Here's a time-saver for IT executives swamped by last-minute budget cuts and end-of-the-year performance reviews: We've written your 2009 goals for you, with our list of nine Web sites you need to study during the next 12 months.
This list is not for geeks. It's for IT professionals of a certain age, who don't spend every waking hour online but need to keep up with the latest innovations on the Internet.
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.
1. Linked In
Forget Facebook. In the last six months, LinkedIn has become the de rigueur Web 2.0 site for IT professionals. LinkedIn has 30 million members, almost double what it had a year ago. And it raised more than $75 million in venture capital during 2008, so it has staying power. It has a host of new features that make it the most productive networking site on the Web. Spend some time updating your LinkedIn profile and reaching out to current and former colleagues. You can show your boss that you're well connected, and you'll be ready in case you're on the next layoff list. In 2008, LinkedIn made our list of the 20 most useful social networking sites on the Web.
2. Google Apps for Business
Call it what you like -- software-as-a-service or cloud computing -- but it's the future of enterprise IT departments, and you need to get on board with it. 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, and the information will be available to employees from any location on any computer. Among Google Apps proponents: The District of Columbia government.
3. VMware Communities
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, and our product reviewers recommend you stick with VMware over Microsoft's Hyper-V for the foreseeable future. To get the best real-world feedback on how best to deploy VMware, keep your eyes on the VMware Communities Web site. It's got user groups in your community and lots of tips from other VMware developers that can help you solve problems faster.
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. This site aggregates security vulnerability information from leading vendors, providing you with one-stop shopping for the latest news about security bugs and the software patches available to fix them. The site has an active community of IT security folks who can help you fix operating systems and applications before you get attacked. Secunia made our list of 20 useful IT security Web sites in 2008.
5. Green Grid
With the economy in shambles and energy prices plummeting, you're likely to hear a lot less about global climate change and carbon neutral business operations than you did six months ago. Nonetheless, 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. Here's more information about the Green Grid along with three other organizations that offer advice about lowering data center power consumption.
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. You can also sign up for the latest technology headlines from Wired, Slashdot and others. It doesn't take long to sign up for Twitter, so give it a whirl so you'll know what your Generation Y employees are talking about. See 20 must-follow Twitter feeds here.
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. One benefit of Yammer over Twitter: it seems to have a sustainable business model.
8. Ruby on Rails
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. See 15 amazing Web applications built with Ruby on Rails here. Version 2.2 of Ruby on Rails came out in November, so you don't have to worry about being on the bleeding edge.
9. Enterprise Mobility Matters
Like it or not, the latest smartphones -- the BlackBerry Storms and Apple 3G iPhones (Slideshow: Smartphone showdown: iPhone vs. BlackBerry Storm) -- 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. We like the Enterprise Mobility Matters Web site from market research firm Strategy Analytics because it offers a comprehensive look at enterprise mobility issues.
This story, "Resolve to Study These Web Sites in 2009" was originally published by Network World.