Fave raves: 22 IT pros name their favorite products

We asked, and IT pros answered. Their favorite IT products keep people productive and enterprise assets safe. Check out the list.

When we asked IT pros about their favorite enterprise tech products, their picks included all kinds of hardware and software. The common thread? Gear that saves time or money, increases productivity or tightens security.

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Why it's a favorite: “SecureSurf is a great filtering product that meets all of our needs. Here are just a few of the features I have personally found helpful about this service: easy configuration, low-to-no maintenance, simple whitelisting/blacklisting capabilities and traffic reports. As the primary IT support here at Kee Safety, it has helped my job significantly by reducing the amount of support calls I receive about malware/virus infections, which in turn keeps our network safer overall. It also can be a useful tool if there is any question about employee productivity being wasted on the Internet.”
Years in IT: 6
Upcoming IT projects: Virtualization and cloud services

Why it's a favorite: “With the Riverbed Steelhead appliance, we experience LAN-like speed at all times. Our employees are able to access information almost instantaneously, enabling them to serve the families of Wisconsin to the best of their ability. It delivers exactly as promised. First time, first try.”
Years in IT: Almost 20
Upcoming IT project: Infrastructure migration and modernization

Why it's a favorite: “We recently finished a huge effort to virtualize essentially all of our servers, which means that we’ve now got vital applications on virtual servers. That includes a huge case manager self-service application that we just recently deployed. We provide important services to 90,000 disabled adults in Ohio, and we can’t have those services interrupted because a virtual machine goes down that can’t be recovered. Veeam Backup & Replication not only backs up our servers quickly, but it also does things that weren’t possible for us before we virtualized. It tests every backup to ensure that it will recover properly. That’s a huge load off my mind. And when we do need to recover a VM, we can have the VM running directly from the backup in a matter of seconds, which allows the department to function normally while we complete the restore. Finally -- and this is actually the coolest thing -- Veeam Backup & Replication gives us the ability to create a virtual test lab in which we can test new applications to make sure they’ll work in our production environment before we actually deploy. We used this feature a ton while we were in the middle of our physical-to-virtual migration.”
Years in IT: 23
Upcoming IT project: Deploying a virtual desktop infrastructure

Why it's a favorite: “First, the Nasuni Filer was extremely easy to install and continues to be simple to use. But better yet, now that I’ve used it to put our file server in the cloud, we can finally take our eye off of the file server because it takes care of two issues in one solution: running out of space and backups. I’ve got unlimited space in the cloud, so I don’t have to check capacity every morning, and the cloud keeps my files safe, so I don’t need to worry about backup. Disaster recovery is also really fast – I can restore most files instantly if they’re in the cache and, if not, I can still get them in just 15 minutes. The Nasuni Filer has removed a lot of headaches and freed me and my team to spend our time on more important projects.”
Years in IT: 7
Upcoming IT project: Developing warehouse order-pulling applications for wearable computers

Why it's a favorite: “Spiceworks encapsulates everything you need in an IT management package, and it’s FREE! Since I am a single-person department, Spiceworks has simplified my duties by consolidating most of the data I need to work, in to one application. It’s a fully functional, interactive helpdesk to keep track of users’ issues; tracks software contracts and SLAs; maps my network; and countless other tasks that would bog me down if I didn’t have Spiceworks.”
Years in IT: 8
Upcoming IT project: Server virtualization and ERP upgrade

Why it's a favorite: “SecureTrack makes my job of managing the operations and auditing a few hundred firewalls much easier. It is very easy and extremely quick to produce evidence for changes made on the managed devices as requested by the auditors. Nothing is hidden – SecureTrack will find all changes. We are able to see and manage any given change that occurs on any device at any time by any administrator.”
Years in IT: 25
Upcoming IT project: Optimizing rule bases of firewalls and other networking devices

Why it's a favorite: “Bomgar is an easy-to-use, secure remote support platform that allows us to solve most computer-related issues at our remote stores. There are a variety of features that help us increase the productivity and efficiency of our support team, including Bomgar’s ‘Jump Technology,’ allowing us to access unattended devices, and ‘Bomgar Buttons’ that let our end-users get support with just one click. By implementing the Bomgar appliance, we have reduced expenses drastically in the two years we’ve been using the solution.”
Years in IT: 5
Upcoming IT project: Windows 7 migration

Why it's a favorite: “StealthWatch detects and alerts us to various types of network anomalies and security events. We can then drill down into the specific alarm to determine if the event is non-trivial or requires more investigation. Our system is configured to automatically send ‘null routes’ to our border routers for certain events which effectively blocks communication between our network and the offending IP address for a certain period of time, giving us peace of mind that StealthWatch is automatically mitigating some of these threats. We also use StealthWatch for bandwidth capacity planning. With it, we can tell if certain areas may need to be upgraded quicker due to bandwidth limitation. In addition, we have also used StealthWatch to vindicate the network team from the ever popular phrase ‘It’s the network!’”
Years in IT: 12
Upcoming IT project: IPv6 testing and implementation

Why it's a favorite: “This solution from Circadence enables our police department’s mobile laptop communications to perform at a much more efficient level in terms of speed as well as stability… which is absolutely vital to our patrol officers. As the MIS department juggles multiple tasks, it has cut down on support time and freed up time to devote to other issues and projects. For our officers, they are more efficient but also are using their mobile laptops more now since response times are so much better.”
Years in IT: 12
Upcoming IT project: IP telephones with unified communications

Why it's a favorite: “It's easy to install, use and manage; sessions (classes/meetings/webinars) can be arranged with virtually anyone in the world, not just installed sites; and there's no hassling your meeting participants either. All they have to do is launch their web browser and click on a link. The quality of video and audio exceeded our expectations, and its ability to accommodate high-end camera feeds through computers was a big plus. Nefsis cloud-based services provided complete managed infrastructure at a low-cost entry point, with no long-term commitments or proprietary hardware.”
Years in IT: 10+
Upcoming IT projects: Virtualization, disaster recovery, compliance management

Why it's a favorite: “While our initial NetScaler needs were primarily focused around our key application stacks (SharePoint, Exchange and SAP), its other primary purpose was to replace all Microsoft Network Load Balancing and launch us directly into a virtual infrastructure where NetScaler performs all load-balancing needs for our virtual machines. We purchased an HA pair of MPX 10500 NetScalers and wired them directly into our Cisco Nexus 7000 core. We imported the NetScaler configurations we used in the ‘bake-off’ (real-world solved solutions for Kindred) and were immediately up and running. Shortly thereafter, we re-routed all outbound Internet access through NetScaler and immediately saw such a great performance gain that we inadvertently solved a latency issue we had been struggling with for more than a year.”
Years in IT: 20+
Upcoming IT project: virtual desktop infrastructure

Why it's a favorite: “The dot1x user policy-based dynamic network configuration L2/L4 capabilities. We’ve been authenticating our wired users with dot1x since 2005, and based on their authentication and Active Directory group membership we move them to a specific VLAN and configure their port L2/L4. This allows us to utilize the dynamic configuration of the network and extend this via our IP structure and reverse dis-contiguous subnet masking to non-policy-based devices within the network (such as our firewall and distributed routers).”
Years in IT: 15
Upcoming IT project: Edge switch and VoIP implementation in 240+ campus buildings

Why it's a favorite: “At MBC we collect, preserve, and present historic and contemporary radio and television content, currently around 400,000 videos, and traditional storage systems were extremely expensive for the growing amount of multimedia content we store. Cleversafe’s Dispersed Storage technology defies conventional storage pitfalls by using an algorithm to divide data into “slices” and dispersing them, via secure network connections, to multiple storage nodes on a dsNet system. Each individual slice contains too little information to be useful, but any threshold of the slices can be used to bit-perfectly recreate the original data. Cleversafe’s Dispersed Storage technology enables us to digitize and distribute historic content securely without incurring costly overhead in storage and bandwidth.”
Years in IT: 24
Upcoming IT project: Construction of a new museum facility

Why it's a favorite: “Web performance is critical to Concur, and the only way to truly measure performance is through the end-user perspective. TrueSight allows us to manage performance on a daily basis, quickly identify issues in our environment, and work directly with our clients to determine issues globally. One of the great things about TrueSight is the ability to customize your own dashboards. At Concur, we rely on these dashboards on a daily basis to tell us how the day is progressing and to quickly analyze if there are any performance issues here or anywhere else that could be impacting our services to our clients. There have been a number of occasions where we are able to solve a problem with TrueSight in a matter of moments, that might have otherwise taken us days.”
Years in IT: 26
Upcoming IT projects: Data center moves, SAN upgrades and completing goal of having 75% of environment virtualized

Why it's a favorite: “We were in need of a mobile VPN client that worked with our existing network infrastructure, and after researching/testing several different clients, NCP was the only client that worked in our environment. We were rolling out 180 mobile devices to our nurse aides with a new project using a home health aide application from Allscripts and needed to connect the phones to our network using a simple-to-use VPN client. It’s the only product that we tested that actually works as advertised and also requires very little administration overhead.”
Years in IT: 20
Upcoming IT project: Server virtualization and endpoint encryption

Why it's a favorite: “In one word, its flexibility. F5’s Local Traffic Manager has enabled Rackspace to provide additional functionality and options to our hosting customers. It can function as the focal point for our automation efforts, due to its accessible iControl API. It also functions as a major focal point in our network designs, due to the many features and modularity provided – load balancing, traffic shaping, WAN tunnel optimization and packet filtering.”
Years in IT: 15
Upcoming IT project: Exploring federated clouds

Why it's a favorite: “NexentaStor provides enterprise-class SAN storage features (powered by ZFS). The NexentaStor product is the new kid on the block, fast, reliable, inexpensive. It provides 24x7 data access using high-availability (active/active) clustering technology. We saved money vs. other proprietary solutions. With OpenStorage we were able to select the size hardware for our needs.”
Years in IT: 16
Upcoming IT project: Upgrading the SAN network, deploying a VoIP software switch and introducing Ethernet over copper Internet access

Why it's a favorite: “As far as I am concerned, managing a production environment without Riverbed Cascade is the evolutionary equivalent of not having opposable thumbs. There is no way I could have my hands around our challenging environment without the use of our Cascade server. The Cascade provides near-real-time reporting from any altitude on conversations and end-to-end application performance throughout our 242 sites. In the heat of battle the Cascade server is always my first (and usually only needed) resource to gain visibility into the network at a conversation level.  In nearly every situation, the Cascade has enabled us to resolve network or application problems in less time than it took to submit a help ticket. We use the Cascade for capacity planning and performance tuning as well. Our total investment with the Riverbed product was fully justified by day nine through reducing problem resolution times and avoidance of production gaps.”
Years in IT: 21
Upcoming IT project: Riverbed Steelhead deployment

Why it's a favorite: “We were maxing out the processing power of our legacy load balancer in terms of concurrent connections and SSL handshakes per second. The AX 1000 has proven to have at least 6x the capacity on both counts, at less than half the price of our legacy load balancer, and including feature parity with the ‘big boys.’ Sometimes we have unpredictable traffic surges and the AX 1000 handles these traffic bursts without dropping packets or failing SSL handshakes. And the AX’s CPU utilization is typically 6-10%, which gives us tremendous scalability and headroom for growth.”
Years in IT: 14
Upcoming IT project: Log analysis

Why it's a favorite: “The backlit keyboard, multi-touch trackpad, MagSafe power adaptor, the ability to run with 8GB RAM and a 500GB SATA drive, and ability to run Mac OS and Microsoft Windows with VMware make it my favorite laptop ever. The MagSafe power adaptor has reduced the amount of replacement machines we have to buy due to ‘inadvertent trip over power cables’ from about 6 per year to zero per year.”
Years in IT: 22
Upcoming IT project: Migrating customers to Exchange 2010

Why it's a favorite: “We like the 6355 because it’s an all-in-one device that’s perfect for the SMB. Because the 6355 is a PoE switch and a Layer 3 router with firewall/VPN capability, it allows us to lead with a single appliance solution. The alternative for us would be multiple devices from another supplier to provide all of the same feature/functions.”
Years in IT: 16
Upcoming IT project: Expanding hosted PBX deployments

Why it's a favorite: “This device has an awesome price point and the highest stability and reliability of any device I have deployed in the last 5 years. Our company delivers managed T1 and Ethernet services. Having a device fail often means that our break-even point on a circuit gets pushed back 6-9 months. Being able to rely on only shipping out one device to a customer saves us the replacement cost we often run into with [other vendors’] devices and T1 cards.”
Years in IT: 7
Upcoming IT project: Redundant MPLS to DIA services for 99.99999% uptime

Got a favorite product of your own? Let us know in the comments.

More fave raves:

2010 edition

2009 edition

2008 edition

2007 edition