What's so great about Spiceworks?

Open-source IT management suite Spiceworks engenders fierce loyalty.

Spiceworks users are a loyal bunch, judging by their raves about the open-source IT management software.

When we asked IT pros to write in and tell Network World about their favorite enterprise IT products, the Spiceworks user community responded in droves. (See the full recap of IT pros’ favorite products here.) We limited the main product roundup to one rave per product, but it seemed a shame not to share all the praise for Spiceworks’ features, cost (free!) and community support.

FAVE RAVES: 22 top picks from IT pros

Here’s just a sample of what Spiceworks users had to say:

“It's without a doubt the most versatile SMB systems management tools I have every used, with an incredible community behind it,” says Joseph Foran, director of IT at FSW Inc., a social service agency in Bridgeport, Conn.

Full-featured systems management tools were too expensive for the nonprofit, so Foran got by with a hodgepodge of different management tools until he found Spiceworks.

“About the only things it doesn't do are patch management (coming soon via a partnership with Shavlik) and software deployment -- it tracks inventory, scans health, provides alerts, checks toner, and keeps a tidy helpdesk with tracking and vendor management,” Foran says.

“The short answer for why I like it is that it is free and it works -- you don't usually get both at the same time,” says Dana Millaway, district technology coordinator for Holdingford Public Schools in Holdingford, Minn. “The software is intuitive but powerful. The programmers listen to the users. The community is friendly, professional and helpful -- another rare combination.”

MORE FAVES: Finger pointing? These products get IT off the hook

Steven Dally was dreading doing a network inventory until he found Spiceworks. “It does a superior job gathering network and system information into one place; it gathered information about my systems that I didn’t even know that I wanted!” says Dally, network/systems administrator at Little River Wetlands Project. “I’ve gotten it to the point where I don’t have my e-mail box clogged with user issues, requests and complaints, and I have a comprehensive change management log that helps me keep track of what’s been changed and when for troubleshooting purposes. Oh, and did I mention it’s completely, and 100% F-R-E-E? At that price point, I’m game.”

“This is an extremely comprehensive IT systems monitoring and management tool which puts a lot of the power and capability of enterprise class systems into the hands of every small business,” says Charles Kokoska, CIO at Joe Tahan’s Furniture Galleries in New York.

“Given the economic downturn of the last few years, my employer and most other small businesses I know of have had to stretch every last penny of their IT budget to the max. This has resulted in a substantial increase in maintenance and support efforts to keep older systems and software running longer with minimal downtime but far fewer resources to accomplish the goal,” Kokoska says. “There was no budget for a network management or improved help desk system to help us. Spiceworks was FREE, and has not only enabled us to meet our goal but gave us additional capabilities we did not expect!”

“As a one-man IT department, it’s helped track assets and help desk tickets, and the price was right on!” say Mark Coleman, information technology specialist at Visiting Nurse & Hospice Home in Fort Wayne, Ind.

“This software makes keeping track of everything connected to the network (or not connected) extremely simple. I can run inventory reports or I can create a custom report that gives me all kinds of information about the network such as what software is installed, how much memory on each machine, etc… You name it, SpiceWorks does it, and it does it VERY well. It brought much needed order to my IT world here at work. Plus, it totally impresses my boss when I can come up with inventory information almost instantaneously over the phone,” says Richard Gallo, systems administrator at Applied Visions in Northport, N.Y.

“The price cannot be beat but most of all the user community is out of this world,” says Michael Ramsey, IT manager at Marvair in Cordele, Georgia. “The help desk and inventory features were what our IT department needed to get things running smoothly.”

The chance to consolidate information and tools in one place appeals to Larry Burrows, owner of SoHo Technical Consulting in Schodack Landing, N.Y. “I can manage remote clients, maintain inventories of their hardware and software, process support tickets and more, and can do it all from pretty much anywhere I have Internet access. I can also do all of this for my own internal network as well,” Burrows says. “It isn’t 100% perfect, but for a FREE application, it does pretty darn good. Even the ads are not so obnoxious and if you don’t like them, the fee for having them removed is not prohibitive either.”

“We’ve increased productivity, have been able to track purchasing down to the grain of toner and bit of RAM. We can keep track so easily of every PC, every printer, see where we’re having problems, map the entire network, track our vendors… there is NOTHING IT related it can’t do and hasn’t helped us with,” says Dustin Hane, systems administrator at ICM Corp in Milwaukee, Wisc.

“We use the helpdesk feature in the free software to manage all of our helpdesk tickets as well as maintain a wealth of information about our network that can be retrieved in seconds. Spiceworks allows us to easily manage our network and perform tasks in seconds that used to take hours or days,” says Ben Rodden, network administrator at HealthPro Medical Billing in Elida, Ohio.

Matthew Swint, IT specialist at Morgan County Health Council in Wartburg, Tenn., sums up his appreciation this way: “Spiceworks has allowed my IT department at our small business to easily manage numerous aspects of our internal network. Spiceworks allows us to keep an up-to-date equipment inventory, complete with thorough details about each piece of equipment. It also allows us to manage hardware and software warranties, vendor relationships, employee-assigned assets and most importantly, Spiceworks allows us access to a full-featured IT helpdesk application to help keep track of the work that our department does each and every day.”

Spcieworks “has made it easier for our IT staff in every sense at performing daily tasks,” says Lance Young, network systems administrator at Aeroframe Services. He singles out a few key qualities, including: ease of implementation, Active Directory integration, network inventory with all the info about each node, community links, Exchange integration, live info and updates on running products/installed software and hardware.

“It has allowed us to support more users (5 locations, 280 staff, 1,000 students, ~450 PCs, 16 servers) with fewer staff (3 full time, 1 part time),” says Micah Bridges, IT technician at the Institute of Business and Medical Careers. Among the features Bridges appreciates are: scheduled network scans to collect system information, integration of RDP, a single helpdesk for all requests. “On top of everything else it is free.”

“It replaced our helpdesk ticket system and turned out to do SO much more,” says Trevor Stewart, information systems technician for the City of Lakeville in Minn. “It saved us from spending any more money on ‘support and maintenance’ for a product that never truly met our needs.

Spiceworks’ helpdesk software “has made our IT team more efficient, being able to collaborate on current issues and search past issues. It is very user friendly to our end users – with auto emails, attachments, ability to track times etc.,” says Karen Schoenung, EDI coordinator at Fisher Barton in Watertown, Wisc.

And the accolades weren’t limited to the U.S.

Spiceworks “allowed me to set up network inventory and a simple helpdesk for zero cost AND put me in touch with a really useful tech community,” says Chris Johnson, IT team leader for Birkby’s Plastics, a U.K. company that makes plastic products for the automotive and specialist engineering industries.

“It's free, it's fast, great support, great forums,” says Zak Khalifa, ICT network manager at the U.K.’s Holy Trinity Catholic Media Arts College.

Marco Volkert, a network administrator at PROMAN in Düsseldorf, Germany, says it makes life easier. “Spiceworks got a full inventory of my network, found problems with DNS (so I could fix it) and it has a great helpdesk ticket system included.”

Lastly, from Warren Bold, IT officer for DAT Media in Australia: “IT has made managing our servers much more simple. Load a webpage hosted on an interal PC and see the HDD usage, network usage, IP address serial number, warranty status and what port it is plugged into on a managed switch.”

Follow Ann Bednarz on Twitter: twitter.com/annbednarz

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