Every once in a while you come across a product or service that you feel like you cannot live without. You might substitute something else, you might try a different flavor, you might buy another brand “just to try it.” And in the end, you go back to what works and makes your life easier.
For me, Spiceworks is one of those things that I cannot live without at work. Sure, I could spend tens-of-thousands of dollars for an “enterprise-class” help desk system, but in most cases that would just be spending money on something that is not needed. I would rather use that budget money on other things.
First, a little background about Spiceworks. I found it about 2-1/2 years ago when I was looking for a low cost help desk system at a previous company. When I started that job, there was no request tracking in IT. Most times, a sticky note would be put on the side of someone’s monitor or the request would be written down in a notebook. Either way, there was about a 50/50 chance that the note would be lost or overlooked, causing a great deal of frustration from others in the company toward the IT department.
I heard about Spiceworks from a post in a LinkedIn group and thought I would give it a try. In all honesty, I didn’t hold out much hope that it would be more than a rudimentary ticket tracking system. After all, what could I really expect for a help desk program that was free? Yes, it was and still is free! At the very least, I figured it would allow my department the ability to track work requests and not lose them; that would be good enough.
We used Spiceworks at that company as a help desk system, and it was very good at that task. We also used it to track printer toner levels so we would know when to replace toner before it ran out. It was good for that as well. But we didn’t really use it much more than that. We were happy in IT, and people in the company were happy that IT was no longer forgetting them.
At the beginning of this year I started a new job with a new company. As luck would have it, this company’s IT department was also “winging it” when it came to requests. My boss’ first project for me in my new role was to get a help desk system up and running ASAP. Money was already budgeted and I had approval to move forward. But I knew that I wouldn’t need the budgeted money. I knew Spiceworks would be a perfect fit, so I installed that instead. I was told that my predecessor had tried using it about 6 months prior, and he thought it was slow and wouldn’t satisfy their requirements. He couldn’t have been more wrong!
I implemented Spiceworks and decided to use all of it. Not only did I set up the help desk, but I also set it up to scan my entire network and get information about as many machines as possible on the network. We started seeing computers that had no antivirus installed, printer toner levels, and got a relatively accurate view of our computers and servers. Of course, I installed it on a decently powered computer and the system speed was excellent. My boss was pleased that Spiceworks was installed and working in such a short amount of time. The budget money was reallocated to other things in IT, and we were moving on to the next project on the list.
About 3 weeks after Spiceworks was installed, we got bad news. An automated email was sent from the system around 2:30 PM on a Thursday that one of the disks on the Exchange server had less than 5% capacity remaining. We looked into it and quickly determined that the disk was the Exchange log drive. Apparently, this drive had been filling up for over 6 weeks (I had only been on the job a little more than 3 weeks and hadn’t had an opportunity to review everything yet). We did some quick math in our heads and determined that we had about a day-and-a-half until the drive would be 100% full. We needed to work on this immediately!
I don’t know if you’ve ever had the experience of dealing with an Exchange log drive or SQL Server log drive that filled up. Imagine driving down the street in your car, and coming to a complete stop. Except you are driving 100 MPH and you hit a concrete wall. The car stops immediately. A log drive filling up would be the equivalent to that car hitting the concrete wall. The Exchange server stops in a split second. And in another split second, my phone would light up with everybody complaining that their email no longer worked. Neither situation is desirable.
The log drive would automatically empty itself once it was backed up properly, so we looked at the server backup program. Maybe the log drive was not selected in the nightly backups, allowing the logs to continue to grow. But as we looked into the issue, we realized it was more than that. We soon determined that the backup program had the wrong password for backing up the Exchange server, so the backup jobs were failing every night. (Of course, the backup program was not configured to send emails when jobs failed, so that also had to be resolved.)
In the end, we entered the correct password in the backup program, ran the backup job for the Exchange server, and the log drive emptied itself automatically. In about 4 hours from first notification, the problem was resolved and it required no interruption of people’s ability to send and receive email.
Without Spiceworks, I don’t think the Exchange log drive would have been noticed prior to the server crashing. I work for a small company and the IT department is myself and one other tech, so we aren’t watching the servers extremely close on a regular basis. Most likely, this would have been a “crash and burn” scenario over the weekend, and we would have walked in Monday morning to a bunch of irate people who couldn’t get their email. Panic would have ensued.
With Spiceworks, we were notified that a problem existed before it became extremely critical. We were able to look into the problem without panic, determine the root of the problem, and resolve it. All without reducing service levels to the company. It made for an evening that went a little later than normal, but that sure beats spending days trying to rebuild the server and telling everyone that they lost a lot of email.
Through all of this, my boss was right there with us. He has a technical background, so he was helping me get familiar with the systems in place. He also got the notification email that the drive was filling up, and he worked with us to find the problem and get it resolved. He was watching the log drive with me as the backup was running, and we watched together as it went from over 95% full to about 1% full. We both let out a big sigh of relief. Crisis averted!
My boss knew I chose Spiceworks. As a result of this issue, he couldn’t say enough good things about Spiceworks. It literally saved our bacon that Thursday afternoon! Having seen it in action, my boss is now a true Spiceworks believer. So am I.
There’s nothing like making a huge positive impact during the first 30 days in a new job. Doing it for free… that’s just icing on the cake. As are the kudos I received from my boss for choosing and installing Spiceworks.
I’m a SpiceHead. How about you?