Our annual SQL Server 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 SQL Server Pro editors and contributors believe are worthy of recognition, whereas our Community Choice program lets readers like you decide which products are the best. (View last year's winners at "2011 SQL Server Magazine Editors' Best and Community Choice Awards").

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 Backup and Recovery Product
  • Best Business Intelligence/Reporting Product
  • Best Database Development Product
  • Best Database Management Product
  • Best Database Monitoring and Performance Product
  • Best Security/Auditing/Compliance Product
  • Best Storage Hardware
  • Best Free Tool
  • Best Vendor Tech Support
  • Funniest Server Names You've Seen
  • Highest Number of SQL Server Systems You've Seen in One Environment
  • The Number-One Thing You Should Never Do to a SQL Server System
  • Your Favorite SQL Server Bloggers


Best Backup and Recovery Product

Editors' Best

Gold: SQL safe backup • Idera
Silver: NetVault LiteSpeed for SQL Server • Dell (formerly Quest Software)
Bronze: Acronis Recovery for MS SQL Server • Acronis

Why It Won: Idera's automated backup and recovery product, SQL safe backup, reduces the time it takes to back up and restore your database, as well as the space required to store your backups. SQL safe backup's three stand-out features are its IntelliCompress2 Technology (which automatically adjusts the backup compression level to create the smallest backup in the shortest amount of time), IntelliRestore (which lets you select a specific point in time to restore the database to, with SQL safe backup automatically pulling together all the necessary backup files to do so quickly), and Instant Restore (which lets you restore your database in the background while allowing SQL Server applications to run and other requests to be fulfilled in the meantime).

Community Choice

sql-backup-pro-logo-smGold: SQL Backup Pro • Red Gate Software
Silver: NetVault LiteSpeed for SQL Server • Dell (formerly Quest Software)
Bronze: Acronis Recovery for MS SQL Server • Acronis

"SQL Backup Pro is just the best product amongst its competitors."

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
Idera SQL safe backup
Symantec Backup Exec

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Best Business Intelligence/Reporting Product

Editors' Best

Gold: Tableau Server • Tableau Software
Silver: Necto BI for SQL Server • Panorama Software
Bronze: Crystal Reports • SAP

Why It Won: A long-time leader in data visualization, Tableau Server makes it easy to create and share browser-based business intelligence (BI) dashboards and interactive reports with rich data-based graphics. Tableau Server reports and data visualizations are easy to create and they can be integrated with Microsoft SharePoint for easy deployment in your organization. Touch-optimized Apple iPad and Google Android apps enable you to work with Tableau dashboards on your mobile devices.

Community Choice

tableauSoftware_logo-smGold: List & Label • combit
Silver: Tableau Server • Tableau Software
Bronze: Cognos • IBM

"List & Label is the best investment I ever made for my application."

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
Pragmatic Works BI xPress
Nevron Vision for SQL Server Reporting Services

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Best Database Development Product

Editors' Best

Gold: SQL Developer Bundle • Red Gate Software
Silver: DB PowerStudio for SQL Server, DBA Edition • Embarcadero Technologies
Bronze: Toad for SQL Server • Dell (formerly Quest Software)

Why It Won: Red Gate Software's SQL Development Bundle is a collection of 12 easy-to-use SQL Server developer tools that help with database development, testing, and deployment. Some of the tools in SQL Developer Bundle include SQL Prompt Pro (which helps you write T-SQL code), SQL Compare Pro and SQL Data Compare Pro (which enable you to compare database schemas and data), and SQL Source Control (which helps you add source and version control for your SQL Server databases).

Community Choice

Gold: Toad for SQL Server • Dell (formerly Quest Software)
Silver: SQL Developer Bundle • Red Gate Software
Bronze: SSMSBoost Add-in for SQL Server Management Studio • Solutions Crew

"No question here: Toad rocks my socks!"

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
Red Gate Software SQL Toolbelt
Devart dbForge SQL Complete

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Best Database Management Product

Editors' Best

Gold: SQL Toolbelt • Red Gate Software
Silver: SQL toolbox • Idera
Bronze: DBArtisan XE3 • Embarcadero Technologies

Why It Won: SQL Server tool suites top the Database Management category this year and for good reason: They offer overall database management capabilities that can't be matched. However, one suite stands above the rest—Red Gate Software SQL Toolbelt. This product's 16 database administration and development tools are considered to be the best of the best in the SQL Server community. Each tool reduces the amount of time and effort you have to spend on everyday database maintenance tasks, including performance monitoring (SQL Monitor), backup and recovery (SQL Backup Pro), and database schema comparison and synchronization (SQL Compare Pro). This suite provides everything you need to maintain your databases and more—one perk offered by SQL Toolbelt is free access to the current top 20 SQL Server books on Safari Books Online.

Community Choice

Gold: SQL Toolbelt • Red Gate Software
Silver: SQL toolbox • Idera
Bronze: Toad for SQL Server • Dell (formerly Quest Software)

"I love Red Gate! They rock everything!"

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
SQL Sentry Event Manager
Red Gate Software SQL Compare (standalone version)

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Best Database Monitoring and Performance Product

Editors' Best

Gold: Performance Advisor for SQL Server • SQL Sentry
Silver: SQL diagnostic manager • Idera
Bronze: Spotlight on SQL Server Enterprise • Dell (formerly Quest Software)

Why It Won: For the second year in a row, SQL Sentry's Performance Advisor for SQL Server prevails as the top performance monitoring product. Performance Advisor not only displays SQL Server performance information but also SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) and Windows Server data in the same dashboard, making it easy to analyze the performance of your entire SQL Server environment. The addition of the Indexes tab on the Performance Advisor dashboard in the latest version enables you to drill down more granularly into performance metrics at the index, table, and partition level. In addition, the inclusion of SQL Sentry's popular Plan Explorer lets you quickly and easily see how specific query plans affect SQL Server performance. "In Performance Advisor, you can also perform such actions as setting up event notifications, logging to a disk, and executing a job or task," said SQL Server Pro author Brian Erlich ("Product Review: SQL Sentry Power Suite 6.2 ").

Community Choice

Gold: SQL diagnostic manager • Idera
Silver: SQL Monitor • Red Gate Software
Bronze: Performance Advisor for SQL Server • SQL Sentry

"By far, SQL diagnostic manager is the most comprehensive SQL Server monitoring product available."

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
Dell Spotlight on SQL Server Enterprise
Confio Software Ignite for SQL Server

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Best Security/Auditing/Compliance Product

Editors' Best

Gold: SQL compliance manager • Idera
Silver: ChangeAuditor for SQL Server • Dell (formerly Quest Software)
Bronze: NetWrix SQL Server Change Reporter • NetWrix

Why It Won: Idera's SQL compliance manager enables you to track the essential "who did what, when, where, and how" to your databases. It can monitor and audit data access, schema changes, and failed logins. It can also help your company meet compliance regulations with built-in Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Payment Card Industry (PCI) audit templates. To help you protect your data, SQL compliance manager can track changes to sensitive columns and alert you to who has accessed them. In addition, to track database object changes, SQL compliance manager can audit data changes resulting from insert, update, and delete operations.

Community Choice

Gold: SQL compliance manager • Idera
Silver: ChangeAuditor for SQL Server • Dell (formerly Quest Software)
Bronze: GreenSQL Database Security • GreenSQL

"Idera SQL compliance manager is the best product to confidently audit and ensure that your SQL Servers are compliant with whatever regulations you need to comply with."

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
NetWrix SQL Server Change Reporter
F-Secure Policy Manager

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Best Storage Hardware

hyper_ise-smEditors' 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 and SQL Server 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: ioDrive • Fusion-io
Silver: EqualLogic • Dell
Bronze: V-Series Open Storage Controllers • NetApp

"Two words regarding ioDrive: blinding speed."

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
HP Network Storage System
EMC VNX Family

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Best Free Tool

Editors' Best

Gold: SQL Scripts Manager • Red Gate Software
Silver: Discovery Wizard for SQL Server • Dell (formerly Quest Software)
Bronze: YourSQLDba • Maurice Pelchat

Why It Won: SQL Scripts Manager contains more than 25 must-have scripts to help simplify everyday database administration tasks, including troubleshooting, diagnostic tasks, and maintenance. The scripts are written by proven SQL Server experts, including Ola Hallengren, Phil Factor, Rodney Landrum, Dan McClain, and Tracy Hamlin. The current version of SQL Scripts Manager includes Ola Hallengren's latest update to his Maintenance Solution script, which lets DBAs perform backups, integrity checks, and index and statistics maintenance on all SQL Server versions. Finally, DBAs are encouraged to create and share their own scripts with the SQL Server community.

Community Choice

Gold: SQL Server Maintenance Solution • Ola Hallengren
Silver: SQL Sentry Plan Explorer • SQL Sentry
Bronze: SQL check • Idera

"Free but worth a ton of gold! Many thanks and accolades to Ola Hallengren."

Other Hot Products in this Year's Community Choice Survey
DBSophic Qure Analyzer
Solutions Crew SSMSBoost Add-in for SQL Server Management Studio, Community Edition

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Best Vendor Tech Support

Gold: combit
Silver: Microsoft
Bronze: Red Gate Software

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Funniest Server Names You've Seen

1. Larry, Moe, and Curly
2. Cartman, Kenny, Kyle, and Timmaaaay
3. Kirk, Spock, and Bones
4. Homer, Marge, Bart, and Lisa
5. Kermit, Gonzo, and Fozzie
6. MrKotter, Washington, Barbarino, Horshack, and Epstein
7. Anakin for pre-production and Darth Vader for production
8. Pluto, Saturn, and Venus
9. Miller, Pabst, and Budweiser
10. C3P0, R2D2, and OB1

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Highest Number of SQL Server Systems You've Seen in One Environment

1. 25,000
2. 12,000
3. 6,000
4. 3,500
5. 2,500
6. 1,500
7. 1,000
8. 700
9. 500
10. 300

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The Number-One Thing You Should Never Do to a SQL Server System

1. Forget to test and run backups.
2. Use the Auto Shrink option.
3. Create indexes automatically.
4. Manually edit the system tables.
5. Grant sysadmin access to anyone not on the DBA team.
6. Ignore fragmentation.
7. Restart the SQL Server service to "fix a problem."
8. Use the simple model for production databases.
9. Reboot the server while investigating performance problems.
10. Get it wet.

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Your Favorite SQL Server Bloggers

1. Brent Ozar
2. Thomas LaRock
3. Aaron Bertrand
4. Kimberly L. Tripp and Paul S. Randal
5. Glenn Berry
6. Paul White
7. Kevin Kline
8. Pinal Dave
9. Jonathan Kehayias
10. Adam Machanic