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Manage and monitor all your networked PCs with Spiceworks

07 June 2012, Mike Williams

Keeping track of what’s happening across even the smallest network can be a challenge. To put it mildly. Whether it’s your users misbehaving, or genuine hardware and software issues are cropping up, there’s always some problem to consider.

You don’t have to try and tackle this on your own, though. Spiceworks is a powerful free network auditing and inventory tool which will automatically scan your systems and alert you to what’s going on, and it’s suitable for everyone from regular home users through to large business networks.

A reasonably straightforward setup process sees Spiceworks install its service on your main PC, and after creating an account the program will scan your local setup, displaying the results in a highly configurable browser-based interface. A detailed map reveals all your networked systems, and you can zoom in on any of these to see its installed applications, complete with version numbers, licence details and more.

Spiceworks then repeats its scan on a daily basis, producing a simple timeline showing you what’s changed: new network devices found, applications added, hotfixes installed, whatever it might be.

The browser-based interface displays a host of information on your network

The program can also detect and alert you to problems on your local system and across the network. Does a computer have no antivirus package installed? Is a key server offline? Is one of your systems running short on drive space? Maybe a printer is running short of ink? Spicework’s Monitors can help you find out.

The Spiceworks Dashboard keeps you up-to-date on all of these items, and a whole lot more. You can view panes showing you the latest Microsoft Security Bulletins, say, or new software patches; an RSS feed display makes it easy to keep up-to-date with other sites; and if you are using the program in a business environment then there’s even more functionality, from Microsoft Exchange support to Active Directory integration.

We did have one or two issues here. The “Latest Software Patches” widget didn’t always seem entirely up-to-date, for instance, and wasted space by including patches for applications we weren’t using; we’d prefer this to be relate to our installed software only. And we found a few annoyingly irrelevant links and ads, including one which asked whether we were ready to “Upgrade to Windows 7” when it was running on Windows 7 Ultimate.

These complaints are all very minor, though, and on balance Spiceworks is a great tool, easy to use and packed with functionality: if you need a little network inventory help then you should definitely check it out.

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