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It takes many tools to keep IT systems running smoothly, and tech pros have their personal favorites.
Fave Raves 2015
We asked, and IT pros answered. Their favorite tech products keep people productive and enterprise assets running safely and efficiently. Check out the must-haves.
Unitrends Recovery-823 appliance
Why it's a favorite: “We like it because it does a thankless job without any feedback from us – we set a schedule and it just does it. No bellyaching, no ‘this is broke, you should fix it’ notices, and it integrates seamlessly with both our physical infrastructure as well as our VMware, both local and remote."
"Twice in the past week alone [Unitrends Recovery-823 appliance] has helped us to recover employee files from a crypto-virus infection, on top of restoring failed VMs and helping us to test VMware systems in an isolated environment by allowing us to spin up actual VMs into a test environment as though it were real – it makes a fantastic bridge device between the two networks.”
Years in IT: 15
Upcoming IT projects: Storage expansion
PagerDuty operations performance software
Why it's a favorite: “PagerDuty has allowed me to seamlessly build a global staff into a cohesive team to provide rapid response to problems in our production environment, which is serving a user base of nearly 140 million people around the globe. It integrates with all our internal and external monitoring systems and provides visibility into the health of our infrastructure from an executive level including all the detail needed for our technical staff to drill into problems right away, reducing our time to repair.”
Years in IT: 25+
Upcoming IT projects: “I'm most excited about what I call the containerization explosion in the industry that the cloud has inspired. Mesos, Docker, Rocket, LXC and many other readily available technologies are bringing the benefits of the cloud to IT infrastructure without the massive retooling that's required for a wholesale migration of IT services to the cloud.”
Birch Grove Software’s ActivTrak
Why it's a favorite: “As a small business with a microscopic tech budget and a telemarketing team that spends most of their time waiting for people to pick up their phones, we have had a lot of issues with computer misuse - which equals possible security threats. ActivTrak is the best remote monitoring agent that I've ever used. It is perfect for tracking employee productivity and computer misuse. It runs invisibly agentside, is super low-resource, and offers a great range of customization options, such as which programs and websites are considered productive vs. unproductive. The admin interface is intuitive, straightforward, and beautiful. Monitoring up to three agents is free, which is great for a small business like ours - and adding more is extremely affordable.”
Years in IT: 16
Upcoming IT projects: Going (mostly) paperless!
Paessler’s PRTG Network Monitor
Why it's a favorite: "As the company continues to grow, VM-sprawl has taken over. I’m not worried, I have PRTG Network Monitor! We can’t be everywhere all the time. We run a lean IT department so there is never a shortage of issues. If we had to additionally check in on systems for things like hard drive space, CPU utilization or bandwidth spikes, we’d never get anything done. PRTG checks more systems than all of us put together could in a day, with ease. When you combine that with email notifications for red flags, it's the perfect tool. We know about issues before the users do and can start remediating before they even call."
Years in IT: 17
Upcoming IT projects: "Getting our west coast data center online. Vegas here we come!"
Evolve IP DRaaS ZT
Why it's a favorite: “We adopted Evolve IP as an update to our traditional disaster recovery strategy, which had our team using tape backups and interfacing with various DR suppliers. Evolve IP DRaaS [disaster recovery as a service] is a flexible solution with an intuitive interface that is easy to configure and use. It’s built for the VMWare hypervisor and is completely SAN agnostic, which allows us to avoid SAN vendor lock-in. We’re also able to conduct disaster recovery exercises without impacting our production environment."
"The biggest benefit was the ability to reduce our overall recovery time objectives (RTO) from 48 hours or more to four hours or less with near real-time recovery points. We were able to do this while reducing our disaster recovery operational expenses. Additionally, our staff is lean and mean, and we’re now able to conduct a full disaster recovery exercise without leaving the office.”
Years in IT: 28+
Upcoming IT projects: VDI deployment
Why it's a favorite: “For a number of reasons, but the largest being that [Nasuni Service] enabled us to give our employees LAN-speed access to company files, without the need to deploy additional infrastructure. All of our files now live in their cloud service, while appliances on premises cache the most frequently used files. This is a really big deal for us, because we only have one data center for our 30+ offices across California and Nevada. Some of these locations have poor internet connections, so accessing and uploading files to the company server was very painful. Also, since the files are now stored in the cloud, we no longer have the single point of failure that we had before (if our only data center was to go offline).”
Years in IT: 16
Upcoming IT projects: “We’re slowly trying to decentralize our environment, moving more resources to the cloud (e-mail, files, etc.). I’m mostly looking forward to providing resources to users that have very limited access with laptops and cell routers.”
Invincea FreeSpace Enterprise
Why it's a favorite: “As CISO, my primary job function is to protect Surescripts. Invincea is the only vendor that is delivering a usable, scalable, and operationally efficient advanced endpoint solution that stops advanced end user attacks (spear phishing, drive-by downloads, etc.) via containment, which results in stopping malware from infection. The world we are in is not about tactical day-to-day breach protection. The real game is proactively detecting abnormalities in systems that were at one point safe and ensuring that your current posture is strong.”
Years in IT: 16
Upcoming IT projects: "Expanding Invincea deployment and SIEM integration with Splunk."
PernixData FVP software
Why it's a favorite: “PernixData FVP software complements our existing server and storage environment without requiring any rip and replace. It optimizes both reads and writes using fault tolerant memory, giving us optimal performance with zero changes to the company’s applications, hosts, or storage. We saw a noticeable drop in I/O utilization on our storage arrays, and substantially lower web page response times. Average VM latency on our e-commerce application went from approximately 12 ms to < 1 ms with PernixData FVP software in production.”
Years in IT: 9
Upcoming IT projects: “We are currently doing a POC bakeoff of sorts that is allowing us to get our hands on all of the latest and greatest tech from all of the key players in the industry (big and small) that we then get to put through the wringer and see what product/company comes out on top.”
Why it's a favorite: “LWOB is using Intralinks VIA. The product allows us to securely share documents and court papers. Intralinks VIA also permits us to revoke access to documents in the event the wrong people get ahold of them. This can be a matter of life and death for lawyers doing pro bono work with clients in troubled countries who are battling human trafficking, terrorism and other human rights violations. The interception of sensitive documents by criminals or unfriendly governments can compromise the safety of in-country clients, and in some cases the attorneys with whom they work."
"By using such a robust product it makes the major multi-international law firms we partner with comfortable that we are meeting their security standards. With respect to our human rights work in places where communications and expression are not always open and free, the Intralinks product helps us protect the people who put their lives on the line every day.”
Years in IT: 10+
Upcoming IT projects: “Creating interactive and robust online learning and training programs to increase sustainability and overcome obstacles such as natural disasters or security issues which prevent fielding of large teams in-country.”
Veeam Availability Suite v8
Why it's a favorite: “I don’t worry about data protection anymore. Veeam just works, and that’s not something I could have said before. My terrible, recurring nightmares about enduring some sort of disaster, taking days to recover everything, and costing our business millions of dollars? They’re gone. I can now back up and recover items in 15 minutes or less, and I can recover the entire data center in a few hours. I spend a lot less time managing backup, and we’ve saved more than 70% over our previous setup, both of which are great. But the biggest thing is that I finally have real enterprise data protection and can offer my internal customers an SLA. I couldn’t do that before, because we had no idea how long it would take to recover any given data set.”
Years in IT: 13
Upcoming IT projects: IT service management
Qumulo Core and Q0626 hybrid storage appliance
Why it's a favorite: “Prior to bringing the Q0626 in-house, we needed a complex storage environment to house the 30TB of production data that is the heart of our organization’s work. The two-tier infrastructure was composed of high-performance SAN hardware and high-capacity consumer-grade NAS appliances. The SAN was expensive, difficult to manage and not scalable. The NAS gear was unreliable and lacked the IOPS to handle our workload.
The Q0626, powered by the Qumulo Core software platform, has allowed us to consolidate all of our data to a single point of control. We now have the capability to incrementally scale out our storage into the tens of petabytes without interrupting user services. The hybrid flash/SSD/HDD hardware provides rock-solid, enterprise performance, and the Qumulo is managed through a simple web interface that makes administration and provisioning incredibly easy. The hours every month we spent tending to our storage and troubleshooting problems are now dedicated to more productive work.”
Years in IT: 20+
Upcoming IT projects: "Re-architecting the VMware infrastructure at our headquarters and primary colocation sites."
Why it's a favorite: “[EMC Syncplicity] is an amazing mobile app that offers a great user experience and also offers the security and control we need as a therapeutics company with lots of sensitive information. Employees can start working on a document on one device and switch to another without any extra steps. It allows teams with folks in multiple locations to remain connected and collaborate on projects. It has also helped increase efficiency and addressed pain points we were having with VPN issues and the limits to attaching large files to emails.”
Years in IT: 16
Upcoming IT projects: “We are building a new data center in Chelsea, Mass. We recently acquired Civitas Therapeutics, and integrating our companies has been very exciting and challenging!”
Distil Networks bot detection and mitigation service
Why it's a favorite: “As a Yellow Pages Directory site, content theft (via web scraping bots), has been a massive problem for the engineering team at Yell.com. In addition to content theft, web scraping bots impacted our site availability, response times and the productivity of the SysOps team. It was a problem that consumed massive amounts of internal IT resources and costs over the last 10 years. Despite implementing both in-house engineered solutions and expensive bespoke security services, we always felt like we were playing a losing game of whack-a-mole against these bad actors. The problem simply disappeared with the implementation of Distil Networks. We gained back control of our content and website, and our engineering teams could focus on delivering new features for our real users instead of battling bots.”
Years in IT: 17
AppDynamics Application Intelligence Platform
Why it's a favorite: “AppDynamics helps give us clear insight into our infrastructure(s), in both production and test environments. This allows us to more efficiently focus on performance and stability by notifying us of problem spots. More and more, we are realizing the power of AppDynamics, not only from a true production monitoring platform, but in development and test processes. Simple implementation of alerting, instant increased knowledge of our infrastructure and application performance, and visual dashboards for every type of audience make it a complete solution.”
Years in IT: 17
Upcoming IT projects: “Implementing a more scalable automated test suite to increase test coverage, improve efficiency, and improve quality on each release. AppDynamics will have an increasing role in this strategy, giving us the ability to automate infrastructure and application reporting, and alert on differences between code changes.”
NCP Secure Enterprise VPN Solution
Why it's a favorite: “What I like most about NCP’s solution is that it’s fast, reliable and easy to operate, while also allowing network administrators like myself to manage and customize settings and configurations. In fact, when we began using NCP’s VPN client on our Windows desktops, it connected in a fraction of the time when compared to the solution we used previously. Additionally, we’ve had zero failures throughout the years we’ve been using the VPN client. It’s nice not having to deal with connection issues due to product failures or instability. It allows me to feel confident that our network and data are always secure. It is a secure solution that just plain works.”
Years in IT: 25+
Upcoming IT projects: “Getting our disaster recovery solution in place and automatically synchronizing a backup installation of NCP’s Secure Enterprise VPN Solution in a different location.”
Instart Logic software-defined application delivery service
Why it's a favorite: “With about 50% of our site traffic coming from mobile, having an optimized mobile-friendly website and application interface was critical. After evaluating a number of content distribution network (CDN) services, we found that most were optimized only for static content. Not only is Instart Logic’s software-defined application delivery service extremely flexible, but the product allowed us to turbo-charge our mobile website and application performance, increase conversion rates, dramatically reduced bandwidth costs and create great user experiences."
Years in IT: 19
Why it's a favorite: “SugarCRM is fast, flexible and clean. Sugar's open-source roots and reasonable pricing allow me to deliver enterprise-class solutions at a fraction of the cost of the competition. CRM is about building and maintaining relationships with your customers; Sugar's laser focus on knowing the customer translates into real world functionality that drives VetAdvisor's success. VetAdvisor provides personalized coaching to thousands of veterans using a proactive high-tech/high-touch approach. SugarCRM is a force multiplier that enables VetAdvisor to reach more veterans, to deliver tightly integrated services in career, finance, behavioral health and wellness that ultimately result in better outcomes for the veteran and their families.”
Years in IT: 25
Upcoming IT projects: “At VetAdvisor, we led the way in harnessing the power of CRM in the delivery of non-clinical coaching services to veterans. I'm excited to take what I learned at VetAdvisor and apply CRM in a more clinical context to solve problems in medication adherence.”
Netsurion Managed PCI
Why it's a favorite: “Netsurion simplifies PCI for myself, and our franchisees, allowing us to maintain focus on other portions of our business. Netsurion utilizes a remote setup for their cloud-managed firewalls in each restaurant per our specifications, monitors those firewalls, and alerts us if suspicious traffic is, or has been, attempting to access our network. When the need arises, the customer service has been great and the technical support team at Netsurion is always very responsive which, in turn, allows our franchisees to focus more time on serving our customers and less time dealing with these sorts of issues.”
Years in IT: 19
Upcoming IT projects: “I’m very excited about decommissioning old servers and consolidating data on new servers. Happy to get rid of the old servers and install the data onto newer, energy-efficient cloud servers.”
Why it's a favorite: “It's a mature, secure, scalable enterprise-class collaboration product and e-mail system … Novell GroupWise is the foundation of the collaboration system for United Bank. This is how we communicate internally. We would not consider using any other system. It is secure, reliable and gives us the ability to recover from a disaster quickly and affordably. All of our mobile devices connect to it, it's distributed throughout our branches, and it's always there for us. Reliable and true.
Years in IT: 34
Upcoming IT projects: “We're rolling out GroupWise 2014 - the latest and best version of GroupWise ever, now in its second release - this year. It helps us improve our internal identity management, and a good system just got way better. Plus, when there are concerns for security, especially in a bank - it's not GroupWise that we will ever worry about.”
NewVoiceMedia ContactWorld cloud contact center technology
Why it's a favorite: “We wanted to emphasize the quality of relationships with participants, volunteers, donors and cancer survivors to reach more people with our support programs and increase our fundraising. NewVoiceMedia has been a game-changer for our organization. After implementing NewVoiceMedia into our telephony infrastructure, we were able to seamlessly ingrate our constituent data from our Salesforce system, which helped provide our signature event, Relay for Life, a 30% uplift in participation retention and a 70% increase in pledge numbers compared to a control group. This is because we are able to efficiently engage with people to increase the impact of our support, prevention and advocacy programs.”
Years in IT: 6
Talend Platform for Data Services
Why it's a favorite: “[Talend Platform for Data Services is an] extremely flexible, multi-purpose solution with capabilities for data integration, ESB and more, which offers a compelling quality/price ratio. It is the best solution for everything related to data management. It supported the creation of our next-generation, robust and scalable service-oriented architecture, which powers ALDO’s updated ecommerce platform, [and] enabled us to optimize order processing, significantly improve operational visibility and respond more rapidly to the changing needs of our business. Importantly, Talend empowers us to deliver a more memorable and enjoyable shopping experience to consumers.”
Years in IT: 12
Upcoming IT projects: “The mobile shift that will deliver great mobile-first solutions to our customers and employees.”
Snowflake data warehouse service
Why it's a favorite: “True SaaS data warehousing… no infrastructure to maintain. All data is immediately backed up by way of S3 redundancy. But most of all, I like [Snowflake’s data warehouse service] because I can make the database as powerful as I need it to be with the click of a button… then make it small and cheap when I’m finished using it.”
Years in IT: 15
Dynatrace application performance management
Why it's a favorite: "I am especially fond of Dynatrace because it gives us a crystal clear view of what is happening to not only our application but the complete landscape of our deployments – and in addition to that a view of what the actual (real) user perceives at his end (which is the ultimate point of a commercial application - making the end user happy and productive)."
Sofico has been using Dynatrace for three years: "During that period of time it helped us to identify several problems in our application(s) which we would have never known about otherwise, for example complex sync issues causing slowdowns and certain excessive SQL executions which overloaded the database for no good reason."
Years in IT: 12+
Upcoming IT projects: "I am looking forward to working with the Apache Ignite project (currently under incubation) as part of our work to increase the scale and throughput of our application. We are also looking forward to the next milestone of the GWT development kit (3.0) since we use this technology in our cutting edge client platform."
Adallom cloud application security platform
Why it's a favorite: “Through the use of Adallom SaaS protection, Pivotal Information Security is relieved of the task of constructing, maintaining and administering our own SEIM systems for the importing, analyzing, alerting and in some important cases reactively remediating threats at our SaaS providers. Instead, Adallom provides a web-based dashboard that provides our security operations team constant visibility into our SaaS activities. With the easy-to-configure alerts and policies, we can automatically remediate known threats, notify our users of security violations, provide detailed reports, and assist our system administrators to improve processes that keep our online assets secure.”
Years in IT: 20+
Upcoming IT projects: Expanding Pivotal’s Adallom service to monitor provider-managed IaaS environments running Pivotal Cloud Foundry; connecting SaaS repository monitoring to Adallom.
Apigee Edge API platform
Why it's a favorite: “What Tradier needed is a next-generation innovative technology that takes critical core trading capabilities and exposes them to our clients in a scalable, secure way while providing us with the analytics and data to manage the integration. Apigee is the only complete and comprehensive technology that we found to do that. In a secure and dynamic financial services environment, Apigee helps us stay on top of the growing client requirements and deliver value every day. The capability that Apigee has created for us gives us a competitive advantage and would have taken a long time to build using other products.”
Years in IT: 20+
Upcoming IT projects: Launching an API product for digital advisors
Forum Sentry API gateway
Why it's a favorite: “We chose Forum Systems’ API security gateway to ensure agile, secure access to our applications and services, and to better serve our customers and partners through a common integration platform. The company’s security-first approach was a huge factor in our decision to go with Forum Sentry. Not only did it provide robust security architecture and support of multiple authentication and authorization methods, including Basic Auth and OAuth 2.0, Forum Sentry provided the SOAP-to-REST conversion we needed to enable RESTful apps to communicate with our existing SOAP infrastructure, which greatly reduced our development effort and future maintenance requirements.”
Years in IT: 25
Upcoming IT projects: Continuing to expand HAMBS’ enterprise service bus
Why it's a favorite: “[Microsoft Azure] reduces our reliance on infrastructure personnel, decreases our time to provision and configure new servers, integrates smoothly with our .NET development. We are doing a complete rebuilding of our accessPI application, which is our client-facing SaaS offering that delivers behavioral science insights into an organization’s employees, candidates and job positions. Azure provides us a way to use continuous deployment while reducing the need to daisy chain a variety of build, deployment, and testing tools.”
Years in IT: 15
Upcoming IT projects: “I’m looking forward to executing on the accessPI roadmap. Our first step is rebuilding our application and creating a solid foundation for future enhancements. Next, we will be providing our behavioral analytics through a more user-friendly and powerful user experience.”
Neo4j graph database
Why it's a favorite: “Zephyr provides analytics over a diverse set of public and private data by exploring complex connections over a unified view of this data to answer important business questions for pharmaceutical companies. A graph database like Neo4j [from Neo Technology] allows us to build a highly interconnected graph to discover new and complex patterns in the data. Such a solution also allows us to accommodate the ever changing nature of the data plus new information from other sources. Once the data is represented in Neo4j graph, we can do large set operations on the data with relationships across hundreds of entities and attributes. Neo4j graph database is one of the best solutions available out there in terms of flexibility, scalability and consistent performance.
Years in IT: 15+
Upcoming IT projects: “At Zephyr, we are continuing with our Zephyr Analytics Platform to be highly scalable and performant over large-scale heterogeneous data. Currently, we are focusing on developing real-time analytics algorithms and developing prototypes around streaming updates and changes to the integration infra-structure. Another important aspect that we are exploring is multi-tenant data.”
Wowza Media Systems’ Streaming Engine
Why it's a favorite: “Using the Wowza commercial-grade software for streaming media helped make LearnCore enterprise ready. The ability to load balance at an application level within Wowza Streaming Engine is a key feature that led to the success of LearnCore’s cloud-based learning platform. We wanted to be able to handle more concurrent users and not sacrifice quality within our streaming workflow. One feature I [appreciate] is that Wowza's Streaming Engine allows employees to video record themselves doing a presentation in a role-playing simulation. They can then watch the video on-demand version once complete, try again, or submit for scoring, coaching or praise from their colleagues or supervisor. This makes performing trainings with employees across time zones a lot easier!”
Years in IT: 9
Upcoming IT projects: “LearnCore is excited for our future plans to include a mobile application to make recording and viewing videos easy while away from a computer.”
FieldView Infrastructure Software
Why it's a favorite: “The [FieldView] tool is a monitoring and reporting solution that spans the IT and facilities universe, so it’s easy to integrate multiple vendor equipment and multiple protocols with a global reach. We purchased the tool around five years ago and have grown with the product, seeing new ideas and innovation with each release. We use it to monitor and alert our data centers and critical infrastructure around the world. It only gets better with age. The tools helps me sleep at night knowing that any issue will be detected and alerted. Then for the day job, it’s helping us identify waste and inefficiencies.”
Years in IT: 33
Upcoming IT projects: "Consolidation of IT and facilities infrastructure, rollout of global maintenance management software, and adding remote control to our monitoring infrastructure."
CloudBerry Lab Managed Backup
Why it’s a favorite: “CloudBerry Lab’s Managed Backup solution provides a very reliable cloud backup product that required very little initial troubleshooting and allows us to offer the capability for a reasonable price. It’s also easy to use via an online access portal, and we can manage all our clients in one easy console. Other key elements are the flexibility it offers by allowing us to choose where we want our customers’ data to be stored, and the ability to use multiple cloud storage destinations with different clients so we can avoid a single vendor lock-in.”
Years in IT: 13
Upcoming IT projects: “I’m most excited about introducing the concept of managed services to small to medium sized businesses.”
Crestron DMPS-300 DigitalMedia presentation system
Why it's a favorite: “Easy to deploy and scale. [Crestron DMPS-300] is the focal point for the vast majority of my deployments. It has enabled us to make a seamless transition from the analog world to digital, also giving us the ability to create a cost effective global standard.”
Years in IT: 10
Jenkins CI integration server
Why it's a favorite: "Jenkins is an open tool - I like how I can [access] any data that's needed. It's the main tool I use, not only to execute my build, but also to execute tests and compile all of the results into one dashboard. I can see my version status, how many open issues I have, etc. I also really like how it's so accessible to our developers - in the case of build errors, developers get notifications immediately so they can fix it and run the build again."
Years in IT: 17
Upcoming IT projects: "Our next big thing is to create an infrastructure based on Perfecto Mobile, TestNG and Jenkins which allows us to execute all of the tests directly in Jenkins with dynamic device selections. This helps us to achieve continuous testing on real devices in an always-available test environment."
Why it's a favorite: “Galderma's Brainshark solution plays a critical role in Galderma's communications by being the central cloud-based repository and access point for Galderma communication. This technology has fundamentally changed how our organization communicates with our employees and public relations. Our Brainshark solution is accessible from any device and has allowed our organization to move away from legacy communication services like voicemail and email. The Brainshark solution has provided feature-rich capabilities to our learning and development organization with the ability to host complex training content that is accessible 24 hours a day. The Brainshark platform has truly been 'the trainer that never sleeps,' allowing our employees to access training on their schedules when they are in the best position to learn, and from the device of their choice."
Years in IT: 20
Upcoming IT projects: "Cloud technologies. Removing the operational burdens of IT that come with on-premise solutions, the care and feeding of infrastructure, security, patching, and lifecycle."