Customer Service Operator
Image: Seventyfour/Adobe Stock

Helpy is an open source, free help desk platform that you can use as an automated ticketing system and integrate with third-party applications. This customizable and mobile-friendly customer support platform’s features include multi-channel ticketing, SMTP support, email alerts, live chat and one-click ticket conversion from tickets to knowledgebase articles.

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Helpy is self-hosted and easy to deploy with the help of Docker and Docker-Compose. I will walk you through the process of deploying Helpy with Docker-Compose; by the end, you’ll have deployed a world-class self-serve help center for your company.

What you need to deploy Helpy

You need a platform that supports Docker and docker-compose. I’ll demonstrate Ubuntu Server 22.04, so if your operating system is different, you’ll only have to alter the Docker or DockerCompose installation instructions. If the Docker or DockerCompose installation is necessary, you’ll need a user with sudo privileges.

How to install Docker and Docker-Compose

The first thing we’ll do is install Docker and Docker-Compose. Add the Docker GPG key with the command:

curl -fsSL | sudo gpg --dearmor -o /usr/share/keyrings/docker-archive-keyring.gpg

Next, add the official Docker repository with the command:

echo "deb [arch=amd64 signed-by=/usr/share/keyrings/docker-archive-keyring.gpg] $(lsb_release -cs) stable" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/docker.list > /dev/null

Before installing Docker, take care of the necessary dependencies with:

sudo apt-get install apt-transport-https ca-certificates curl gnupg lsb-release git -y

Now we can install the latest version of the Docker engine:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install docker-ce docker-ce-cli -y

Add your user to the docker group with the following:

sudo usermod -aG docker $USER

Log out and log back in for the changes to take effect.

Finally, install Docker Compose with the following:

sudo apt-get install docker-compose -y

You are now ready to deploy.

How to deploy Helpy

Clone the Helpy repository with the following:

git clone

Change into the newly-created directory with:

cd helpy

Rename the Helpy environment file with the command:

cp docker/.env.sample docker/.env

Build the docker image with the command:

docker-compose build

In my experience, the above command takes anywhere from 15-30 minutes. Depending on the speed of your network connection and the system resources available to Docker, you should probably take care of another task while this command finishes.

With the image built, deploy the container with:

docker-compose up -d

The above command shouldn’t take less time than the build command did. Give the containers plenty of time to deploy.

How to access your new Helpy site

Open a web browser and point it to http://SERVER, where SERVER is the IP address or domain of the hosting server. The Helpy welcome page greets you, where you’ll need to click Let’s Set Up Your Helpy.

In the resulting page (Figure A), fill out the necessary information for the new admin user and click Save Changes.

Figure A

Creating a new admin user in Helpy.

In the next window (Figure B), configure your site Name, URL, Parent Site and Parent Company. When you finish this, click Save Settings.

Figure B

Configuring your company settings in Helpy.

Configure your SMTP server in the final window (Figure C) and click Save Settings.

Figure C

The Helpy SMTP server settings window.

Once you’ve saved this information, click Get Started, and you’ll find yourself on the main Helpy page (Figure D), where you can finish the customization of your new Help Desk service.

Figure D

The main Helpy page is ready for you to further customize the platform.

A simple solution for a complex problem

Anyone concerned with help tickets leaking sensitive information would do well with an in-house deployment of Helpy. If, however, you’d like to keep things within the company network, Helpy is a great way to solve a complex problem with a simple solution. Helpy is easy to use, powerful and user-friendly enough that anyone can take advantage of your new help desk platform.

Subscribe to TechRepublic’s How To Make Tech Work on YouTube for all the latest tech advice for business pros from Jack Wallen.

If you are interested in learning more about Docker, you can check out the following resources in TechRepublic Academy:
Hacking and Securing Docker Containers
Linux and Docker Coding Bundle
Docker and Kubernetes mini-bundle

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