Version 3.5 of the Spiceworks IT Desktop free network management package has finished beta testing and is now available to download and install.
The software can create an inventory of your network, run a helpdesk, and act as a network monitor, trouble shooter and reporter. The browser-based package can also put users in touch with an IT administrator community that may have experienced the same issue and are able to offer a solution.
We downloaded the 17MB file and installed the package on a system running Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition with an Intel dual-core 3.2GHz processor system and 2Gb of memory.
Starting the system and registering your email address to log in to the package gives you an initial dashboard screen, which has all the IT management functions currently available, such as network scans and helpdesk access.
After an initial network scan to pick up all the devices connected to the network, Spiceworks can then be customised to alert IT managers when specific conditions arise, for example if supplies run low on specific printers, or if a desktop anti-virus signature is not up to date.
Among the myriad new features in version 3.5 is the ability to timeline all the events occurring on your network, which could give some clue as to why a particular failure occurred.
Users can also now create customisable dashboards as separate pages and install widgets onto these pages. Spiceworks has also put in a new network bandwidth analyser for checking traffic for simple network management protocol-enabled devices over a configurable timeline.
The number of features built in to this software is extraordinary, and it should at least be 'test driven' by IT administrators to check it against their current solution, unless it is being provided by a managed service provider that is already using Spiceworks.
The vendor said that the package is aimed at firms with 500 or fewer devices and, although it will work over that limit, "it won't be as fast".
As before, Spiceworks can be run only on Windows operating systems, with current support including XP, Vista, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008. So, although it will discover Mac, Linux and Unix systems, the software will not run on these operating systems.
The downside for some IT administrators is that the software's research and development costs are offset through 'targeted' adverts occupying screen space alongside the Spiceworks graphics user interface.
How intrusive were the ads? Well, most web sites have ads and most people just tune out this 'noise' anyway. It is not like the TV, where adverts occupy 100 per cent of the screen space; the Spiceworks ads occupy only about a quarter of the screen estate. For $220 per year, Spiceworks can be 'sponsored' and the adverts removed.
We'll be putting out a full review of Spiceworks IT Desktop 3.5 later.