Help-Desk Software Options

Issue-tracking software (aka trouble ticket software) offers libraries a way to manage support requests and minor IT projects. When someone calls your help-desk, the technician creates a trouble ticket with an incident number and uses the software to record his or her efforts to fix the problem. Also, with each update to the status of the problem, the software can send out automatic messages (usually by email) to the end user. Issue-tracking software can report on certain key metrics, such as the average time it takes your technicians to respond to a request and the average time it takes them to solve a problem. Finally, the details of each incident can form the basis of a knowledge management system. Therefore, issue-tracking software and knowledge management software are usually integrated or sold as a package (see the following item).
Wikipedia has a good overview article on this topic, as well as a comparison of different issue-tracking programs. Slashdot has a long, useful forum discussion where managers and techies describe their experience with different programs.
A knowledge management system (aka knowledge base) keeps individuals and organizations from solving the same problem more than once. Ideally, once a solution has been found, no one in the organization should have to repeat the process of research and discovery. Often, a knowledge management system is simply a different interface to your issue-tracking software (see previous). As technicians record the details of each incident, they’re actually creating the knowledge base. It’s important that technicians have an intuitive, well-designed set of categories and keywords to choose from when classifying support incidents. Without that, retrieval becomes difficult. Also, you may want to give non-technical librarians access to the knowledge base so they can solve their own problems. If so, ask about what types of customer and end-user interfaces are available.
Should You Ditch Your Knowledge Base and Use a Wiki Instead? describes a low-cost, informal approach to knowledge management.
Remote desktop applications allow you to establish a connection with a computer anywhere in the world, see what’s happening on that computer and control it using your own mouse and keyboard. For more information, see our Remote Desktop Software page.
Systems management software actually refers to a suite of IT management tools that have been integrated into a single package. The specific tools and utilities included in a systems management software suite vary from vendor to vendor, but you’ll often find a single package that includes all the other utilities in this list (e.g., asset management, disk imaging, software deployment, etc.).
For more information, see our Installing and Patching Software page.
Disk-imaging software can be used to reinstall the operating system and core software after a hard drive crash or a major software problem.
For more information, see our Disk-Cloning in Libraries page.
Rather than walking from machine to machine or driving from branch to branch with an installation CD every time you purchase new software, consider acquiring a software deployment tool. A software deployment tool automates the installation of other software. More often than not, these tools are part of the systems management software suite mentioned previously.
For more information, see our Installing and Patching Software page.
Patch management software is similar to a software deployment tool. Rather than automating the installation of an entire application, patch management programs download and install security patches and other updates.
For more information, see our Installing and Patching Software page.
Asset-tracking tools let you know the exact location of each piece of hardware and software, as long as you’re using it regularly and keeping it up-to-date. It can also record information about the configuration of each computer, who supports it, service agreements and other metadata. Ready access to this can save your IT department time, but it’s also useful for managers and accountants.
For more information, see our Asset Management page.