If your work involves evaluating, testing, and deploying Microsoft software, and your company hasn't set you up with a Microsoft Developer Network account, a TechNet subscription is the next best thing to heaven, with a full year's unlimited license to almost all Microsoft software.
Well, the price of admission just dropped dramatically: The brand-new TechNet Subscription Standard is just $199 for the first year and $149 for every subsequent year. Yes, you read that correctly: For 200 bucks, you can have a one-year license for almost all of the software that Microsoft makes, without any restrictions. That's $150 less per year than TechNet Subscription Professional.
Of course, there's a hitch: TechNet software isn't supposed to be used in a production environment. But if you're an overworked bit jockey, a TechNet subscription buys you full, unfettered copies of most Microsoft software and automatically signs you up for beta and Release Candidate versions of new products -- no hassles. And you get genuine, original versions of all of the software from Microsoft's servers.
The new $199 Microsoft TechNet Subscription Standard package includes 6 E-Learning courses (the $349 TechNet Professional includes 12), access to the TechNet Managed forums (where you're guaranteed a response within 24 hours), and 24/7 chat support.
Microsoft's comparison site says, "TechNet Subscription Standard does not include some Enterprise editions of Microsoft software." That may give you pause, but a quick check reveals that, for example, Windows Server 2008 R2 is included with the Standard package. Office Professional Plus 2010 makes the list, too. If you have a specific piece of software that you want to check -- you want to make sure that a full license is included with your $199 subscription -- go to the TechNet Subscriptions page, click Subscriber Downloads, find the package you want from the list on the left, and in the Details column for the specific program, click View. If "TechNet Standard (Retail)" appears on the list, you're in like Flynn.
If you find a package you need and it doesn't appear with the "TechNet Standard (Retail)" designation, look to see if it qualifies with "TechNet Professional (Retail)." If so, you have to spring for the $349 version.
If you already have a TechNet subscription -- congratulations! me too! -- none of the details of your subscription have changed. When it comes time to renew, remember that you now have a lower-cost option.