Picking a favorite product from an impressive crowd of competitive offerings is never an easy task, and such was the case with our Editors' Best and Community Choice awards this year. The former award program highlights products that SQL Server Magazine and Windows IT Pro editors and contributors believe are worthy of recognition, whereas the latter program turns that process over to you, our readers.

Our Community Choice awards allowed readers to decide which products and services were chosen for acclaim and recognition. Rather than presenting a predefined list of products and services that limited your selection to choices our editorial team had already made, this year we decided to open up the process to everyone and let you determine the products and services that were worthy of inclusion in our final voting phase. We also encouraged DBAs, developers, and IT pros to submit comments about why they selected the products they did, so you'll see lots of insightful comments and real-world wisdom from your peers about their favorite products on the pages that follow.

Unlike last year—when we treated both award programs as separate entities—we decided to merge both of the award programs together this year. We've listed the top three Editors' Best products in each category directly adjacent to our Community Choice winners. Sometimes our editors and readers agreed on what products and services were best in a given category, and sometimes they didn't. Yet regardless of whether these winners were picked by editors or readers, one thing is certain: All these awards recognize products and services that are considered the best of the best in their respective categories.

By presenting our Community Choice and Editors' Best award picks next to each other this year, we're hoping we'll encourage some dialogue about the selections that were made. Do you agree with the choices our editors made? Or do the picks that our readers made carry more weight? Please let us know what you think by emailing us your comments, or by visiting our forums and writing a post or two.

Best Backup and Recovery Software Product

Editors' Best
Gold:
LiteSpeed for SQL Server • Quest Software • www.quest.com
Silver: SQL safe backup • Idera • www.idera.com
Bronze: SQL Backup Pro • Red Gate Software • www.red-gate.com

"LiteSpeed sets the bar for other SQL Server backup programs. LiteSpeed has always used compression to reduce your backup windows but the new release has also added support for the new FILESTREAM data type, and a new SmartDiff allows you to specify conditions for full or differential backups."—Michael Otey, technical director, Windows IT Pro and SQL Server Magazine

"Few competitive products can match the robust feature set in LiteSpeed for SQL Server. Quest Software’s new SmartDiff technology scrunches down database backups into even smaller file sizes and is one of the reasons why LiteSpeed gets my vote."—Jeff James, editor-in-chief, Windows IT Pro

Community Choice
Gold: Hyperbac for SQL Server • Hyperbac • www.hyperbac.com
Silver: NetVault:Backup • BakBone • www.bakbone.com
Bronze: Simpana • CommVault • www.commvault.com

Quotes from your community about Hyperbac for SQL Server …
"Seamless integration with SQL Server!"
"Refreshing in its simplicity."

 

Best Business Intelligence and Reporting Tool

Editors' Best
Gold: Tableau • Tableau Software • www.tableausoftware.com
Silver: NovaView • Panorama Software • www.panorama.com
Bronze: Analyzer • Strategy Companion • www.strategycompanion.com

"What I like about Tableau 5.0 is that SQL Server professionals don’t have to spend a lot of time training business users  how to use it—anyone can quickly learn to use this product to create active dashboards and reports and analyze data, as long as they have access to the Internet. Tableau 5.0 also lets you tie in to multiple data sources and create interactive visualizations that help you better understand your data, and therefore help you make informed business decisions, faster."—Megan Keller, associate editor, SQL Server Magazine and Windows IT Pro

 


"Giving stakeholders the information they need in a format they can understand is invaluable, and Tableau 5.0 does that better than just about any other BI tool."—Jeff James, editor in chief, Windows IT Pro

"Filling the gaping hole left by Microsoft’s absorption of ProClarity, Strategy Companion Analyzer is the best solution to complete the Microsoft BI platform. For analysts, power users, and general report consumers, Analyzer supports the full range of SQL Server Analysis Services features. It has a zero-footprint client interface, making it simple to deploy and manage, with delivery options for SharePoint, Excel, and Internet Explorer. Analyzer offers a powerful and intuitive set of analysis tools and visualizations that let business users make more confident decisions."—Douglas McDowell, contributing editor, SQL Server Magazine

Community Choice
Gold:
IT Analytics • Symantec • www.symantec.com
Silver: Business Objects Crystal Reports • Business Objects • www.businessobjects.com
Bronze: XtraReports Suite • DevExpress • www.devexpress.com

Quotes from your community about Symantec's IT Analytics …
"Leverages all the data inside the Altiris platform."
"Default cube schemas and reports, visual quality, ease of use, dynamic tables and graphs, benefits of SQL reporting services."
 

Best Database Management Product

Editors' Best
Gold:
SQL Toolbelt • Red Gate Software • www.red-gate.com
Silver: SQL Defrag Manager • Idera • www.idera.com
Bronze: DatabaseSpy 2009 • Altova • www.altova.com

"The Red Gate SQL Toolbelt pulls together 13 SQL Server management and development tools you can buy individually for less than half the price. Getting good value for your tools investment makes a lot of sense in a down economy."—Sheila Molnar, executive editor, SQL Server Magazine

"SQL defrag manager 2.5 lets you quickly analyze indexes and defragment them. With defrag manager you can automate index defragmentation by creating policies, which can be scheduled, in which you can specify thresholds for fragmentation levels and index scan densities. SQL defrag manager 2.5 has great features and an easy-to-use GUI."—Michael K. Campbell, contributing editor, SQL Server Magazine

"If you’re managing more than one flavor of database, you’ll want to check out this multipurpose toolset. With DatabaseSpy, database administrators can connect to not only SQL Server, but also Oracle, IBM DB2, Sybase, and MySQL."—Sheila Molnar, executive editor, SQL Server Magazine

Community Choice
Gold: Security Explorer for SQL Server • ScriptLogic • www.scriptlogic.com
Silver: SQL Toolbelt • Red Gate Software • www.red-gate.com
Bronze: SQL diagnostic manager • Idera • www.idera.com

Quotes from your community about ScriptLogic's Security Explorer for SQL Server …
"The extremely granular management of permission sets makes my job easier."
"A comprehensive security solution."

 

 

Best Database Monitoring and Performance Product

Editor's Best
Gold:
Performance Advisor for Analysis Services • SQL Sentry • www.sqlsentry.net
Silver: Zero Impact SQL Monitor • SQL Power Tools • www.sqlpower.com
Bronze: Ignite • Confio Software • www.confio.com

"Analysis Services' presence is becoming stronger throughout enterprises as more companies are realizing and adopting BI-related solutions and platforms. Analysis Services professionals have had to rely on out-of-the-box APIs, counters, and traces to obtain Analysis Services monitoring capabilities. With the release of SQLSentry's Performance Advisor for Analysis Services, this is no longer the case. The Performance Advisor for Analysis Services product makes for a great companion tool for the Analysis Services professional."—Derek Comingore, contributor, SQL Server Magazine

 

"What I most appreciate about Performance Advisor for Analysis Services is that it lets you monitor SQL Server Analysis Services’ (SSAS’) resource utilization in real-time mode or historic mode, then easily troubleshoot bottlenecks from its intuitive Performance Dashboard for SSAS. It also offers monitoring and alerting for SQL Server Reporting Services and SQL Server Integration Services, so you can keep an eye on your entire BI platform from one console."—Megan Keller, associate editor, SQL Server Magazine and Windows IT Pro

Community Choice
Gold:
Zero Impact Enterprise Monitor • SQL Power Tools • www.sqlpower.com
Silver: Foglight Performance Analysis for SQL Server • Quest Software • www.quest.com
Bronze: Performance Advisor for SQL Server • SQL Sentry • www.sqlsentry.net

Quotes from your community about SQL Power Tools' Zero Impact Enterprise Monitor …
"Zero Impact Enterprise Monitor is essential in our company for diagnosing performance problems."
"Valuable information, succinctly delivered."
 

Best Development Tool

Editors' Best
Gold:
Toad for SQL Server • Quest Software • www.toadsoft.com
Silver: SQL Developer Bundle • Red Gate Software • www.red-gate.com
Bronze: XtraPivotGrid Suite • DevExpress • www.devexpress.com

"Developers and DBAs get a lot of bang for the buck with this comprehensive toolset. Quest Toad is a great set for administrators or developers with crossover responsibilities. You get not only a management tool suite, but also a set of development tools you can use to bridge the gap with Visual Studio."—Sheila Molnar, executive editor, SQL Server Magazine

"The Red Gate SQL Developer Bundle toolbox is constantly updated with the newest versions of Red Gate tools. Mike Campbell is a big fan of Red Gate tools. Here’s Mike on one of the tools in the Bundle, Refactor: 'One of the reasons I really love it is that it comes with code-formatting tools that work very well. Just a couple of menu item selections and code goes from hideous to following a large number of conventions that would be there had I written the code.'"—Sheila Molnar, executive editor, SQL Server Magazine

"The DevExpress XtraPivotGrid Suite provides OLAP data mining and cross-tab reporting for WinForms. New for 2009 is an updated version of the Expressions editor and support for 50 new functions."—Sheila Molnar, executive editor, SQL Server Magazine

Community Choice
Gold: Adobe Dreamweaver • Adobe • www.adobe.com
Silver: Coderush • DevExpress • www.devexpress.com
Bronze: RadControls • Telerik • www.telerik.com

Quotes from your community about Adobe Dreamweaver …
"This web editor simply does everything."
"Everything is faster, easier, and more intuitive with Dreamweaver."
"Very highly recommended to anyone building websites."

Best Hardware: Server

Editors' Best
Gold:
HP ProLiant DL380 series • HP • www.hp.com
Silver: NEC 5800 series • NEC • www.nec.com
Bronze: Dell PowerEdge • Dell • www.dell.com

"The ProLiant line of servers is likely represented in every data center in existence. The DL360 and DL380 are the workhorses of many IT shops, and for good reason: reasonably priced, extensive support options, and a myriad of configurations."—Michael Dragone, contributing editor, Windows IT Pro

"Hardware is hardware. The CPU comes from Intel or AMD, the hard drives are industry-standard, and the memory is OEM'd from Korea. The real question is, 'Who is going to answer the phone when you have a problem?' HP support is rock solid. Period."—Eric B. Rux, contributing editor, Windows IT Pro

"The HP ProLiant DL380 servers are fantastic virtualization hosts."—Alan Sugano, contributing editor, Windows IT Pro

Community Choice
Gold: HP ProLiant DL380 Series • HP • www.hp.com
Silver: Dell PowerEdge 2900 Series • Dell • www.dell.com
Bronze: IBM Blade Center Server • IBM • www.ibm.com

Quotes from your community about HP's ProLiant DL380 servers …
"Excellent power, reliability, and manageability for a solid price."
"HP products always have fewer problems than those of other vendors."
"Reasonably priced, reliable, and highly expandable."
 

Best Hardware: Storage

Editors' Best
Gold: Intel SSD drives • Intel • www.intel.com
Silver: nTier Deduplication appliance • SpectraLogic • www.spectralogic.com
Bronze: DroboPro • Data Robotics • www.drobo.com

"As the price of SSD drives continue to plummet, you'll need to seriously consider taking the leap. It's the most worthwhile upgrade you can make to any computer system these days, and the Intel drives are amongst the best SSDs available."—Michael Dragone, contributing editor, Windows IT Pro

"Intel SSDs—along with the rise of virtualization and the boom in iSCSI SAN adoption—are undoubtedly contributing to a revolution of storage in the enterprise."—Jeff James, editor in chief, Windows IT Pro

"The Drobo is exactly what today's IT pros need—automated, easy-to-use, plug-and-play backup functionality in the form of a cool gadget."—Jason Bovberg, senior editor, Windows IT Pro

Community Choice
Gold: EMC Clariion • EMC • www.emc.com
Silver: Dell EqualLogic PS5000 • Dell • www.dell.com
Bronze: NetApp FAS3100 • NetApp • www.netapp.com

Quotes from your community about EMC Clariion …
"Easy-to-use, affordable networked storage."
"The new virtual-aware EMC Clariion is perfect for my VMware environment."
"Love the expandability."
 

Best SharePoint Product

Editors' Best
Gold: ControlPoint for SharePoint • Axceler • www.axceler.com
Silver: Software Professional Archive Manager for SharePoint • Metalogix • www.metalogix.net
Bronze: Mimosa NearPoint for SharePoint • Mimosa Systems • www.mimosasystems.com

"Axceler ControlPoint helps IT pros get better control of their SharePoint environment through permissions management, content management, in-depth usage analysis, policy enforcement, and flexible alerts and scheduled analyses."—Jeff James, editor in chief, Windows IT Pro

"ControlPoint provides the tools and intelligence to help you manage and monitor large farms effectively, and it integrates well with the existing SharePoint UI; the ability to manage user permission levels is nicely implemented."—Curt Spanburgh, contributing editor, Windows IT Pro

Community Choice
Gold: Site Administrator for SharePoint • Quest Software • www.quest.com
Silver: Colligo Contributor Pro • Colligo Networks • www.colligo.com
Bronze: CorasWorks Workplace Suite 10 • CorasWorks • www.corasworks.com

Quotes from your community about Quest Software's Site Administrator for SharePoint …
"Has helped me completely understand and manage my entire SharePoint environment."
"For SharePoint management of servers and sites, it's the best and most comprehensive product out there."

 

Best Training and Certification Product or Service

Editors' Best
Gold: LabSim • TestOut • www.testout.com
Silver: Train Signal Computer Training Videos • Train Signal • www.trainsignal.com
Bronze: PrepLogic eLearning Videos • PrepLogic • www.preplogic.com

"TestOut's LabSim is a true innovator in the IT training and certification space. This online lab technology helps further learning for professionals of all levels. Newcomers to the field can gain a level of hands-on experience on or off campus unlike ever before, and seasoned professionals have easy access to skills-based online training to earn additional certifications or degrees."—Brian Reinholz, training & certification editor, Windows IT Pro

"We feel that between the LabSim materials, the optional textbook TestOut offers, and the online course portal, our students have a very robust online environment that offers a comprehensive and integrated online experience."—Marcus Butler, assistant professor, West Los Angeles College

Community Choice
Gold:
Train Signal Premium Computer Training Videos • Train Signal • www.trainsignal.com
Silver: TestOut Professional Training for IT Certification • TestOut • www.testout.com
Bronze: Global Knowledge IT Training Classes • Global Knowledge • www.globalknowledge.com

Quotes from your community about Train Signal's training videos …
"Train Signal videos are definitively the building blocks of creating a solid foundation when learning a technology such as Exchange 2007."
"Very polished, excellent instruction."

 

Best Virtualization Product

Editors' Best
Gold: VMware vSphere 4 • VMware • www.vmware.com
Silver: NxTop • Virtual Computer • www.virtualcomputer.com
Bronze: Citrix XenServer 5.5 • Citrix • www.citrix.com

"VMware vSphere 4 has a lot of nice new features, but you can justify the upgrade by the increase in performance alone. We’re seeing performance increases of 20 to 30 percent and in some cases even higher depending on the application with the same hardware."—Alan Sugano, contributing editor, Windows IT Pro

"NxTop is a complete end-to-end solution that allows you to create and deploy VMs to systems with a management console that helps you keep track of who has what. It also has a remote swipe option so that if a system gets stolen and boots up and connects, the VM evaporates."—J. Peter Bruzzese, contributor, Windows IT Pro

Community Choice
Gold: VMware ESX Server 3.5 • VMware • www.vmware.com
Silver: Symantec Endpoint Virtualization Suite • Symantec • www.symantec.com
Bronze: Citrix XenServer • Citrix • www.citrix.com

Quotes from your community about VMware ESX Server 3.5 …
"Simply the most important, sophisticated virtualization product on the market."
"It's evolved into such a mature virtualization product!"

 

Best Vendor Tech Support

Gold: Dell • www.dell.com
Silver: Microsoft • www.microsoft.com
Bronze: Symantec • www.symantec.com