What's meant by the term "help desk software'" can be unclear. Go browse a handful of vendor websites, and you'll see the term "help desk" applied to two distinct groups of software—general customer service software and software for managing IT assets and services.
While customer service and help desk software do share some common applications—a central ticket-tracking system, for example—they are by no means interchangeable. If you were to purchase customer service software to manage your small business's IT endpoints and networks, you'd quickly regret the decision. And if you tried managing your company's customers with software designed to manage computers and networks, you'd regret that all the more!
This guide is about cloud-based help desk software for IT management. If you're looking for customer service software, take a look at our customer service software buyer's guide.
But, if you're looking to manage and support your internal IT assets, you're in the right place. Here's what we'll cover:
Online help desk software helps companies manage their entire IT infrastructure, which can include:
This is an IT-centric definition. From the point of view of the employees who rely on IT, online help desk software is more about getting support for IT services. It's a small but important distinction we'll discuss more below in the Market Trends to Understand section.
Like most software, help desks began as on-premise (i.e., locally installed) software. Today, online help desk solutions are cloud-based, meaning that they're hosted, updated and maintained by the vendor. Many of these tools provide both cutting-edge functionality and user-friendly interfaces.
RemedyForce is an online help desk solution that offers a user-centric interface
For most small businesses, online help desks are the smartest choice. They require little (or no) installation of local software, are automatically updated and patched by the vendor, have lower startup costs and provide the best end-user and administrator experiences.
|IT asset management||Tracks and manages all physical IT hardware owned by (or used within) a business.|
|Network monitoring and management||Helps administrators control and configure networks and network access, while monitoring traffic and connections.|
|Knowledge management||Organizes the information, or knowledge, used by IT department employees. Can be used as a self-service resource for employees.|
|Configuration management||Manages the settings and permissions configured on individual devices. Lets administrators apply configuration or settings changes to multiple devices at once.|
|Service catalog management||A service catalog helps larger organizations guide their employees to the IT staff that can best support them. Service catalog management functions help administrators create and maintain these catalogs.|
|License management||Helps companies track and make the best use of their software licenses.|
|Remote access and control||Allows technicians to access and control a workstation from a remote location, facilitating remote diagnosis and resolution with minimal end-user involvement.|
|Impact analysis tools||Analyzes planned changes for any potential conflicts, flagging possible conflicts before the changes get rolled out. Provides a “look before you leap" style safeguard.|
|Service level agreement (SLA) management||SLAs guarantee that issues of a certain type will be addressed or resolved within a certain timeframe, among other service guarantees. These features allow users to set prioritization triggers, automatic escalations and other custom rules to ensure applicable issues are handled in compliance with an SLA.|
|ITIL compatibility||Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a set of IT service management best practices that ensure service management is aligned with business priorities.|
Online help desk are generally used in two different business contexts:
Internal. This is traditionally the most common use. The help desk is the central platform for a company's internal IT department. It serves the company's local and remote employees. These buyers should look for platforms with core help desk functionality and determine requirements based on their company's IT environment, strategy and growth plans.
Managed service provider (MSP). Companies can outsource their IT services management to third-party companies called managed service providers, or MSPs. MSPs should look for help desk systems with more robust remote access and control applications and tools for managing and monitoring individual service level agreements.
Over the past decade, IT service management has undergone a change in perspective. It began as an IT-centric discipline in which problems and services were managed with a focus on the underlying assets and tools. With today's more modern approach, IT service management focuses on the workflows that the IT department supports.
This shift is also described as the consumerization of IT, a phrase explained in Gartner's "Elevate the Employee Experience With Consumer-Oriented IT Service Delivery" report. It states: "The consumerization of IT isn't so much about using consumer apps for business purposes. It's more about applying the tactics of consumerization to the IT fabric, so as to make employees more agile and engaged." (Full report available to Gartner clients.)
Selecting the right online help desk platform can go a long way toward managing your company's IT to improve the end-user experience, while allowing your IT teams to manage these systems more effectively and efficiently.
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