SQL Server Magazine's annual Editors' Best and Community Choice award programs offer a unique way to recognize the hottest products among the past year's offerings. Choosing favorites from such a competitive field—not to mention in the midst of such a financially unstable market—can be a challenge, but this year's winners show an uncommon breadth of functionality and originality.

Our Editors' Best program highlights products that SQL Server Magazine editors and contributors believe are worthy of recognition, whereas our Community Choice program lets our readers decide which products are the best. As we did last year—rather than presenting a predefined list of products and services that limited your selection to our choices—we opened 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. For the Gold winners of both Editors' Best and Community Choice, we even reached out to readers and spoke to them about how the product or service helps them do their job. We spoke to real users about real experiences, and we hope these testimonials benefit you in your environment.

In these pages, you'll find our Gold, Silver, and Bronze Editors' Best winners in each category directly adjacent to our 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 serious consideration if you're in the market for a new tool.

 

Best Backup and Recovery Software Product

Editors' Best

Gold: LiteSpeed for SQL Server 6.0 • Quest Software • www.quest.com

Silver: SQL safe backup 6.4 • Idera • www.idera.com

Bronze: Replay for SQL 4 • AppAssure • www.appassure.com

Why It Won: LiteSpeed for SQL Server sets a high bar for SQL Server backup products because it not only backs up SQL Server files quickly but also offers compression, encryption, and fast restores.

Chris Burns, director and database consultant for Data Technology Consultants, said “It works exactly the same as SQL Server, but with basically a more powerful engine. The high-speed, high-powered LiteSpeed engine backs up the way native backups would, but it’s honestly far faster and with compression to boot.” He said the main benefit his team sees in LiteSpeed for SQL Server 6.0 is its Fast Compression backup technology. “We gain a substantial compression ratio of about 75 to 80 percent of our physical standard SQL Server data files. The benefits of that aren't just in storage size—which relates to the cost per gigabyte—but also in restore speed, the obvious ability to restore more quickly, and also the ability to back up more quickly, which offloads the backup process from SQL Server as quickly as possible.”

Community Choice

Gold: SQL Backup Pro 6.4 • Red Gate Software • www.red-gate.com

Silver: SQL safe backup 6.4 • Idera • www.idera.com

Bronze: LiteSpeed for SQL Server 6.0 • Quest Software • www.quest.com


"SQL Backup Pro 6.4 compresses and encrypts SQL Server backups, and it has extra features to strengthen backup activities, including network resilience for backups and an intuitive interface for powerful job management."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey …

  • Red Gate Software's SQL HyperBac
  • OfficeRecovery.com's Recovery for SQL Server

Best Business Intelligence and Reporting Tool

Editors' Best

Gold: Tableau Server 5.2 • Tableau Software • www.tableausoftware.com

Silver: NovaView 6.2 • Panorama Software • www.panorama.com

Bronze: Attunity SQL Server-CDC for SSIS • Attunity • www.attunity.com

Why It Won: Tableau Software’s business intelligence solution stands above the rest because it offers a rich, robust environment that lets users share their data visualizations (e.g., reports, dashboards) with one another quickly and easily.

“We needed a product that was easy to implement, easy to use, flexible, very fast, robust, and reliable,” said Matt Krzysiak, COO for the National Motor Club. “Tableau met all of those criteria.” Krzysiak said Tableau Server lets his company’s business and IT personnel be more productive with data. “After installation, we put Tableau and Tableau Server in the hands of our business people. They now have a tool that will allow them to visualize our data and publish visualizations on our intranet without relying on our IT department. This has allowed us to move more quickly and discover information that has led to better products, better service, and reduced costs.”

Community Choice

Gold: Tableau Server 5.2 • Tableau Software • www.tableausoftware.com

Silver: FastReport.Net • Fast Reports • www.fastreports.com

Bronze: Attunity SQL Server-CDC for SSIS • Attunity • www.attunity.com


"Tableau Server just has the best embedded dashboard on the market."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey …

  • SAP Business Objects' Crystal Reports
  • SQL Sentry BI Suite
  • Panorama Software's NovaView 6.2

 

Best Database Management Product

Editors' Best

Gold: SQL Toolbelt • Red Gate Software • www.red-gate.com

Silver: SQL toolbox • Idera • www.idera.com

Bronze: Altiris Server Management Suite • Symantec • www.symantec.com

Why It Won: Red Gate Software's SQL Toolbelt offers 14 tools in a popular set—they're terrific tools and a great value.

Steve Powell, the technical design lead at Spire Healthcare, is excited about using the tools in the SQL Toolbelt in SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS). One tool he especially likes is SQL Source Control, noting, “In a small shop like ours, Team Foundation Server (TFS) is a big ask. We use free tools like SVN and TRAC for our code repository and bug tracking. Source Control costs peanuts compared with TFS, and it’s a much lighter tool to implement in terms of workflow and processes. We can use SQL Source Control to submit code changes directly from within SSMS. And attaching them to tickets couldn't be simpler.”

Community Choice

Gold: SQL Toolbelt • Red Gate Software • www.red-gate.com

Silver: SQL admin toolset 1.5 • Idera • www.idera.com

Bronze: Toad for SQL Server • Quest Software • www.quest.com


"SQL Toolbelt really lives up to its name: It's just a bunch of great tools."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey …

  • Embarcadero Technologies' DBArtisan
  • Quest Software's Spotlight on SQL Server Enterprise
  • SQL Sentry Event Manager

 

Best Database Monitoring and Performance Product

Editor's Best

Gold: Ignite 8 • Confio Software • www.confio.com

Silver: SQL diagnostic manager 6.2 SP1 • Idera • www.idera.com

Bronze: Spotlight on SQL Server Enterprise 7.0 • Quest Software • www.quest.com

Why It Won: Confio Software’s Ignite 8 is a true all-in-one performance-monitoring solution that builds off of Ignite’s original response-time monitoring functionality to also offer routine performance statistics via intuitive dashboards.

Ben Miller, the director of database administration at Nature’s Sunshine Products, said he was impressed by Ignite 8’s non-intrusive nature and the speed at which information was gathered. "We had access to the application name, query text, executions, and reads and writes. It was more information in one place than we had from any other product we saw," Miller said. “Everyone is familiar with slowness at times, but before \\[users\\] see the slowness become common, we are in \\[Ignite\\] with alerts as well as rich graphs telling us which queries to worry about. We have actually tuned queries before users noticed, and they reciprocated with comments about things being faster before they had to complain.”

Community Choice

Gold: SQL diagnostic manager 6.2 SP1 • Idera • www.idera.com

Silver: SQLCentric • Pearl Knowledge Solutions • www.pearlknows.com

Bronze: SQL Response 1.3 • Red Gate Software • www.red-gate.com


"SQL diagnostic manager is easy to use, very intuitive, and helps me keep my production servers up all the time."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey …

  • Quest Software's Foglight Performance Analysis for SQL Server
  • SQL Sentry's Performance Advisor for Analysis Services
  • Embarcadero Technologies' DB Performance Center XE

Best Development Tool

Editors' Best

Gold: Toad for SQL Server • Quest Software • www.quest.com

Silver: PowerShell Plus 3.5 • Idera • www.idera.com

Bronze: CodeRush • DevExpress • www.devexpress.com

Why It Won: Quest Software's Toad for SQL Server offers an extremely wide range of functionality for developers and DBAs.

“Quest Toad for SQL Server has been my editor of choice for the standard and enterprise SQL Server work I’ve performed since 2005,” said Hank Freeman, a senior systems database and data warehouse architect in Atlanta, Georgia. “It has always been and continues to be the leading-edge tool for the professional DBA and developer.”

Community Choice

Gold: PowerShell Plus 3.5 • Idera • www.idera.com

Silver: Toad for SQL Server • Quest Software • www.quest.com

Bronze: SQL Compare 8.2 • Red Gate Software • www.red-gate.com


"PowerShell Plus features hundreds of free scripts, an advanced script editor and debugger, and a comprehensive learning center, all integrated into a single product."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey …

  • Red Gate Software's SQL Prompt 4.0
  • DevExpress's CodeRush
  • SoftTree Technologies' SQL Assistant 5.1

 

Best Security/Auditing/Compliance Tool

Editors' Best

Gold: SQL compliance manager 3.2 • Idera • www.idera.com

Silver: Security Explorer 7.5 • ScriptLogic • www.scriptlogic.com

Bronze: Hedgehog Enterprise 3.5 • Sentrigo • www.sentrigo.com

Why It Won: Today’s compliance regulations require many companies to be able to provide an audit trail that shows who is accessing data and when—a potentially time-consuming, complex process. Idera’s SQL compliance manager lets DBAs easily track user accounts and activity to prove to auditors what’s being done on SQL Server systems.

Jon McLendon, a senior database administrator for Colonial Properties Trust, said that his company implemented this product to address his company's SOX audit needs. “From an internal standpoint, it gave us the ability to very closely monitor and track the critical administration accounts for SQL Server.” McLendon went on to say that the product lets his team know via email whether the SA account is successfully or unsuccessfully used. If it’s successfully used, “any activity is tracked—we can go back and look over everything that was done under that login.” The product also tracks all other administrative accounts and their activity, said McLendon. “So there’s never any question about what we’re doing or not doing in a system.” According to McLendon, his company has benefitted from SQL compliance manager because “it goes above and beyond what would be expected from the auditors.”

Community Choice

Gold: SQL compliance manager 3.2 • Idera • www.idera.com

Silver: Hedgehog Enterprise 3.5 • Sentrigo • www.sentrigo.com

Bronze: Security Explorer 7.5 • ScriptLogic • www.scriptlogic.com


"SQL compliance manager is essential to ensuring a well secured and compliant SQL Server environment."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey …

  • Idera's SQL Secure 2.6
  • NetWrix's SQL Server Change Reporter

Best Storage Hardware Product

Editors' Best

Gold: DroboElite • Data Robotics • www.drobo.com

Silver: PowerVault • Dell • www.dell.com

Bronze: HP StorageWorks • HP • www.hp.com

Why It Won: The Drobo Elite is truly a set-it-and-forget-it iSCSI backup system. It's inexpensive, easy to use, and yet powerful for the small-to-midsized business (SMB) storage environment.

"The DroboElite fits well into my environment," said Ivan Breit, lead systems administrator for Whalen Furniture. "My previous storage system had failed, and I replaced it with the DroboElite, which ended up saving me thousands of dollars compared with other systems I was considering. Since implementing the DroboElite, my VMware backup environment has performed flawlessly. I’m also considering doing some restructuring of my virtualized environment and I am going to use the iSCSI connectivity of the DroboElite to provide primary storage for my VMs during the transition. The DroboElite is a flexible storage solution that meets my needs, and the BeyondRAID technology does exactly what it's supposed to do."

Community Choice

Gold: EMC CLARiiON series • EMC • www.emc.com

Silver: Dell PowerVault series • Dell • www.dell.com

Bronze: NetApp FAS3100 series • NetApp • www.netapp.com


"EMC CLARiiON provides terrific bang for the buck."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey …

  • Dell's EqualLogic series
  • IBM's XIV Storage System
  • HP StorageWorks solutions

 

Best Free Tool

Editors' Best

Gold: SP_WhoIsActive • Adam Machanic • sqlblog.com

Silver: SSMS Tools Pack 1.9 • Mladen Prajdic • www.ssmstoolspack.com

Bronze: SQL Server Maintenance Solution • Ola Hallengren • ola.hallengren.com

Why It Won: SP_WhoIsActive is mentioned in the SQL Server community as the epitome of a fantastic free tool. Adam Machanic updates the tool frequently, it’s well explained and supported by great internal documentation, and its code is considered to be the best of the best.

“To say I like SP_WhoIsActive is an understatement,” SQL Server Magazine author Kevin Kline said in “SP_WhoIsActive” (June 2010, InstantDoc ID 125107). “This is probably the most useful and effective stored procedure I’ve ever encountered for activity monitoring. The purpose of the SP_WhoIsActive stored procedure is to give DBAs and developers as much performance and workload data about SQL Server’s internal workings as possible, while retaining both flexibility and security.”

Community Choice

Gold: SQL Server Maintenance Solution • Ola Hallengren • ola.hallengren.com

Silver: SQL check 2.6 • Idera • www.idera.com

Bronze: Tableau Public • Tableau Software • www.tableausoftware.com


"Ola Hallengren's tools are justly famous."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey …

  • Quest Software's Toad Data Modeler Freeware Edition
  • Red Gate Software's SQLSearch 1.0
  • LessThanDot's SQLCop

SQL Server Magazine's annual Editors' Best and Community Choice award programs offer a unique way to recognize the hottest products among the past year's offerings. Choosing favorites from such a competitive field—not to mention in the midst of such a financially unstable market—can be a challenge, but this year's winners show an uncommon breadth of functionality and originality.

 

Our Editors' Best program highlights products that SQL Server Magazine editors and contributors believe are worthy of recognition, whereas our Community Choice program lets our readers decide which products are the best. As we did last year—rather than presenting a predefined list of products and services that limited your selection to our choices—we opened 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. For the Gold winners of both Editors' Best and Community Choice, we even reached out to readers and spoke to them about how the product or service helps them do their job. We spoke to real users about real experiences, and we hope these testimonials benefit you in your environment.

 

In these pages, you'll find our Gold, Silver, and Bronze Editors' Best winners in each category directly adjacent to our 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 serious consideration if you're in the market for a new tool.

 

Best Backup and Recovery Software Product

Editors' Best

Gold: LiteSpeed for SQL Server 6.0 • Quest Software • www.quest.com

Silver: SQL safe backup 6.4 • Idera • www.idera.com

Bronze: Replay for SQL 4 • AppAssure • www.appassure.com

 

Why It Won: LiteSpeed for SQL Server sets a high bar for SQL Server backup products because it not only backs up SQL Server files quickly but also offers compression, encryption, and fast restores.

 

Chris Burns, director and database consultant for Data Technology Consultants, said “It works exactly the same as SQL Server, but with basically a more powerful engine. The high-speed, high-powered LiteSpeed engine backs up the way native backups would, but it’s honestly far faster and with compression to boot.” He said the main benefit his team sees in LiteSpeed for SQL Server 6.0 is its SmartDiff backup technology. “We gain a substantial compression ratio of about 75 to 80 percent of our physical standard SQL Server data files. The benefits of that aren't just in storage size—which relates to the cost per gigabyte—but also in restore speed, the obvious ability to restore more quickly, and also the ability to back up more quickly, which offloads the backup process from SQL Server as quickly as possible.”

 

Community Choice

Gold: SQL Backup Pro 6.4 • Red Gate Software • www.red-gate.com

Silver: SQL safe backup 6.4 • Idera • www.idera.com

Bronze: LiteSpeed for SQL Server 6.0 • Quest Software • www.quest.com


"SQL Backup Pro 6.4 compresses and encrypts SQL Server backups, and it has extra features to strengthen backup activities, including network resilience for backups and an intuitive interface for powerful job management."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey …

·         Red Gate Software's SQL HyperBac

·         OfficeRecovery.com's Recovery for SQL Server

 

Best Business Intelligence and Reporting Tool

Editors' Best

Gold: Tableau Server 5.2 • Tableau Software • www.tableausoftware.com

Silver: NovaView 6.2 • Panorama Software • www.panorama.com

Bronze: Attunity SQL Server-CDC for SSIS • Attunity • www.attunity.com

 

Why It Won: Tableau Software’s business intelligence solution stands above the rest because it offers a rich, robust environment that lets users share their data visualizations (e.g., reports, dashboards) with one another quickly and easily.

 

“We needed a product that was easy to implement, easy to use, flexible, very fast, robust, and reliable,” said Matt Krzysiak, COO for the National Motor Club. “Tableau met all of those criteria.” Krzysiak said Tableau Server lets his company’s business and IT personnel be more productive with data. “After installation, we put Tableau and Tableau Server in the hands of our business people. They now have a tool that will allow them to visualize our data and publish visualizations on our intranet without relying on our IT department. This has allowed us to move more quickly and discover information that has led to better products, better service, and reduced costs.”

 

Community Choice

Gold: Tableau Server 5.2 • Tableau Software • www.tableausoftware.com

Silver: FastReport.Net • Fast Reports • www.fastreports.com

Bronze: Attunity SQL Server-CDC for SSIS • Attunity • www.attunity.com


"Tableau Server just has the best embedded dashboard on the market."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey …

·         SAP Business Objects' Crystal Reports

·         SQL Sentry BI Suite

·         Panorama Software's NovaView 6.2

 

Best Database Management Product

Editors' Best

Gold: SQL Toolbelt • Red Gate Software • www.red-gate.com

Silver: SQL toolbox • Idera • www.idera.com

Bronze: Altiris Server Management Suite • Symantec • www.symantec.com

 

Why It Won: Red Gate Software's SQL Toolbelt offers 14 tools in a popular set—they're terrific tools and a great value.

 

Steve Powell, the technical design lead at Spire Healthcare, is excited about using the tools in the SQL Toolbelt in SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS). One tool he especially likes is SQL Source Control, noting, “In a small shop like ours, Team Foundation Server (TFS) is a big ask. We use free tools like SVN and TRAC for our code repository and bug tracking. Source Control costs peanuts compared with TFS, and it’s a much lighter tool to implement in terms of workflow and processes. We can use SQL Source Control to submit code changes directly from within SSMS. And attaching them to tickets couldn't be simpler.”

 

Community Choice

Gold: SQL Toolbelt • Red Gate Software • www.red-gate.com

Silver: SQL admin toolset 1.5 • Idera • www.idera.com

Bronze: Toad for SQL Server • Quest Software • www.quest.com


"SQL Toolbelt really lives up to its name: It's just a bunch of great tools."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey …

·         Embarcadero Technologies' DBArtisan

·         Quest Software's Spotlight on SQL Server Enterprise

·         SQL Sentry Event Manager

 

Best Database Monitoring and Performance Product

Editor's Best

Gold: Ignite 8 • Confio Software • www.confio.com

Silver: SQL diagnostic manager 6.2 SP1 • Idera • www.idera.com

Bronze: Spotlight on SQL Server Enterprise 7.0 • Quest Software • www.quest.com

 

Why It Won: Confio Software’s Ignite 8 is a true all-in-one performance-monitoring solution that builds off of Ignite’s original response-time monitoring functionality to also offer routine performance statistics via intuitive dashboards.

 

Ben Miller, the director of database administration at Nature’s Way, said he was impressed by Ignite 8’s non-intrusive nature and the speed at which information was gathered. "We had access to the application name, query text, executions, and reads and writes. It was more information in one place than we had from any other product we saw," Miller said. “Everyone is familiar with slowness at times, but before \\[users\\] see the slowness become common, we are in \\[Ignite\\] with alerts as well as rich graphs telling us which queries to worry about. We have actually tuned queries before users noticed, and they reciprocated with comments about things being faster before they had to complain.”

 

Community Choice

Gold: SQL diagnostic manager 6.2 SP1 • Idera • www.idera.com

Silver: SQLCentric • Pearl Knowledge Solutions • www.pearlknows.com

Bronze: SQL Response 1.3 • Red Gate Software • www.red-gate.com


"SQL diagnostic manager is easy to use, very intuitive, and helps me keep my production servers up all the time."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey …

·         Quest Software's Foglight Performance Analysis for SQL Server

·         SQL Sentry's Performance Advisor for Analysis Services

·         Embarcadero Technologies' DB Performance Center XE

 

Best Development Tool

Editors' Best

Gold: Toad for SQL Server • Quest Software • www.quest.com

Silver: PowerShell Plus 3.5 • Idera • www.idera.com

Bronze: CodeRush • DevExpress • www.devexpress.com

 

Why It Won: Quest Software's Toad for SQL Server offers an extremely wide range of functionality for developers and DBAs.

 

“Quest Toad for SQL Server has been my editor of choice for the standard and enterprise SQL Server work I’ve performed since 2005,” said Hank Freeman, a senior systems database and data warehouse architect in Atlanta, Georgia. “It has always been and continues to be the leading-edge tool for the professional DBA and developer.”

 

Community Choice

Gold: PowerShell Plus 3.5 • Idera • www.idera.com

Silver: Toad for SQL Server • Quest Software • www.quest.com

Bronze: SQL Compare 8.2 • Red Gate Software • www.red-gate.com


"PowerShell Plus features hundreds of free scripts, an advanced script editor and debugger, and a comprehensive learning center, all integrated into a single product."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey …

·         Red Gate Software's SQL Prompt 4.0

·         DevExpress's CodeRush

·         SoftTree Technologies' SQL Assistant 5.1

 

Best Security/Auditing/Compliance Tool

Editors' Best

Gold: SQL compliance manager 3.2 • Idera • www.idera.com

Silver: Security Explorer 7.5 • ScriptLogic • www.scriptlogic.com

Bronze: Hedgehog Enterprise 3.5 • Sentrigo • www.sentrigo.com

 

Why It Won: Today’s compliance regulations require many companies to be able to provide an audit trail that shows who is accessing data and when—a potentially time-consuming, complex process. Idera’s SQL compliance manager lets DBAs easily track user accounts and activity to prove to auditors what’s being done on SQL Server systems.

 

Jon McLendon, a senior database administrator for Colonial Properties Trust, said that his company implemented this product to address his company's SOX audit needs. “From an internal standpoint, it gave us the ability to very closely monitor and track the critical administration accounts for SQL Server.” McLendon went on to say that the product lets his team know via email whether the SA account is successfully or unsuccessfully used. If it’s successfully used, “any activity is tracked—we can go back and look over everything that was done under that login.” The product also tracks all other administrative accounts and their activity, said McLendon. “So there’s never any question about what we’re doing or not doing in a system.” According to McLendon, his company has benefitted from SQL compliance manager because “it goes above and beyond what would be expected from the auditors.”

 

Community Choice

Gold: SQL compliance manager 3.2 • Idera • www.idera.com

Silver: Hedgehog Enterprise 3.5 • Sentrigo • www.sentrigo.com

Bronze: Security Explorer 7.5 • ScriptLogic • www.scriptlogic.com


"SQL compliance manager is essential to ensuring a well secured and compliant SQL Server environment."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey …

·         Idera's SQL Secure 2.6

·         NetWrix's SQL Server Change Reporter

 

Best Storage Hardware Product

Editors' Best

Gold: DroboElite • Data Robotics • www.drobo.com

Silver: PowerVault • Dell • www.dell.com

Bronze: HP StorageWorks • HP • www.hp.com

 

Why It Won: The Drobo Elite is truly a set-it-and-forget-it iSCSI backup system. It's inexpensive, easy to use, and yet powerful for the small-to-midsized business (SMB) storage environment.

 

"The DroboElite fits well into my environment," said Ivan Breit, lead systems administrator for Whalen Furniture. "My previous storage system had failed, and I replaced it with the DroboElite, which ended up saving me thousands of dollars compared with other systems I was considering. Since implementing the DroboElite, my VMware backup environment has performed flawlessly. I’m also considering doing some restructuring of my virtualized environment and I am going to use the iSCSI connectivity of the DroboElite to provide primary storage for my VMs during the transition. The DroboElite is a flexible storage solution that meets my needs, and the BeyondRAID technology does exactly what it's supposed to do."

 

Community Choice

Gold: EMC CLARiiON series • EMC • www.emc.com

Silver: Dell PowerVault series • Dell • www.dell.com

Bronze: NetApp FAS3100 series • NetApp • www.netapp.com


"EMC CLARiiON provides terrific bang for the buck."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey …

·         Dell's EqualLogic series

·         IBM's XIV Storage System

·         HP StorageWorks solutions

 

Best Free Tool

Editors' Best

Gold: SP_WhoIsActive • Adam Machanic • sqlblog.com

Silver: SSMS Tools Pack 1.9 • Mladen Prajdic • www.ssmstoolspack.com

Bronze: SQL Server Maintenance Solution • Ola Hallengren • ola.hallengren.com

 

Why It Won: SP_WhoIsActive is mentioned in the SQL Server community as the epitome of a fantastic free tool. Adam Machanic updates the tool frequently, it’s well explained and supported by great internal documentation, and its code is considered to be the best of the best.

 

“To say I like SP_WhoIsActive is an understatement,” SQL Server Magazine author Kevin Kline said in “SP_WhoIsActive” (June 2010, InstantDoc ID 125107). “This is probably the most useful and effective stored procedure I’ve ever encountered for activity monitoring. The purpose of the SP_WhoIsActive stored procedure is to give DBAs and developers as much performance and workload data about SQL Server’s internal workings as possible, while retaining both flexibility and security.”

 

Community Choic

SQL Server Magazine's annual Editors' Best and Community Choice award programs offer a unique way to recognize the hottest products among the past year's offerings. Choosing favorites from such a competitive field—not to mention in the midst of such a financially unstable market—can be a challenge, but this year's winners show an uncommon breadth of functionality and originality.

 

Our Editors' Best program highlights products that SQL Server Magazine editors and contributors believe are worthy of recognition, whereas our Community Choice program lets our readers decide which products are the best. As we did last year—rather than presenting a predefined list of products and services that limited your selection to our choices—we opened 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. For the Gold winners of both Editors' Best and Community Choice, we even reached out to readers and spoke to them about how the product or service helps them do their job. We spoke to real users about real experiences, and we hope these testimonials benefit you in your environment.

 

In these pages, you'll find our Gold, Silver, and Bronze Editors' Best winners in each category directly adjacent to our 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 serious consideration if you're in the market for a new tool.

 

Best Backup and Recovery Software Product

Editors' Best

Gold: LiteSpeed for SQL Server 6.0 • Quest Software • www.quest.com

Silver: SQL safe backup 6.4 • Idera • www.idera.com

Bronze: Replay for SQL 4 • AppAssure • www.appassure.com

 

Why It Won: LiteSpeed for SQL Server sets a high bar for SQL Server backup products because it not only backs up SQL Server files quickly but also offers compression, encryption, and fast restores.

 

Chris Burns, director and database consultant for Data Technology Consultants, said “It works exactly the same as SQL Server, but with basically a more powerful engine. The high-speed, high-powered LiteSpeed engine backs up the way native backups would, but it’s honestly far faster and with compression to boot.” He said the main benefit his team sees in LiteSpeed for SQL Server 6.0 is its SmartDiff backup technology. “We gain a substantial compression ratio of about 75 to 80 percent of our physical standard SQL Server data files. The benefits of that aren't just in storage size—which relates to the cost per gigabyte—but also in restore speed, the obvious ability to restore more quickly, and also the ability to back up more quickly, which offloads the backup process from SQL Server as quickly as possible.”

 

Community Choice

Gold: SQL Backup Pro 6.4 • Red Gate Software • www.red-gate.com

Silver: SQL safe backup 6.4 • Idera • www.idera.com

Bronze: LiteSpeed for SQL Server 6.0 • Quest Software • www.quest.com


"SQL Backup Pro 6.4 compresses and encrypts SQL Server backups, and it has extra features to strengthen backup activities, including network resilience for backups and an intuitive interface for powerful job management."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey …

  • Red Gate Software's SQL HyperBac
  • OfficeRecovery.com's Recovery for SQL Server

 

Best Business Intelligence and Reporting Tool

Editors' Best

Gold: Tableau Server 5.2 • Tableau Software • www.tableausoftware.com

Silver: NovaView 6.2 • Panorama Software • www.panorama.com

Bronze: Attunity SQL Server-CDC for SSIS • Attunity • www.attunity.com

 

Why It Won: Tableau Software’s business intelligence solution stands above the rest because it offers a rich, robust environment that lets users share their data visualizations (e.g., reports, dashboards) with one another quickly and easily.

 

“We needed a product that was easy to implement, easy to use, flexible, very fast, robust, and reliable,” said Matt Krzysiak, COO for the National Motor Club. “Tableau met all of those criteria.” Krzysiak said Tableau Server lets his company’s business and IT personnel be more productive with data. “After installation, we put Tableau and Tableau Server in the hands of our business people. They now have a tool that will allow them to visualize our data and publish visualizations on our intranet without relying on our IT department. This has allowed us to move more quickly and discover information that has led to better products, better service, and reduced costs.”

 

Community Choice

Gold: Tableau Server 5.2 • Tableau Software • www.tableausoftware.com

Silver: FastReport.Net • Fast Reports • www.fastreports.com

Bronze: Attunity SQL Server-CDC for SSIS • Attunity • www.attunity.com


"Tableau Server just has the best embedded dashboard on the market."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey …

  • SAP Business Objects' Crystal Reports
  • SQL Sentry BI Suite
  • Panorama Software's NovaView 6.2

 

Best Database Management Product

Editors' Best

Gold: SQL Toolbelt • Red Gate Software • www.red-gate.com

Silver: SQL toolbox • Idera • www.idera.com

Bronze: Altiris Server Management Suite • Symantec • www.symantec.com

 

Why It Won: Red Gate Software's SQL Toolbelt offers 14 tools in a popular set—they're terrific tools and a great value.

 

Steve Powell, the technical design lead at Spire Healthcare, is excited about using the tools in the SQL Toolbelt in SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS). One tool he especially likes is SQL Source Control, noting, “In a small shop like ours, Team Foundation Server (TFS) is a big ask. We use free tools like SVN and TRAC for our code repository and bug tracking. Source Control costs peanuts compared with TFS, and it’s a much lighter tool to implement in terms of workflow and processes. We can use SQL Source Control to submit code changes directly from within SSMS. And attaching them to tickets couldn't be simpler.”

 

Community Choice

Gold: SQL Toolbelt • Red Gate Software • www.red-gate.com

Silver: SQL admin toolset 1.5 • Idera • www.idera.com

Bronze: Toad for SQL Server • Quest Software • www.quest.com


"SQL Toolbelt really lives up to its name: It's just a bunch of great tools."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey …

  • Embarcadero Technologies' DBArtisan
  • Quest Software's Spotlight on SQL Server Enterprise
  • SQL Sentry Event Manager

 

Best Database Monitoring and Performance Product

Editor's Best

Gold: Ignite 8 • Confio Software • www.confio.com

Silver: SQL diagnostic manager 6.2 SP1 • Idera • www.idera.com

Bronze: Spotlight on SQL Server Enterprise 7.0 • Quest Software • www.quest.com

 

Why It Won: Confio Software’s Ignite 8 is a true all-in-one performance-monitoring solution that builds off of Ignite’s original response-time monitoring functionality to also offer routine performance statistics via intuitive dashboards.

 

Ben Miller, the director of database administration at Nature’s Way, said he was impressed by Ignite 8’s non-intrusive nature and the speed at which information was gathered. "We had access to the application name, query text, executions, and reads and writes. It was more information in one place than we had from any other product we saw," Miller said. “Everyone is familiar with slowness at times, but before \\[users\\] see the slowness become common, we are in \\[Ignite\\] with alerts as well as rich graphs telling us which queries to worry about. We have actually tuned queries before users noticed, and they reciprocated with comments about things being faster before they had to complain.”

 

Community Choice

Gold: SQL diagnostic manager 6.2 SP1 • Idera • www.idera.com

Silver: SQLCentric • Pearl Knowledge Solutions • www.pearlknows.com

Bronze: SQL Response 1.3 • Red Gate Software • www.red-gate.com


"SQL diagnostic manager is easy to use, very intuitive, and helps me keep my production servers up all the time."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey …

  • Quest Software's Foglight Performance Analysis for SQL Server
  • SQL Sentry's Performance Advisor for Analysis Services
  • Embarcadero Technologies' DB Performance Center XE

 

Best Development Tool

Editors' Best

Gold: Toad for SQL Server • Quest Software • www.quest.com

Silver: PowerShell Plus 3.5 • Idera • www.idera.com

Bronze: CodeRush • DevExpress • www.devexpress.com

 

Why It Won: Quest Software's Toad for SQL Server offers an extremely wide range of functionality for developers and DBAs.

 

“Quest Toad for SQL Server has been my editor of choice for the standard and enterprise SQL Server work I’ve performed since 2005,” said Hank Freeman, a senior systems database and data warehouse architect in Atlanta, Georgia. “It has always been and continues to be the leading-edge tool for the professional DBA and developer.”

 

Community Choice

Gold: PowerShell Plus 3.5 • Idera • www.idera.com

Silver: Toad for SQL Server • Quest Software • www.quest.com

Bronze: SQL Compare 8.2 • Red Gate Software • www.red-gate.com


"PowerShell Plus features hundreds of free scripts, an advanced script editor and debugger, and a comprehensive learning center, all integrated into a single product."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey …

  • Red Gate Software's SQL Prompt 4.0
  • DevExpress's CodeRush
  • SoftTree Technologies' SQL Assistant 5.1

 

Best Security/Auditing/Compliance Tool

Editors' Best

Gold: SQL compliance manager 3.2 • Idera • www.idera.com

Silver: Security Explorer 7.5 • ScriptLogic • www.scriptlogic.com

Bronze: Hedgehog Enterprise 3.5 • Sentrigo • www.sentrigo.com

 

Why It Won: Today’s compliance regulations require many companies to be able to provide an audit trail that shows who is accessing data and when—a potentially time-consuming, complex process. Idera’s SQL compliance manager lets DBAs easily track user accounts and activity to prove to auditors what’s being done on SQL Server systems.

 

Jon McLendon, a senior database administrator for Colonial Properties Trust, said that his company implemented this product to address his company's SOX audit needs. “From an internal standpoint, it gave us the ability to very closely monitor and track the critical administration accounts for SQL Server.” McLendon went on to say that the product lets his team know via email whether the SA account is successfully or unsuccessfully used. If it’s successfully used, “any activity is tracked—we can go back and look over everything that was done under that login.” The product also tracks all other administrative accounts and their activity, said McLendon. “So there’s never any question about what we’re doing or not doing in a system.” According to McLendon, his company has benefitted from SQL compliance manager because “it goes above and beyond what would be expected from the auditors.”

 

Community Choice

Gold: SQL compliance manager 3.2 • Idera • www.idera.com

Silver: Hedgehog Enterprise 3.5 • Sentrigo • www.sentrigo.com

Bronze: Security Explorer 7.5 • ScriptLogic • www.scriptlogic.com


"SQL compliance manager is essential to ensuring a well secured and compliant SQL Server environment."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey …

  • Idera's SQL Secure 2.6
  • NetWrix's SQL Server Change Reporter

 

Best Storage Hardware Product

Editors' Best

Gold: DroboElite • Data Robotics • www.drobo.com

Silver: PowerVault • Dell • www.dell.com

Bronze: HP StorageWorks • HP • www.hp.com

 

Why It Won: The Drobo Elite is truly a set-it-and-forget-it iSCSI backup system. It's inexpensive, easy to use, and yet powerful for the small-to-midsized business (SMB) storage environment.

 

"The DroboElite fits well into my environment," said Ivan Breit, lead systems administrator for Whalen Furniture. "My previous storage system had failed, and I replaced it with the DroboElite, which ended up saving me thousands of dollars compared with other systems I was considering. Since implementing the DroboElite, my VMware backup environment has performed flawlessly. I’m also considering doing some restructuring of my virtualized environment and I am going to use the iSCSI connectivity of the DroboElite to provide primary storage for my VMs during the transition. The DroboElite is a flexible storage solution that meets my needs, and the BeyondRAID technology does exactly what it's supposed to do."

 

Community Choice

Gold: EMC CLARiiON series • EMC • www.emc.com

Silver: Dell PowerVault series • Dell • www.dell.com

Bronze: NetApp FAS3100 series • NetApp • www.netapp.com


"EMC CLARiiON provides terrific bang for the buck."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey …

  • Dell's EqualLogic series
  • IBM's XIV Storage System
  • HP StorageWorks solutions

 

Best Free Tool

Editors' Best

Gold: SP_WhoIsActive • Adam Machanic • sqlblog.com

Silver: SSMS Tools Pack 1.9 • Mladen Prajdic • www.ssmstoolspack.com

Bronze: SQL Server Maintenance Solution • Ola Hallengren • ola.hallengren.com

 

Why It Won: SP_WhoIsActive is mentioned in the SQL Server community as the epitome of a fantastic free tool. Adam Machanic updates the tool frequently, it’s well explained and supported by great internal documentation, and its code is considered to be the best of the best.

 

“To say I like SP_WhoIsActive is an understatement,” SQL Server Magazine author Kevin Kline said in “SP_WhoIsActive” (June 2010, InstantDoc ID 125107). “This is probably the most useful and effective stored procedure I’ve ever encountered for activity monitoring. The purpose of the SP_WhoIsActive stored procedure is to give DBAs and developers as much performance and workload data about SQL Server’s internal workings as possible, while retaining both flexibility and security.”

 

Community Choice

Gold: SQL Server Maintenance Solution • Ola Hallengren • ola.hallengren.com

Silver: SQL check 2.6 • Idera • www.idera.com

Bronze: Tableau Public • Tableau Software • www.tableausoftware.com


"Ola Hallengren's tools are justly famous."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey …

Quest Software's Toad Data Modeler Freeware Edition

Red Gate Software's SQLSearch 1.0

LessThanDot's SQLCop

e

Gold: SQL Server Maintenance Solution • Ola Hallengren • ola.hallengren.com

Silver: SQL check 2.6 • Idera • www.idera.com

Bronze: Tableau Public • Tableau Software • www.tableausoftware.com


"Ola Hallengren's tools are justly famous."

Other hot vote-getters in this year's survey …

Quest Software's Toad Data Modeler Freeware Edition

Red Gate Software's SQLSearch 1.0

LessThanDot's SQLCop