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5 Help Desk Solutions You Need to Know

By Kenneth Hess (Send Email)
Posted November 13, 2011


Every CIO wants to have a great help desk, but it's something he or she rarely has the ability to brag about. Selecting the right staff is solving half of the problem. You need good software to complete the picture. Great help desk software allows your team to track support requests more effectively, to create a database of correctly solved problems, and to track customer incident histories. As a manager, you'll be able to identify your top performers and provide valuable reports to C-level executives, customers and the help desk staff.

You can find dozens of help desk software applications by performing your own Internet searches, but finding the right one for your organization is more difficult than you might think. This list of five help desk suites will enable your team to better serve your customer's support needs at a reasonable cost. The list items are in no particular order.

1. Zendesk

There's much like about Zendeskfrom its flexible pricing and infinitely scalable agent numbers to its geographical independence to its list of features and impressive client list. Since Zendesk is a 100-percent online service, you don't have to purchase server hardware, specialized software or deal with lengthy installation and troubleshooting episodes. You're up and running as soon as you create an account on their website.

You can brand your Zendesk experience so that your customers will never know that they're not using your own site's solution. Zendesk also integrates with CRM solutions: Salesforce.com, SugarCRM, Highrise and Netsuite. And, you can expand its power with Atlassian JIRA, Google Analytics, WordPress and FreshBooks. If you still aren't satisfied, Zendesk offers up its API to insert your own custom functionality. Additionally, Zendesk is a cloud-based service so your geographically diverse customers will always have access to the help desk.

2. WonderDesk

If you're looking for an inexpensive Help Desk solution that you host yourself, WonderDesk to the rescue. The requirements for a WonderDesk server are very low. Almost any Windows, UNIX or Linux app will meet the requirements to host a WonderDesk web-based system. The only prerequisites are Perl 5.x and a working web server. WonderDesk features simple and fast installation. Most installations take less than 30 minutes.

WonderDesk has a higher-end solution called WonderDesk SQL that uses Oracle, MySQL, PostgreSQL or Microsoft SQL Server as a database-supported application. Without a database, you're limited to using a flat text file to hold and work with your support incidents. Using a flat file is slower, less secure, and holds only 10,000 records at the upper end of its capacity. The database-backed version holds more than 50 million. It's definitely worth the upgrade to the SQL version if you're looking at creating any real volume with your help desk.

3. ReadyDesk

ReadyDeskoffers two options for companies: a hosted solution or an onsite version that runs on your local systems. If you select the hosted version, you either pay a monthly or yearly subscription fees. The hosted version is a dedicated copy for you, not a shared one. You can begin with a hosted ReadyDesk solution in the time it takes to create an account. The best part of ReadyDesk's hosted solution is that you can customize your solution to fit in with your site for seamless integration. ReadyDesk also doesn't lock you into a lengthy contract, and you may cancel your subscription at any time.

The locally installed version is easy to install on top of your existing Windows server and IIS. As a backend database, you have the options of Access, SQL Server, MSDE and SQL Server Express. ReadyDesk supports 32-bit, and 64-bit Windows versions and requires .NET 2.0 or higher.

4. FastTrack Help Desk

FMDirect Limited is a U.K.-based company that offers its FastTrack Help Desk (FastTrack)software, both as a hosted version and an on-premise version. FastTrack's interface is so simple and clean that first-time users will feel comfortable using it. A customer can track work orders, submit new requests and review orders from a single screen.

Both versions offer an array of features such as call logging, centralized management, intelligent reporting, advanced invoicing, mobile access, parts control, labor entry, materials tracking, current stock availability, key performance indicator analysis and SLA analysis.

5. Helpdesk Pilot

HelpDesk Pilotis a locally installed help desk solution for your business that offers a clean, modern look that is simple and elegant. Pricing is fair and a one-time investment at all edition levels. There are three version available: Lite, Pro, and Enterprise. The Enterprise Edition is customizable to match your business website's look and feel.

If you prefer a cloud-based version, HelpDesk Pilot offers it as a product named HappyFox. You can begin free of charge to test drive the service. The free version allows a maximum of two help desk staffers and only two ticket categories. Pricing is by monthly subscription for as few as three (two for the free version) Help desk staff up to more than 20 for Enterprises. The Plus plan allows complete rebranding of the product to fit into your business website.

Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases, and virtualization. He is also the coauthor of Practical Virtualization Solutions, which was published in October 2009. You may reach him through his web site at http://www.kenhess.com.

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