The Rabid Conservative

Think Right, Act Right, Be Right.

Archive for November 17th, 2008

Tech Mage – SpiceWorks

with 2 comments

Most of you know that I use this blog to rant about the pains of liberalism, but this blog is about my musings. So today, this entry is a technical post, so I’m calling it and any subsequent posts, “Tech Mage”, just in case you want to go looking for them.

Today, I’m blogging about a relatively new piece of software on the IT management scene called SpiceWorks.

Spiceworks is a utility that you can use to manage a Windows-based computer network. This tool, once installed, will scan your network and enumerate all the machines by type, show you the software that’s loaded on them, allow you to do reports of inventory, as well as do remote control activities. You can set up monitors to keep track of things, such as low hard drive space or if anti-virus gets out of date. And you can even use it to manage non-computer assets such as telephones, office equipment, even non-tech stuff like furniture, if you want. This is a good thing because you can put a dollar figure against your resources, measure depreciation, and perform proper asset management.

Spiceworks also comes with a help desk system that is a cinch to configure. Users can send me tickets via a helpdesk e-mail account and can see them worked and tracked like the big corps do it. This makes customer service pretty easy, rather than trying to track everything via e-mail.

Another cool feature is the Comparison function. Let’s say you have two identical computers, running side-by-side. One is running dog slow, the other is normal. You can have SpiceWorks do a side-by-side comparison of both computers to see differences, such as loaded software, hardware, hotfixes, or services. Using a known-good machine to check one having problems is a great way to quickly resolve issues.

I deployed SpiceWorks at my church, a network of about 90 computers and 25 or so users (Christian school as well as church) and it quickly uncovered some issues that I needed to fix, such as some errant entries in my DNS tables, as well as some faults with a few of the computers out there.

There are a couple of things I most appreciate about SpiceWorks. First, the price is right – free. Most applications of this class can run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars depending on the number of computers that require managing. For a non-profit organization, this expense can usually not justify itself, which makes SpiceWorks an attractive option to get the same type of management that the bigger corps have. Second, SpiceWorks doesn’t require an agent to be loaded on the workstation/server to be monitored. Many utilites, like Altiris or Systems Management Server from Microsoft require a small client app to properly manage the station. SpiceWorks uses passive monitoring and can manipulate the system using the Windows Management Interface (WMI). This makes it instantly effective. Last, there is a tight integration between the support community and the management console. This is nice because you can click on Ask a Question and post on the Spiceworks boards in the same vein as checking your own inventory.

How does SpiceWorks do this for free? Click-through advertising in the management console. If you are cool with looking at ads from different sponsors, such as Server Beach or HP, while managing your network, you can get the tool for free. If this annoys you, you can always buy into SpiceWorks and have the ads taken out, replaced with your corporate logo. But the SpiceWorks folks want to do what they can to keep the tool free.

SpiceWorks is pretty much positioned for the small to medium IT network. As I said before, it is doing nicely for a network of about 100 stations. I don’t know the largest networks that have been managed by SpiceWorks, but I know there are some who are in the thousands of nodes, so it might be a nice solution for a large network as well.

Have a look at it if you manage a network and see for yourself (or ask your company’s network administrator if they’ve ever heard of it.) I like it and I’m usually a pretty hard sell.

SpiceWorks Website:


Written by The Rabid Conservative

November 17, 2008 at 10:52 am

Posted in Political

Tagged with ,

%d bloggers like this: