You can track help desk requests in a spreadsheet, but why go that route when there are plenty of help desk tools that meet the limited budget requirements of your small or medium size company? With these tools, you can keep better track of your system issues and retain a documented trail of what has been done. These are my picks for the best of the free help desk solutions.
Spiceworks is a pure powerhouse for a free application. Yes, it's ad-based, but the fact that this help desk and bug tracking tool offers more than you probably need should make up for it. IT staff will like that the ticketing system allows them to assign tickets to specific users, assign priorities, add attachments, give due dates, and more.
These are some of the features that come with Spiceworks:
- Asset management
- Cloud services discovery
- Android and iPad apps
- Complete network scans (via nmap)
- Uuser portal for ticket entry
- Rackspace account management
- Warranty tracking
- Reporting tools
- An easy to use dashboard (Figure A)
If you wind up with a problem on your network or with the application, search for the issue on the Spiceworks forums, and you might find a resolution.
MantisBT is open source software that does a great job of tracking and managing bugs. Written in PHP, Mantis uses a MySQL database and serves up a very easy to use web-based interface where end users can submit bugs and administrators can track and manage them.
These are some of the features that come with MantisBT:
- Easy to install on Windows, Linux, Mac, Solaris, etc.
- Customizable issues page
- Multiple projects per instance
- Project/sub-project/category support
- User access control
- Changelog support
- Search and filter
- Reporting (Figure B)
MantisBT also offers an Android and an iOS app that allows users to report bugs on the go.
3: Zoho Support
Zoho Support is the help desk component of the Zoho business-class groupware suite. The tool has three levels, but the free version will suffice for many smaller companies. You should, however, look at the feature comparison to see if either the Professional ($12.00 USD per agent/per month) or the Enterprise ($25.00 per agent/per month) edition is better suited for your business.
The free solution offers plenty of features, which include:
- Unlimited agents
- Product-based tracking
- Task assignment
- Contacts and accounts management
- Customer portal
- Forums add-on
- Solution folders
- Knowledge base
- Solution to article conversion
- Unlimited portal users
- Custom themes/widgets
- Domain mapping
Zoho Support (Figure C) is one of the best help desk solutions if you don't want to install anything on your local network or machines. It will take a while to get the system up and running to your exact needs, but the time and effort is well worth it, especially if you already use the other Zoho tools.
4: SysAid Free Edition
SysAid Free Edition is another web-based help desk solution that is available for Windows and Linux. Although the free version has a number of limitations -- two admins, 100 asset limit, 100 end user limit, and limited system integration/customization options -- it still offers the features you need in a help desk tool, which include the following and more:
- Asset management
- End user portal
- Live chat
- Knowledge base
- SMS integration
- Escalation rules
- IT benchmark
also get one remote control channel where you can offer remote support to end
users. If you find the SysAid Free Edition (Figure D) solid but too limiting, the Basic Edition is $270.00 USD (starting price) per year.
Tell us in the discussion which help desk tool you'd recommend to a small or medium size business.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for Techrepublic and Linux.com. As an avid promoter/user of the Linux OS, Jack tries to convert as many users to open source as possible. His current favorite flavor of Linux is Bodhi Linux (a melding of Ubuntu and Enlightenment). When Jack isn't writing about Linux he is hard at work on his other writing career -- writing about zombies, various killers, super heroes, and just about everything else he can manipulate between the folds of reality. You can find Jack's books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. Outnumbered in his house one male to two females and three humans to six felines, Jack maintains his sanity by riding his mountain bike and working on his next books. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website Get Jack'd.