There are loads of help desk solutions available. There are free help desk options (such as osTicket) that are incredibly powerful, but come at the cost of a very challenging configuration. And then there are help desk solutions that don’t offer the necessary features or are too costly to deploy even for a single user. So, it’s a very good thing when you come across a tool that is feature rich and is flexible in pricing, and Cerb5 fits that description.


  • OS X, Linux, BSD, or Windows (64-bit recommended)
  • Apache, Nginx, or IIS
  • PHP 5.2 or newer with these extensions:
  • Required: dom, gd, imap, json, mailparse, mbstring, mysql, spl
  • Recommended: memcache, xcache
  • MySQL 5.0 or newer


By default, if you install and register the software yourself, you will be able to have one user at a time logged in to the system. If you need more than that, here is the pricing:

  • 1 seat pack $150
  • 5 seat pack $675
  • 10 seat pack $1,295
  • 20 seat pack $2,495
  • 50 seat pack $5,495

I realize the prices are rather high, but most small companies will only have one or two users connected to the system at one time.


For the sake of this installation and my sanity, I am going to install Cerb5 on my trusty Ubuntu 11.04 server. I will assume you already have the LAMP server up and running and that you only need one concurrent user.

Before you begin the download/installation, take these steps:

  1. Install php_imap. From a console window, issue the command sudo apt-get install php5-imap.
  2. Install mailparse. From a console window, issue the command sudo pecl install mailparse.
  3. Add the mailparse extension to the /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini file. The directive will look like and will go under the Dynamic Extensions section.
  4. Configure the upload_tmp_dir directive in php.ini. You will need to configure where the temporary upload directory will be. Run the command grep -n upload_tmp_dir /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini to find out what line the directive is on. A correct directive will look like upload_tmp_dir = /var/www/cerb5/storage/tmp.
  5. Change the permissions of the /var/www/cerb5/storage directory with the command sudo chmod -R 777 /var/www/cerb5/storage/.
  6. Restart Apache with the command sudo service apache2 restart.

The next step is to create your database. Cerb5will support two db types, but I recommend going with MySQL. To create that database, I highly recommend using a tool like MySQL Workbench to create the database. If you are a database ninja, you can have at the process from the command line. Either way, name your database something like cerb5.

Now you are ready to download the file, unpack it, and fire up your web browser. Download the archive file here and then unpack the file (using a terminal window) with the command unzip This command will create a new directory called cerb5 that needs to be moved to the Apache document root, which you can do with the command sudo mv cerb5 /var/www/. When you do this, make sure the permissions remain the same in the /var/www/cerb5/storage directory.

Once that is complete, it’s time to point your web browser to http://ADDRESS_TO_SERVER/cerb5/ — this will begin the installation process. The first screen (Figure A) will check to make sure everything is correct in the setup.
Figure A

If you see a message in red, it indicates there’s something you must fix.

The next step is the database setup. Figure B illustrates the information you must have for this process.
Figure B

Select MySQL from the Driver drop-down.

After entering this information, click the Test Settings button so the installation can check the MySQL settings. If the install passes, you will go to the EULA screen, where you should accept the licenses. Then you will find yourself on the registration screen; it’s important that you resister so you can have your one free license. After you complete the registration, you will be able to configure some of the basic pieces of information for your Cerb5 help desk (Figure C).
Figure C

These settings can be revisited once you’re in the site, but it’s a good idea to set them here.

On the “Congratulations” page, you’ll find a link that allows you to access to your site. Once you log in to the site (using credentials set during the installation process), you’ll see a “Welcome” page that will walk you through the “basics in 60 seconds” (Figure D).

Once you complete this step, go back to the terminal window and delete the /var/www/cerb5/install with the command sudo rm -rf /var/www/cerb5/install. If you don’t remove this, you’ll be constantly warned by the system, so do yourself a favor and remove it.

Figure D

Read the suggestions to help familiarize yourself with the system.

Now you set up the rest of your system by clicking the Setup button on the top right of the screen and walking through the configurations that fit your situation.


Cerb5 is a powerful and flexible help desk solution, and you can even get support when you need it. While Cerb5 isn’t free, if your shop is small enough that it can work with only one concurrent user, you’ll be fine without purchasing a license.