I was very surprised when I came across this application about a week ago, that I had not heard about it earlier. I have seen and implemented a pretty good number of commercial “suites” that are supposed to be flawlessly integrated and offer everything you need out of the box. Truth be told, most of the time, you need some heavy customization to get the results you are looking for and you usually need to change your business process to fit the “mold” of the application. This is true for most suites that try to take over your entire IT Management activities.
Spiceworks may not offer the entire spectrum of IT Management tasks, but it does what it does very well and offers the most important applications that any IT manager needs in one simple and free package.
Essentially, Spiceworks is setup locally on a machine inside your network and installs its own web server on a port of your choosing. The entire interface is web-based and allows you to do a multitude of things such as:
- Automatic computer and software inventory
- IT asset reporting
- Network Monitoring and troubleshooting
- IT Helpdesk
- Connect to the spiceworks community for IT answers, product reviews and advice from other IT pros
I absolutely love the integration that they have done with this product and the way the interface is designed. It’s simple and intuitive and lets you get things done quickly. I especially like the portal section of the website which allows your clients to log on to open helpdesk tickets directly and gives them a source of information specific to your environment. You can place a message at the top of the page to let your customers know if there are problems on the system and give them a list of places to look for information to fix their own problems.
The software inventory portion is very well done and the best part is that it will run an inventory on your entire network without having to install anything on client machines. You simply supply an administrator username/password to access all the machines on the network and away it goes, capable of detecting Windows, OS X and Linux boxes. Spiceworks lets you complete the information manually to specify, for example, how many licenses of each software you have bought to make sure you are legit and up to date. You can pull out many standard reports so that you are always on top of what’s going on in your environment.
Network Monitoring will let you see all the recent activity on your network and one of my favorites is the “Recent software” section. This one lets you see what recent software was installed by your end-users so you can enforce company policies if needed. There are many indicators that you can use and another very useful one is hard disk capacity which lets you know whenever a machine is running low on disk space. Spiceworks will let you connect directly to a machine (Using RDP) for troubleshooting and has a few other helpful tools to diagnose network problems.
The community section connects back to the spiceworks site and lets you interact with other IT pros to get answers and advice for some problems you may be having and acts just like a portal with a forum, news, reviews, and even a store. I see it as a portal for IT Pros.
So how does spiceworks offer such a complete and well done package for free? There are a few very non-obstrusive ads in the application by IT partners such as HP, Rackspace and Logmein. Quite honestly, this is the kind of package that I wouldn’t mind paying for to use it in a company, but free is always good :-)
Overall, Spiceworks offers a well rounded solution for IT managers with an environment of less than 250 devices and admin rights on all of them. As mentioned on their site, it will work with larger networks, but it might be slower. If you need to implement a quick ticketing solution and/or a network inventory solution, Spiceworks may be just the thing you are looking for.