My New Best Friend – Introducing Spiceworks
So for the last few months I’ve been looking for ways to improve our ability to monitor our network (both the Servers and Desktops), we already have external monitors for the really important, business critical things like our website and email but for the day to day tracking of our desktops and less important servers we dont really have anything apart from me sticking my head in the server room every morning to check for flashing red lights! I’ve also been motivated to find a solution for tracking our desktop PC’s too after seeing one of my colleagues spend (literally), a whole week building a giant Excel spreadsheet to track both hardware and software on all our Desktop PC’s. While I am quite happy with Cacti and its ability to graph pretty much anything, it isn’t really designed for much more than this and so isn’t much use for tracking all the things I want to.
This is where Spiceworks comes in, it is a free (but ad supported), program that is designed for SMB’s to monitor and track their desktop and server infrastructure. Unlike almost every other program I have tried so far it is actually designed to be simple to use, no messing around trying to decipher config files or setup SNMP polling or anything like that, simply download the one .exe and install it on a spare Windows server (or desktop), the installer will install a copy of Apache and Ruby on Rails and make all the needed config changes, all you need to do is make sure that nothing else is running on the port you choose (such as another webserver like IIS or Apache).
Once installed all the setup is done inside Spiceworks itself, it should open up your webbrowser and start loading, you will see this the first time you connect to Spiceworks after restarting the server/desktop that Spiceworks is installed on.
Once up and running you are asked to setup a Spiceworks user account, this is not only used to authenticate you with your local Spiceworks install but also connects you to the Spiceworks Community which allows you access updates, get addons and useful scripts and perhaps the biggest bonus, access the user forums which are a fantastic place to get tech advice from others who work in SMB sized organisations.
Once you are all logged in all you need to do is tell Spiceworks what to scan and how to do the scan, this is as simple as defining an IP address or range and giving Spiceworks a valid Admin login to allow it to pull useful info for you, it isn’t a requirement to provide admin credentials but it is recommended if you want to get the most out Spiceworks and have it fill in all the fields (such as service tag and service info for Dell computers). Assuming you have setup your IP range and login details Spiceworks will go off and scan your network, this can take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or two depending on the size of your network and the specs of the machine Spiceworks is running on (subsequent scans shouldnt take as long as this and can be set to run at a lower priority).
Once Spiceworks has scanned your network you can start filling in the details, there is a quite a lot of useful info added by default however Spiceworks doesnt always classify devices correctly so it is worth checking them manually as you may decide to reclassify some and/or move them to different groups.
There is so much more to discover in Spiceworks however there are two places that you should check out if you get stuck or want to get the most out of Spiceworks; the Spiceworks Community and the Spiceworks Help Guides.
If you have any questions or want help with your Spiceworks install feel free to post in the comments below or contact me over on the Spiceworks Community.