2008 Awards: The Absolute Best in Small Business

Who do you turn to for business advice most often? No doubt it's other experienced small business owners. Well, your entrepreneurial compatriots made the call and picked the best software, hardware and services. Take a look at the results.

Hardware     Security     Software/Services     E-Commerce    

The Hollywood writer's strike may have shut down the Golden Globes and could even cause Oscar to stay in for the night, but we're happy to report that we're rolling out the virtual red carpet for the 2008 Small Business Computing Excellence in Technology awards right on schedule.

This year's honorees include familiar A-list performers as well as young breakout talent. We've even added Best Innovation, Site Search and eBay Tool under e-commerce to accommodate the rapid growth in this evolving category.

Long-time darling of the art crowd, this year Apple broke through the small business barricade to win the hearts and practical minds of our voters in two different categories.

A long-awaited, big-budget production doesn't always deliver, but this time it sure did. The much-anticipated release of Microsoft's sequel to its productivity suite was a blockbuster hit. But Microsoft Office 2007 wasn't big only at the box office, it was just as big a hit with voters. Not to be outdone, perennial crowd-favorite QuickBooks also continued to rack up trophies.

If you're looking for total dominance, check out the security category. We won't give away the ending, but someone went 4 for 4, taking home every security award.

Of course, whether it's the Oscars or the best pizza place in town, awards program and debates go hand in hand. If you think your fellow readers got it wrong, let us know in our forum.

Hardware

Hardware
Desktop PC
Dell Optiplex 755
      Runner-up: HP Compaq dc5750
Notebook PC
MacBook Pro (15-inch screen)
      Runner-up: HP Compaq 6820s
Color Printer
HP Officejet Pro K5400dtn
      Runner-up: Xerox Phaser 8860
      Runner-up: Brother HL-4070CDW

Black & White Printer
HP LaserJet P1505n
      Runner-up: HP LaserJet P1006
Multifunction Device
HP Officejet Pro L7680 All-in-One
      Runner-up: Dell 3115cn
Mobile Device
Apple iPhone
      Runner-up: RIM Blackberry 8830 World Edition Phone
      Runner-up: Palm Treo 755p

Desktop Storage
Seagate FreeAgent Pro
Maxtor OneTouch 4 Plus
      Runner-up: SimpleDrive External Hard Drive

Network Storage
IBM System Storage DS3400
      Runner-up: NetApp Store Vault S300
Server
Dell PowerEdge 2970
      Runner-up: IBM System i515 Express
      Runner-up: HP Proliant ML115

Desktop PC
Sure they're sedentary and a bit on the bulky side, but what desktop PCs lack in mobile fitness, they more than make up for in price and expandability. The desktop still reigns as the small business workhorse.

The Dell Desktop Dynasty continues for the fifth straight year as the environmentally friendly Optiplex 755 claims honors as the top vote getter. Dell PCs have always been popular with small businesses, but this Optiplex is not only powerful enough to run the business, its environmental bent reduces the electric bill, saving you money and helping the planet at the same time.

Keeping with the environmental theme, the runner-up HP Compaq dc5750 also offers an energy-saving incentive along with a lower-priced AMD processor for a system that makes both economic and ecologic sense.

Notebook PC
While the sturdy desktop keeps things running strong back at the office, a notebook does its best work on the fly, helping you stay nimble and ahead of the competition. And if you also happen to enjoy a notebook's sex appeal, where's the harm?

Not satisfied with last year's runner-up position, the MacBook Pro (with a 15-inch screen) emphatically shot to the top with 53 percent of the vote and snatched first place away from the PC crowd. This marks the first time that Apple has won a category in our awards. It's easy enough to understand; an unbeatably sleek design, Windows-capable Intel Core 2 Duo processor and an energy-efficient, LED back-lit display add up to a versatile travel companion.

With 16 percent of the votes, second place honors go to the HP Compaq 6820s for its affordable, Vista-capable, 17-inch widescreen mobility.

Color Printer
You can't talk about color printing for small business without talking HP. Hands down, HP rules this demographic. And our readers are nothing if not consistent (some might say downright predictable). A whopping 64 percent of them chose the HP Officejet Pro K5400dtn as the top printer — a margin that even Secretariat might envy. The printer offers brisk print speeds, wired networking for up to five PCs and duplex printing.

Still, the vote was hardly unanimous and resulted in a tie for second place between the Xerox Phaser 8860 and the Brother HL-4070CDW. Just goes to show, there are plenty of quality options available to cover the various needs of every small business.

Black and White Printer
The HP printing juggernaut kept rolling along as our readers awarded the company both first- and second-place recognition for the best in monochrome.

Again the bragging rights go to HP. The LaserJet P1505n scored 40 percent of our voters' affection for its 24 page-per-minute speed, integrated networking, Powersave mode and Instant-On technology for $249. Hot on its heels in second place comes the HP LaserJet P1006, the company's smallest monochrome laser printer for the home and office.

Multi-Function Device
All-in-one printers, arguably the hardest working hardware in small business, share a lot in common with the entrepreneurs who buy them. After all, it's one tireless machine handling multiple tasks on a daily basis. Sound familiar?

And if you've read this far, it will come as no surprise that HP ranked number one with our readers for the HP Officejet Pro L7680 All-in-One, giving HP a total sweep of the printing categories. The Pro L7680, an inkjet mind you, produces output that rivals more expensive color lasers. Our reviewer gave it a rave review, calling it "the best-performing all-in-one we've ever tested." And a resounding 54 percent of our voters agreed.

The mid-level Dell 3115cn snagged the runner up position with impressive speed and good value for the money.

Mobile Device
A mobile device is, without doubt, one of the top how-did-I-live-without-it technologies for small business owners. It keeps you in touch and on top of issues no matter where your work takes you. Imagine trying to keep a handle on your business without one (shudder).

There's been a whole lot of hoopla about the iPhone ever since its debut, and although it wasn't designed with business in mind, our readers liked it enough to give it the number one spot by a hefty 47 percent. The fact that companies like WebEx are designing business-related applications for it is just the beginning of what's to come.

Both the RIM Blackberry 8830 World Edition Phone and the Palm Treo 755p tied for the runner-up position. RIM's dual-mode Smartphone lets you make calls, send messages and receive e-mails worldwide, while the 755p is the first Palm OS Treo to offer built-in e-mail support for Microsoft's Direct Push technology.

Desktop Storage
Whatever data you have, you have a lot of it — and more on the way. That's why desktop storage products need to have big capacities, fast performance and a friendly approach to working with you.

The good news is that there are a lot of good options in external storage. So many that our readers split the vote and gave the top pick to two different drives from the same company. First place goes to both the Seagate FreeAgent Pro and Maxtor OneTouch 4 Plus.

The FreeAgent Pro offers big capacity and lots of ways to connect, including eSATA, and an online storage account for backing up your data off-site. The Maxtor OneTouch includes utilities not just for backing up and restoring data, but for synchronizing and encrypting it, too.

Fabrik's SimpleDrive External Hard Drive, a relative newcomer, snagged the runner-up position no doubt for combining performance with an online backup account and stylish good looks.

Network Storage
As companies expand, so does the data, and often at an alarming rate. Adding dedicated storage to your network can ease both system performance and efficiency woes, making your work life a bit easier.

This year, 42 percent our readers cast their lot with the IBM System Storage DS3400. The $6,495 system supports 12 hard disk drives for capacity of up to 3.6 terabytes a good match for tasks such as managing databases, e-mail and Web serving.

Last year's winner, NetApp, takes a very respectable runner-up slot for the NetApp Store Vault S300, a $3,000 storage appliance that offers security, scalability, data protection and simplified management.

Server
The heart of any small business network, a server can consolidate a multitude of business tasks from the basics of file and print sharing, Web hosting and database management to advanced chores such as load balancing and virtualization.

Dell's PowerEdge 2970 powered past both the HP and IBM entries to win the small business server vote this year with 39 percent of the tally. The AMD-based, general-purpose server is designed to handle database applications, network infrastructure, Web applications, messaging/groupware, Web serving, file and print sharing and virtualization. Configurations with that kind of power and capability start at $5,600 and range up to the $20,000 mark.

A tie in the runner-up department indicates that there's a server for pretty much any small business out there. IBM designed the System i515 Express for SMBs with fewer than 40 employees and offers a per-user pricing model. Pricing starts around $8,000. Companies with less-demanding needs and tighter budgets should consider the HP Proliant ML115. Pricing for this entry-level server starts at $499.

Awards by Category:
Hardware     Security     Software/Services     E-Commerce    


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