PCs

At what point should you use trouble ticket software?


Fellow Tech Rebublic blogger Joe Rosberg has a great discussion going on over at his place, Desktop Support.  The post is entitled, "How many users can one person support?"  Based on the number of comments (89 so far) I would say he hit upon a subject about which most IT support people feel strongly, including me.  Rather than add my two cents to his post I thought I would elaborate and expand the discussion a little bit here.

Like Joe, I have been a one-man IT department for most of my career.  I have supported anywhere from 35 users up to 175 users depending on the company I was with at the time.  JosB, one of the commenters on Joe's post used the phrase, "one is none" and explained that unless you have a backup person, the company has nobody to help them in the event you are out sick for the day or might perhaps want to take a vacation.  There is a lot of wisdom in that comment.

I've written previously on Tech Republic about my small business career management strategy of convincing management to hire a second technician, training that person to take my place and then moving on to a bigger and better job.  After having gone through this several times I am convinced that having a second computer guy on staff is almost a requirement now.  It really helps to be able to bounce ideas off someone who knows a little about technology.

In other words, although I've been with my current employer for three years now, I'm not planning to move on anytime in the near future. I am still mentoring and training the junior IT guy who is now handling almost all the desktop support issues (100 desktops) allowing me to concentrate on server (12 servers), LAN, WAN (4 sites) and company management issues including purchasing of all upgrades and supplies, budgeting, planning for new technology and disaster planning.

Of course there is no way this could work without the full understanding and support of management.  It just won't happen if you have a jerk for a boss, who either knows nothing about IT but pretends that he does, or who knows nothing about IT but won't accept any input from you. I am lucky that I work for a company that is willing to accept my opinions and expertise.  It's a position of trust that I have come to appreciate more and more over the years.

Many of the comments on Joe's post pointed out that as long as you have a standardized environment, you can probably support more than 100 workstations.  I agree.  Others pointed out that you can probably support even more if you lock down the workstations.  I also agree with that.  And almost everyone agreed that working for a school district sucks because you are expected to support 300+ desktops with no help and no budget.  Ouch!

I have been thinking about adding some sort of trouble ticket software to track and report on our help desk requests.  I do not have a large budget (less than $500) so I can't use any of the big names like Remedy.  User plangham asked this same question last year but I would like to get some current input.  Is help desk software worth it since we only have two people in the IT Department and if so, which one would you recommend for providing reports to management?

58 comments
cygneti123
cygneti123

For this you can try using sharepoint moss 2007 software for help desk management which is being provided by cygnet infotech.

mihashu71
mihashu71

We use a tool called BridgeTrak http://www.scriptlogic.com/products/bridgetrak After a years of searching for the right solution we came to this product and now are fully satisfied. We integrated this tool to our environment without any problems - it can be easily customized to web environment as well as windows one with the ability to switch between them. Bridgetrak is great for powerful and advanced issue tickets tracking with a plenty of related features like web access, internal knowledgebase, auto escalating, creating issues from e-mails, active directory integration. Some of the features can be added as a modules so you can pay only for the features you need. It's a great step for creating your own customized helpdesk system.

brian.strunk
brian.strunk

When I worked in the help desk at my college, we implemented One or Zero, an open source PHP web based application that allowed users to enter tickets and would handle all the communications, with convenient linkages to our email system. It allowed us to realize a high level of efficiency, as we could arrive on site ready to perform the right task. http://www.oneorzero.com/

davist@childrensfactory.
davist@childrensfactory.

We use a product called Support Trio. It works well in allowing us both an admin interface and a user interface with knowledge base. I have only been using it for a couple of months now, but the interface is pretty slick. I especially love that the users can email a ticket in, as well as logging into the system and submitting one. I have not really even scratched the surface of its potential, and when I get my head above water I plan to play around with it more.

Double DeBo
Double DeBo

For those of you that are using Windows Server 2003 based systems there is also another free option. SharePoint Services, you can download templates from anywhere on the net, the ones at Microsoft are free of charge. I have the HelpDesk Custom installed and in use. Works great for what I use it for, mind you that it does not scan the network for hardware or software, at least not yet but I do have another program that does the job. ---------------------------- Someone beat me to it with SharePoint Suggestion. I however am using SharePoint2 with the current Service Pack. The only reason I am not using SharePoint2 is that SharePoint3 will not connect to Outlook 2003, at least it would not for me.

jgaskell
jgaskell

We use VersaSRS, which I highly recommend. There is a free version for two techs and additional licences are inexpesive. http://www.versadev.com

ralph.wahrlich
ralph.wahrlich

Even for one person, I would wholeheartedly endorse a ticket tracking system: - much easier than just flagging emails or keeping text files: provides a standardised structure and richer metadata; - it evolves into a knowledge base. My situation: I work for systems admin and support in a university department, for about 25 Mac desktops, 4 Mac servers, and several virtualised Linux boxes, plus some older Solaris 8 boxes. I also help occasionally with random Linux and Windows desktop boxes. Number of users varies during the year... a core of about 15 users, which swells to maybe 50 during undergrad teaching. Although I frequently liase with the university's central IT department, and have another person in the department who could potentially help with UNIX, I am more or less a 1-man band. I found Request Tracker very easy to set up once installed. Getting all the Perl dependencies installed was a PainInTheButt - relatively simple in itself, but I had to re-run the installer many, many times to get all the dependencies installed - and I installed some of the packages manually (ie: without using the CPAN method). Most of that, however, was because I went to great lengths to install things without resorting to "sudo" (ie: running as superuser). I found it very awkward working my way through the descriptions of PERL5LIB and PERL5INC and PREFIX, not to mention the huge, horrid pathnames, when directing Perl package installs to a custom site location. Took a couple of days (not working continuously though), but definitely worth the effort. Plus you have a chance to learn a bit more about Perl, webservers, and databases. Hope that is useful :-)

BEaR3
BEaR3

I believe that if you a thinking long-term planning and short-term strategically, that any size support environment should implement some sort of incident management/tracking system, not matter how humble (Outlook emails & Excel spreadsheets or home-grown websites). The system needs to take into IT consideration: Incident tracking, Inventory (CMDB), & Knowledgebase (just to cover basics) and the data should be as portable as possible for when the business expands and requires upscaling the support environment. There is no reason to avoid implementing an adequate, right-sized solution, if careful consideration is taken into account. You will need to someday justify equipment/software expenses/cost/ROI, you will want to make cases for "end user training opportunities" or early EOL hdwe replacements, and most of all, provide non-IT management with numbers to document how your activities positively impact the business. If they're not asking for it now, be wary, so get this in and start showing them how you hold costs down (Incident reduction efforts, upgrade/replacement impact on system availability (before and after)), how well you budget to meet current and immediate future needs (capacity management) and that you understand their priorities. There are ways to scale down large environment practices into a small environment so you are ready when they are ready to scale up. You need the processes in place to support it. A ticket system is a great start, so long as it is well thought out and can provide the useful data through consisent use of that system. No more judging your performance on how many calls the CIO does/does not get in a week.

oz_ollie
oz_ollie

I would look at the open source systems first, even if it is just to reduce the cost to your time installing, configuring, learning and implementing. These allow users to report problems and support requests online, usually through a browser interface or email address, and makes tracking requests much simpler. The three I would start comparing and trialling are: * RT: Request Tracker - http://bestpractical.com/rt/ * OTRS - Open Ticket Request System - http://otrs.org/ * SimpleTicket - http://www.simpleticket.net/

fbawany
fbawany

You can download SharePoint Service 3.0 for free and then download HelpDesk application template for free also. Ofcourse you would have to know how to install, configure and use SharePoint but the learning effort will be well worth it and most of all, Noting beats FREE!. You can also take advantages of other colloborative capablities of this product. Below are the download links: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windowsserver/sharepoint/bb400747.aspx http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=CE90D6D7-7B96-47BF-A22F-A7E8C5D40647&displaylang=en

CharlesL
CharlesL

I am a desktop support person in the IT field. I work with a trouble ticket type system, and what I and my partner have found the cheep type of trouble ticket solution is to build your own web server, with your domain, create your account, and your Junior It guy???s account. And a (support@what ever your domain or company's name is account) so that when ever an end user needs support they send an e-mail stating there issue. And having set up your e-mail correctly you and your partner will get the e-mail forwarded you can keep track of the trouble tickets as he can handle issues as they arise. Also because you???re limited to two IT personnel the company that you contract out to should also understand that all issues should be submitted threw your support e-mail. there server should allow remote access so that if you do happen to become sick or want to take a vacation if it's a simple issue you can remote in and solve the ticket!

gkrew
gkrew

I inherited OTRS from www.otrs.org. I like it because it can use an email to an address to open a ticket and provide a response back to the user and keeps the responses in the same thread provided the user replies to the original email. We are a small IT dept and its great for us supporting 90 users. Its open source so it should fit in your budget.

ncleaver
ncleaver

I support about 75 users distributed over 9 offices in 3 states. I currently have a helper but flew solo for 1 1/2 years. At a previous job I used Track IT. It is a good product. It was not in the budget here. I do use spiceworks for some discovery and asset management tasks but not as a help desk tool. I am using Trouble Ticket Express http://www.troubleticketexpress.com/ to open and track tickets. It is web-based, easy to customize and very inexpensive. I highly recommend it.

david.shane
david.shane

How much should one spend to see where the money goes? Technology will never replace simple good leadership practices, nor will it teach good customer service to the less experienced. Please ask yourself if you're avoiding these issues before implementing a ticket system.

swpro
swpro

If you are currently using a remote control product like GoToAssist, Webex Support Center or LogMeIn you can switch to NTRsupport (www.ntrsupport.com) and for the same price as just the remote control product they include a very nice hosted trouble ticket system.

beatphreek
beatphreek

I think it is important to always track the support issues. Even if its a 1 man shop or a less than 1 man shop (where you just happen to be the accidental sysadmin along with several other jobs). It gives you some documentation which can show you trends in issues, provide justification for new software/hardware, and provide justification for more staff or even better pay for current staff (you). Plus it keeps you organized, helps end-users know what's going on with their ticket, and provides for a knowlege base (as pointed out previously). If you are an exchange shop, you could probobably "roll your own" pretty easily with an ASP form and some public folders. There's too many free options out there to not have something.

jefft
jefft

We are using a WSS V3 List along with a workflow (To generate e-mails) to keep track of our requests and trouble tickets. If you have 2003 server its a free piece of software, and any reports you need to create can be done through Access, Excel or etc... We are a 3 man shop, my boss (CIO), an IT Technician and myself. This solution has worked well for us.

tgharrison
tgharrison

There is plenty of freeware Help Desk trouble ticket software here in the TechRepublic software downlaods to choose from.

fbartolom
fbartolom

Actually I started using one nearly as soon as I took the IT management role here and the system has been kept even by the new manager even if the environment changed dramatically. The benefit of such services is that is allows to keep a steady base for the chaos of every day's life: moreover some of those systems allow to over additional processes than helpdesk: so I made workflows for expeditions, general services, assets demise and delivery, employees' "going away" management and much more.

sprafulla
sprafulla

Hi, You can think about using otrs from otrs.org. The said package fairly meets your requirement. HSP Kumar

eboshart
eboshart

Here is the website ( http://www.bestpractical.com/ ) for an open source helpdesk ticketing system we use, it's called RT. It works great and best of all it's free. Also, since many of us never use Outlooks full capabilities, you can also create a helpdesk mailbox for people to email their IT concerns, then create folders in it to keep track and verify work. You move email messages to open or closed event folders. Outlook allows one to be very inventive. Enjoy! :)

techrepublic
techrepublic

I use GLPI (free open source) combined with OCS (inventory). I started off a year ago with 20 people, 2 servers and no phone system. We're now at 80 people, 9 servers, Asterisk, MySql, MSSQL and whatever new technology my CEO can throw at me. All my users are tech-savy which doesnt always help as they expect everything to work and be done immediately and dont understand why it hasn't already been done - as "their system at home works fine"!!... At any one time I have 10-15 projects on the go, and 30-40 open tickets, over 2 sites with employees in 3 continents. Mid last year I convinced them to get some help in, which I now have a contractor in 3 days a week to handle minor helpdesk issues. GLPI was the first thing I installed, and I direct most of the user requests there first. Sometimes its useful as a shield, as I find that if you refuse to do things without the ticket, then sometimes that "high urgent issue" disappears to nowhere. We dont have any industry standards to adhere to yet, but when we do I think we're in good stead because of the helpdesk system. It provides tracking, traceability and history and I wouldn't be without it now.

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

We are a two man outfit and we just use a special mailbox for IT and then color code(using Outlook's Category feature) which emails go to which tech. I am the junior one here, so I get most of the front lines (user support) while my boss gets all the server and specific application errors. It seems to work well. (And my last job had Work Order tracking software [Track-It, followed by Footprints] and I think that system was the least intuitive I have ever seen.)

mwesthoff
mwesthoff

We've made our own help desk log and database. We've made it in Excel and Filemaker; both worked well as long as someone modified the file for a few months to get just the information we needed and the look we wanted for the techs.

erikc_pcc
erikc_pcc

At my work, I am the only Help Desk person, but we have 2 developers that back me up when I am our of the office, one of which is my boss. I know this isn't help desk software per se, but we use Sharepoint Lists. We have Small Business Server 2003 R2, so it is included with that. Our list includes who sent, what the issue is, the time submitted and status. It works for what we need. We have 60 Desktops, 6 Server, 1 Site and 5 mobile users.

qhartman
qhartman

I've used IRM at the 1300 desktop school district I used to work for. I really liked it. It combined inventory control and helpdesk into one app, which was very nice for us. Personally, I think helpdesk software is worth it with only two people. This way either of you can see the history of a particular user or machine and know whether or not something is a recurring problem, regardless of who handles the work or if the other happens to be around to confer with. It also ends up becoming a useful Knowledge Base system, provided you enter how you fixed a particular problem in the case notes. I even believe that helpdesk software is worth it in a one-person shop because it helps provide a level of service continuity. Assuming the system does not get scrapped when a the new guy arrives, it keeps the process for getting issues resolved the same for the users, and once again, the new guy can see history. This continuity and collection of institutional knowledge can be extremely valuable.

sylvain.drapeau
sylvain.drapeau

Check Spiceworks. We've been using it for some times now for inventory purpose only but I checked the help desk and it seems to have all that is needed. We will not be using it here because we already have our own in-house software (a custom Lotus Notes database) but if you are short on funds, Spiceworks might be a good start. *edit We are also only 2 (Director of IT and myself) and we couldn't live without our help desk software. Our network looks a lot like yours. A 100 or so workstations with 12 servers, 4 sites WAN...

dagar
dagar

http://www.glpi-project.org/spip.php?lang=en This is a French project, so the English docs are not as good as the French docs are, but I have been using this for over a year. It goes beyond ticketing and gets into asset management (links to ocs), and many plugins are available.

mooremusick
mooremusick

We too use Sysaid. It is a great piece of software for free. Does inventory and emails you the service request after a user enters it. I am a one man show with about 80 users and 9 servers, so being able to track and manage requests is important for my success.

david_scott
david_scott

I am a one person shop and the first thing I did when getting into this position was get IT software. I bought Trackit as that was what i used in last position. I think its important whether you're a one or 10 person shop. I'm not sure what version of Track-it you're referring to not being intuitive. I'm on the latest version which is 8. If I were you i'd be asking my manager why I only have $500 budget for software for dept? Tell its a waste of time and money to skimp on software. Make the investemnt in some decent software with support and a good history. Trackit has modules for help desk, inventory, purchasing and training. I don't use the training but I use the other three modules. Good luck

adam.howard500
adam.howard500

Help desk software can have a lot of value regardless of the number of people using it. You might even be able to use it to print out reports that show how certain issues keep coming up all the time and get management buy-in to conduct training of some kind. Or, if you're really good, you might be able to use the reports to show you need more people (assuming that is really what you need). If you want something cheap, and you already have Microsoft Access or some other database on your machines, you can always use it to build your own. You might also be able to put a simple one together using an Intranet (HTML) form and any kind of server (MS SQL Server, Oracle, etc.) that you may already have installed.

tyler.poland
tyler.poland

Good software will help you to keep track of problems you've solved previously so you don't need to figure out how to solve them again. If used properly it also provides another means of communication within your department and with your customer (end user). In the past when it was just me I've used an excel spreadsheet to keep track of issues, but for more than one person I'd definately recommend something that allows multiple user access. I've used Eventum from MySQL in the past, it isn't the best solution for everybody but it is OpenSource and easy to implement. The database is also easy to work with if you need to do any ad-hoc reporting.

Fairbs
Fairbs

Does anyone have ideas for systems to manage recurring maintenance tasks? We tried to use a shared Outlook calendar with less than desirable results. It would be nice to have a daily view of what needs to get done and for a particular task who is assigned (if anyone yet) and the current status (in progress, complete). We have Sharepoint, but haven't dug into it enough to fully understand its capabilities. Beyond that I know there's a bunch of ways to achieve this goal, but I wanted to see if y'all had any good advice. Thank you.

ozhawk50
ozhawk50

I'm the team leader, Helpdesk Support for an emergency service organisation in Australia. We are using as an interim measure MS Sharepoint 2007 Helpdesk Template. The template is free, and it does a reasonable job of gathering information, collating history etc. We support 4000 users, 800 desktops and laptops using this method. It's a "stopgap" but it works. And for small organisations it would be an ideal solution.

richg
richg

We are implementing SharePoint 2007 here in a big way. I notice they have templates in the 2003 version for Helpdesk software. Has anyone tried it?

coppaj
coppaj

Check out www.inet-sciences.com. They have a great web based help desk that will support three techs for free and unlimited users. It's an excellent tool and due to it's great documentation and coding, it's a breeze to modify. Highly recommend this product!

daniel.wilkie
daniel.wilkie

We use spiceworks here in my office and I'm highly impressed. The tradeoff for the free-ness is an ad-bar down the right hand side. Its flexible though, and does an inventory (enabled me to discover that our paperwork our contractor had done for our software installs was completely wrong and we needed to buy a bunch of licenses...) plus the reporting functions are straightforward and flexible. It does have a couple of limitations - the software inventory will sometimes report things as out of compliance if an update chagnes a version number, but they're pretty good at fixing these things as soon as someone makes them aware. Plus there's little things like you can setup a mailbox and then users can email in support requests that are automatically logged. Its made my life as a one man band (only supporting a small number of users mind) a lot easier.

We used Liberium Help Desk at my last place and for free its really good. It does email notifications to the user and its pretty simple to set up. Where I am now we use the outlook system described in another post. I am really the only one keeping up with the requests here so it works for me.

MarkE
MarkE

http://www.SAManage.com Its an on-demand Asset Management service that helps you track all your computers and software asset, organize software licenses (track licenses, PO's, expirations) and detect risks to your assets (computers without a security patch or running an illegal/greynet software, for example). Its a subscription service so no software or databases are required - check it out at www.samanage.com

JCitizen
JCitizen

means about being non-intuitive either; maybe it was an old version. When I left that contract the inventory modules were taking on some very usefull features like automatic reporting from each system unit as to serial number, operating system, ect.. New features were going to help licensing issues but, I don't know how it panned out. I got confidence it all worked out well though, we had few problems. The vulnerability of an application like this should be a main concern for even small operations. How do we know cheapware is safe? TrackIT! had an issue escallation feature that gave the clients confidence their problems were being taken care of.

cio
cio

google HelpTrac nd checkout their demo. A great product for the price.

cberg1
cberg1

you might try Web+Center from http://www.inet-sciences.com/ . Free for 2 techs; pretty affordable for more than that. They have the ability to set up recurring tickets (automatically creates a new ticket when the current one is closed that has a due date set to whatever recurring period you want). With version 7 they've had their facilities management functionality a bit more robust. There's a place on their website where you can try it online without having to go thru the installation.

mjongeward
mjongeward

I have setup a Helpdesk system in SharePoint 2007 that works quite well. I simply started with one of the standard list templates (one that had item level security), added and subtracted a few fields to customise it (Categories, Priorities, Effort, Expected complete dates etc..) set advanced security so users can only see their own tickets (item level security) and ended up with a pretty robust system used by 15 techs supporting 400 users in 7 countries. We incorporated workflow for tickets that needed user acceptance testing and approvals by a changeboard for SAP changes. Your technicians need a higher level of security defined so they can see each others tickets etc.. Users added their own alerts so email notifications go out and there you have it, a free ticket system. Not as good as the expensive ticket systems but we are satisfied so far.

ben.rattigan
ben.rattigan

Spiceworks certainly is a winner for me, with 2 full time IT staff with 70 client machines and 6 servers it just brings everything together in one place. It picked up all my printers, switches and software. My only complaint would be the software licensing module needs some more work so you can at least enter PO numbers, serial numbers and the various other wealth of software licensing information.

MikeGall
MikeGall

Spiceworks is great. I'm also using dotProject, it kind of blends PM and ticket functionality. Spiceworks is a better pure ticket/infrastructure tracking solution. dotProject allows you to document project tasks both textually and Gantt chart style. Since it is webbased it is visible site wide (might help people realize "today is not the day to bug him with a broken printer" if they can see your schedule a bit). Also will send things like email alerts to the project members when a task is due, or goes past due/overbudget. You can get resource break downs and it is smart enough to not let you double book resources. If you say your spending 10hrs a day on this project then if someone tries to book you for another project they'll be told that it exceeds the available time in your schedule for example. The good thing with dotProject is it forces you to build a LAMP/WAMP stack on a server, so your all set for a wiki too. I have a wiki page that I document everything to which will help my predecessor immensely I hope.

JCitizen
JCitizen

What is your confidence level about internal confidential information. This kind of software can be very intrusive in this area. What kind of reputation does it have, and are there any vulnerablilities posted at Secunia(for example)?

edwardp
edwardp

IT has been a God send for me, the person i replaced had left many things undone. When i read the Title of the blog i though of suggesting spiceworks, seems like others have done the same. IMHO it should get more traction in the market, which will help it grow.

Steve.lippert
Steve.lippert

I too have used spiceworks for about a year now. I really enjoy the ease of use and it's reporting and alerts. It easily covers our 50 workstations and 6 servers across 4 locations. I use the help desk feature but not the email notification. (My users just want to tell me about an issue, not send an email or fill out a form.) My complaint are that it doesn't grab CD-keys for software (like BelARC Advisor does).

crimper
crimper

I would definitely try Spiceworks. We support almost 100 users and it has helped alot. The only drawback so far is that we have about 30 external laptop users and Spiceworks does not currently have any kind of data collection agent. So we only get config updates on those when they visit the office. I would recommend giving spiceworks a try.

btate
btate

I just recently implemented Spiceworks and it has been a big help. It allows me to track what is going on and the workload for myself and the one other tech that we have. We are looking to expand, so we will have to see how it works with the expansion.

williamjones
williamjones

I had Liberum running for a while, and really liked it. It's easy to get up and running, its sys reqs are lightweight, and it's easy for end users to get the hang of. The problem with Liberum Help Desk is that it hasn't been updated for several years, and it's also sporting an unpatched SQL injection vulnerability that can cause corrupted data: http://secunia.com/advisories/15593/ Make sure that you either use version the Beta 1.0 version (which may still be vulnerable, judging by the release dates), or that access to your Liberum installation is available only from trusted clients.

JCitizen
JCitizen

where they use TrackIT! Appreciate the input!

ryumaou@hotmail.com
ryumaou@hotmail.com

I used TrackIT a number of years ago and it was, indeed, an amazingly flexible system with good escalation and notification features. I can't speak to cost because it was already in place when I started. However, when you start to get a lot of entries, make sure to do regular maintenance on the database, or you could end up with some pretty significant problems. Until I got to that gig, no one had done *any* maintenance on the system at all. Apparently, they didn't realize that they needed to when it was installed. Regardless, I had to spend a couple of Saturdays getting things right again and sacrificed some of the older historical data to get the database back into shape. Again, though, this was more than five years ago, so I'm sure the software has changed.

nc30ed
nc30ed

I have to agree,spiceworks is an excellent choice we have been using it for about 6 months now, recently upgrading it to spiceworks 2 which is quicker at running an inventory. We use the helpdesk which has the ability to use email or web page for handling requests. Well worth a look. Paul

jasonmcc68
jasonmcc68

I have used Spiceworks for almost 2 yrs now. I used many of the other trial versions trying to find the perfect piece of software that would do what we needed. Spiceworks has a great network tracking interface that allows you to catagorize your devices on your network. It has very intuitive workstation inventory software and pretty robust helpdesk complete with capability to assign tickets to IT staff if you are lucky enough to have one, which I am not. I am IT Director over 1 server and 45 users. I am also the graphic designer, AV department and Web Developer. I sure could use an assistant.