Boys (and Girls) and their Toys: Spiceworks

I wrote an article on Spiceworks a few years back and thought it needed a little refresher.

Boys (and Girls) and their toys have always been a conversation for people looking to keep up with the budgets at home… I have found that geeks are much easier to please because their toys cost less but their toys are all over the house instead of in the garage and driveway.  As a geek, I have a ton of fun toys.  When we are at the office, we call them “tools”.  If I can get paid to play with the tools I love to use, and ones I call toys at home, then I would call that a successful career.

Network World, 2012-04-04

Network World, 2012-04-04

Spiceworks is one of my favorite tools for the workplace, and while I love vendors and solutions like Plantronics, Ubiquiti and Scale, Spiceworks is the biggest game-changer I have ever worked with.  I think I will go through the actual applications in more detail in another post.  For now, I wanted to put all the information about what Spiceworks is and why I love it so much in one place so I can point people to it rather than summarizing it every couple months in different conversations.

Spiceworks is an application, a community, and a supply house, all in one window.  The best part of all, Spiceworks is completely free (although you can pay them a few hundred a year if you choose).

Spiceworks: The Application

Spiceworks dashboard with customized widgets

Spiceworks dashboard with customized widgets

As an application, I use it to manage inventory of all hardware including computers, print devices, wireless access points, servers, telephones, etc.  The only real requirement Spiceworks has is a Windows operating system to install it on.

To manage my inventory there is a whole range of places where customization is available from custom groups and reporting features as well as how to add devices.  You can manually add inventory or scan a range of devices including Windows, Mac and Linux desktops.  Scanning can be done by various methods including WMI, IP, LDAP, SNMP, SSH, and many others.

Spiceworks inventory view

Spiceworks inventory view

It also includes a fully functional Help Desk application.  While not the most robust system, it easily beats many solutions that exceed $5000 in up front costs in many areas.  Spiceworks takes the inventory customization right into the help desk by allowing custom categories, auto replies and an auto respondent.  Spiceworks also has a development community where users from around the world build apps that extend the usage into niche industries, specialty uses and at individual requests.

On top of the inventory and help desk features there is also a purchasing area to manage quotes, compare vendors and track incoming purchases (which plugs right into inventory), a vendor management area, cloud services management tracking and a customizable web portal.

Spiceworks: The Company

What can I say about the company?  They have built a team that is simply amazing and a work environment that is the envy of many a company.  They are centered in Austin, TX which is a huge tech-center.  They build the application based on an advertising model which allows them to provide the application for free to the users (for those nay sayers who say this can’t work, please see Google).  There are add-ons and ways to extend the application for a cost through vendors like 360Maas (for Mobile Device Management) and for companies or government agencies that don’t want their users to see the advertisings there is a Spiceworks My Way option you can sign up for.  It currently costs just under $500 US per year but the nice thing about this is that they have been grandfathering subscribers in.  I signed a company up several years ago and I think they still pay $100 per year to replace the ads with their company logo.

I have always preferred the ads.  These are companies that don’t just pay for the wonderful application and community that I use on a daily basis, but they are relevant to what I do for a living.  Almost every vendor I have used in the past 6 years has been in some part due to the Vendor pages in Spiceworks or the recommendation of fellow Spice Heads in the community.  As a company, they have shown me the greatest online training I have ever seen for an application as well as shown that IT can be fun… something we forget all too often.

Spiceworks hosts two annual conferences, in London, UK and Austin, TX, which they affectionately call SpiceWorld.  What else would you call them?

I have to confess that I tired quickly of wearing “Spiceworld” shirts and being asked if I was at a Spice Girls concert.  It didn’t take long for that to wear off though, and I found that I loved the conferences no matter what the t-shirts sparked back home.  They are some of the most user-focused events I have ever been to.  There seems to be a near-perfect balance of sponsorship, which makes it easy to find new information about products and solutions that I need to learn about to do my job better.  The free t-shirts are an added bonus.  *smile*

The conference keynotes are often Spiceworks focused on new releases and announcements but they also bring in world-renowned speakers (like Tom Limoncelli) to get us pumped up about the crazy career choices that we have made.  The breakout sessions are a combination of vendor sponsored solutions and marketing interspersed with how-tos and training opportunities for all aspects of Spiceworks.  In a nut shell, these are conferences for IT Pros.  If I didn’t use the application for anything in the office, I would still attend the conference and be as big a part of the community as possible because these things make me a better geek and than makes me a better employee or contractor.  While InterOP (and almost every other tech conference I have been to) are filled with everything from students to CIOs and business owners.  Spiceworld is full of geeks out working the trenches.  This brings us to the greatest part of Spiceworks… the mistake.

Spiceworks: The Community

Spiceworks Online Community

Spiceworks Online Community

The Spiceworks community was a suggestion from a staff member that almost never came to fruition and turned out to be the greatest part of their story (in my mind anyhow and it’s my blog so that is all that matters).

The community includes over 6,000,000 members (yes, that was million) worldwide as well as over 2500 Tech Vendors.  These vendors basically pay for Spiceworks as an application, company and community.  If you have a question about a Cisco router, Plantronics headset, Lenovo laptop or even a solution like backups or virtualization, you have come to the right place.  While you may get a Cisco rep answering your question, you might just as easily get some tech or sale rep from Curvature (leading reseller of used Cisco gear) or an MSP or CCIE the community.  Your virtualization question has it’s own area as well as specific groups for VMware and Hyper-V.  The possibilities are almost limitless and they are well past any critical mass number required for business growth.

Calgary SpiceCorps - HP Canada - 2015-02-24

Calgary SpiceCorps – HP Canada – 2015-02-24

I have been accused of being passionate about a great many things from my family to writing but in the tech-world there have only been a few things that really got my going.  I loved the GPS world when we were building the SuperNet and still promote the RouteMapper application, I loved Visio and still use it on a weekly basis, I love game-changing vendors like Ubiquiti and Scale Computing but my favorite game changer thus far is probably Spiceworks.

The coolest thing about the 6 million strong online community is that they get offline in every continent North of Antarctica.  There are over 150 Geographical SpiceCorps groups that meet regularly to network, educate and show their love of all things spicy… but that is another blog…

11 responses to “Boys (and Girls) and their Toys: Spiceworks

  1. Pingback: I Choose to Believe | A2Z with ADHD·

  2. Pingback: Plan B – 2015 in review | Plan B Mentality·

  3. Shayne,

    I’m an employee at Spiceworks and your post was enjoyable to read! Glad you’re part of our community 🙂


    • Hello Ryan… thanks for all the hard work you do at the mothership. Without you guys (and gals) there would be no community to be a part of… and I am glad to be a part of it as well.

  4. Pingback: What on earth is the SpiceCorps? | Plan B Mentality·

  5. Apparently Gabrielle and Shelly have won me over. When it comes down to it I think I changed 8 words (I wasn’t really counting).

    This post got split and has been split again today. Hopefully at lunch I get to post the one about the SpiceCorps user groups. There was a comment in it that made me sound like a jerk as well… let’s just say my true colors shine in my writing… but I wanted this stuff to be a little more professional so I cleaned it up, and came back and cleaned this up… not because Gabrielle would beat me when we meet in Austin this September, but because it was the right thing to do.

    I will still be a jerk at Spiceworld though, sorry ladies.

  6. Thank you for your post. Your description of your toys all over your home made me smile as it perfectly describes my own home. Except that I’m a ‘Girl with her toys’. My poor husband and daughters put up with it though, maybe just for the free tech support they get. And the SpiceCorps community is amazing (as a co-Leader for the Charleston, SC SpiceCorps, please come visit, our weather is AWESOME this time of year)!

    • I would love to come out and visit… never been to your neck of the woods…
      It is funny that the two comments on this post were from women in IT. There aren’t enough of you and now I am wondering if idiots with limited vocabulary aren’t at least part to blame? Sorry?
      My wife gets free tech support but it is always slow, often late and usually taken care of by one of our kidlets.

  7. Shayne, I definitely wouldn’t call you a sexist pig! It’s just that sometimes people don’t realize how their choice of words can affect the impression it makes on others. I know from your contributions on the Spiceworks forums that you’re a supporter of having more women in the field. Maybe that’s why I thought it important to say something, so you were aware of how others might (mis)interpret your first paragraph. The more you know, and all that…
    Getting back to the important stuff though, lots of great information on Spiceworks — the community, the app and the company. You did a great job capturing in a few paragraphs the spirit and usefulness of all that is Spiceworks!

    • Thanks for the compliments, especially the last line. It is kind that you call this a few paragraphs. *smile*

      I tried to do a whole post on everything but am drafting another one for the SpiceCorps. It is actually longer than this one. Not sure how I ever thought I could keep my posts under 500 words.

  8. So it has been mentioned to me already that I am a sexist pig. Actually, Gabrielle (a fellow Spice Head from Halifax) was very nice about it. She probably shouldn’t have been as kind as she was. It upsets me how few women are in IT and I often talk like there are none but there definitely are. I just finished typing in a draft about the SpiceCorps group in Calgary and how much I miss Julie who was our admin for a year.

    I think all the Spice Heads down there miss her. We have had less than 8 women show up at meetings in the two Alberta SpiceCorps in the past 4 years but I look forward to seeing more. I am going to try to dig out the picture I took with another Canadian Spice Head at Spiceworld 2012 too…

    Until then, sorry Gabrielle, and all other women in IT… for being a sexist pig… you do deserve better.

Please leave comments here!!!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.