Windows IT Pro Community Choice Awards

Favorite products from our readers

Executive Summary:
Selected by readers voting online, the Windows IT Pro Community Choice awards present the three top vote-getting products in eight categories: Light Database Tools, Antispam Solution for Business, Disk Imaging Software, Backup and Recovery Appliances, Exchange Server Monitoring Tools, Uninterruptible Power Supplies, Laptop Synchronization Tools, and KVM over IP Switches.

In contrast to all the other award categories in this issue, the Windows IT Pro Community Choice Awards are selected by you, the readers of Windows IT Pro and SQL Server Magazine. Hundreds of Windows IT Pro Web site visitors and online forum members voted in these awards, which eventually resulted in 24 finalists and winners in eight categories.

As with all the other awards presented in this issue, we want to hear what you think about the choices made here. Do you think an important product was overlooked, or that a lackluster product was given accolades that it doesn’t deserve? Please visit the Windows IT Pro online forums ( and let us know what you think!

Light Database Tools
Winner: Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express

Why it won: This limited-feature variant of Microsoft SQL Server 2005 is long on value as well as capability: It’s free! You’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish with SQL Server 2005 Express—it’s an excellent choice for someone whose database needs are modest.

In a world where weighty IT applications such as SQL Server 2005 command hefty prices, it’s nice to find a product that’s long on capability but light on your IT budget. You can’t beat free as far as pricing goes, a lesson not lost on Microsoft when it created SQL Server 2005 Express Edition.

Granted, SQL Server Express doesn’t offer as many features as its costly counterpart does. In his Webexclusive article “Contenders for the Express Database Crown” (, InstantDoc ID 94459), Windows IT Pro Technical Director Michael Otey extols the virtues of SQL Server Express over some of its light-duty database competitors.

“SQL Server Express provides high levels of performance and deep CLR and XML integration. If, like most developers, you’re using Microsoft .NET technologies and you’re developing for the Windows platform that makes up the bulk of the desktop market, SQL Server Express is a great choice because its integration with the Visual Studio 2005 development product is unequaled,” says Otey. “SQL Server Express Advanced Edition also includes the SQL Server Management Studio Express (SSMSE) management GUI and support for SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services, a component that has no equivalent in the other lightweight database products.”

Other SQL Server Express features are a boon for helping DBAs get new projects up and running quickly. Microsoft includes 10 database schemas that take the guesswork out of creating small database projects, including ones for e-commerce, product catalogs, nonprofit groups, and contact management. Combine that with a wealth of sample databases, tutorials, online help, and other free training tools, and SQL Server Express emerges as a powerful entryto midlevel database tool in its own right.

—Jeff James

Silver: MySQL 5.0

Bronze: Microsoft SQL Server
Compact 3.5

Continued on page 2

Antispam Solution for Business
Winner: McAfee Total Protection Service

Why it won: McAfee Total Protection Service offers professional antispam and antivirus protection for your corporate email, all without requiring you to install or manage anything locally. Did we mention that the McAfee Total Protection Service eats spam for lunch?

Our modern lives are filled with annoyances, few of which are more frustrating and time- consuming than email spam. Although individuals might become extremely annoyed by the deluge of spam they receive, the anguish increases exponentially when you consider the plight of IT pros. How do you keep your infrastructure—and especially your Exchange servers—from collapsing under the weight of millions of spam messages?

If you’re like many of those who voted in the Antispam Solution for Business award category, you might have already selected McAfee Total Protection Service. As a hosted service—much like Google’s Postini and Microsoft FrontBridge—McAfee’s solution doesn’t require software to be installed, nor does it eat up valuable space and resources running on internal servers. McAfee Total Protection Service also blocks spyware and viruses, provides a Web-based management console, and helps your users surf the Web with confidence using McAfee SiteAdvisor. It also happens to kill spam dead, which is certainly one of the reasons that Windows IT Pro readers voted it the best product in our Antispam Solution for Business category.

—Jeff James

Silver: Perimeter Manager
Enterprise Edition

Bronze: Symantec Mail Security
8200 Series

Disk Imaging Software
Winner: Symantec Ghost Solution Suite

Why it won: Symantec Ghost has been updated and improved more than a dozen times, and it shows: Other disk imaging deployment products find it hard to compete with the Symantec Ghost Solution Suite in its price range, and voters agree that Ghost can’t be beat.

Depending on the size of your infrastructure, software deployment can be relatively painless, or it can be time-consuming. Although small shops might be able to rely on free tools such as Microsoft’s deployment toolkit, larger organizations with more complex business IT needs often require something more robust—and expensive. In “Disk Imaging Software for SMBs” (February 2007, Instant- Doc ID 94593), Joel Barker explains that the right deployment tool for your needs often depends on the size of the organization.

“Larger organizations can justify the cost of SMS and similar enterprise-class management servers, but small IT departments have generally been priced out of any kind of deployment tool beyond a technician with a custom image on a DVD,” says Barker. “Symantec Ghost Solution Suite is an affordable product that offers a set of features similar to SMS as well as the ability to launch and manage desktop backup routines …. For midsized and large companies, Symantec offers a panoply of features at an inviting price.”

—Jeff James

Silver: Acronis True Image Echo Workstation with Acronis Universal Restore

Bronze: Image for Windows
TeraByte Unlimited

Continued on page 3

Backup and Recovery Appliances
Winner: HP StorageWorks D2D Backup System

Why it won: HP hits the sweet spot for disk-based backup for small-to-midsized businesses with a product that makes automated backup and recovery easy and affordable and works with your existing tape-backup process.

The HP StorageWorks D2D Backup System takes aim at two major pain points for smallbusiness IT: keeping the network backed up consistently and being able to recover data quickly. The product gives SMBs the benefits of automated disk-to-disk (D2D) backup at a budget-friendly price of well under $3,000. The D2D Backup System is simple to set up, provides an easy-to-use Web-based administration interface, and performs quickly and reliably. It’s also compatible with existing tape-backup tools, such as NTBackup and Symantec Backup Exec.

Neil Fraser of DataLogistics says a reduction in backup time and improved backup consistency are two of the biggest benefits his company has seen with the Storage- Works D2D Backup System. “With the D2D product, our backup times have dropped significantly, and we no longer experience morning network lag because of the backups running.” Fraser says the StorageWorks D2D product also saved money because DataLogistics could keep its existing tapebackup system.

Like Fraser, Scott Shaw of Covente gives the product a thumbs-up for performing backups reliably with little IT intervention. “We now have consistent and timely backups without interfering with our dayto- day IT operations,” he says. “The virtual library … allows us to keep a three-week rotation without ever needing to change tapes.”

—Anne Grubb

Silver: SonicWALL Continuous Data Protection Series

Bronze: StoreVault S500

Exchange Server Monitoring Tools
Winner: Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007

Why it won: Its preemptive, IT service– based approach to monitoring, plus management packs that incorporate Microsoft’s extensive knowledge of Exchange Server and Windows, make this product a standout in its class.

If your business depends on keeping a network of Exchange servers up and running, you’re probably already using some type of Microsoft Exchange Server management tool. The latest iteration of Microsoft’s enterprise systems management product, System Center Operations Manager 2007, is notable for its use of IT service models, which manage a group of related components (e.g., server, application, Active Directory) together as one IT service. This feature, combined with management packs (for Exchange Server 2007 and Exchange Server 2003), enable proactive monitoring and alerting based on Microsoft’s in-depth knowledge of Exchange.

For companies that use the System Center product suite, Ops Manager 2007 with the Exchange management pack is a natural choice for Exchange monitoring. Todd Slan of Total Wine & More points to this integration as a key benefit of using the product. “This was an outstanding complement to the rest of the suite,” says Slan. “The ability to proactively monitor and take necessary action before user access and performance \[are affected\] has been a big win in providing the greatest level of service and uptime to our end users.”

Slan says that the ability to monitor a clustered Exchange environment has been the most useful Ops Manager feature for Total Wine. “Proactive monitoring of our HT/CAS \[Hub Transport/Client Access\] cluster and CCR \[cluster continuous replication\] mailbox cluster is key to maintaining the highest level of availability possible for our end users.”

—Anne Grubb

Silver: PROMODAG Reports for Microsoft Exchange Server

Bronze: Quest MessageStats and Spotlight on Exchange
Quest Software

Continued on page 4 Uninterruptible Power Supplies
Winner: Smart-UPS XL Series
American Power Conversion

Why it won: APC has been producing uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) for longer than just about anyone, and IT pros have come to rely on the vendor for some of the best UPS products currently available. APC hardware is probably sitting in your data center as you read this, helping keep vital servers and appliances up and running.

Some IT products are more glamorous than others. Virtualization, smart phones, big-screen LCDs, and speedy CPUs are the attention-grabbing supermodels of the IT product universe, but the venerable uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is an underappreciated stalwart of business IT. Like the clock-punching janitors and maintenance staff that truly keep an office building running, the UPS works tirelessly—365 days a year, 24 × 7—to keep vital systems up and running.

American Power Conversion (APC) has been making UPS products for almost 30 years. APC’s dominance in the UPS market is led by products such as the Smart-UPS XL Series, a line of products that range in price from $450 to $1,800. Battery life varies from 3.5 to almost 9 hours, and you can add battery packs to push operational times beyond 24 hours. APC’s built-in PowerChute UPS software helps you manage your UPS environment as you see fit, and an internal accessory slot (dubbed the SmartSlot) allows for additional expansion.

—Jeff James

Silver: Smart-UPS SC Series
American Power Conversion

Bronze: Back-UPS RS Series
American Power Conversion

Laptop Synchronization Tools
Winner: PCsync
Laplink Software

Why it won: Rock-solid reliability and an impressive number of file synchronization features help make PCsync a must for IT pros tasked with keeping a small army of desktops and mobile devices in lockstep.

An increasingly mobile workforce has multiplied the challenges that IT pros grapple with every day. Keeping files synchronized and updated between a company desktop and mobile devices such as laptops, smartphones, and PDAs is one job that must be done without fail if end users are to be able to do their work. Laplink Software’s PCsync makes synchronization between devices easy.

This helpful tool specializes in simplifying file synchronization and data transfer between PCs. Using a USB cable, serial cable, or a wired or wireless network, you can synchronize, merge, back up, and copy files from different PCs. You can also schedule file synchronization jobs to automatically synchronize multiple files and folders at given intervals. Laplink touts its Smart- XChange synchronization definition and tracking tool as a way to make PC-to-PC transfers even more efficient and painless. Our voters agreed, helping PCsync garner the most votes to emerge as the winner of the category.

—Jeff James

Silver: Sync Logic

Bronze: Beyond Compare
Scooter Software

KVM over IP Switches
Winner: OmniView SMB KVM-over- IP Switch F1DP116G
Belkin International

Why it won: A comprehensive feature set and a competitive price help make the OmniView SMB KVM-over-IP switch hard to beat in this category.

If you have a data center packed with dozens of servers and appliances, how do you manage all of them without a tangled mess of monitors, keyboards, and mouse devices? Using a KVM switch is a good answer, and Belkin’s solution to the problem seems better than most. The Belkin OmniView SMB KVMover- IP Switch F1DP116G includes native CAT5 support and can be used to manage up to 248 servers (via daisy-chaining) from a single console.

“Our IT department considered several KVM-over-IP products for our needs, but the Belkin offered the best performance for the money,” says Darrell Bradshaw, marketing manager at Transource, a computer reseller that specializes in servicing contracts from the federal government. “The installation was straightforward, and the browser-based interface \[used to access different servers\] is easy to use. We’ve been using the product for about eight months and haven’t had any problems or issues to report.” Bradshaw says that his company also uses a fair amount of Avocent KVM hardware, but stressed that the cost of the OmniView SMB switch was a key factor in making that purchase.

Combine competitive pricing with advanced features, such as BIOS-level access to connected servers, 128-bit SSL encryption, and support for serial devices, and the OmniView SMB switch emerges as the most popular product in this award category.

—Jeff James

Silver: OmniView Remote IP Device with Virtual Media F1DE101H
Belkin International

Bronze: APC 16-Port IP KVM
American Power Conversion

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.