Keeping track of your IT infrastructure doesn't have to be expensive or complicated as Karl Wright discovers.
Keeping a small business network running is a demanding job. Unless you remember to check all the event logs regularly, it's easy to let something important slip. What's required is one place where you can see everything you need to know about your network, and make any necessary changes to its configuration.
Spiceworks is a free browser-based network management and administration program. It provides the user with a single dashboard from which he or she can inventory, monitor and troubleshoot the network.
When you first install it, Spiceworks scans your network. It checks Active Directory, does a NetBIOS scan and pings the addresses in your specified IP range. It took us a fair bit of fiddling with the firewall to get all the devices on our network inventoried, and even then our locally attached printer wasn't found. This was a bit odd, given that it was attached to the PC Spiceworks was installed on.
Once it has its inventory, though, Spiceworks is refreshingly intelligent in the way it uses your information. For instance, wherever it can it will identify a client PC's make and model. It will then automatically link that PC's entry to the driver download page on its manufacturer's website. It will also show you the machine's spec, the programs that are installed on it, the amount of disk space free and so on.
Building and updating an inventory, though, is really only the beginning. Spiceworks monitors the network and warns you when alerts come in. So when there's a security alert, a PC is behind on its updates or even when a printer runs low on toner, you'll know about it. And when a problem does arise, you can troubleshoot it from within Spiceworks too.