I'm spending the week at TechMentor Orlando 2009, and the primary focus is divided into "Managing Your IT Environment" and "Virtualizing Your IT Environment." As usual, I'm giving several sessions on Exchange virtualization, PowerShell, and architecture (which are the subjects I frequently write about in Enterprise Windows). However, I'm visiting other sessions to see what the main focus or key interest subjects are. Logically, virtualization via Hyper-V is a big topic, as are SharePoint and System Center tools. But I noticed that just about every session highlighted free tools. In our current economy, a low-cost (or free) solution is a golden nugget to an IT administrator.
What you may not realize, however, is how many free tools Microsoft offers. When you visit microsoft.com, you'll see the following links toward the bottom of the home page: Highlights, Latest Releases, Using Your Computer, For Business, For IT Professionals, and For Developers. Select any one of these links to get free offerings, downloads, or trial versions that are sure to be helpful.
For example, under Using Your Computer, you can select an At Work link titled "5 ways to speed up your computer" to help keep your PC running in top form. Under the same location is a link called "Get a free PC safety scan" that takes you to a protection-oriented site that provides a Windows Live OneCare safety scanner as a free service. (It checks for viruses and overall PC health.) You can also download the free Malicious Software Removal Tool as well.
On the enterprise level, you can go to the For Business link and choose Microsoft Security Assessment Tool (MSAT), a free tool for assessing weaknesses in your environment. MSAT lets you ask more than 200 questions that relate to infrastructure, applications, operations, and people. The answers are based on commonly accepted security best practices and ISO 17799 and NIST-800.x standards.
Under the Using Your Computer link is another option called "How green is your PC?" from which you can download a free energy-monitoring tool called Verdiem's Edison. This tool provides a simple user interface that lets users monitor and manage PC energy efficiency, which can save money and lower CO2 emissions. Under the For Business link is an option called "Calculate your green savings" that takes you to a set of corporate-oriented tools for enhancing your Green IT practices. In addition, these tools include energy savings calculators for desktops and servers.
While we're on the subject of green IT, you might check out hyper-green.com, a site focused on Microsoft virtualization, where you can put in your information and receive a free benefits report with annual savings broken down into energy usage, costs, and CO2 footprint.
I'll keep my ears open for more free tools this week at the conference, so be sure to check back in for those.