Test labs seem to be somewhat in focus at the moment with my workplace deciding to dedicate a rack to a test environment that'll hold a Netapp cluster, cisco switch, brocade switch and a couple of servers running an ESX cluster.
With ESX added to the mix this is sufficient to allow for rapid deployment of servers which will allow testing for a huge variety of installations and more importantly allow for re-validation of existing solutions where those solutions have upgrades.
A classic example of existing solution problems is something I'll touch on later in the year but, in brief, it seems that the latest version (6.0.4) of Netapps 'Single Mailbox Recovery' product doesn't work with certain versions of Snap Manager for Exchange. A downgrade to 6.0.3 is required and it is because of very silly incompatibilities/version issues like this it's vital that every now and then existing solutions are revalidated with the latest OS versions, patches, software and various combinations thereof!
Personally, I am a huge fan of the HP Microserver and with the £100 cashback offer it's a good choice for a simple personal test lab. My own testlab consists of a couple of microservers with some additional network cards and running VMWares ESX 5.0, a FreeNAS box running FreeNAS 8.3-P1 with 5 x 2Tb hard drives and one running Windows 2008 with Starwind as Starwind is free and provides a nice iSCSI target to play with.
In my opinion, having a test lab whether at work or at home is vital to do procedural and system testing and projects should always have the time built in to allow for testing where software needs to upgraded or where completely new solutions have been suggested as it's always nice to know about and document the know issues before running into them on a production environment.
Personally, I like having my own test lab at home as many times I've seen work testlabs that are a total mess with a mixture of production and test systems as well as stuff that no one knows about but are too scared to delete - just in case. All too often, I've found that a home test lab can turn something around faster than at work which makes a work from home day quite a useful experience and, of course, it can be used for upgrading skills or as a refresher prior to an interview.
Internet Explorer Patches
The first patch Tuesday of 2013 will be here in a few days and this one is going to be fun with no less than 12 security holes being patched except for a zero day security hole found on Christmas day and currently being exploited. All versions except version 9 of IE are affected so it seems that the general consensus is that an upgrade to IE9 is a wiser move.
Of course, at this point a lot of people will make the same cry 'Don't use Internet Explorer' which is fine until you consider that A. some software REQUIRES it and B. Browsers like FireFox have addons that use Internet Explorer components to render patches that require Internet Explorer thus making the computer vulnerable anyway.