Help Desk Software Review and Comparison

About this Review

As already described in our previous article, help desk or service desk is a way to organize company workflow. The main goal is to make work process uninterrupted and smooth by fixing all problems within a company or with customers. This could be achieved by using a special software - the core of the service desk. Functions of service desk and how it should work are well defined in ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) which is used in ITSM (IT Service Management). Many companies are marketing their solutions in this niche. There is a wide range of functions offered by such systems. Some of the solutions are simple and easy to deploy, while others require expert knowledge and are very flexible and mostly intended for huge companies with thousands of employees. This article will cover some of both kinds. There’s a lot to be considered when choosing the right solution, so we hope this article is a good start.


As the name implies, Open Source Ticket Request System is a ticket management system whose main purpose is streamlining processing of helpdesk requests. System is written in Perl and licensed under AGPL. While it has an open source edition called OTRS Free, the developers also provide a paid version with advanced features called OTRS Business Solution. The paid version has 3 editions with different feature sets. The full comparison with a detailed description of each edition is available on the official site.

OTRS is known for its customizability. You can play with many options to tailor the system for your needs. At the same time, setting up the system could be a bit hard for inexperienced users as the –complexity may look formidable. Anyone who wants to try OTRS can check a demo version on the website for every role supported by the system.

This system is mostly suited for mid-sized to large organizations. Flexible setup is mostly available in the paid version. Also, the paid version provides some cloud functions such as live chat.

The mobile version is available only for iOS users, with both free and paid OTRS editions. There is no Android app at this time, but some third-party applications are compatible with OTRS and available on Google Play.

OTRS works well for ITSM solutions because it is an ITIL-based system. Therefore, it fits for in-house IT service management or for third parties and non-IT assets such as sales departments.

OTRS Business edition is cloud based and available as SaaS application with monthly payments. Different editions have unique feature sets and are limited to a certain number of concurrent agents. This means that system could have unlimited user accounts while only a fraction of them could work at the same time.


Zendesk is a cloud based SaaS help desk web software. Only paid plans are available, per agent, on a monthly basis. Live chat, voice calls and e-mail requests are supported. Zendesk integrates with Twitter and Facebook. It allows knowledge base creation, very handy for storing known solutions to accelerate issue resolution.

The workflow is automated via triggers i.e. automatic replies to frequently asked questions with templates.

Mobiles are supported, with native apps for iOS and Android.

Zendesk application store is yet another great feature. Zendesk provides API so everyone can make extensions. Users then install such shared apps and use in their workflow. In most cases that means that apps provide additional features or integration with some third-party services i.e. Box cloud storage, Hangouts, MailChimp and many more.


Kayako is another help desk system. It is paid only and available either on demand (SaaS, cloud based) or as a downloadable edition. Normally, the SaaS version is paid for per agent per month, while the downloadable version is billed annually and limited to a specific number of agents (could be selected by a buyer, 5 agents minimum).

Kayako is delivered in 3 versions both for download and cloud. Each edition has a differing feature set. We find the following as most interesting:

Mobile versions are available for Android, iOS, BlackBerry and Windows Phone.

Third-party apps (like in the Zendesk app store) is yet another interesting feature. Apps extend the core functionality and Kayako offers extensions developed in-house and by its friends. Additionally, users can install third-party applications by independent developers. For example, Kayako has integration with SugarCRM.

Kayako provides an advanced interface for automating help desk workflow. This includes creating rules for automatic ticket processing and much more.


SpiceWorks is not only for ticket processing but also inventory management. There are two separate projects but the functionality can be integrated. The software is free but closed source (proprietary) and ads-supported. The free version of SpiceWorks is a self-hosted software, available only for Windows family of operating systems. The  cloud-based version is hosted by the developers and is billed per agent per month.

The system has a lot of features typical for help desk software, such as:

Tighter integration with inventory management is very useful for internal help desk management because it provides for simple linking of problematic hardware or software with user requests in the ticket system.

The system is very useful for managing IT projects, procurement monitoring and building infrastructure maps.


RequestTracker is a middle-level software. It is totally free, open sourced, written in Perl and published under GPL. It has some options for customization to make it fit for every user. It fits well for middle-size companies. The system is web-based with mobile-optimized interface. Interesting features are as follows:


Gestionnaire Libre de Parc Informatique is a simple and useful help desk software. It has support for incident and problem management, managing purchases and licenses and a many other features. System is ITIL-compliant and suitable for ITSM.

Other features include knowledge base and reporting. The system is ready for use right after installation which is great for inexperienced users. GLPI works well for small companies because of the simplicity of installation and use. Also, it doesn't require high performance hardware. The drawback is limited customization possibilities, so it won't work for every company. Software is written in PHP and open sourced under GPL v2.

Hardware or software inventory is available when connecting it to OCS Inventory or FusionInventory which is also free.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM

This product is essentially a CRM system. Microsoft offers an addon called Unified Service Desk for Dynamics CRM which is a framework for creating a service desk. With this framework any company could develop system that will work as a service desk software. It works great for call centers and similar organizations.

System supports mobile devices, social networks integration, knowledge base, SLAs and enterprise management.


ServiceNow is another help desk software. It works well for middle and large companies, providing ITSM automation with full ITIL compliance.

The system is SaaS, web-based only so it works from virtually any device. It fits well for the following tasks:

Those tasks are mostly required by enterprises and this system covers these needs pretty well. So, the system is rather an enterprise solution.

JIRA Service Desk

JIRA Service Desk is a product by Atlassian. It is based on JIRA, the famous project management system. JIRA Service Desk is paid only and is written in Java. It is an advanced service desk software with live reporting, flexible user management, automation and so on. It doesn't contain knowledge base but it could be linked to Confluence, another product by Atlassian. The system contains simple and intuitive interface, suitable for ITSM automation, works well for small to mid-sized companies.


Brimir is an open source ticket management system, written on Ruby-on-Rails. The system is very simple with clean user interface and mostly suitable for small to middle companies with simple and straight workflow. It can be installed as a self-hosted solution or used via an SaaS provider (i.e. Brimir developers). Brimir works via web portal and emails. This product does very basic work which includes:

Also, automation is possible via creating rules for automatic tickets assignment, notifications or adding labels.

ZOHO Support

ZOHO Support a web based cloud help desk software. The system is available via free and paid versions. The free version functionality is limited to web portal and e-mails processing. The paid version works as a service billed monthly per agent. It has tickets management, automation suite, reports and optimization. Also, CRM integration is possible with another ZOHO product. This includes the automatic connection of tickets with customer data. While it is a web-based software, inbound channels provide many ways to enter issues into the system, those include the following:

Mobile versions are available for iOS and Android.


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