Spiceworks 4.7: Small Release, Big Impact on IT

Late last week we released Spiceworks 4.7.  Throughout this week we emailed SpiceHeads around the world to let them know it was available.  Nic covered all of the details in the community.  On the surface Spiceworks 4.7 is a ‘smaller’ release.  That is, it doesn’t have 8 new features and 100’s of bug fixes that the bigger releases have.  However, it advances Spiceworks very significantly in three ways… and as a result impacts an IT pros in very significant ways as well.

First, it brings management of Rackspace cloud services into Spiceworks.  We started with Rackspace Email and Hosted Microsoft Exchange.  You can expect to see many more advances here over the next several months including the ability to manage mailboxes, the addition of other cloud services, and the addition of additional vendors.  It is all part of Spiceworks to simply not only the management of on-premise IT products but also cloud-based services.  We believe it’s a “hybrid” world for nearly all SMBs and Spiceworks is uniquely positioned to help nearly one million IT pros manage it… for free.

Rackspace Widget in Spiceworks Dashboard

Second, Spiceworks 4.7 introduced the ability to track warranties for Dell devices right within Spiceworks.  Spiceworks uses the service tag information to show the warranty type and remaining days on the warranty for every Dell machine on a network.  This information is available in the inventory view and in a handy Warranty Center widget on the Spiceworks dashboard page.  There is also a special phone number for SpiceHeads to call in to Dell to refresh their warranties.

Dell Server Warranty Status in Spiceworks

Like everything we do the intent here is to save time for an IT pro.  It has the added benefit of saving time and energy for Dell as well.  This has been a home run with SpiceHeads!  I’m batting 1.000 for getting a “wow, that’s awesome!” when I chat with SpiceHeads online and in conferences in terms of usefulness of this feature.  And stay tuned, more vendors are coming soon!

Both the Rackspace and Dell Warranty integrations are examples of how “IT Management” extends well beyond network and systems management tools to monitor and manage the network or a help desk to track and organize work.  When we started Spiceworks we found that up to 40% of an IT pro’s time would be spent on researching, buying and renewing IT products and services.  That’s why you’ll see us to continue to invest in features that simplify that process.

The third big development in Spiceworks 4.7 is the extension of our real-time monitoring with the addition of the Windows Monitoring plugin.  For any Windows machine you can now monitor processor queue length, memory pages input/sec, hard disk queue length, network output queue length, and network received packet errors and set threshold alerts for each.   This plugin continues a trend we started with the SQL Server Monitor plugin and that’s to keep adding more real-time information to Spiceworks.

Spiceworks Windows Performance Monitor Plugin

There are rumblings here at SpiceHQ that will have another ‘small’ release that include more warranty options soon…. and then 5.0 will hit beta sometime this summer.  Spiceworks 5.0 is shaping up to be really interesting with a bunch of performance improvements, many features you’ve been asking for… and at least one surprise in how you think of managing IT.  Stay tuned!


Spiceworks at Interop: Then and Now

What a difference two years make!  Two years ago Spiceworks was only two years old.  While we were growing rapidly, people — IT pros and marketers alike — weren’t quite sure what to make of us.  Would we be the ‘interesting’ company that disappeared with the impending ad bust?  (For context, in May of ’08 you could just sort of feel something was amiss in the Vegas hoopla.) Could an IT pro bet his career on using our software?

In 2008, our reception was muted but encouraging.  I gave a presentation to 20 or so people marginally interested folks while they noshed away on turkey croissant sandwiches.  Our ‘booth’ consisted of a bar table, two bar stools and a plant that we borrowed from various spots around the conference floor.  Our ‘sign’ was Velcro’d to curtain at an angle.  And we borrowed power from our booth neighbors who provided it begrudgingly.

Even then I was struck by the number of Spiceworks users who went out of their way to find our booth and say hi.  Several stick out in my mind including the IT Director from the St. Louis Zoo and a couple of Network Admins from one of the Fox business units.  They all offered plenty of ‘thanks’ and ideas for what features we needed.  At the time we were at Spiceworks v2.1, our 8th release.  Our sales team of two worked the floor trying to get advertisers fired up about what Spiceworks had to offer.  (Fortunately a few bit!) We valiantly invited advertisers and IT pros to happy hour but it seemed most had plenty of other better offers.

Fast forward to Interop 2010.  It’s hard to even think of it as the same venue for Spiceworks.  I sat down for a quick pizza slice in the Mandalay Hotel conference center cafeteria and within a couple of minutes the guy at the next table says, “So, you with Spiceworks?”  Yes, the logo polo shirts are a good hint!  Turns out he is a small MSP from Australia.  The conversation continues and I find out he is just getting back into Spiceworks after trying 1.5 and he is blown away by how far Spiceworks 4.7 has come (it’s our 18th release).  After answering a few more questions he says goodbye and “Wow, this just made the whole trip worthwhile.  Thank You!”  I fired off a quick email to Spiceworks HQ saying the same.  You can never get enough of those conversations!

I didn’t really know what to expect for my 2:15 session on “Managing IT in a Hybrid On-Premise and Cloud World… for free!” but when I saw the line forming at 1:50 I figured there

IT Pros Lining Up for Spiceworks Talk on Managing the Hybrid Cloud/On-Premise World for Free

might be some interest.  We ended up packing the house with nearly 200 people for an overview of how SMBs are adopting cloud services.  I covered what we had just announced with Rackspace for hosted Rackspace Email and Exchange integration and where we are going with Spiceworks 5.0 this summer and beyond.

IT Pros at the Spiceworks Booth

The booth was a step up though still not quite up to snuff with our CeBIT (Europe’s big show) masterpiece.  That said, we had a non-stop stream of 8-10 interested IT pros at a time at our booth.  Roughly 1 in 5 was a current SpiceHead.  Interestingly, this maps perfectly to our overall market share as nearly 1 million of the world’s 5 million IT pros are registered users of Spiceworks.  As we entered Day 2 and our staff booth of 8 (marketing, development and sales all banding together) started to lose their voices we had reinforcements from a number of SpiceHeads — including some literal SpiceHeads!

SpiceHeads Show the Spiceworks Spirit at Interop 2010

Over the three days, easily 1,000 people spent time at the Spiceworks booth … and it could even been higher.  We don’t scan their badges since we don’t need to bother them afterwards with sales calls so I don’t have the exact count.  Of course that pales in comparison to the 1,300 to 1,500 we add in a single day now.  So why do we do it?  Because there is nothing that beats the one-on-one connection, comments and requests we get in person!

And the parties don’t suck either!  We threw a short get together Wednesday night at the House of Blues.

Party! SpiceHeads and Advertisers Mingle at the House of Blues

Over 110 SpiceHeads and advertisers showed up… and our tab was toast in one hour.  When we spread the word that it was a cash bar nobody complained… they just said “no worries, you’ve already done so much for us!”  After all, how do you beat free software AND free beer?!

Interop 2010 was a blast.  If this continues I can only imagine what Interop 2011 will be like.  And I just heard SpiceWorld 2010 is nearly 50% sold out already.  Sign up if you haven’t done so already.

Bringing the Rackspace Cloud into Spiceworks

Earlier today we announced a significant integration partnership with Rackspace, our friends 90 miles down I-35.   Spiceworks’ 950,000 IT pros can now manage Rackspace email cloud services from within the Spiceworks application (4.7 Beta — it will become generally available later this week).

Rackspace Email Widget in the Spiceworks Dashboard

The first version of this integration will show managed domains, service & mailbox types, space remaining, top users, and more.  Alerts can be set to notify the IT pro when mailboxes hit certain thresholds.  Feedback from the beta testers has been fantastic.  My favorite?  “This flippin’ rocks.”  No longer do they need to remember to log into a yet another separate management portal — it’s right there in front of them every day in Spiceworks.  Future versions will introduce the capability to add, change and further manage these accounts… and even add other services.

It’s the last statement that gets really interesting.  While we are very excited to bring the email integration to our users we’re even more excited to integrate more cloud services into Spiceworks.  Some people and companies think that it’ll be a “cloud world” overnight.  At Spiceworks we believe (and the data backs us up) that we live in a “hybrid world” where an optimized mix of on-premise and cloud services are the norm.  Our recent State of SMB IT study found that 24% of SMBs use or will use cloud services over the next six months in addition to all of the on-premise technology and services they manage.

While the SMB cloud adoption rate will continue to grow over time it’s growth is a function of the IT industry making it easy to procure and manage services and providing SMBs a good deal on a solid product.  And the only way to effectively sell to SMB IT pros is to have them talk to each other.  Oh, and the IT marketers have to find all of those SMBs.  In short, it’s a distribution and marketing problem.

By integrating cloud services directly into the Spiceworks interface we are working to make it easier to manage these cloud services.  Rackspace has stepped up and provided a discount for both Rackspace Email and hosted Microsoft Exchange. User can see what other users think about their hosted email service.  In short, Spiceworks is delivering what IT pros have asked for in helping make their lives both on-premise and in-the-cloud easier.

There are 31 million potential hosted email customers already within the Spiceworks network.  By integrating it’s Rackspace Email and hosted Microsoft Exchange services directly in Spiceworks and backing that up with it’s “Fanatical Support” we think Rackspace is off to a great start in joining Spiceworks in our mission to Simplify Everything IT!

What other services would you like to see us integrate?

Managing Rackspace Email and Hosted Microsoft Exchange Accounts in Spiceworks

The State of SMB IT: April 2010

It’s hard to believe we’re already 1/4 of the way through 2010.  It’s also hard to believe we haven’t had a post on the SpiceBlog for over 3 months.  There are a couple of reasons for that.  First, we’ve been really busy at Spiceworks News and our intent is to merge that and the blog together — stay tuned.  Second, we’ve been insanely busy.  Since we raised $16M in January we’ve added several developers, sales people, and marketers; released Spiceworks 4.6 with remote management, virtualization, and deeper network features; revved the community multiple times; and presented at multiple conferences including AlwaysOn OnMedia, Thomas Weisel Tech Conference, LeadsCon, Cloud Business Summit, & the IAB Social Media Marketplace.  Oh, and we’re in the process of expanding our offices to accommodate the growth.

So, speaking of growth… just yesterday we released our second State of SMB IT report, our semi-annual report on small and medium business (SMB) technology trends which highlighted that SMB IT budgets are actually growing again: 9% in 2010.  While it’s not quite “happy days are here again” as we are coming off such drastic cuts in 2009 it certainly is nice to see technology investment pick up in what we like to call the “Fortune 2 Million”.  You can download the full report for all of the details but here are some interesting points we saw in our survey of 1,250 of the 950,000 IT pros in the Spiceworks networks:

  • #1 priority is replacing priority that is 48 months old on average.  The average fleet age is already coming down as it was 50 months when we ran the survey six months ago.  That’s still a long ways to go the ‘glory days’ of 36 month replacement cycles though.
  • Virtualization, network security, and backup & recovery are the top 3 software projects planned for 2010.  You may be surprised to know that 44% of SMBs virtualize at least one server and that number should rise to over 60% over the course of this year based on their plans.
  • Somewhat surprisingly, SMB IT pros are pulling some IT services back in-house.  We suspect this is a function of thinned IT staffs wanting to more fully utilize in-house equipment that has been paid for as opposed to shelling out for recurring monthly fees.  Some respondents also told us they have been burned by providers who themselves were cash-strapped over the past 12 months.
  • 25% have at least one service “in the cloud”.  The other 75% remain to be convinced citing security & performance concerns.  At Spiceworks we believe cloud adoption by the SMBs is also a distribution & marketing problem.  That is, how can companies effectively educate and market to over 2 million SMBs?  That’s a problem we aim to help solve… stay tuned.

The report is free so check it out.  We think it’s another awesome example of the Spiceworks IT Community rallying to have the “Voice of IT” heard by the world’s technology companies and marketers.  Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey!

What’s your outlook on SMB IT in 2010?

Spiceworks Raises $16M

I’d hoped to get this blog posted before the news broke, but Techcrunch got the drop on me J.  No matter – its out now so let me be the second to tell you … we just closed a  $16M series C funding round led by Institutional Venture Partners.  You can read more about the details here tomorrow.

If you happened to catch my opening presentation at Spiceworld Austin you’re probably thinking, “what’s up with that?  I thought you guys were going to be profitable next year.  If so, why’d you raise the money?”  Good questions.  We were indeed close to profitability; in fact our original 2010 plan had us putting a tidy sum into the bank at the end of the year.

There was just one problem – we weren’t building new features and capabilities into Spiceworks fast enough.  We were making too many trade-offs, pushing out too many features you asked for.  And worst of all – too many of the innovative ideas the team had weren’t seeing the light of day.  With our user base approaching 1 million IT Pros world wide, I just wasn’t comfortable with the speed at which we were enhancing the platform.

Fortunately, thanks to the support of all of you, Spiceworks has developed quite the high profile in the last year.  We were getting lots of calls from top-tier venture firms.  Many were interested in this unique model we’ve built together.  But at the end of the day it was an easy choice to go with IVP.  They have a great track record of working with some of the industries truly breakout companies such as Twitter, Netflix, MySQL, Business.com, and others.  They understand our disruptive model and its billion dollar potential.  And most of all – they are patient investors.  They’re used to making big, long-term bets.  Exactly what we were looking for in a partner.

So there you have it.  If you thought we were in good shape before, we’re in awesome shape now.  Between IVP, Shasta and Austin Ventures – we now have some very deep pockets behind us as we set off on our quest to Simplify Everything IT and transform how IT Products and services are managed, marketed and sold.

Spiceworks 4.5 – Freeing Larger Networks Around the World

Can you believe it?!  Over 10,000 companies with more than 500 employees use Spiceworks.   For the past year we suggested it was designed for companies with fewer than 500 devices on our website.  Prior to January 2009 we suggested fewer than 250.   Well later today when we release Spcieworks 4.5 we’re doing something about it — we’re raising the suggested limit to 1,000 employees (well, technically devices… but at some point that’s splitting hairs).  Since everyone defines companies with fewer than 1,000 employees an SMB and companies with greater than that an “Enterprise” we can now declare that all SMBs in the world are invited to Spice IT Up!

Our decision to raise the suggested limit isn’t just based on Spiceworks usage on larger, multi-site networks.  It’s also based on the incredible features in Spiceworks 4.5, our 17th release in 3 1/2 years, that help all of our user base but especially those more advanced SMB IT teams with more than one IT pro supporting multiple locations.  Spiceworks 4.5 is jammed with new features such as:

Multi-Site Support with HTTPS/SSL & Scan Controls. We’re switching to an Apache web server under the Spiceworks covers which gives us HTTPS/SSL support.  When we started this wasn’t a big deal as Spiceworks was limited to running in the four walls of a small business.  Spiceheads are now using the Remote Data Collector to send data from remote locations to a central console and they have end users signing in to the User Portal. Clearly they’d prefer that to happen over https.  In addition, users wanted really granular scan schedules set by IP, range, subnet, location, etc. and our new scan controls give them that.

Help Desk Routing and Queueing. Spiceworks 4.5 has a new rules engine underneath the help desk.  Now users can create rules and custom views that give them routing and queueing capabilities.  For example, all printer tickets can now get assigned to one person while server tickets get assigned to someone else.  Of course the CEO’s tickets can receive special attention!  We’re really excited about where we can go with the rules engine, for example, automated actions that use crowdsourced scripts shared by our users.  Crowdsourcing meets the help desk.

Real-time SQL Server Monitoring. We put a new polling engine under the covers of Spiceworks 4.5.  The first app to utilize this is a SQL Server Monitor plugin sponsored by Microsoft.  There are 10 properties that can be monitored including transaction volume, memory size, CPU queue length and more.  Alert thresholds can be set on each and performance on each variable is cached over time allowing historical analysis.  We’re really excited about the potential to apply this monitoring capability to many other databases and applications.

Editable Network Map (beta). We released the network map in Spiceworks 4.0.  This release really improves the mapping and gives users the ability to add, remove, rearrange, resize and annotate lines and nodes. We’re keeping it in Beta for this release but it’s getting to a point where IT pros won’t have to constantly update manual Visio network diagrams… or spend money on network mapping software.  In another release or two we’ll have enough MIB support in there to take off the beta label.

The switch to Apache also gives Spiceworks a nice performance boost in IE8 with 35% improvements in response time.  Performance in Firefox remains about the same as that went through some serious optimization back in 4.1.

Sprechen sie Spiceworks?  Parlez vous Spiceworks?  Spiceworks now available in 11 languages.

The final bit of good news is that even more IT pros around the world can now enjoy Spiceworks!  There are now 11 language packs for Spiceworks, all created by SpiceHeads around the world: Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English (US and British), French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish (3 versions)

Simply visit the Extension Center, download your favorite language(s), and then go to settings/international options.  One click and the UI will change.  Interestingly, when we posted the editor a few weeks ago and asked for help the first language pack that came back 12 hours later was Croatian.  Honestly, not what I would have suspected but I never cease to be surprised with SpiceHeads around the world!

Enjoy 4.5 and let us know what you think about it!

Greening the Planet One SMB at a Time (and saving $ too!)

When we started Spiceworks four years ago our goal was simple but audacious: simplify IT for the world’s 5 million SMB IT pros, the heroes who keep the world’s accounting firms, manufacturers, schools, churches, car dealerships, hotels, and so much more running smoothly.  When we interviewed them they wanted software to make managing their networks simpler — not one asked for software to make their business ‘greener’.

Could We Do Something “Green”?

leafOver the next couple of years on my trips to Europe, people such as James Governor at RedMonk started to ask me if we could include features in Spiceworks to help manage the power consumption and the resulting utility bill and carbon footprint for the world’s SMBs.  Subsequently, SpiceHeads started asking the same thing.  Some needed to show their boss how they were saving money whereas others needed to show their boss how they were running a “Green IT” shop … and some just wanted to make a difference themselves.  While we could do some reporting on this we didn’t have a way to actively help solve the problem.

And Then Intel Showed Up

vpro chip

A few months ago we started kicking around some ideas with the folks at Intel on how to better leverage Intel’s vPro capabilities.  We first built-in the capability to auto-detect vPro enabled machines on a network.  As we learned what you could do with vPro we realized we could leverage those capabilities plus Wake-on-LAN (WoL) capabilities to build features in Spiceworks that would let IT pros manage their network’s power consumption.

Introducing the Power Manager Plugin Sponsored By Intel

Built on the Spiceworks APIs, we’re introducing the Spiceworks Power Manager Plugin sponsored by Intel.  It’s pretty straightforward… and “power”-ful!

Power Manager

Spiceworks Power Manager: Set and Track Network Power Consumption

With the free Power Manager, IT Pros can:

  • Set power-on/off schedules by location, group or device.  Wake-on-LAN is confined to the same subnet as the Spiceworks installation whereas vPro enables management across subnets.
  • Track power usage, including identifying on/off machines.
  • Track power savings over time.  The plugin automatically calculates power savings with projected monthly impact.

An Average SMB Could Save $2,500 and 14 tons of CO2 Per Year

Take an average company with 60 employees.  They have 60 desktops and laptops for their employees and several servers for email & apps and they happen to leave them all on 24 hours.  After all, does anybody really turn them off?

  • 67 machines x 12 hours unused x 73 watts/machine x $0.12/kWh x 365 days/yr = $2,535/yr in potential electricity savings
  • 67 machines x 12 hours unused x 73 watts/machine x 0.001297 lbs CO2/Wh x 365 days/yr = 27,785 pounds CO2 (13.9 tons)

Obviously this isn’t a ‘scientific’ calculation and there will be lots of variance there but you get the point — there is a real impact in both electricity usage and the associated carbon footprint.

How to Save Half a Billion Dollars and 2,900,000 Tons of CO2

The 810,000 IT pros who use Spiceworks manage 28,500,000 PC, laptops and servers with Spiceworks.  (For those of you keeping track at home that’s about 1-in-6 of all SMB IT Pros).  These 28.5 million computers use a whopping 2,080 megawatts, or the equivalent of about 400 Facebook data centers.  If half of them used the Power Manager plugin to cut their power consumption in half they’d save $547,000,000 per year and reduce CO2 emissions by 2.9 million tons per year.

I admit that’s a gaudy… and maybe a ridiculous number.  Let’s be extreme and suppose I’m off by 99%.  At 1% that’s $5.5 million dollars per year and 29.5 tons of CO2 per year.  With 708 downloads (about 0.1% of the user base) we’re already on our way there and we’re just a few days into this.

At Spiceworks we didn’t set out to reduce electric bills or help green the planet but with the Power Manger we’re excited about the impact we’re starting to make… and for finding another way to save the world’s SMBs a little money while we’re at IT!

SpiceWorld 2009: 13,000 SpiceHeads, The Spicies & 100 Free IT Apps

Grant the Jumping Pepper Welcomes You to SpiceWorld2009

Grant the Jumping Pepper Welcomes You to SpiceWorld 2009

Like everyone that was at SpiceWorld 2009 October 22-23 in Austin (our 2nd annual user, er “SpiceHead”, conference) I’m just now coming down from the buzz that is SpiceWorld.  For two days (two and a half if you count the opening night shindig at the newly remodeled Cedar Door… which now feels like a ski chalet in my opinion) roughly 200 SpiceHeads, employees, media-types, and sponsors (Dell, Microsoft, CDW, Intel, Avaya, Concentric, Buffalo, Lifesize) took over the ever-cool Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar to celebrate everything IT in SMBs… and Spiceworks.  You can’t get much more intoxicating (and yes, there were some cases of real intoxication but those will go undiscussed…) than that!

I’ll never get bored hearing how someone found Spiceworks, where they use it, how they use it, and how much they appreciate us for building and creating Spiceworks.  I even get the occasional “Spiceworks changed my life” story — something that doesn’t happen too often with business or IT software.  These interactions and stories really make my day and make the hard work that goes into SpiceWorld so worthwhile.

13,000 SpiceHeads Tune In to IT

This year we were also able to extend SpiceWorld… to the world!  Thanks to some great planning by the marketing team we used

SpiceHeads at SpiceWorld 2009

SpiceHeads at SpiceWorld 2009

UStream to extend the event to over 13,000 SpiceHeads worldwide who tuned in to see Scott’s keynote, the founder’s coffee talk, the 4.5 preview, 2010 roadmap, and several training sessions.  It seems that everyone had a great time and nearly 100% of attendees said they’ll be back next year.  Perhaps the most touching and telling moment was the audience’s spontaneous standing ovation at the end for Jen, the marketing team, the developers and all of the presenters.  Something tells me we need to start looking for a bigger venue for 2010 or certainly 2011.

During the event we made a couple of announcements that I’d like to share more broadly: the winners of the 2009 Spicies and the availability of over 100 IT management plug-ins & apps for the Spiceworks platform.

The Spicies: Honoring the Hottest of IT!

spicies_award_2009Why do movie stars, rock stars, & sports stars get to have all the fun and recognition with their Oscars, Grammy’s, Emmy’s, MTV VMAs, Espy’s, etc.?  That’s what we thought last year when we announced the Spicies, our annual celebration of the hottest IT Stars in the world who make the (spice)world go around.  Every year we recognize a trio of users who have made a big impact in the community and who represent the key behaviors that make the community click.  This year’s winners were:

  • Spiceworks Hero – David Scammell.  The Hero is the person who helps other Spiceworks users the most.  David really made his mark in 2009 by helping get the SpiceCorps and SpiceWorld off the ground, even traveling to Chicago to deliver not one, but two(!), sessions at the Chicago Boot Camp.
  • Spiceworks Innovator – Scott Alan Miller.  The Innovator is the person who works to evolve the Spiceworks product.  With Scott’s heavy hammering of the community, advocacy of the feature needs of MSPs and more complex environments, and support of Spiceworks vendors he helped evolve Spiceworks for all 775,000 SpiceHeads around the world.
  • Spiceworks Champion – Andrew Phelps.  The Champion is the one who spreads the word on Spiceworks to fellow IT pros all over the world.  From his blog alone Andrew has driven nearly 200 new users to the Spiceworks fold… and those are just the ones we could track.

100 Free IT Applications and Plug-ins from Third Parties Now Available in Spiceworks

At SpiceWorld we unveiled 100 free IT management applications and plug-ins that are now available to the more than 775,000 users of the Spiceworks IT Desktop software.  Most of these have been developed by users to augment Spiceworks helpdesk, inventory and reporting functions.  In addition, plug-ins from Microsoft, Intel, CDW, Dell, Citrix and Webex were shown at the second annual Spiceworks user conference. You can find them all in the Spiceworks Extension Center.

Winners of the community plug-in contest include:

  • Robert Nertzel for “Helpdesk, Inventory, Reports, and My Tools User Role” – a plug-in that adds new security roles to Spiceworks
  • Sean Wilson for “Ticket Auto-Assign” – a plug-in that automatically assigns helpdesk tickets based on custom attributes;
  • Justin Dorfman for “Keyboard Shortcuts” – which gives users IT management navigation shortcuts via the keyboard

Plugs-ins we featured from vendors include:

  • CDW Search Plug-in – provides an integrated search field through which users can find and order products from CDW directly through the Spiceworks IT Desktop;
  • Dell Search Plug-in – allows users to search for Dell products and services from within the Spiceworks IT Desktop;
  • Intel vPro Manager – allows users to detect Intel vPro-enabled computers; and
  • Microsoft License Manager Plug-in – allows users to see which licenses on the network need renewal or if they are paying for too many.

It might be easy to miss the importance of these plugins to our users, to Spiceworks… and to the tech industry.  Simply think Facebook and Apple and you’ll get the real potential.  To put this in context, the leading tech vendors are coming to Spiceworks to have us build features and apps that make managing their products in the worlds SMB’s easier.  That’s quite a statement on how big and important the Spiceworks user base has become.  In addition, really bright and talented IT pros around the world are able to develop extensions and share them with other IT pros around the world… all in the spirit of making it easier to manage IT.

That’s a Wrap.

Wow… I could go on and on!  Party stories, plans for 2010, the March to One Million, and more.  Stay tuned as there will be more on each.  If you are in London, the UK, or in Europe… or just need a reason to be in London see us on December 4 at SpiceWorld London.  Until then, what was your favorite SpiceWorld 2010 moment?

“Social IT”: Sharing Accelerates in the Spiceworks IT Network

Increasingly SpiceHeads refer to Spiceworks as the “Facebook of IT”: the place where they do their job and connect with other IT pros like them.  To us, that is the ultimate validation of what we have been working on which we somewhat academically call a “social business application”.  Social business apps have three ingredients (industry focus, a community, workflow tools & apps) and they weave these together in one seamless user experience.  We use social apps (Facebook) to connect with friends; we use social business apps (Spiceworks) to do our jobs… with other people.

While it’s great to be known as the “Facebook of IT” what does that mean practically?  It means IT pros in SMBs (and a surprising number of enterprises) are connecting with each other, getting to know each other, sharing best practices with each other, solving each other’s problems, learning from each other and more… all in one ‘desktop for everything IT’ that they use 9:00 to 5:00 (or in some cases 24/7).

Here are some highlights on that usage that we’ve announced this morning:

  • 250,000 individual contributions to over 78,000 IT discussions
  • 18,000 IT products and services rated and reviewed
  • 3,000 Windows events have been prioritized & analyzed
  • 1,000 How-to’s and Best Practices
  • 600 Reports
  • 400 Groups organized by industry, technology, and geography/language
  • 100 Scripts to automate IT tasks have been shared and reviewed in just the past 4 weeks since we launched the Spiceworks Extension Center
  • 20 SpiceCorps, local user groups, have been formed from London to LA

All of these can be accessed directly in the Spiceworks community web pages or in multiple places in the Spiceworks application UI.  For example, when someone is clicking on a Dell server in the ‘inventory’ view they’ll see Dell reviews and related Dell content; when someone is looking at an Exchange server they’ll see content from the Exchange group and so on.  Crowdsourced content and the community is never more than a click away.

Social Business Applications: Crowdsourcing Integrated into the Application UI

Social Business Applications: Crowdsourcing Integrated into the Application UI

The quantity of this content has more than doubled over the past 6 months. During this time our user base increased a little over 20%.  Over the previous 12 months the content slowly built up.  Clearly the creation of content is increasing as the network grows.  We haven’t looked at it detail yet but I’m guessing the consumption is up several times.

It’s clear that the idea of “social IT” and the role of a social business application for IT in changing the way an industry works is really catching on.  How do you think “social IT” will change the IT industry?

Listen to the Voice of IT – Spiceworks’ New IT Market Research Program

logo_the_voice_of_itThis morning Spiceworks released the results of our first comprehensive survey of our users (IT pros in SMBs with typically fewer than 500 employees each).   It’s the State of SMB IT 08.2009 and it summarizes where SMB IT is going.  We conducted the survey in late July and early August so the results are ‘fresh’ unlike most surveys that typically lag by a few months.  The 1,130 survey respondents came from 56 countries so it’s a very comprehensive look at IT plans in small- and medium-businesses around the world.

The findings are highlighted in our State of SMB IT press release or you can request the full 18-page State of SMB IT 08.2009 report.

Here are some highlights from the State of SMB IT 08.2009:

  • So that’s where the sales went! SMBs are squeezing almost an extra year out of their hardware.  Previously SMBs tried to get 40 months out of their hardware.  In 2009 they’ve upped the expected lifespan by 26% to 50 months.  That’s a far cry from the 2 to 3 year replenishment cycles that users … and vendors got used to in the past (I remember counting down my days to my 2 year ‘corporate gift’ back in the 90’s).  That no doubt hit Dell, HP, Microsoft, Intel and many others as buyers sat on the sideline.
  • I’ll take 13 desktops, 10 laptops and 2 servers please. Despite using hardware for a longer period of time, 68 percent of SMBs plan to add new hardware to their networks within the next months.  56% plan to buy desktops, 55 percent plan to purchase laptops, 45 percent plan new server purchases.  The average shopping list?  13 desktops, 10 laptops and 2 servers.  Dell’s CFO, Brian Gladden, recently said “We believe that the refresh in technology (by corporate customers) will be a 2010 story.”  That appears to be the case but people are readying their shopping lists now.
  • Like, netbooks aren’t all the rage in SMBs? While netbooks may be the answer for heavy travelers, students and bloggers they haven’t gone mainstream in SMBs yet with only 13 percent planning netbook purchases.  A lot of folks are confused by this.  How can they be so popular at the “fill-in-the-blank Conference” in San Francisco last week or on my JetBlue SFO-JFK flight but ‘only’ 13% of SMBs plan a purchase in the next 6 months.  Simply go visit a 50 person accounting firm in Midland, Texas or a manufacturer in Ohio and you’ll see that not every business is on the cutting edge.
  • IT Forecast: Party Sunny or Partly Cloudy? For key services like backup & recovery and security & anti-spam 25 percent to 35 percent respectively plan to get their services from “the cloud”.  This is another one of those that might not ‘jibe with the hype.’  A lot of folks expect, or assume, it to be higher.  That said, I can’t tell yet whether it is high or low.  I think the interesting to watch will be does this go up or down 4-5 months from now when we publish our next survey.  The rate of change should tell us a lot.
  • We’ve hit bottom with IT budgets and hiring. OK, I’m not an economist and I probably shouldn’t make declarations like that.  However, after a brutal year in which 60 percent of SMBs delayed or cancelled at least one IT project and 39 percent cut their budgets 22 percent on average (and another 31 percent got by with flat budgets), IT pros are bullish on spending going forward.  Small and medium business IT budgets took a beating in 2009.   Significantly, only 3 percent plan further staff cuts while 22 percent plan additional full-time or part-time hires.  In Forrester’s recent IT report drawing from Feb-May data they said 30% planned cuts.  Clearly, most of the cutting (90%) has been done.

The Voice of IT: 30,000 Spiceworks SMB IT Pros Waiting to be Heard

What made this survey possible were 1,130 awesome Spiceworks users who had opted in to our Voice of IT market research program.  (If you are a Spiceworks IT pro and you haven’t joined, you can join here.)  This is something we launched just a few months ago and already we have over

The Voice of IT: Spiceworks' SMB IT Pros Give Tech Brands Their Opinions

The Voice of IT: Spiceworks' SMB IT Pros Give Tech Brands Their Opinions

30,000 volunteers!  This is an unprecedented IT market research panel just waiting to be heard by the world’s technology companies, large and small.  To date we’ve already completed several surveys for major tech brands.  What really sets this program apart is speed, reach, and action.  We can run a survey within a couple of days to a week or two, we can run it in various demos, and we can tie the findings back to action plans that are executed in the Spiceworks application & community (via ads, community discussions, plugins, etc.)  It’s a “closed loop” for CMOs, agencies, and marketers.

What’s Next?

We’ll continue to run these surveys every six months, possibly every three.  In addition, we’ll publish more specific results on particular categories and companies.  It’s also likely that we’ll analyze the State of IT results in a lot more detail as we could slice-and-dice it by the respondent’s industry, country and company size.  The best way to stay on top of this will be with our VoiceOfIT twitter account (@VoiceOfIT) or you can request to join our email list at marketresearch (at) spiceworks (dot) com.

What would you like to know about IT in the world’s small- and medium-sized businesses?