Review: Spiceworks 5.0 Gets Thumbs Up

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We've liked Spiceworks' approach to data center and enterprise monitoring for some time, and the latest version of the application, Spiceworks 5.0, provides a solid reason to evaluate it as a solution to keep tabs on activity, issues and inventory throughout an IT shop.

The Austin, Texas-based company was formed in 2006, and its flagship product is free and aimed at providing easy-to-deploy, browser-based console views into data center and network infrastructure. It's gradually improved over the past several years and now, at Spiceworks 5.0, the company has produced a major-league solution that's ready for small- or mid-sized enterprises.

Spiceworks has provided in earlier versions of its monitoring technology robust views and inventory of hardware, software, security issues, activity and even a full-blown network map of all assets via SNMP. With Spiceworks 5.0, which is still free, it allows for monitoring and some management throughout an enterprise - including cloud and virtual data center infrastructure -- by person within an organization.

Download and installation of Spiceworks 5.0 is automated and easy; once installed into a client on the network, it reaches out to pull in listings of PCs, servers, routers, devices (like printers and VoIP phones), and even virtual machines. Via ActiveDirectory, Spiceworks 5.0 is also able to conduct an inventory of all people authorized to access the network and cloud-based services and infrastructure.

What else is new:

* Spiceworks 5.0 provides purchase workflow management, which allows for policies to be set setting limitations and definitions for what technology may be ordered and by whom in an organization, from where it can be ordered and whether tickets can be assigned. In organizations where "purchase creep" can cause issues, this feature in Spiceworks 5.0 can resolve issues before they occure;

* It allows MSPs to track equipment and labor costs right from the application. This is done via the purchases setting, where MSPs need only click on the purchase settings and enter their hourly rate;

* For those managing a data center remotely, changes to devices can be monitored and then, if need be, changed back to original settings. Under "Settings" and "Network Scan" functions, a new remote access account can be established to scan devices on a "before" and "after" basis. It provides check-box functionality to restore settings of data center devices back to what they were.

On top of all that, Spiceworks is, as noted above, a free download. When installed on multiple clients, it can facilitate an organization's help desk, it can provide another weapon for MSPs and it continues to improve with each release.

The CRN Test Center continues to recommend Spiceworks through this latest version, and also continues using it for monitoring in our own lab.

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