Choosing HelpDesk – Open Source or Closed Source. Part 1 – Tickets

One can find quite a few mentions in the Internet about how companies or small teams were selecting a HelpDesk system and what were their selection criteria. Also, I have seen some cases when the list of requirements was simply unrealistic. It was unrealistic because part of the requirements was met only by Open Source systems, while the other part was met by paid closed products. Some developers have reached a score 1 in terms of convenience/functionality correlation, but all in all there’s still a huge gap between free and paid products.

In this article Open Source means only free HelpDesk systems with open source code, while Closed Source are paid SAAS or hybrid systems.  It is clearly not very correct as there are system with open source code. We will review them in a separate article.

We will not consider HelpDesk selection scenarios of large companies, because they have a fleet of specialists that are far better than me in administration and source code, and they usually have a clear understanding of what they want. In such cases the selection is limited to two-three systems. More common are the situations when people want to choose the right HelpDesk system and at the same time they only understand what they need from it, but they are not always aware which one will meet their requirements.

In this article we are going to talk about ticket channels in open source and closed source systems.

Email

With few exceptions, all HelpDesk systems can receive tickets via email. In Open Source systems that means any account connected through POP or IMAP or built-in mail server, although it is much harder to configure it than HelpDesk itself.

Closed Source. Following the registration it usually offers an email address similar to support@company.domain.com that works without additional settings and can be used out-of-the-box, plus there is a possibility to connect external address through POP/IMAP/SMTP or set up forwarding to system’s email address.

Social networks

Software and game developers, hosting and other companies associated with Internet often wish to track their product and services mentions in social networks. For that purpose paid products provide integration with Facebook and Twitter.

On the other hand, Open Source systems practically have no integration with social networks.

Phone

As far as this feature is concerned the gap between various HelpDesk systems is huge. In recent years telephony has been actively developing through the use of VoIP. Even small offices can afford to connect phone numbers from various countries to a single PBX and receive incoming calls from several lines on a single device. In theory HelpDesk system developers should take into account this fact, but in reality it’s not that simple. Check out this website for more details on hosted PBX services: https://www.thinktel.ca/services/hosted-pbx-solution/

The situation with telephony in paid closed products is also different. Some large market players like Zendesk or Freshdesk offer built-in basic functionality of IP PBX, but you have to purchase a phone number from them, which is only available to certain countries. How it works: operator receives incoming call through a widget inside HelpDesk system, and after the call is over ticket is created and automatically filled with call details. From all systems that I have researched only Kayako has a different approach. This is the only proprietary system that allows connecting your own number via SIP, but you have to use a special Kayako Desktop app as a client. This app currently supports only Windows.

Frankly speaking I don’t understand why developers don’s take this direction seriously. For instance, Bitrix24 company allows to connect telephony in its CRM system using cloud IP PBX. Perhaps this situation is related to the fact that telephony is not the most popular ticket channel in HelpDesk.

WhatsApp, Viber and other messengers

Currently we know of only two systems that support Internet messengers for smartphones. One of the them is called Chat HelpDesk and works only with messengers so far. It has no other ticket channels. Recently we published a review of this system.

Another is called Casengo and is a robust HelpDesk with traditional channels and possibility to get tickets from WhatsApp.

Open Source does not support Internet messengers yet.

Bottom line

Based on the above Open Source systems are good only if you want to use email channel exclusively or open tickets manually with the help of operators. In all other cases you will have to either hire coders or use turnkey solutions. All the more so many paid products, like Live Agent, have a version available for installation on your server.

We have collected detailed information about the features included in various HelpDesk systems in our Guide. You can use filter and select the system that best meets your requirements.

In the next part we will continue comparing Open and Closed Source systems.

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