Budget Boosters

eWEEK Labs recommends products that provide the most bang for the IT buck.

An informal survey conducted by eWEEK Labs late last year found that IT professionals biggest concerns going into this year were "budget," "ability to support base business with incredibly lean staff," "funding constraints," "cuts in spending" and—well, you get the idea.

IT managers are looking for ways to stretch their budget dollars, prompting eWEEK Labs to take a hard look at products weve tested and use to manage our East and West Coast lab facilities to recommend those that, bottom line, provide the most bang for the IT buck.

Security and Anti-Spam Utilities

So many factors are relative when you try to figure return on investment, but its not tough to compute when free equals more secure.

The freeware LaBrea, whose praises weve sung many times, sits on your network and listens for connections on unused IP addresses. If a worm tries to connect to one of these addresses, LaBrea maintains a connection that traps the worm, thus preventing it from continuing to look for systems to infect.

Here at eWEEK Labs, we install many utilities and other small software applications. One unfortunate side effect of many of these applications, especially many that are considered "free," is the under-the-covers installation of spyware. Lavasofts Ad-aware is a free application that scans your system for spyware and cookies that can track your Web usage and then makes it easy to remove these unwanted guests. When combined with a good personal firewall that tracks outgoing communications, Ad-aware puts control of systems where it belongs.

When every user at an organization spends minutes a day figuring out whats spam and whats not, deleting the mail thats determined to be spam, grumbling about the increasing amount of spam and digging through the deleted-mail folder for something that wasnt spam after all, said organization is losing big bucks. Take back the in-box—and wasted time and mind share—with SpamAssassin, which eWEEK Labs has used in tandem with the mail filter facilities of Ximian Inc.s Evolution. SpamAssassin can also be used on the server side. Unix versions of the software are free, and commercial SpamAssassin plug-ins are available for the Microsoft Corp. Outlook and Qualcomm Inc. Eudora mail clients.

—Jim Rapoza and Jason Brooks


A product that provides phenomenal ROI is the Mozilla browser, currently at Version 1.2.1. The dollar investment is zero, and the training investment is not much more than that. The return is ready availability, cross-platform capabilities and, maybe most important, extra time.

Users will buy lots of time with Mozillas ability to beat back pop-up ads, its capacity for browsing the Web with tabs and its ability to save collections of open Web page tabs under a single bookmark. While conducting research, weve often used this feature to lasso an active group of pages for later review. Its tough to understand how useful tabbed browsing is without trying it firsthand, so if you havent used Mozilla lately, we suggest you give it a try.

Opera, the tabbed-browsing trailblazer, is also worth a spin. Its free with ads and $39 without. Version 7 just became available. —Jason Brooks