Spiceworks Review

Charities and IT monitoring

The one thing charities often do not have  - vast amounts of disposable income for IT. In fact, they often don't have tiny amounts of income for IT. For some charities, they will have no budget at all. This can impact all aspects of IT. I've experienced expiring licensing, dodgy to non existent patching, ropey security...to name but a few things that kept me up at night. Okay, yes, this can happen anywhere, but it is very often present in charities <2mil.

How does this relate to Spiceworks? Spiceworks is a system monitoring tool that has a wealth of community created add-ons that can especially help organisations with limited funds to ensure their mission critical systems are running well. It is written in Ruby-on-Rails and specifically designed for Microsoft Windows. In 2013, Spiceworks was ranked #2 midsized business in the Austin American Statesman's Top Workplaces  (source: Wikipedia) 

Some examples of plugins are:

  • Subnet calculator
  • Dynamic Troubleshooting
  • License Manager
  • SQL Server monitor (your CRM will leverage a database)
  • Diskviewer - visual representation of your server and user disks (this can help ensure you're aware of space limitations)
  • License Manager (don't be caught out by expiring server warranties or AV licensing)
  • Rackspace control panel 
  • QuickReports (this can help you present your information to the Board or SMT)
  • Bandwidth monitor 
  • Windows Performance Monitor
  • IT Service Contracts

I used to it track what config the servers and users had, who had installed certain software - like dropbox - the data protection bane of an organisation -, server licensing, events on the server, and anything out of the ordinary. All of this information can be accessed via a dashboard that you can edit to show what you want.

Organise your assets

(Source: Spiceworks.com)

The ability to have all of this information in one place, for free, and have it run itself (with support from the Spiceworks community) was a godsend in an org that lacked resources. It also allowed me to visually demonstrate problems to senior managers - this is very handy when you are trying to explain something technical.

You can also manage the mobile devices on your network. This feeds into the current issue of policing BYOD. This was handy as it highlighted two Android devices connected to our network that shouldn't have been.


(Source: Spiceworks)

The final thing I found time saving and handy was the ability to run a network audit. Press a button, go and make a cup of tea/go into a meeting (depending on the size of your network and maybe the size of your meeting), come back and the report is ready on the dashboard. It's a real life saver for Board meetings where you could be quizzed about IT compliance.

This app does what it says on the tin with minimal fuss. It's a thumbs up for Spiceworks.

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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1 Comment

author avatarOrlee Gillis

Aimee, how did the senior managers find the visual presentations that Spiceworks enabled you to provide? Were they satisfied? Do you have any advice for how to ensure that managers who are on the receiving end of these presentations are satisfied?