Spiceworks claims this makes it "the fastest growing IT management software product in history." Asked to clarify this statement, a company spokesperson said, "This figure is based on the customer growth rate over time. In less than six months from [general availability], we've passed the biggest management software companies [in terms of customer base] who've been around for years."
The points of comparison: Numara, which supposedly has 45,000 customers after 15 years, and Solarwinds, which supposedly has 40,000 after 10 years.
Spiceworks helps network administrators track and manage up to 250 devices on their networks from a Web browser interface. The new version adds support for multiperson IT teams, employee help desk submissions, and wiki-based collaborative problem solving for IT managers.
"When we got the software, we were actually looking for an inventory system for our computer systems," says Trevor Nielsen, network engineer for Pioneers Medical Center in Meeker, Colo. "It just offered the most flexible system from the beginning."
Nielsen has been beta testing the updated software but has not fully implemented the help desk feature.
The fact that the software is free, says Nielsen, "is a big deal. We're a health care facility and we don't have a lot of money."
While some may fear that free software cannot be relied on, Nielsen has no problem with it. "Actually we use a lot of free software," he says. "We're big fans of open source."
That's a sentiment shared by Christopher Creech, network administrator for military food distributor Alder Foods, who doesn't see a problem with free software. "I'm a Linux user myself," he says.
Alder Foods had been using Ilient's Web-based IT management software SysAid and some manual processes for inventory tracking. "The reason we switched was the software would interfere with other applications," Creech says. "The nice thing about Spiceworks is it's in the background and users don't notice it."
Users also may not notice the ads, which calls into question Spiceworks' business model.
"A lot of the ads advertise products that we already have," says Nielsen. "And really we don't pay attention to them." Creech says the ads have not led him to purchase anything.
A spokesperson for Spiceworks said that the company doesn't disclose advertising revenue but contends it has "increased exponentially" since the service launched. Spiceworks recently signed Hewlett-Packard, Barracuda, NetGear, TrendMicro, Rackspace, MXlogic, and iS3 as advertisers.