Spiceworks – Amazing Free Software for the IT Professional.

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Network Monitoring. Software Inventorying. Asset Management. Configuration Change Management. Help Desk Ticketing. Active Directory User Management. Purchasing. Life-cycle Management.

Don’t those sound like exciting terms? No? Well, they are part of the daily life of the IT Professional – and they cost a lot of money – or at least they did. There is a tremendous number of companies built around these various concepts – and most don’t handle all of these aspects but just one or two. You can literally spend thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to secure licensing for a solution to just one of these network concerns.

Spiceworks has been around for a long time and offers a free alternative, but with each passing month they have moved from something for those who can’t afford anything else to a real and viable option and competitor.

Within the past week Spiceworks released the milestone 5.0 release of their famous software – and boy is it nice. If you run a network you should check it out – especially if you don’t have anything in place at this juncture but also as a possible alternative to those expensive solutions you may be using currently.

I’m not going to go through all the features of Spiceworks, but let me just note that besides the software itself, Spiceworks has a thriving community of over one million IT Professionals creating a constantly expanding collection of knowledge and resources relating to every imaginable IT problem under the sun.

The one dilemma I see Spiceworks facing as they continue to move forward is competition. They get their funding from advertising dollars – but as they continue to add features they are eating up their own competition. Of course, I want them to keep adding these features. Patch management? Yeah, I’d love that. Network Vulnerability Scanning? Sure, that’d be great. Application Deployment? Yes! But with each expansion Spiceworks knocks some of its sponsors out of the playing field…or at least reduces the incentive for these companies to continue advertising with Spiceworks…Why spend ad dollars to support a competitor?

That said, I think Spiceworks can get around it by focusing on sponsors in areas it will never take over. This would include generic IT suppliers (e.g. CDW, PCMall), hardware manufacturers (e.g. Dell, HP), and end user software (e.g. Word Processing, Chat, Internet Browser). There are also IT systems it is unlikely Spiceworks will ever be interested in penetrating – e.g. virtualization, email servers, etc….its just the whole IT end of management/monitoring that they are slaying.

Spiceworks will also eventually face a challenge from open source proponents. At this juncture I’ve been happy with Spiceworks openness – they are fairly responsive to user requests, their forum is active, their development pace is speedy as the roadrunner, and their plugin architecture allows for significant extensibility…but at some point they will mess up and disappoint us and unless they choose to become an open source company – in at least some sense – a competitor will eventually sprout up.

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