Nine Web sites IT pros should master in 2009

At least, according to Carolyn Duffy Marsan, senior editor at Network World. Marsan writes up a list not for geeks but for decision-makers, with the following disclaimer:"Master these Web sites, and you’ll prove you can innovate during the most trying economic times.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

At least, according to Carolyn Duffy Marsan, senior editor at Network World. Marsan writes up a list not for geeks but for decision-makers, with the following disclaimer:

"Master these Web sites, and you’ll prove you can innovate during the most trying economic times. And you’ll do it more efficiently than your 20-something employees, who waste too much time chasing the new, new thing on the Internet that may not survive the downturn."

Her choices? As follows:

1. LinkedIn

Marsan's take: "Forget Facebook. In the last six months, LinkedIn has become the de rigueur Web 2.0 site for IT professionals...it has staying power. You can show your boss that you're well connected, and you'll be ready in case you’re on the next layoff list."

My take: A no-brainer for sure. While I disagree with her assesment that the site's new features are notable (I find the plugins sorely lacking in utility), I agree with the choice on the following basis: It's a free, professional, high-Google-ranking page that everyone who has a job, no matter the industry, should use. It's the very first step of creating your professional image beyond the walls of your office.

2. Google Apps for Business

Marsan's take: "[SaaS and cloud computing] is the future of enterprise IT departments, and you need to get on board...you’ll be under more pressure than ever in 2009 to find cheaper ways to deliver IT services. One way to do that is to pilot a Google Apps project, such as document sharing via GoogleDocs or video sharing via Google Video. Your staff can build one of these collaboration projects in a jiffy."

My take: Useful in theory, but debatable in practice. With measured control, Google Docs can be a masterful way to use the cloud to your advantage. On the other hand, I've been involved in several products in which Google Docs or Spreadsheets keep piling up willy-nilly, to the point where people now have another thing to manage, filter and monitor. My recommendation? A wiki, which is more "town square" than ad-hoc.

3. VMware Communities

Marsan's take: "Chances are you’ve already embarked on a server virtualization project, and continued consolidation of your servers is a key money-saving goal for 2009. Most of you are using VMware for your server virtualization projects...to get the best real-world feedback on how best to deploy VMware, keep your eyes on the VMware Communities Web site."

My take:  In this economy, penny-pinching can promote great things. Has server virtualization been to your benefit, or is it just another headache?

4. Secunia

Marsan's take: "Security will continue to be a top priority for 2009, but you’ll need to figure out how to do it on the cheap. That’s where Secunia.com comes in."

My take: When it comes to security, a bigger price tag doesn't always make a better product. Really, it's the frequency of updates and size of the community that makes it worthwhile. Secunia's one choice. What else do you use?

5. Green Grid

Marsan's take: "Green IT can still be a huge advantage for IT departments because it will save you money. Plain and simple: green IT saves greenbacks. So get to know the Green Grid’s Web site and make sure that whatever you buy in 2009 for your data centers is in line with their advice and metrics."

My take: Green is good, but green can be expensive. Lower power consumption and breakneck-speed drives are great, but you'll have to evaluate what the budget can allow versus what can be gained. We all want more efficient processes -- but in this economy, you might have less (or more!) leverage to act on it.

6. Twitter

Marsan's take: "At first glance, Twitter seems like a colossal waste of time. But the fact is this real-time messaging service is taking off in IT circles. And if you don’t jump on the bandwagon soon, you might be too late. Twitter provides an easy way to keep your staff and co-workers informed about where you are and what you're doing...give it a whirl so you’ll know what your Generation Y employees are talking about."

My take: For most employees, Twitter is a colossal waste of time. Hard to get around that. While I do use and enjoy Twitter in an editorial capacity, most cubicle- and office-bound employees are just as well off taking advantage of their status message on the instant messager client of your office's choosing. Too many employees don't utilize that -- what's the point in introducing something else? And for security's sake, how do you limit your audience?

7. Yammer

Marsan's take: "If Twitter seems too frivolous to you, try Yammer. It’s essentially Twitter for the office. The benefit of Yammer is that it’s a private communications channel for coworkers to share quick messages about what they’re working on, get questions answered or blast out news. Xerox and Cisco are among the 200-plus companies enjoying improved collaboration thanks to Yammer."

My take: A better solution than Twitter for security concerns, but not for attention-crushing concerns.

8. Ruby on Rails

Marsan's take: "Ruby on Rails is one of the best open source tools to appear in recent years. This Web development framework lets you create working applications in a matter of hours. Advocates of this development platform include the New York Times, Yellowpages.com, Twitter and Hulu."

My take: Open source tools are a great way to save money for your department during a recession. Naturally, there's little safety net -- so it takes a little bravery to get started. Ruby on rails is certainly a popular choice, but I'm no engineer, so: have you implemented RoR? Do you think it's a 2009 essential?

9. Enterprise Mobility Matters by Strategy Analytics

Marsan's take: "The latest smartphones are headed toward your corporate network. So you better get ready to protect sensitive corporate information from the risks that these consumer devices open up. If you don’t want to encrypt them, make sure you have centralized control over them so you can wipe data from lost or stolen cell phones. The Enterprise Mobility Matters [blog] from market research firm Strategy Analytics...offers a comprehensive look at enterprise mobility issues."

My take: The classic Barack Obama's Blackberry-problem, an important one to address. How do you secure something that's inherently mobile? The EMM site is a good resource, but I know there are more. What services do you use to secure mobile devices? What sites do you reference for mobile issues?

So there you have it: Marsan's nine web sites IT pros should master in 2009, and what I think. But I'm no expert, so tell me, IT pros out there: is there something missing from this list? Tell me what and why in TalkBack.

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