Spiceworks: Free network monitoring and management with a little zest

Contributor Scott Sidel discusses Spiceworks, an open-source security tool that is designed to assist administrators in the task of maintaining and monitoring enterprise security networks.

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Strong enterprise security requires up-to-the-minute information about your network and the ability to know when things change. Spiceworks provides that information in an easy-to-use format and at no cost. Spiceworks can monitor a network and alert admins to changing conditions, such as the amount of free space left on a networked computer's drive, the status of a device (or groups of devices), the installation or removal of software,...

service packs or patches, the presence of antivirus software and whether or not it's up-to-date and the addition or removal of user accounts.

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When thresholds are missed or specific events are triggered, Spiceworks will send an email or SMS page to administrators. It can even help monitor software licensing compliance by setting up a custom monitor to alert you whenever a new copy of software is installed somewhere on the network.

Spiceworks runs on Windows but discovers Windows, Unix, Linux and Mac machines as well as other IP-addressable devices. It provides a wealth of configuration information, such as the amount of available memory, who last logged in and what antivirus software is running. Inventory information scans make use of Windows login encryption or SSH secure shell for enhanced network security. You can even open service tickets within Spiceworks to make notes, assign due-dates or review the status of tickets.

So what's the catch? A small ad runs within the administrators' interface through Spiceworks' partnership with Google Adsense. Maybe that sounds a little creepy, but you probably already use Google, Gmail and Google Maps, so why not use network management software brought to you in part by Google Adsense? The technology-focused ads that run within the management console aren't particularly annoying, and neither Spiceworks nor Google gets to see your actual network management information. That information is only stored locally on your computer, encoded and password protected.

Despite being the poster child for the brave new world of ad-supported IT software, Spiceworks is a solid tool and the information it provides can be used to help monitor and manage your network more easily, ultimately enhancing your organization's security.

About the author:
Scott Sidel is an ISSO with Lockheed Martin.

This was first published in October 2007

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