Picking the right gift for the IT guy or gal presents a challenge, because let’s face it, most so-called “geeky” gifts are kind of dumb. Any tech will tell you the best gifts come in the form of a bonus check direct deposited into his or her bank account, or just as good, a day or two of comp time added to the PTO reserves. There are other fun ideas for stocking stuffers, too. Here is what we found out.
Our ultra-scientific research methodology
We asked our friends at the popular Spiceworks IT community to weigh in on the best holiday gifts they have ever received at work. They responded with tons of excellent IT gift ideas. We also searched the dregs of the Reddit /r/sysadmin discussion boards. There were fantastic ideas hiding in here as well. If you’d like to see for yourself, this thread and this thread yielded a few good suggestions—just be warned, there is a lot of blathering to sift through.
A word about liquor
It must be mentioned that “nice bottle of liquor” did appear several times in the data collecting. If that jives with your office culture—great, you know your co-workers better than I do. Be aware that giving liquor is generally frowned upon by etiquette experts. Then again, general convention goes out the window with IT types.
We don’t sell bottles of booze here. We do have a great assortment of flasks, though!
Flasks from $20
The Raspberry Pi single-board computer probably is the most-mentioned holiday item for the IT community. The pocket-sized hardware can be used for countless home automation projects, and even some legitimate uses around the office. (Hello, print server!) Worried that your tech already has the Pi? No problem—having two or several Raspberry Pi opens up cool new possibilities for tinkerers.
You will need cables, dongles, and peripherals if you’re starting from scratch with a development board. You can buy a Raspberry Pi starter kit with that stuff bundled together.
Or this Retro Gaming Raspberry Pi kit with everything you need to build a classic emulator!
Raspberry Pi 83-20185RK Retro Gaming Kit, $89.99
Now, if you plan on IT inventing things for the office, you might consider a micro MOBO or Intel Arduino embedded solutions, which are more attuned for big-kid tinkering.
Arduino Uno Rev 3 Microcontroller, $26
External Power Banks (also called batteries)
External phone batteries won several mentions, and these Anker Batteries were even mentioned by name on one discussion board. Whereas many external charging sources only deliver one full charge (sometimes less) for smartphones, the Anker is capable of holding three to six phone charges once it is completely charged. This effectively eliminates dead phones on while on the road.
Sweet Little Drone
Syma makes some of the highest rated drones you can buy. The X20 quads are great fun for whipping around indoors or outside. If you want a more serious model, say, a drone for realty work, level up to something larger.
Syma drones from $30
It’s hard to go wrong with Google’s Chromecast, a streaming media device that plugs into the HDMI port on a television set. It streams anything playing on your laptop, tablet or mobile phone over a wireless connection onto the TV screen. It has a slew of alternate uses as well—like regifting in a worst-case scenario. Or, it can power slide presentations, play music through the television, display photos as a background, and more.
An LED flashlight is an oft-overlooked item in the IT toolbox, and received mentions as a coveted gift for professionals. Handy for navigating a dark server room, a headband LED unit provides techs a hands-free approach to working in dimly-lit areas. They are great tools for the outdoors and auto repair. Also, they’re nice and cost-effective. We have a cornucopia of LED lights and lanterns that vary by battery life and lumens output.
IT professionals love utility, so it’s no wonder why multi-tools are so popular in the holiday gift conversation. Whether it’s for unscrewing hard drives, or torquing open an IBM array, a good multi-tool will see a lot of use. Need some suggestions? A Leatherman Wingman packs a plethora of small hand tools into a pocket-sized form factor. The Gerber Crucial Tool ($25) features essentials like a Phillips-head screwdriver and a v-cut wire cutter.
Now that everyone listens to music from their mobile phone, having portable Bluetooth speakers that travel with you becomes a necessity. Great for tunes, podcasts, and conference calls on the go. If your IT pro is the outdoorsy type, consider this little waterproof speaker with a rugged build for camping adventures.
A copy (get it?) of Acronis True Image 2018
For years, USB flash drives have been a go-to gift for IT. Any security-minded IT professional will tell you this is a stale gift idea, and an ironic one at that, given the threat thumb drives potentially introduce to an IT environment. Acronis True Image is a backup solution with cloud features, which essentially does everything a thumb drive does in a safer manner, and much more. It also gives the giver of the gift some IT cred when bestowing in lieu of a thumb drive.
You tell us— what is an awesome gift for the IT guy or gal?