With 500 users to support as the systems administrator at the Heart of Texas Region Mental Health Mental Retardation Center in Waco, Texas, Jaclyn Owen can't always immediately know the exact answer to every IT problem being experienced by employees.
But what Owen does know is how to find the right answers to those problems, using a combination of free Spiceworks Help Desk software and related Spiceworks Community forums which give her and her small IT team a destination where they can get topical advice and expertise from other IT pros to solve their users' most vexing IT issues.
Before discovering the Spiceworks Help Desk software, which was in use at the MHMR center when she joined the facility in August of 2010, Owen previously conducted Google searches to zoom in on answers to user IT problems. As she did the Google searches, however, the Spiceworks community forums would often be found in her search results, causing her eventually to skip the searches and go directly to those forums for help.
"I start with the community now – as a systems administrator it is more useful," Owen told ITPro at a recent Spiceworld 2017 user conference in Austin, Texas, which is held annually by Spiceworks. "I use it several times a week, and usually I find what I'm looking for."
Typical inquiries might involve topics such as Windows Server Update Services, Hyper-V hypervisor questions or Windows deployment issues, said Owen. "The help desk system is a great resource. Putting us in touch with each other is a great tool."
The ad-supported Spiceworks Help Desk software includes an IT ticketing system to track and respond to user help requests, as well as a host of other features to streamline and organize a company's help desk operations. The Spiceworks Community forums also include a myriad of detailed knowledge base articles on a wide range of topics for advice and guidance to solve many business IT issues. The company also offers free Spiceworks Inventory and Network Monitor applications to users to tackle those critical IT tasks as well.
Another Spiceworks Help Desk user, Daniel Denman, an information systems technician at Capstone Treatment Center, an addictions and family therapy facility in Judsonia, Ark., also began using the software after repeated Google searches for answers to IT issues brought him to the Spiceworks community forums for useful advice.
At Capstone, Denman would search for information about bolstering the agency's hardware, software, HIPPA and compliance policies, security best practices and more to better serve his approximately 70 users. Three years ago, those searches brought him to the Spiceworks forums, where he found a resource he'd used ever since, he said.
Each morning, when he gets to work, he checks his emails to learn about any new or existing IT issues from users, and then checks the Spiceworks forums for what's trending in the world of IT. He also regularly attends two local Spiceworks meetups near his home – called SpiceCorps events – adding to his IT expertise and experiences.
"I go to the home page of the community to see what are the most recent security risks, updates and news events," which can help him plan his IT strategy and responses for the day, he said. Denman uses the forums daily as a resource, replacing much of the research he previously did using Google before adopting the help desk application.
"It's brought me more awareness about security vulnerabilities, risky products and best practices in the industry," said Denman, who is the sole IT administrator at Capstone. "It's good to have a good reference for what's currently happening."
Leslie Crowe, the information services manager at Virginia Community Development Corp., a nonprofit tax credit equity fund management agency in Richmond, Va., has been using the help desk software from Spiceworks since finding it in 2011 through a web search. When she discovered it was free to use, it was an immediate bonus for her nonprofit and it's 20 staff members and 80 other users, she said. She also uses the company's network management tools and the community forums.
"The forum is the best asset because it's an entire community of people who do what you do all day and who maybe run into the same problems," said Crowe. "There's a lot of wisdom in the community."
The daily "Snap News" feature is also useful, she said, because it provides a digest of what she needs to know at any moment in the world of technology. "You can't spend all day reading the news, so you get what you need," she said. "It's invaluable."
Spiceworks, which calls itself a professional business networking company, is often referred to as the "Facebook of IT" where millions of IT pros can discuss their work.