Fave raves: IT pros name their favorite products

IT products that save time, provide security, and help with compliance efforts are among IT pros’ favorites

Each year we ask IT pros what they love -- which tech products make their lives easier, provide stellar security and compliance, and help keep end users happy and productive. IT pros answered our questions and raved about a range of different hardware, software and cloud services. Did your favorites make the list?

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Favorite product: Veeam Backup & Replication

Why it’s a favorite: “I like it because it just works. I don’t have to think much about backup for my Hyper-V environment, and that’s how I like it. I’ve tested a bunch of backup products for virtual environments, and when you ask a lot of these vendors whether they support [Microsoft Cluster Shared Volumes], they say, ‘Sure, but you need an agent in each VM.’ That’s ridiculous. Backup shouldn’t ask me to treat VMs like physical machines. Veeam built their backup and replication product specifically for virtual environments, so it just works. Sounds simple, but it’s hard to find.”

Years in IT: 8

Upcoming IT projects: Virtual desktop infrastructure

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Favorite product: Nasuni enterprise storage service

Why it’s a favorite: “We’re not doing anything too crazy with tech, but like a lot of law firms, maintaining data is a challenge. Data’s growing exponentially, and a partner can call me at any time to say that a new case is coming in, and we need to process and store multiple terabytes of data ASAP. With Nasuni, I’ve got as much capacity as I need with just a few mouse clicks. And even though my data is stored in the cloud, it’s secure because it’s encrypted in my office, and the keys stay with us.”

Years in IT: 15

Upcoming IT projects: Virtual desktop infrastructure

Favorite product: Plixer’s Scrutinizer NetFlow & sFlow Analyzer

Why it’s a favorite: “Easy to use interface, customizable, has configurable alerting. Saved searches aid in day-to-day analysis. Scheduled reporting helps keep me aware of networking performance. It has helped support or refute copyright infringement assertions, has aided in bandwidth acquisition planning, has helped diagnose performance issues, and has given visibility into how students, faculty and staff use the campus network.”

Years in IT: 15

Upcoming IT projects: VoIP migration, Wi-Fi upgrades, 10Gbps core/data center upgrades, consolidation of services, reduction in cabling, speed increases for users

Favorite product: Riverbed Granite

Why it’s a favorite: “In short, [Riverbed Granite edge virtual server infrastructure] revolutionizes our approach to datacenter consolidation. While there are other advantages, this is chief among them for me. With this approach, we are able to present a single device as a storage platform for our virtualized infrastructure. It replaces existing SAN/NAS and disparate file storage systems.”

Years in IT: 19

Upcoming IT projects: “We’re in the midst of a multi-year global consolidation effort. This takes the form of messaging consolidation with the migration to Exchange Server 2010 (collapsing Exchange to our four core ‘hub’ data centers), consolidation within our document management system (HP/Autonomy iManage 8.5) to the same hub data centers, and finally, by presenting a comprehensive storage front-end with Riverbed’s Granite edge-VSI devices.”

Favorite product: OpDemand

Why it’s a favorite: “OpDemand makes it incredibly simple to use [Amazon Web Services] even for complex multi-server environments. The user interface is fast and the product is very reliable. Now that I have migrated to OpDemand, I can clone and redeploy servers at will. I can also stop and restart my dev/test environments.”

Years in IT: 3

Upcoming IT projects: “Nginx web server development version is very promising. Loving the community add-ons and their list keeps growing.”

Favorite product: Spiceworks

Why it’s a favorite: “Spiceworks has two main components that have dramatically eased my life the past several years. The first is an amazing application that is free. Yes, there are ads, but they are all fitting for what I do for a living. There are no pharmaceuticals and travel sites in here... just tech for techies. The application allows me to inventory, monitor and manage my network hardware and software as well as my users and has a fully functional helpdesk ticketing system. The second component is one of the best online communities available on planet earth.”

Years in IT: 12

Upcoming IT projects: Deploying Active Directory, upgrading email, and finishing a large site documentation process

Favorite product: AppRiver CipherPost

Why it’s a favorite: “CipherPost [email encryption service] is the closest thing to a user-proof application I have ever seen. Seamlessly integrated encryption functionality with large attachment support and an amazing Delivery Slip tracking feature make this the easiest buy decision ever. In addition to helping us meet stringent compliance requirements, it works with our archiving and e-discovery service, too, which puts the exclamation point on easy.”

Years in IT: 15

Upcoming IT projects: “Going live with our new Arista, 10GbE switches.”

Favorite product: Strangeloop Site Optimizer service

Why it’s a favorite: “Website acceleration became a priority for us in the fall of 2009, as we were gearing up for Black Friday. Site Optimizer was easy to implement and delivered immediate results. After being deployed, Site Optimizer instantly cut our page load times in half. We conducted a 50/50 test of our site's traffic and learned that making our pages faster had a major impact on key metrics: On the accelerated site, conversions increased by 9%, order size by 11%, and sales by 12%. These improvements are extremely significant on an annual basis.”

Years in IT: 22

Upcoming IT projects: “We have completely re-architected our consumer facing website with an even greater focus on performance and usability which we will be rolling out soon.”

Favorite product: A10 Networks AX 1030 application delivery controller

Why it’s a favorite: “We purchased A10’s 64-bit AX 1030 hardware load balancer to replace our previous software load balancers that were unstable and crashed on a daily basis. Since deploying the AX 1030, the speed of our website increased by 35% with rock solid stability, which delivered an immediate return on investment. In addition to the incredibly fast and reliable AX 1030, A10’s Tech Support delivers the best customer service from a networking company that I’ve ever had in my life. A10 Support is incredibly diligent and intelligent, and will stay on the phone with customers until issues are resolved, which is rare to find these days.”

Years in IT: 25

Upcoming IT projects: Opening a new data center

Favorite product: CA AppLogic

Why it’s a favorite: “In terms of functionality, value for money, flexibility and support from the vendor, it is by far the best cloud platform we know of. It allowed us to get our own cloud platform fully operational in three months and then launch an entirely new solutions business, supported by a small multi-disciplinary team who, thanks to AppLogic, could concentrate on designing, building and supporting solutions, leaving the infrastructure to the platform.”

Years in IT: 16

Upcoming IT projects: Deploying a global cloud of AppLogic grids for a large gaming enterprise. “They are taking the AppLogic to a new level by delivering extremely high availability applications, across multiple territories, in one of the most heavily regulated industries on earth.”

Favorite product: F5 BIG-IP Edge Gateway

Why it’s a favorite: “The F5 Edge Gateway pulls together a broad range of tools needed by network architects and engineers that help control, secure, and enhance access to business applications. The combination of tools is very powerful, and unavailable on a single platform elsewhere. The Edge Gateway is the perfect complement for exporting line-of-business applications to the Internet, and can support architectures as diverse as web, SQL, SOAP, SharePoint, Citrix, View, VoIP and others. We have used it to front our web and VMWare View services, and seem to find new applications for it every day. The Edge Gateway is truly the Swiss army knife of the data center.”

Years in IT: 25

Upcoming IT projects: Turning IT into a profit center

Favorite product: Compuware Gomez

Why it’s a favorite: “My IT team supports about 30,000 users (doctors, clinicians, etc.) across the CHRISTUS health system who utilize our clinical EHR systems daily and expect those systems to be up and running 24/7, outage-free to ensure our patients receive the best quality of care. With the Compuware Gomez solution, we have complete visibility into the end-user experience and can measure end-to-end system performance from the clinician’s perspective. The solution gives my team a better picture into application performance, enabling them to proactively find and fix problems before our clinicians and patients are impacted.”

Years in IT: 30+

Upcoming IT projects: Using Compuware Gomez to monitor mobile and cloud-based applications, expanding the solution into the ambulatory environment

Favorite product: AppNeta PathView Cloud

Why it’s a favorite: “Being in agriculture with rural farms scattered across the country, Cal-Maine has always experienced QoS issues across the WAN. We often joke that ‘the last mile of communications lines are on a barbed wire fence.’ PathView Cloud has revolutionized our ability to pinpoint issues across the WAN. Whether the problem is in a switch, a carrier’s router or between the CO and our farms, being able to accurately identify the problematic area enables us to know which entity is responsible for the problem. That is a huge benefit when so many points of possible failure exist along the route.”

Years in IT: 35

Upcoming IT projects: Testing a private cloud initiative

Favorite product: Meraki wireless LAN gear and Enterprise Cloud Controller

Why it’s a favorite: “I’ve deployed wireless solutions for other businesses and employers, but none ever offered the drop-dead simplicity and so far perfect reliability of Meraki. At my present employer, we had cheap access points before that would need occasional reboots, and just couldn’t be counted on for important network use. But the initial cost of a proper controller-based solution was too high at the time, and Meraki offered a solution with all the features we could want but much lower startup cost. An added bonus is, they’re always improving the cloud dashboard and adding new features without me having to do anything.”

Years in IT: 12

Upcoming IT projects: Evaluating Windows Server 8 and its new Hyper-V features

Favorite product: Ayehu eyeShare

Why it’s a favorite: “EyeShare is a product that is designed particularly for IT usage. Using it helps us to best utilize our resources and saves us a tremendous amount of time by allowing us to automate processes that once were done manually. EyeShare is reliable, versatile in its possible activities, easy to use and basically allows us to automate whatever comes to mind. From a more personal level, I find eyeShare most useful because it releases my employees from performing manual activities to progressing with their personal work projects and coming up with new ways to improve the NOC processes.”

Years in IT: 4

Upcoming IT projects: ITIL implementations

Favorite product: Circadence MVO 1200

Why it’s a favorite: “The MVO 1200 [WAN optimization appliance] has greatly enhanced our ability to maintain communications via VPN tunnel with one of our remote facilities. Prior to installing the unit, we experienced an unacceptable amount of latency and outage with our VPN tunnel to this facility. The MVO 1200 has given our users in the remote facility the ability to transmit data in a more productive and reliable way. Our IT staff used to spend a lot of time ‘fixing’ the data when the connection between our facility and theirs would drop unexpectedly. Now that we have the 1200 in place, we never have that problem anymore.”

Years in IT: 36

Upcoming IT projects: Upgrading hardware and software systems to accommodate meaningful use requirements

Favorite product: Dome9 cloud security service

Why it’s a favorite: “We rely on Dome9’s security dashboard on a daily basis to manage our cloud environment security and to quickly analyze if there are any performance issues that could impact our services to our clients. There have been a number of occasions where we have been able to identify security risks with Dome9 in a matter of moments that otherwise would have taken us days."

Years in IT: 5

Upcoming IT projects: Virtualizing MySQL databases

Favorite product: RACO Wireless Omega Management Suite

Why it’s a favorite: “It broadens our offering (re: base products and solutions) allowing for a more comprehensive end solution for the customers in our market. It is also a very simple product to implement, speeding our time to market with a total solution. It’s our favorite product because it gives us so much more control and visibility into managing our offerings than we had before we were using it. It has also helped to dramatically lower our costs.”

Years in IT: 20+

Upcoming IT projects: Launching two new RACO-enabled products for the safety and security of senior citizens and college students

Favorite product: Corero Network Security’s Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) 5500

Why it’s a favorite: “The IPS’ centralized management system gives the IT department unprecedented insight into the state of network security. Now we’re able to monitor our systems and look at the attacks coming in. More importantly, though, we know those attacks aren’t advancing into the network and we don’t have to worry about them. … This has really freed up the IT department to focus on helping run the business rather than remediating issues such as spyware and malware.”

Years in IT: 6

Upcoming IT projects: Website upgrade