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5 Open and Free Help Desk Ticketing Systems

Request Tracker, OTRS, Help Desk Lite

  • July 19, 2010
  • By Eric Geier
The Linux and open source community provides countless user and server applications. They also provide solutions to help support these and other applications, even to support non-technical departments. You'll find many help desk or customer service trouble ticketing systems in the FOSS (free and open source software) world. Right now we'll review 5 different solutions.

RT (Request Tracker)

The developer, Best Practical Solutions, touts RT as the "world's leading open-source ticketing system". RT started back in 1996 and is now licensed under the GNU General Public License. Its written in object-oriented Perl and runs on the Apache and lighttpd web servers using mod_perl or FastCGI. Data is stored in either a MySQL, PostgreSQL, Oracle, or SQLite database. RT installs on Linux, Mac OS X, and other Unix-like systems, in addition to Windows. They also provide hosting plans if you don't want to run the servers yourself.

RT even has a book dedicated to its solution: RT Essentials, published by O'Reilly in 2005. This might hint to how well their following is established.

Like most other ticketing solutions, RT offers a web-based GUI for the customer service personnel and end-users. Permissions can vary among logged in and guest users. You can add custom fields and data to tickets. Its template design lets you easily modify the application's web pages. You can even interface with RT via a REST API and/or a command-line tool.

RT is well integrated with email functionality, supporting auto-responses, attachments, and complete customization and rules. Many end-users actually might only interface with RT via email. Emails can be logged as correspondence for tickets.

Best Practical Solutions offers two additional open source products that make use of the RT platform:

  • The RT Incident Response (RTIR) tool was designed specifically for CERT teams to better handle high volume incident reports. You can field multiple reports into one specific incident. This tool adds additional queues to RT: Incident Reports, Incidents, Investigations, and Blocks. Details such as IP addresses, domain names, and URLs are made clickable, giving you quicker access to relevant information.
  • The RT FAQ Manager (RTFM) tool provides a database to store the procedures and knowledge of your organization. You can use it to help customer service personnel more quickly find answers to frequent issues. You can start to develop stock answers or replies for common problems.

Unfortunately, they don't provide a demo of RT on their site, but they do show screenshots. The online documentation consists of a Wiki. They also have mailing lists, and don't forget about their book.

OTRS (Open Ticket Request System)

The OTRS project started in 2001 and is distributed under the GNU Affero General Public License (AGPL). Its written in Perl and runs on the Apache web server. It supports many databases: MySQL, PostgreSQL, Oracle, DB2, and Microsoft SQL Server.

In addition to Windows, OTRS installs on Linux, Mac OS X, and other Unix-like systems. Convenient prebuilt packages are available for openSUSE/SLES, Fedora/RHEL/CentOS, and Windows.

OTRS has the basic ticketing features, such as a web-based GUI and email support. It also features a built-in FAQ feature, giving agents quick access to information for reference or inclusion in tickets. Another notable feature is their own template scheme, called DTL (Dynamic Template Language), giving you the ability to make customizations.

One of the most interesting features of OTRS is their iPhone App. It lets you respond and edit, or create trouble tickets, all from the palm of your hand. This is especially useful for field agents, they won't have to pop open a laptop every time they want to lookup and update tickets.

You can check out their demo site to get an idea of how OTRS looks and works. On their site, you'll also find full HTML and PDF manuals for administrators and developers. You'll also find mailing lists and user forums.

Help Desk Lite

Help Desk Lite, developed by United Web Coders, is more of an entry-level solution. Its great for simpler or smaller applications. It's a CGI script written in Perl and released under the GNU General Public License 2. Both Linux/Unix and Windows web servers are supported. You can use third-party web hosting, as long as CGI scripting is enabled and sendmail or smtp relay is available.

Trouble tickets are started by users via customized HTML forms you create and place on your website. A broadcast email is then sent to customer service personnel and an agent can claim the ticket. Then the agent can respond via their favorite email client.

They provide a demo of Help Desk Lite. They also offer a quick setup and troubleshooting guide.

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