By Rob Dunn
Contributing Writer, [GAS]
If you already are familiar with Spiceworks, then you can skip ahead to “Brief History” – but if not, read on.
Network Inventory for the budget-crunched masses
If you are a systems administrator or IT manager who maintains a small to medium sized shop, you probably don’t have a lot of money to spend (heck, who does these days?) on proactive network monitoring and inventory tools. So, any company that puts out an inexpensive high-quality tool to help you manage your network is a welcome sight.
Of course, if it is a free high-quality tool… well, that’s even better!
Back on the subject of SMB’s: we IT staffers hardly have the budget to accommodate our users penchant for occupying every last byte of disk space on a daily basis – much less to buy a systems management, monitoring or help desk system to help contain the chaos… trying to earmark funds for such a product can be difficult since it isn’t something that directly improves your user’s productivity or aids in the company’s growth.
I’m here to tell you that you can put at least some of your financial concerns to rest… go ahead, you can spend that money on that needed disk space. Next, open your web-browser and surf to http://www.spiceworks.com to get your own free copy of a quality network asset inventory system.
Help desk and network monitoring
Spiceworks is actually three tools in one: A network asset inventory system, a help desk portal and a network monitoring solution. Remember that movie “Dune“? “He who controls the Spice… controls the Universe-*ahem* well, I guess at least “the network“. Ok, now that I’ve affirmed my geekiness (and age), read on as I tell you a bit about Spiceworks.
Originally released July of 2006, Spiceworks has grown by leaps and bounds, both in terms of features as well as its customer-driven focus. Utilizing an ad-based revenue model (akin to Google applications) on top of a SQLite database, the company has taken the cost factor out of the equation when it comes to choosing a management solution for your IT department.
Side note: Don’t like ads? You can eliminate them from the app for a paltry $10 a month.
I started using Spiceworks in early 2007 (after using another great free solution, Open-Audit), and found out very quickly how easy it was to set up and use. The installation process literally took me a few minutes. After which I was up and running – I mean we’re talking no tweaks, no additional components to install, just setup and go.
Spiceworks will soon be releasing version 3.0 of their highly-acclaimed software, with some awesome new goodies. If you’ve never used Spiceworks before, this is the time to try it out.
Existing features include:
- Help desk system
- Run and edit your own reports on a huge variety of asset data
- Ping, Traceroute, and run Remote Control against a computer
- Compare workstation configurations with each other
- Index and monitor Event Log entries and other stats
- Fully integrated help & user-community based forums
- Automatic discovery of Windows, Linux, Mac and SNMP based devices
- Manual asset addition (not limited to network devices)
- Inventory software license keys of many popular applications
- Attach documents and custom notes/attributes to any asset
- Determine your complete network inventory at a glance; view distribution of hardware vendors, servers, software installations and more
Some new features to whet your appetite:
- Microsoft Exchange monitoring – keep track of your heavy mailbox hitters and Exchange services
- LDAP integration – Allow your users to login with their Active Directory credentials while submitting a help desk ticket
- Asset groups – organize your assets into logical containers
- Service providers – Add important dates, phone numbers and other contact information pertaining to your service providers (contractors, ISPs, web-hosting, etc.)
- Revamped user navigation interface
- Share reports with other Spiceworks community members
Get a preview of what’s coming up
In preparation for their unveiling of 3.0, Spiceworks has released a series of videos that go over some of the newest features. Also, a heavy duty beta period is in process as I type this (which I am a part of, thank you!), with super feedback from the user community to aid in making this the best version so far.
Community driven development
Speaking of feedback, I have to say that this is THE number one thing that sets SW apart from any other software I have ever used. The staffers routinely scour the forums looking for feature requests (denoted by Digg-like ratings – in this case, “spiciness”) to add, depending on how much the community wants them. So, if there’s something that you just don’t like with regards to the interface, charting, reports, etc. – just say so. If it’s a valid request, most likely the SW developers will take note and make the changes in the next version! Also, the staff actually communicates with you personally – something completely different than the anonymous mailer auto-replies we’ve come to know and hate. From what I can tell, EVERY employee that I’ve spoken with at SW is passionate about their software.
Finally, something spicy that won’t give me heartburn.