Spiceworks Plans Cloud Social App To Buy Ink

CloudCloud ManagementGreen-ITInnovationMarketingSocialMediaWorkspace

Social network for IT pros now lets members issue RFQs and buy ink cartridges online

Spiceworks, the free network management software company is adding “social shopping” features to help its users buy IT equipment.

The software firm, whose ad-supported software manages IT equipment and services, has added e-commerce features for its users, which it describes as a social network of 1.5 million IT professionals. The new features allow users to issue “requests for quotation”  (RFQs) for the provision of new services, and to buy Google Apps services. Ink and toner cartridges – a long-term money worry – will also soon be on offer.

Social shopping: a new channel?

“Spiceworks has become a community – a Facebook for IT – and is now becoming a new type of channel,” said Spiceworks co-founder and chief managing officer Jay Hallberg in London.

With 1.5 million users (150,000 of them in the UK), Spiceworks reaches IT professionals including those managing technology at small companies, right down to twenty users, said Hallberg.

The addition of an RFQ function gives those users something that might be called “vendor relationship management”, by analogy with the customer relationship management (CRM) systems used by vendors, said Hallberg.

Spiceworks started with a free network management application, and has grown to include other elements, such as managing cloud email, and power management to reduce energy consumption of PCs.

The Spiceworks environment now includes the ability to buy Google Apps services; customers are referred to other specific members of the Spiceworks community  who provide services for implementing the cloud office software.

Future services could be added for purchase of Microsoft’s rival cloud suite, Office 365, which is also aimed at small and medium-sized businesses, said Hallberg.

Automatic ink purchase

The ink and toner function will allow users to click to buy replacement toner – and can be set up to prompt for automatic replacement, in printers which have an online view of their ink levels.

At this stage, ink bought through Spiceworks won’t be cheaper than that bought elsewhere but, in response to a question from eWEEK Europe, Hallberg said that in future, the community could make use of its muscle.

“It’s taking a lot of cost out of the system, so clearly  there is an opportunity for a discount,” said Hallberg. Rackspace email instances can be installed at 20 percent off, through Spiceworks, he said.

Users can currently buy one other thing through Spiceworks – extended warranties for their IT equipment. Apparently renewal rates through Spiceworks are much higher than for customers approached by sales people on the phone, said Hallberg.

Click to read the authors bio  Click to hide the authors bio