Since every business has its unique goals, customer service strategy, capabilities and budget resources, the requirements for help desk software may significantly vary. The choice of the help desk tool also greatly depends on the type and the size of a business, and the complexity of its customer support process. While some systems include a very basic feature set and may appeal only to a certain small market segment, others are packed with an impressive array of features and advanced functionality that can be suited to every market’s needs.
Types of Help Desk Software
Help desk software can be generally classified into different types based on their deployment method, size of the target audience and source code availability. Each solution type offers a specific set of features and has certain benefits and disadvantages.
- Web-based help desk
Web-based help desk software – also referred to as cloud-hosted or software as a service (SaaS) – is hosted on the vendor’s own server. The tool is then rented out to businesses and can be accessed and used over the web browser (the vendor’s website), or a locally installed desktop or mobile application. Customers subscribe to the service for a monthly or annual fee that usually includes ongoing tech support, maintenance and upgrade of the system, as well as data backup.
Web-based help desks require an internet connection at all times, otherwise you will not be able to view and update tickets. This type of help desk is typically used by small and mid-sized businesses that lack an in-house IT team, due to the ease of installation and flexible payment options. Many vendors, however, can scale up their offerings with enterprise-level features to cater to large businesses.
- Cloud-based help desk
Cloud-based help desks are similar to web-based solutions in terms of operating and storing data on remote servers. However, while web-based ticketing systems run on the vendor’s servers only, cloud-based help desks can be hosted on multiple replicated servers, run by third-party providers.
Unlike web-based apps, cloud-based help desks use internet connection primarily to upload and download the data and can be accessed by users even when offline. They usually offer great scalability and flexibility, and can be implemented at low cost, with little or no IT expertise.
- On-premises help desk
On-premises help desk – also known as self-hosted help desk – is licensed proprietary software that is hosted locally on the customer’s own server. With on-premises solutions companies own their help desk and thus, have full control over data security and privacy of information. The tool requires a one-time payment to purchase a license, however software upgrades might require an additional fee.
This type of help desk usually involves large investment and is mostly used by enterprise-level organizations with in-house IT teams who can manage installation, maintenance and updates. On -premises help desks can be flexibly customized and seamlessly integrated with other business systems used by the company.
- Enterprise help desk
Enterprise help desks have the most complicated structure out of all types of help desk ticketing systems. These are feature-rich solutions that may include a number of complex modules such as IT asset management, account management, service request fulfillment and survey management.
In addition to offering robust customer support capabilities, enterprise help desk systems can improve the overall efficiency of an organization by providing deeply-customizable tools for supporting inter-department communication within the organization. Therefore, they are best suited for large, usually global, organizations that require support for both, internal teams and external customers.
- Open-source help desk
As opposed to licensed solutions, open-source help desks give companies full access to the software’s source code – thus, the tool can be modified and enhanced beyond the level of basic integration and adding plugins. It allows companies to completely customize the system to suit their specific business needs.
Open-source help desks are provided on a free basis, however, the vendors usually offer paid features and services, such as software set-up, integration, training, dedicated support etc. This type of help desk is mostly preferred by organizations that have in-house IT teams with programming capabilities.
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How to Choose the Right Help Desk Software
What are the main factors to consider when choosing a help desk software provider for your business? Numerous choices available on the market might complicate the decision-making process in selecting the right solution that will best fit your organization's needs. You can define your help desk requirements by answering the following fundamental questions:
- Help desk type: What type of help desk software is best suited for your type and size of business?
- List of features: Are you looking for a tool with a basic feature set or advanced functionality? What are the ‘must-have’ and ‘nice to have’ features?
- Deployment: Is your organization allowed by law to use software hosted in the cloud? Can you host the application in-house?
- Ease of use: How easily can the tool be used? Can it be used by anyone without tech skills?
- Integration options: Can the software easily integrate with other business tools (like CRM etc.) you are currently using?
- Security: Does the tool provide security features like data encryption and access permissions to protect company and customer information?
- Scalability: Is the software scalable for future business growth? Can you add more features, modules, more agents and handle more tickets in the long run?
- Multilingual capabilities: Does the tool support multiple languages (in case your business operates globally)?
- Pricing: Does the initial cost or recurring service subscription cost fit your company’s budget?
- Customer support: Does the vendor provide quick, competent and reliable customer support in case of any issues?
Once you’ve shortlisted potential vendors that match your help desk system requirements, you can sign up for the trial and test each help desk solution to see it in action. Most of help desk software providers offer fee trials with all the features available. As your customer support team will be using it every day, the tool should, as much as possible, be frictionless, user-friendly and easy to navigate around. Testing the software before making a final purchasing decision is crucial to ensure you implement an effective solution for your customer support workflow and get the best value for your investment.