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.
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
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.
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
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.
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…