Getting the most out of a Microsoft TechNet subscription

Derek Schauland explains the benefits he gets out of a Microsoft TechNet subscription. What are your favorite supports for work? Take the poll and let us know.

Microsoft went the extra mile when they came up with the idea of a software subscription for IT Pros. The new subscription pricing for Microsoft TechNet is currently $349, with renewals at $249; however, there is almost always a way to get a deal. Many of the IT pro evangelists at Microsoft will post savings on their blogs to ensure they get out to the community at large.

What do I really get?

In a TechNet subscription Microsoft includes almost all of the applications they produce. The licenses included for TechNet are for testing purposes only and are not time bombed and will run forever. Generally they include 10 activations for each product.

Is this really a good deal?

I think the cost of TechNet is a worthwhile price to pay for all of the applications, articles, and other support that come with it. Not to mention, the always-on concierge service helps you locate things within the subscription.

Where I think the rubber meets the road: Creating a lab

It is likely that not everyone has the hardware to create a lab in the ideal sense --putting a bunch of new servers and workstations in a room with lots of bandwidth, and playing with every application possible. But what if you used a recycled workstation, and maybe added some RAM to it? Then you might be able to use a server OS and something like Microsoft Hyper-V (or VMware) and configure a virtual lab.

This way you have a playground where you can test applications included with TechNet and make an educated decision about the application in terms of your organization's business needs.

Recently, I was reading through an email thread I had with a friend about a project I'm working on, and we started to discuss Hyper-V. Because I am working to provide an understanding of virtualization and its benefits to my management team, I decided to build a lab on a workstation box at home. This allows me to dig into many new technologies with minimal cost up front. Once I'm comfortable with it and can demonstrate the product in a way that is useful to my company, I can also use the lab as a demo platform for the presentation.

While the license for TechNet states it should not be used in production, it is the perfect place to get your hands on a copy of SharePoint or Windows Server 2008 R2, for example, and really gain an understanding of the product before recommending a new technology or an upgrade to your organization.

My TechNet subscription has been invaluable to me. Are you a subscriber, and do you feel you get your money's worth from it? What are your go-to supports for work?