Spiceworks IT Desktop is a free, ad sponsored network and system monitoring, inventory, and helpdesk solution. With a large user community and flexible layout and options, IT Desktop meets all the basic requirements for a management platform. Best of all, there's no cost to try it or use it!
Spiceworks is a network monitoring and issue management platform which runs on Windows systems, but can monitor and track other operating systems and network devices. After a 17 MB download, Spiceworks IT Desktop has a fast & straightforward install. Simple online registration & account creation on the Spiceworks website is required. You can get started from the next web page with Inventory, Help Desk functionality, or connect with the Spiceworks community, news, and forums. Spiceworks' community has over 500,000 members. Almost every component can be rearranged and customized to meet your particular needs. Functionality can be extended via templates. All this is offered free via an advertiser supported model.
Inventory can scan your entire network, or only the local computer. The local web interface can run on port 80, or a port of your choice. The system is Windows based, but can discover Unix, Linux, or Mac/OS X systems. The management account must have Administrator & Remote Administrator (for Windows systems) privileges to discover systems on your network. One feature set I'd like to see better developed is manufacturer discovery for non-Windows devices. This is easy to accomplish with MAC address lookups, but apparently that level of discovery isn't in the code. Likewise, for a free product, SNMP capability is a bit much to ask for. One outstanding feature is the ability to write your own custom plugins, with lots of examples and online help available.
While Spiceworks may be missing a few features, it wins out big time on usability. The 3.5 version offers multiple, customizable dashboards, custom and timeline widgets. The dashboard default layout was easy enough to navigate, although for my network I wanted to customize the layout immediately. The reporting functions were easy to change and creating new customizable reports really couldn't be simpler. Report templates created and shared by other users are available online. Spiceworks performs a very thorough inventory of installed software. Custom grouping of devices is possible, as well as the addition of custom attributes. Sorting and filtering by category (manufacturer, model) is possible. Compared to the numerous Open Source offerings for network and helpdesk management and monitoring, usability shines here because Spiceworks needs no complex install, setup and configuration.
The Bottom Line
Since the product is free, it can't hurt to try it--IT Desktop is non-invasive and makes no changes other than the desktop agent installed on a single PC, and that's even quicker to remove than it was to install. If the ads just bother you too much, Spiceworks MyWay allows users to pay to see their own logo instead of ads. I was pleased and impressed with Spiceworks' offering and the company's concept for this product, which puts enterprise-class IT management within the reach of budget-concsious SMBs. The large user support community is a plus as well. Highly recommended!
To find out more about Spiceworks and the company behind it, read our interview with Jay Hallberg, Spiceworks' VP Marketing & Co-Founder.