Help Desk Solutions

Help desk software is a set of tools for streamlining the processing of support requests from clients. Often a client with a specific problem submits a request to be handled by someone responsible for that specific area. So, this technician has to resolve the issue. The idea behind help desk software is to centralize and collect all such requests in one place, so that the help desk agents process all user requests through this system.

Help desk software works as a ticketing system where for each problems and incidents a ticket is created that includes a description. Such system are sometimes called issue trackers or even bug trackers (those are mostly used for development purposes).

Besides client support, ticketing systems are very popular in ITSM (IT Service Management) automation. This means that an IT department jobs are processed via ticketing as well, and all issues across the company are handled in one place.

A help desk system often includes the following components:

For IT deparments often needed following functions:

Help desk and support department often works via a multi-tier model. Normally, there are no more than 4 tiers. First tier is supposed to deal with simple issues, while the last tier corresponds to the most advanced and specific problems.

How a help desk works

Help desk software works as a shared environment where all customers and agents have certain access permissions. Agents are support engineers in their specific areas (often represented as “queues”) and their roles are well-defined within the system. Often help desk software is configured to automatically assign new tickets depending on the subject. If necessary, a technician can escalate an issue and assign/share it with another colleague.

All issues have to be collected and stored in one system. Incoming issue can registered from many sources:

The prerequisites for creating a ticket are the message subject and the inquiry itself. Advanced systems also use supplementary field like priority, type of issue (e.g. hardware issue, software issue, network issue), attachments (e.g. screenshots), agent's name, etc. Many systems are widely customizable to allow custom forms with custom fields.

Help desk technicians receive notifications when a new issue appears in their ticket queue or a ticket is assigned to them by the dispatcher. Some high-priority issues may require immediate response. In the process of issue resolution, the ticket normally changes its status from something like New to In progress, then to Waiting for client response and finally, to Resolved and Closed. Sometimes a ticket may be re-opened with a status like Feedback.

As a technician progresses with working on a ticket, they add all relevant information via comments and change ticket statuses accordingly. The comments may help when escalated to another specialist or for re-use. Useful tips, workarounds and best practices from comments may find their way into knowledge bases and FAQs.

That is why knowledge bases are a feature that is often built into help desk software. Hints and help articles from knowledge bases can be fed right next to the support request form on the user support portal. As user types relevant keywords to describe their problem, appropriate help articles are searched for and displayed in real time.

Help desk systems that aim to automate ITSM often have to be ITIL-ready. That means that the system must have features outlined in ITIL, which is a set of best practices. Many systems are ITIL-ready or could become such if enhanced with extensions.

The real advantage of help desks is the relevant business processes’ automation, the prevention of incidents or the minimization of damage thereof.

Types of helpdesk systems

Most helpdesk software exists as server backend and exposes end user functionality via a web portal, i.e. without any client applications. This ensures that issue submission functionality is accessible on any OS. Also, it gives the same benefits to the help desk technicians: ability to work from anywhere and on any OS. Also, some companies do offer mobile apps to their customers or at least a web portal tailored for mobile devices.

The deployment of the server part can be done in two ways:

  1. Buy a cloud-based solution mostly offered via the SaaS model. Such vendors are hosting their solutions for their clients. The main advantage is fast (often, instantaneous) deployment. There is no need to do hardware/software maintenance which means no need to hire an IT pro. The disadvantage of this approach is the lack of customizability. SaaS software mostly works as-is without any modifications allowed. However, today some SaaS solutions have application stores that allow the integration of third party services or extensions. This of course entails a dependency on another company, but you won’t have to bother with deployment and integration yourself.
  2. Self-host the service desk software (which is almost always open-source here). This will provide for flexible configuration with an ample space for modifications. Also, such a system will most likely be readily scalable. So, this approach will work very well for big companies. In most cases, such system are deployed, configured and maintained by in-house IT departments. The main advantage of self-hosted is the ability to modify. Some parts of any system may not work for some needs, so only the development of extensions will do the trick. A company that wants to customize software has to understand that it will require an in-house or outsourced development team to take on such a project.

List of help desk systems