Wrote twice about Spiceworks, once for just introducing and once for showing a preview of upcoming Spiceworks 5.0. But I always thought that there is a vacuum, when we try to find some proper book over this great IT tool. The only resource is their very active users forum (really serves the purpose in superb way), which sure does the job, but I thought there must be something out there like step by step as well. Why to just think, when I could come up with one of my own? Here I am with a step to step guide about Spiceworks.
Spiceworks provides a free systems management, inventory, and helpdesk software application, Spiceworks IT Desktop, designed for network administrators working in small- to medium-sized businesses.
Spiceworks IT Desktop is used to inventory, monitor, manage and report on software and hardware assets. It also includes an integrated help desk system. Spiceworks runs on Microsoft Windows and discovers Windows, UNIX, Linux and Mac OS X machines along with other IP-addressable devices such as routers, VOIP phones, printers, etc.
Spiceworks is an adware and is written in Ruby on Rails, It’s not a complete and detailed Monitoring Solution like Zabbix as of now, but it covers other aspects of your IT management that Zabbix left, in a powerful way like Inventory, events reporting like installations/ updates and complete out-of-the-box-Helpdesk segment.
What are the main features available with Spiceworks?
Here is feature list:
1. Scan SNMP Devices
2. Linux Scanning via an SSH login
3. Scan Windows Devices via WMI
4. Ability to manage your software licenses
5. Alerts on customizable definitions (eg machines with no anti-virus or low printer toner)
6. Software automatically categorizes machines into groups. eg Laptops, servers, routers etc
7. Ability to define custom devices
8. Ability to compare one machine with another
9. Ability to manage services on remote machines
12. Network Map (Beta)
13. Helpdesk with user portal
For whom Spiceworks is designed for?
Spiceworks IT Desktop is designed for
- IT Pros who have admin rights on their network.
Organizations with less than 1,000 devices on their network. It will work with more but it won’t be as fast.
Running on a PC. It discovers Windows, OS X, Linux and UNIX but you need to run it from only one PC on your network (which might be even just a desktop with provided resource requirements).
Advantages of Spiceworks:
Though Spiceworks integration with active directory is still a work in progress from Spiceworks community end and complete performance monitoring like Zabbix or NagiOS is not available with Spiceworks, but there are two areas, where Spiceworks is very useful for our scenario.
1. Inventory of Systems: With the changing requirements and movement of systems, it’s a hard and purely manual work to keep track of updated inventory of workstations with us in some particular campaigns as earlier it involved going PC to PC and collecting detailed profiles of workstations.
Spiceworks solves the same issue with collecting the system related info like Serial number, MAC Address, RAM, HDD, Processor, Product Keys etc from a centralized location. Though the setup requires specific changes in system firewalls, but it works for covering almost all the workstation with little troubleshooting skills. Most favorable thing is, it doesn’t works on agent-less way means it could start it work without affecting current existing scenario and without installing anything on production machines that might raise issues for any compliance.
2. Web Based Helpdesk Solution: Centralized helpdesk is a proven resource to keep the cost and quality of support optimized and after searching a lot of open source Helpdesk solutions for a web based helpdesk solution, there was no satisfactory solution matching our requirements. Most of the solutions out in market assume an IT Helpdesk person logging and assigning calls after receiving telephonic or mail based complaints as that’s a standard in most of the places.
Spiceworks was only available for free solution that provides a very flexible and customizable Helpdesk solution that could address most of the needs in our environment with continuous learning and efforts to improve it.
Installation procedure and requirements:
The Spiceworks software as a less than 25 Mb download file (as of now) could be downloaded from the www.spiceworks.com. The same executable is inclusive of all basic requirements for Spiceworks that includes the SQLite database for storing settings-n-stats and Apache web server (need to check if installations already there to avoid conflicts).
1. Windows XP Pro SP2, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 2003 Server SP1, SP2 and R2, & Windows 2008 Server
2. 1.0 GHz Pentium III class processor
3. Minimum 1.0 GB RAM (Notice that this one is trickier as it has to cover a lot of aspects)
- Firefox 3.0 – 3.5
- Internet Explorer 7.0 – 8.0
- Google Chrome
As its not always the case that you get a fresh server to install a new application, one should worry about two things with installing any of the web solution, first if its going to take the default http port 80 and if the database its going to use, already exists on the same server, you are going to install SpiceWorks IT Desktop.
Thankfully, Spiceworks goes well about both the cases. It takes port 9675 (Of course, choice is yours) for HTTP and the database used is not MySQL, but is a SQLite database.
~24 M of installation take a little while to install and greet you with a couple of questions about your network like range of IP Addresses to scan, various Windows username/ passwords details possibly across your network, ssh credentials and you are ready to scan your network for finding devices. As the very first step, it asks you to get registered with Spiceworks, which would be your one point help system and integration of your account with web resources.
There are also services related requirements on client side like WMI related services should be in running mode and firewall should not be blocking Spiceworks access. File and Printer sharing service and Remote Registry Service running on clients are the other main requirements for Spiceworks.
Working with Spiceworks:
There are two portions of the jobs that Spiceworks does in our environment and below is the details:
Inventory: The very first step to start with Spiceworks is running a Network scan from settings options. The following will be required inputs for the same:
1. It will require the credentials like Administrator passwords that are allowed to access registry of the clients and active directory info, SSH logins etc. Many times, it also requires to give local administrator auths than domain one.
2. Define the network range to scan. This has to be chosen systematically because scanning extra IPs increases overhead over Spiceworks and thus affecting other things.
3. After scanning, there must be many device mentioned in Inventory section and may be few reporting errors while scanning, which will be needed to sorted.
4. Once done with scanning all and sorting out error, you can always take a very flexible and customizable excel based inventory report based on almost every accessible info.
You have to go through http://<Server_IP>:9675/user_portal to design the portal as per requirements and design preferences. For adding custom fields, there are plenty of options at the advanced setting page http://<Server_IP>:9675/settings/advanced. For additional and useful customizations, there are many extensions and plugins available like we are making use of following plugins.
1. My Ticket Rules
2. My Ticket Views
3. Helpdesk only User Roles
4. Ticket Auto-Assign
After the required customizations, you can navigate to http://<Server_IP>:9675/tickets for tickets being displayed there with filters like Open Tickets, Closed Tickets, Unassigned Ticket etc.
Now you have two ways; either let IT Staff lock the complaints themselves with details or even pass the responsibility to actual users themselves via portal (http://<Server_IP>:9675/portal) that could be flexibly customized through (http://<Server_IP>:9675/user_portal).
There are other options available with Helpdesk like Active Directory auth, so that clients could make use of their normal domain login to login into Helpdesk and many minor options in advanced pro configurations to suit the needs.
Backing up configuration:
For backing up the configuration, the settings page is on http://<Server_IP>:9675/settings/backup, which defines the location for the backup and also option to schedule the backup on daily, weekly or monthly basis.
You can set it at automatic, which create a job in Windows Scheduled Tasks that will make use of the command Spiceworks.exe backup, where the exe is located at
The backup job creates zip files in C:\Program Files\Spiceworks\backup folder (by default) in the format
Restoring Spiceworks data:
There are following steps involved in restoring Spiceworks from the backup done in above way:
Right-click system tray and select exit (or stop the service if running as a service)
Verify that all Spiceworks* processes are no longer running
Delete the db and data directories in the Spiceworks installation folder
Copy the db and data folders into the Spiceworks installation folder
Moving your Spiceworks installation to a new computer
If you’d like to move Spiceworks from one machine to another, the following steps will work for you:
Download and run Spiceworks installer on the target machine
Important: Use the same installation directory and port as the original installation
Do not complete the registration process
Follow the steps above to copy the data and db directories into the new installation
Problem 1: Spiceworks not starting, unable to access.
Solution: Spiceworks is proactive over such issues and updates are smooth at 90% occasions, so in most of the scenario re-installation of Spiceworks from the same exe will restore the configurations without any loss of info, which is most clean way than messing up with the configs.
Problem 2: Scanning errors for workstations.
Solution: There might be many reasons for the same like WMI services not enabled, remote registry not enabled, auths wrong or firewall denying the access. If everything is proper then running the following batch instruction should resolve the issue in most of the cases.
Net Stop WinMgmt /y
sc sdset winmgmt "D:(A;;CCLCSWRPWPDTLOCRRC;;;SY)(A;;CCDCLCSWRPWPDTLOCRSDRCWDWO;;;BA)(A;;CCLCSWLOCRRC;;;AU)(A;;CCLCSWRPWPDTLOCRRC;;;PU)
Net Start WinMgmt
The above commands basically set proper permissions on WMI Management Service of the client PC and restarts the WMI Management Service. It works in most of the cases, if all above precautions are taken.
One can make a batch file to run on problem PCs locally or remotely via using XCMD application to access the command prompt of the remote PC from a central location.
Problem 3: User not able to login into Helpdesk. Login failed.
Solution: This may happen due to two reasons:
1. The user has no read permissions on the Spiceworks folder of the server
2. The user’s LAN ID is restricted to login on some specific workstation and so denied login over other workstations.
Solution for the first is to provide read permissions to authenticated users on the following folder
Solution for the second is to adding Server’s name in Logon To field of problematic LAN ID.
So, this is just a naive guide from my side, but I hope that it will help the people, who wants to know, wants to start with Spiceworks. Welcome friends.. let’s spice up the IT.