—Skype!"

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
Symantec Messaging Gateway
NetWrix Exchange Change Reporter

**********************************

Best Microsoft Product

Editors' Best

Gold: Windows Server 2012 • Microsoft
Silver: Hyper-V Server 2012 • Microsoft
Bronze: Windows 7 • Microsoft

Why It Won: Windows Server 2012 is a stellar achievement. It will take most IT pros months to fully analyze the many capabilities of the product and how those features will benefit their businesses. For enterprises, Server 2012 has greatly increased scalability and multiple-server management over its predecessor, and Hyper-V's power and flexibility is now on a par with that of any competitor. But an especially pleasant surprise is that the product is appealing for small-to-midsized businesses (SMBs). It removes the high-cost barrier to shared storage, storage virtualization, and production-worthy virtualization. In addition, Server 2012 includes capabilities that IT pros have requested for years, such as IP address management. Practically every IT shop will find something in Server 2012 that's to its liking.

Community Choice

Gold: Windows 7 • Microsoft
Silver: Office Professional 2010 • Microsoft
Bronze: Exchange Server • Microsoft

"Hands down, Windows 7 is the best Microsoft OS so far!"

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
Windows Server 2012
SharePoint 2010
Hyper-V Server 2012

**********************************

Best Mobile and Wireless Product

Editors' Best

Gold: MobiControl • SOTI
Silver: Managed Mobile Device Management Services • Azaleos
Bronze: Avalanche • Wavelink

Why It Won: The days when an organization could issue a single model of mobile device to all eligible employees are long past; with bring your own device (BYOD), employees at all levels want to connect to corporate resources using not only their own phones but also their own tablets. SOTI MobiControl is a mobile device management (MDM) product that helps IT departments take control of mobile devices in a BYOD world. Optimized for both Apple iOS and Google Android devices, MobiControl provides provisioning and asset-management capabilities. It also provides Help desk services with remote control, alerts, reporting, and location services for tracking devices. Plus, MobiControl features Windows Desktop Lockdown to limit the interface available to users on Windows machines to just the subset of features you want users to have available—a useful feature for kiosk locations or situations where security could be a concern.

Community Choice

Gold: Cisco Wireless Control System • Cisco Systems
Silver: SolarWinds Mobile Admin • SolarWinds
Bronze: Mobile Management for Configuration Manager • Symantec

"Cisco covers all your BYOD needs—with security!"

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
Lenovo ThinkVantage Access Connections
MobileIron Mobile Device Management

**********************************

Best Network Management Product

Editors' Best

Gold: Network Performance Monitor • SolarWinds
Silver: WhatsUp Gold • Ipswitch
Bronze: EventSentry • NETIKUS.NET

Why It Won: A finalist in the Best of TechEd award program this year, SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (now in version 10.3) gives you the ability to quickly detect, diagnose, and resolve network performance problems. It also provides excellent real-time views and dashboards for visually tracking network performance. One of the core strengths of Network Performance Monitor is its dynamic network topology maps, which let you easily stay on top of your growing network, thanks to the product's network auto-discovery capabilities. Introduced into Network Performance Monitor at version 10.1 is the ability to easily and affordably scale the product's network management to data center networks of all sizes. Of particular note is the product's continued focus on "paying for what you need." This is an extremely scalable solution that prides itself on its affordability at all levels, from the small office to the enterprise. It is also a very approachable solution, bringing ease of use and an intuitive UI to a sometimes-onerous task.

Community Choice

Gold: Network Performance Monitor • SolarWinds
Silver: Spiceworks MyWay • Spiceworks
Bronze: LogMeIn Central • LogMeIn

"SolarWinds rules!"

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
Dell Foglight Network Management System (formerly Quest Software)
Splunk Enterprise

**********************************

Best Patch Management Product

Editors' Best

Gold: Dell KACE K1000 Systems Management Appliance • Dell KACE
Silver: GFI LanGuard • GFI Software
Bronze: LogMeIn Central • LogMeIn

Why It Won: Patch management is a perennial and unloved task in IT. Having the right tool to help you manage the process can save time and money for your organization. The Dell KACE K1000 Systems Management Appliance provides patch management based on Lumension's endpoint management and security solution, delivered in an appliance with a web-based interface that gives you control of scheduling as well as the ability to choose which machines in your environment receive which updates. The K1000 works with both Windows and Mac OSs, as well as application updates from Adobe, Symantec, and other leading vendors. It also includes advanced features for mobile user management and robust tracking and reporting abilities, making the K1000 a top choice to serve your patch-management needs.

Community Choice

Gold: VMware vCenter Protect • VMware
Silver: Patch Manager • SolarWinds
Bronze: Dell KACE K1000 Systems Management Appliance • Dell KACE

"VMware vCenter Protect keeps you informed and allows you to be on one level of patches."

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
Symantic Altiris Client Management Suite
NetIQ Secure Configuration Manager

**********************************

Best Scripting Tool

Editors' Best

Gold: PowerShell Plus • Idera
Silver: PrimalScript • SAPIEN Technologies
Bronze: PowerGUI Pro • Dell (formerly Quest Software)

Why It Won: PowerShell expertise is a desirable skill for today's IT pros. By properly leveraging PowerShell, systems administrators can do their jobs better by having a definitive understanding of the technology that they're administering, which helps make troubleshooting and planning easier. Idera's PowerShell Plus brings something to the table for everyone. If you're beginning to learn PowerShell, PowerShell Plus' Interactive Learning Center is an excellent resource that includes Help topics for all of your installed Windows PowerShell providers, cmdlets, snap-ins, and more. The integrated development environment (IDE) also includes several features to make writing cmdlets easier and faster, such as auto-code completion, debugging capabilities, and access to hundreds of preloaded scripts from Idera's QuickClick library.

Community Choice

Gold: PowerGUI Pro • Dell (formerly Quest Software)
Silver: PowerShell Studio • SAPIEN Technologies
Bronze: FastTrack Scripting Host • FastTrack Software

"PowerGUI Pro kills the ugly CLI of the '80s and allows you to work in this century with style and grace and speed."

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
Idera PowerShell Plus
Specops Software Specops Command

**********************************

Best Security Product

Editors' Best

Gold: Splunk Enterprise • Splunk
Silver: Log & Event Manager • SolarWinds
Bronze: Retina CS Management • eEye Digital Security

Why It Won: Splunk is the kitchen sink of machine data analytics. It soaks up every kind of data you can throw at it, then turns that data into actionable intelligence—not just security intelligence but also troubleshooting, performance, and business intelligence. Splunk's particular security strengths lie in analyzing the everyday patterns of log data (such as logons/logoffs, process launch, and network resource access) to look for anomalies that might signal an intrusion. In a time of advanced persistent threats and the maxim that "everyone has been hacked, they just might not know it," this type of tool should be a standard component in every company's IT infrastructure.

Community Choice

Gold: Symantec Endpoint Protection • Symantec
Silver: Malwarebytes • Malwarebytes
Bronze: DocAve Administrator • AvePoint

"Symantec Endpoint Protection is the gatekeeper to my network!"

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
NetIQ Sentinel
Cisco Secure Access Control Server (ACS)
Centrify Suite

**********************************

Best SharePoint Product

Editors' Best

Gold: HiSoftware Security Sheriff SP2010 • HiSoftware
Silver: SharePlus • Infragistics
Bronze: VisualSP • SharePoint-Videos.com

Why It Won: HiSoftware Security Sheriff SP2010 offers the most complete solution we've seen for securing SharePoint, while still enabling end users to easily share content and collaborate. While some solutions secure content based on metadata and other solutions secure data via encryption, Security Sheriff does both. Instead of a "bucket" approach to classifying content, Security Sheriff works with metadata, offering you a more nuanced way to classify or declassify documents. It also lets you restrict access to an individual or specific group, even if others have access to the place where the content resides, which is important in the project-based world that businesses inhabit these days. In addition to securing a document based on its metadata, Security Sheriff can identify sensitive data and immediately encrypt it, so that users can't access it without the proper credentials, even if they have admin privileges. This also means that any documents that leave SharePoint can be accessed only by credentialed users.

Community Choice

Gold: DocAve • AvePoint
Silver: NetWrix SharePoint Change Reporter • NetWrix
Bronze: ControlPoint • Axceler

"DocAve is the only platform in the industry to look at the SharePoint platform holistically to actually fix and prevent problems, not just treat the symptoms."

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
Dell Site Administrator for SharePoint (formerly Quest Software)
EMC Storage Integrator (ESI)

**********************************

Best System Utility

Editors' Best

Gold: Diskeeper • Condusiv Technologies
Silver: Service Account Manager • Lieberman Software
Bronze: activEcho • GroupLogic

Why It Won: Diskeeper does what it says it will do. It addresses file system fragmentation with a variety of excellent features while running unobtrusively in the background, which is why it's a perennial favorite among IT pros. It not only resolves file system fragmentation but also prevents it. Its processing technology uses idle resources for background optimization routines, and it can identify and eliminate fragmentation that affects system performance. The latest version includes Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) Compatibility mode (which minimizes growth of the VSS storage area and prevents older VSS files from being purged), a new UI, and HyperFast technology (which speeds up performance in solid state disks—SSDs). Diskeeper can position frequently accessed data in the most optimal place, can rapidly defragment volumes with hundreds of thousands of files, and supports native IPv6 networks. Settings can be controlled through Group Policy and a central admin console.

Community Choice

Gold: Dell OpenManage Systems Management • Dell
Silver: CCleaner • Piriform
Bronze: Beyond Compare • Scooter Software

"Dell OpenManage makes the impossible easy!"

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
Automation Anywhere Server
Paragon Alignment Tool (PAT)

**********************************

Best Systems Monitoring Product

Editors' Best

Gold: WhatsUp Gold • Ipswitch
Silver: Server & Application Monitor • SolarWinds
Bronze: Splunk Enterprise • Splunk

Why It Won: Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold is a flexible solution that uses both active and passive monitoring to provide IT pros with effective network management. Recommended by real-world systems engineers who use it daily, WhatsUp Gold lets you monitor your network from the inside out, from a single console with information at the ready, so you can correlate events quickly. It tracks the status and health of network devices, offering early alerts and listening for SNMP traps and syslog messages from devices in an infrastructure. Hierarchical maps provide a Layer 3 view of a network, including a complete representation of the real network and application environment. Its Alert Center offers a single integrated dashboard that quickly reveals alerts, notifications, and alert acknowledgements for easy configuration and management. Configurable dashboards display health and performance reports, and offer the ability to customize reports.

Community Choice

Gold: Spiceworks MyWay • Spiceworks
Silver: Server & Application Monitor • SolarWinds
Bronze: NetIQ AppManager • NetIQ

"Spiceworks: For IT people by IT people"

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
HP Operations Manager
NetWrix Service Monitor

**********************************

Best Task Automation Product

AutoMate-smEditors' Best

Gold: AutoMate • Network Automation
Silver: Automation Anywhere • Automation Anywhere
Bronze: NetIQ Aegis • NetIQ

Why It Won: An increasingly relevant strategy for IT pros is automating business processes so that they can perform tasks faster. Network Automation has continued its proven track record for providing an easy and intuitive way to automate business processes. The great thing about AutoMate is that it doesn't require any scripting knowledge to develop automation applications through its intuitive drag-and-drop interface. Most important, the latest version of AutoMate includes virtual and cloud-based SharePoint automation, computing environments, and enhanced web-app interaction, which further helps IT pros streamline IT processes.

Community Choice

Gold: NetIQ Aegis • NetIQ
Silver: DocAve Governance Automation for Microsoft SharePoint 2010 • AvePoint
Bronze: Automation Anywhere • Automation Anywhere

"NetIQ Aegis automated so many mundane tasks that I can actually do the job I was hired to do!"

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
Network Automation AutoMate
MVP Systems Software JAMS Job Scheduler

**********************************

Best Training Product or Service

Editors' Best

Gold: Critical Path Training • Critical Path Training
Silver: Big Nerd Ranch • Big Nerd Ranch
Bronze: BRI Training • Binary Research International

Why It Won: Critical Path Training employs Microsoft MVPs and recognized SharePoint experts, not trainers who have been told to "learn the subject area." They're well-known speakers and authors who are experienced at explaining concepts and demonstrating techniques. This training company offers courses on SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint 2010 for administrators, developers, and power users. It offers the courses in a variety of formats, including hands-on classes in 10 professional training facilities around the United States, online workshops, and private onsite classes. During the class, each student is given a preconfigured computer to complete lab exercises, so there's no need to bring a device or deal with configuration. Critical Path Training writes its own courseware (which includes industry best practices) and updates it frequently to reflect the latest techniques. The company website notes, "We are a third party that covers the good, the bad, and the ugly." Significantly, Microsoft recently hired Critical Path Training to create and deliver a hands-on developer training course for SharePoint 2013 developers.

Community Choice

Gold: Spiceworks University • Spiceworks
Silver: GoToTraining • Citrix Systems
Bronze: TrainSignal Computer Training • TrainSignal

"Spiceworks University is a great way to learn. You meet so many talented IT professionals, and everyone is always willing to help."

Other Hot Products or Services in this Year's Community Choice Survey
Symantec Education Services
Transcender TranscenderCert practice exams

**********************************

Best Virtualization Product

Editors' Best

Gold: VMware vSphere • VMware
Silver: XenDesktop • Citrix Systems
Bronze: Veeam ONE for VMware and Hyper-V • Veeam Software

Why It Won: VMware vSphere remains the clear leader in the enterprise virtualization space. The newest 5.1 release features an all-new flash-based web client for virtualization management. In addition, virtual machines (VMs) are now scalable to 64 virtual CPUs (vCPUs) and 1TB of RAM, making room for future application growth. It includes vSphere Replication for disaster recovery. The new support for shared-nothing vMotion brings vMotion support to organizations that don't have a SAN.

Community Choice

Gold: VMware vSphere • VMware
Silver: XenServer • Citrix Systems
Bronze: NetWrix VMware Change Reporter • NetWrix

"VMware vSphere is an awesome product, and it's simple to install and configure. With its tools for fault tolerance and high availability, it can't be beat."

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
VMware vSphere Hypervisor (formerly VMware ESXi)
Veeam Backup & Replication
Symantec Endpoint Virtualization Suite

**********************************

Best Free Tool

Editors' Best

Gold: Twitter • Twitter
Silver: Splunk • Splunk
Bronze: Foglight Network Management System • Dell (formerly Quest Software)

Why It Won: You might love it, you might hate it—but you can't ignore it. Twitter has become ubiquitous. To get the most out of Twitter, you probably need a client to manage your content, but the good news is that these clients are also free. Twitter can put you in touch with experts in any field, providing quick answers to nagging problems in your environment—as good as any knowledge base out there. More than that, it connects you to your technical community. IT pros don't always have the opportunity to meet and share ideas with others in the field, so Twitter provides a virtual medium that's always on to link you with colleagues around the globe.

Community Choice

Gold: Spiceworks • Spiceworks
Silver: 7-Zip • Igor Pavlov
Bronze: Notepad++ • Don Ho

"Two words that go great together are Spiceworks and Free. Free software, free support—why wouldn't you use it?"

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
Google Apps for Business
Mozilla Firefox
AVG Free

**********************************

Best Vendor Tech Support

Community Choice

Gold: Microsoft
Silver: Cisco Systems
Bronze: Spiceworks

Other Popular Vendors in this Year's Community Choice Survey
NetIQ
Dell
Veeam Software