Eponymous management software developer Spiceworks is readying a multiuser version of its free IT and network management application. Release 1.5 of Spiceworks IT Desktop will also add project management features and helpdesk tools, said company co-funder and marketing VP, Jay Hallberg.

The software is designed primarily for asset and network management in small and mid-sized businesses, so it includes features such as network device discovery and monitoring, and licence management. It also includes community features, to encourage users to share knowledge and help each other out with network issues.

According to Hallberg, Spiceworks already has 60,000 registered users and the figure is set to rise. "About 80 percent of them use it several times a month," he added. He said that it is not open source, but is free much as Yahoo Messenger or Google Toolbar is free – it is commercial software but not funded by sales or subscriptions.

"We want this to be the primary tool people are in during their working day," Hallberg said. "We looked at funding models such as a hosted service, or making it open source with a charged-for premium version, but decided to make it free and find other ways to monetise it.

"The primary way is advertising – we decided it had to be relevant and mainly technology-based. We launched with mainly Google text ads to see what would happen and saw a vote of approval from our users."

The company has just over 20 staff, most of them programmers, and uses the community features in its software to seek feedback and ideas for new features from its users. Hallberg said that that support for admin teams, not just individual IT administrators, was one of the top requests from this process.

Due in two weeks, the new version will also build up the community side, with wiki pages to advise on common network problems and configuration issues, said Kevin McKeown, Spiceworks' sales & business development VP. He said the company is looking for commercial sponsors for these sections too.