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Spiceworks 1.5

One of our clients, Spiceworks, released a major version of their software last week, Spiceworks 1.5. If you haven’t heard of it before, Spiceworks is a simple to use, behind-the-firewall web application that catelogs your IT assets and performs basic monitoring, alerting, and reporting over those assets.

With 1.5, Spiceworks add a help desk. Earlier version included “tickets” that the single user of the system could use to track open problems. The help desk adds a more fully fleshed out help desk, complete with a self-service portal:

Spiceworks 1.5

As Spiceworks is a web application, people submitting tickets can do so through their web browsers, hopefully with a bookmark or link on a portal site that the admin sets up.

1.5 adds multiple users and two different types of users: admin and reporting. The reporting role gives the user a restricted view of reports only:

Spiceworks 1.5

The point here is that you may need to provide reports to clients or bosses. Why make them walk through the clutter of the rest of the system, potentially messing something up?

Old hands of growing a systems management platform are no doubt seeing the march towards more features and the trap of complexity. The first mile-stone — roles, with “admin” and “reporting” — is passed. However, Spiceworks is still avoiding the complexity trap: while they’ve added multi-user support, more reporting, and even a help desk, they still manage to walk the line of simplicity in feature implementation.

Take the self-service help desk portal. A user “logs in” using only their email address. They can submit tickets — just with a subject and description — and check up on existing tickets. Now, the old hands may be screaming for more fields, but that would over-look Spiceworks audience: small businesses and bedouin sys admins who manage multiple small offices. In this context, an email address is enough. It may feel like it’s not enough to those of us from the enterprise world, but it is in the small business world.

Maintaining that simplicity over complexity is incredibly difficult, and it’s the #1 concern I raise with Spiceworks each time I talk with them. So far, they’ve done a good job as the above examples show.

Spiceworks 1.5: Dashboard/homepage

User-base, Numbers

The other news item is that Spiceworks’ user/install base has grown from 30,000 to 60,000. Spiceworks hosts a community forum where users ask for help, discuss best practices, and vote on features. I keep an eye on these forums and they’re fairly active. As noted before, the ability to vote on feature requests is nifty: it’s even niftier seeing the note that a feature has been implemented.

The other forum item worth noting is the role “Blue Guys” (or “Product Advisors”). These are non-Spiceworks users who have been flagged as especially helpful and often respond to questions along with or even before Spiceworks employees. When gauging how “active” a community is, finding this role is always worth several points in the right direction.

100,000 is the next big conceptual mile-stone when it comes to user base. Hopefully Spiceworks will get up there: I’m sure we’ll see a press release if/when they do ;>

Another widely quotes number is that Spiceworks supports up to 250 devices. Again, just fine for small businesses and offices. The minimal polling cycles of 30 minutes (all the way up to 24 hours) is another numeric guide-line for the scenerios Spiceworks wants to cover: asset-centric IT management rather than (near) real-time performance management and moniotirng.

Beyond 1.0

Dave Bailey ends a recent post on Spiceworks thus:

[T]he main question IT managers need to think about before deciding on a full blown rollout after initial trials, is the long term viability of Spiceworks’ ‘ads sponsored’ software model.

The long-term validity of “free” is always a problem for your software. If you’re one of those laptop bedouin admins, you’d like something like Spiceworks to keep in business once you start relying on it to pay the bills.

Since I’ve been working with Spiceworks last fall, I’ve gotten the since that they’re definitely in it to win it, as my wife Kim likes to say. They have medium- and long-term plans. What I like about them along these lines is how rapidly they deliver new features in response to their user’s requests and needs. Adding in multi-user support was the top voted on feature, and now it’s in there. A self-service help desk — again, tailored to the ease of use of small business and offices — will be great for their customers.

Clearly, people outside of the small business and office space could benefit from the stripped down approach Spiceworks takes. As Robert suggested the other day, Spiceworks is good fodder for day-dreaming about “Lightweight Enterprise.”

(Of course, the real work for getting to Lightweight Enterprise starts before a single line of code is even written: people have to want and, more importantly, need less. And then vendors or projects have to actually deliver on those scaled back desires.)

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Categories: Companies, Systems Management.

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