A guide to the open source helpdesk and ticketing system
Whether that ticketing system should be open source, though, depends on your organization’s needs, preferences, internal resources, and the nature of the ticketing system’s underlying code.
So choosing and implementing the best option for your company requires extensive research, consideration, and education. To that end, we’ll cover everything you need to know about open source ticketing.
- What is an open source ticketing system?
- What are the advantages of an open source ticketing system?
- How to set up open source help desk software?
- What are the most important features of an open source helpdesk?
- Top 10 open source helpdesk ticketing systems
- Summary of the best open source helpdesk software
- How to choose the best open source ticketing system?
- Try open source ticket system for free
What is an open source ticketing system?
An open source ticketing system is software that service teams use to document customer issues. The system helps these teams correctly route, resolve, and track all their customers’ problems and requests.
Open source support ticket systems are unique in that anyone is free to inspect, modify, and enhance the underlying code that’s used to build the ticketing system.
Just like a proprietary or “closed source” ticketing system, open source ticket software also provide features beyond ticket management such as:
- Omnichannel support
- Knowledge base management
- Live chat
- Tracking and measurement
Why is an open source help desk required?
Opensource help desk software is required when your business needs a system to help facilitate the organization, prioritization, and consolidation of your customers’ service requests. Provided you have the development resources, open source help desks enable you to customize and control your help desk to your exact specifications.
What are the advantages of an open source ticketing system?
Open source ticket systems make their source codes freely available to view, use, and edit. There are a couple of main advantages to this arrangement. First, the software itself isn’t for sale, so you don’t have to pay a licensing fee.
Instead, you’ll pay for tech support, hosting, maintenance, and setup. And since anyone can freely edit the software, you can create your own improvements and customizations as you see fit. When it comes to a ticketing system, open source means powerful versatility, especially in the hands of a strong development team.
Let’s break the pros and cons of an open source ticketing system a bit more.
Pros of an open source help desk ticketing system
Free software can fit into any budget: Not all open source software is technically free. While programmers can charge for an opensource helpdesk, the open source license may require them to make the source code available. Therefore, it’s typically more common for open source developers to charge for services and support. In either case, though, open source help desks are much more budget-friendly than proprietary systems.
Easy to scale: When you want to scale an open source support ticket system, you can simply create more logins for agents. Plus, with open source, you can configure it with the features you want when you’re ready for them, rather than being locked into a certain paid tier.
Unlimited control and customization: When you download opensource helpdesk software, you can do anything the source code is capable of. With savvy developers, you can even build more modifications and integrations on top of the software. In essence, you have full control to customize and configure your software as you see fit.
Additionally, since your dev team has access to the full source code, you don’t need to wait on a third party for updates or bug fixes.
Transparency: With a proprietary system, you’re at the mercy of a single third-party’s programmers. But popular open source ticketing systems are open to large networks of developers. That means more eyes are on the code, and bugs can be found and fixed quickly.
Cons of an open source help desk ticketing system
Potentially time-consuming modifications: With a help desk like Zendesk’s, all it takes is a plan upgrade to access a whole bevy of new features. But with fully open source systems, modifying the code can take multiple days—or weeks if your developers are busy. And if you modify code or fix a bug, you may be expected to share that code with the rest of the community of users.
Minimal third-party support: Tech support is usually weak with an open source ticketing system. With a free system, you might only find support in forums where people help out in their spare time.
Security vulnerabilities: Open source programs can be more vulnerable to malicious code, and you’re responsible for reviewing the program to ensure security.
Ongoing maintenance: Many open source ticket systems require you to host the program data yourself, which means you need to keep up on updates and maintenance.
Lack of sophisticated features: Most systems lack higher features like omnichannel ticketing, prebuilt integrations, and automation.
If you’re looking for a completely free option, or if you have a strong development team ready to go, an open source ticket system could be for you.
On the other hand, if you have a lean team, or if you want a full feature set that’s ready to go, Zendesk is your best option. Zendesk’s API and SDK tools allow you to build almost anything you want on the platform, which makes it the best of both worlds.
How to set up open source help desk software?
To set up open source help desk software, you’ll need to first download the source code from the vendor’s website. From there, the process is highly dependent on your operating system and the help desk software that you’re downloading. So you’ll need to bring in a developer to guide the installation.
After the software is installed, you’ll need to work with your development team (or the vendor’s team) to implement the software to your specifications. At this stage is when you’ll need to start integrating all your support channels, setting up agents, user permissions, ticketing rules, categorizations, and internal communication channels.
What are the most important features of an open source helpdesk?
- Present and future service channel support
The best opensource help desk software is the one that enables your agents to effectively service customers in the channels they’re already comfortable with. So it’s critical that any IT helpdesk you’re considering can work with the channels you currently use as well as the channels you may use in the future. Common service channels include email, social media, live chat, and voice calls.
- Ticket management
Typical ticket management features include custom fields for categorization and tagging. These features enable your managers and agents to organize, consolidate, assign, track, and resolve tickets. They also form the basis for triggering certain time-saving automations. For example, you could create an automation in which any tickets tagged in a certain category are automatically routed to the appropriate agent or department.
Customer service interactions are often a goldmine for valuable information about how your customers are using your products or services. So your ticketing system must have capability to analyze and extract insights from the data flowing through it. Metrics your system should support include:
- Average ticket resolution time
- Overall resolution rate
- First contact resolution rate
- First response time
- NPS, CSAT, CES
- Native Integrations
Chances are, your company is using more than one piece of software for various business processes. And that software often contains important data, such as customer characteristics, that your open source help desk software can use. So native integrations that connect popular tools are a key feature for an effective ticketing system.
When a help desk is open source, you can build any native integrations you may need. But that also means you may have to build many of the integrations you need yourself, which takes time and resources. Unlike proprietary software, open source systems typically have fewer native integrations.
Fundamentally, a ticketing system’s value comes from its ability to quickly match customers and agents with the most relevant resource at the most relevant time. The faster and more accurate your software is at helping your agents and customers find what they need, the better your customer service will be. So it stands to reason that features that enable you to automatically route, update, categorize, and tag tickets are among the most important capabilities of your opensource helpdesk software.
Top 10 open source helpdesk ticketing systems
Corteza Service Cloud
Zendesk is an open API ticket system which means third-party developers can build new integrations on our platform. Unlike other open source ticketing systems, Zendesk software offers all the advantages of open source ticketing without your team having to build a system from scratch. Zendesk’s open API ticketing system software gives your team all the tools they need to build as much—or as little—as they want.
Developer tools at your fingertips
Zendesk provides a set of API and SDK (software developer kit) developer tools to help you customize and maximize how Zendesk functionalities can support your business. These include:
The Zendesk Web Widget
Easily embed omnichannel support on any webpage with a single snippet of code. Using the web widget, your customers can search help center articles, submit a support request, ask for a callback, find support contact info, or start a live chat.
The Zendesk Web SDK
While the web widget gives you the ability to make many simple customizations within your Zendesk dashboard, you can take things a step further with our web software development kit (SDK). With this SDK, you can:
- Create a truly unique chat experience with customized windows, notifications, and more
- Control the behavior of your widget with custom logic and actions
- Support any localization strategy with no limitations on language support
The Zendesk Mobile SDK
Zendesk’s mobile SDK functions similarly to the web SDK, except the former is built to help you integrate Zendesk live chat, Answer Bot, and Support on mobile apps for iOS and Android. Among other things, the mobile SDK allows you to:
- Integrate omnichannel support natively into any mobile app—iOS, Android, and Unity
- Can install and configure the SDK right out-of-the-box
- Customize features like colors, fonts, and UI behavior
- Build a custom navigation for an even more personalized user journey
The Zendesk Apps Framework
With the Zendesk Apps Framework, you can build custom apps and integrations specifically for the Zendesk ticketing system and live chat software. Our Apps Framework is built on open standards, which means your developers don’t have to feel restricted as they create. Instead, developers can use their favorite libraries and frameworks for their ideal look, feel, and interactivity.
Zendesk Apps Framework also comes with a development toolkit to simplify testing and deployment to production. So your business can get these apps and integrations to customers as quickly and efficiently as possible.
If you’re considering HelpScout, which is a proprietary system, FreeScout is also worth a look. It’s actually a clone of HelpScout that’s available as free, self-hosted software. What that means is with FreeScout you’ll have access to HelpScout’s features and interface with customer support software that’s open source.
FreeScout is a PHP and MySQL-based application, so with the right developers, you can obtain this powerful software at a fraction of the usual cost. With all the help desk features you’d want, from robust reporting to ticket management, FreeScout is a worthy open source ticketing system.
Features of FreeScout
- Unlimited users and tickets
- Mobile support
- Multilingual support
- Email integration
- Auto replies
- Multiple-recipient conversations
- Customer satisfaction ratings
- Tags and categorizations
osTicket’s opensource helpdesk provides your team with robust customization options that allow you to configure the software to the unique needs of your agents and customers. You can configure custom ticket fields and add custom help topics for customers to choose from so your agents have the exact information they need to get right to the problem at hand.
Agents can also create personalized views of the ticket queue using custom filter criteria and consolidate that list even further by specifying only the information they need to see. osTicket even lets you customize your installation further than most by allowing you to select whichever features you need before you download the software.
Features of osTicket
- Custom fields
- Custom columns and queues
- Ticket filters
- Help topics
- Collision avoidance
- SLA support
- Customer portal
- Internal to-do lists
For service teams who need to rein in customer queries and organize internal communication, Zammad provides the structure necessary to do so. With features like user groups, parent/child relationships, internal and external knowledge bases, and full-text search, both customers and agents get the answers they need as quickly as possible.
Zammad offers multiple options for purchasing its software including fully open-source, self-hosted, and managed hosting plans. You can download the source code from Zammad.org and run it on your own or purchase a self-hosted plan from Zammad.com which includes consulting and development services.
Key features of Zammad
- Ticket change history
- Knowledge base (for agents and customers)
- Custom fields
- Support for 30+ languages
- Live chat
- Custom branding
- Full-text search
- Individual ticket templates
- Native integrations
As the name suggests, SuiteCRM is technically customer relationship management software, but it can easily double as a help desk and ticketing system. The quickest way to use SuiteCRM as a help desk is to use their Cases module which allows your service agents to create, update, assign, and resolve customer issues. You can find the Cases module (and any other SuiteCRM module) in the SuiteCRM Store.
At every stage of the issue management process, agents can update and track conversation threads to create a robust record that’s automatically registered in the CRM. And as an open source solution, SuiteCRM offers a great combination of extensibility along with its wide range of pre-made modules.
Key features of SuiteCRM
- Case management
- Pre-made modules
- Business data dashboards
- No-code configuration studio
- Custom personas
Designed as a free, open source alternative to the Salesforce Service Cloud, Corteza’s Service Solution helps your service teams deliver quick, customized customer service across multiple channels. Within Corteza Service Solution, agents see a 360-degree view of their cases, contacts, and accounts.
Plus, detailed service and product info and knowledge bases are easily integrated, empowering agents to provide customers the answers they need. Corteza also includes robust reporting insights, showing agents and managers time and cost breakdowns, KPI dashboards, and more.
Key features of Corteza
- Account and case management
- Knowledge base
- Process automation
- Role-based permissions
- Advanced reporting
- Record importing and exporting
- Responsive design
- Enterprise messaging
- Drag-and-drop page editor
Don’t let its bare-bones interface fool you; OpenSupports is a powerful open source ticketing system that, when properly implemented, empowers your service agents with effective ticket management capabilities. In OpenSupports, every staff member is assigned to one or more departments which determines the type of issues they respond to.
You can also use OpenSupports to create articles and topics for frequently asked questions and common customer issues. And customers can submit and manage their support tickets with or without creating an account. As an open source help desk, all of OpenSupports’ underlying code is conveniently stored in GitHub so you can report and fix bugs or propose new features.
Key features of OpenSupports
- Knowledge base articles
- Department-level assignments
- Unlimited staff members
- Intuitive admin panel
- Filter and search tools
To get started with Handesk, all you have to do is download the source code from GitHub. Of course, you’ll need development expertise to fully implement Handesk but if your developers are familiar with PHP or the Laravel framework, you’ll be ahead of the game. Handesk is a Laravel-based application and Laravel is an open-source PHP framework.
Once it’s implemented, Handesk helps your sales and services team nurture leads and resolve customer issues. That way, both existing and prospective customers get the excellent experience they deserve. And to top it off, Handesk is completely free—other than the cost of paying your developers to implement, configure, and manage it.
Key features of Handesk
- REST API
- Issue tracker
- Multiple teams
- Email-based ticketing
- Reports and analytics
- Multi-language support
If you’re looking for an open source helpdesk system with all the essential features, plus serious data security, Helpy is worth serious consideration. Along with a self-service knowledge base, email-based ticketing, and live chat, Helpy features privacy-minded capabilities such as data masking, powerful permission settings, and no third-party data sharing.
Helpy is also designed to facilitate service operations on every channel. All emails and tickets created through live chat, social media, and other channels are consolidated in the Helpy dashboard where they can immediately be assigned to agents who can use convenient features like canned responses to resolve issues quickly and completely.
Key features of Helpy
- Designed for self-hosting
- Data masking and SSO
- Employee permissions
- Consolidated ticket dashboard
- Ticket tracking
- Canned responses
- Email notifications
- Self-service help center
10. Request Tracker
While you can freely download and deploy Request Tracker if you have the resources to maintain and host the software yourself, RT also offers various managed hosting plans. In addition to the managed hosting plans, you can choose between various levels (including a free one) of self-hosted plans.
Included in many of RT’s various offerings your service agents will have the features they need to create workflows, manage customer issues, set detailed permissions, and more. In short, RT provides the infrastructure you need to serve both the needs of your agents and your customers. Since it’s built on Bootstrap, developers who have worked with Bootstrap will be well-equipped to customize RT to your needs.
Key features of Request Tracker
- Configured automation scripts
- Ticket management
- Browser and email-based interface
- Self and managed hosting options
- Charts and reports
- Knowledge base
- 25+ language support
Summary of the best open source helpdesk software
How to choose the best open source ticketing system?
Your open source ticketing system is the backbone of your service operation. So choosing the right one is not a decision to be taken lightly. To ensure you choose the best option for your team, first think through the answers to the following five questions:
- Can the open source ticketing system integrate with your existing tools?
To a great extent, the effectiveness of your ticketing system depends on your existing tools. For example, an open source ticketing system that can’t pull data from your CRM will make it more difficult for your service agents to get the context they need to effectively serve your customers.
So as you’re evaluating your help desk and ticketing software options, make sure you pay careful attention to how the software works with your existing tools. Fortunately, in most cases, open source software can be integrated with other tools; it’s just a matter of how difficult it is to set up the integration.
- What does it take to build new integrations onto the open source helpdesk ticket system?
Once you’ve determined if your opensource helpdesk software integrates with your existing tools, it’s time to figure out what it takes to build those integrations. Depending on your existing tools and the helpdesk software itself, building an integration might take no more than an hour or two. But other integrations may take multiple developers days or weeks to fully complete.
Therefore, it’s important to have your developers take a look at any help desk software you’re considering so they can tell you what it’ll take to integrate it into your existing tech stack.
- Will this open source support ticket system work if your company grows?
Whether you’re opting for a closed or open-source ticket system, it needs to be able to scale. After all, if your company grows and your system doesn’t support enough users (whether customers or agents) you’ll have to replace the entire system. Not only will this cause unnecessary growing pains, it’ll be especially costly and difficult to switch to a new ticketing system while trying to stay ahead of growing customer demands.
- How intuitive is the ticketing system for agents and customers?
Compared to proprietary ticketing systems, open source systems tend to be more hit-or-miss in terms of usability. This makes it all the more important to include your agents in the ticketing system selection process so you can gather their feedback on your prospective system’s ease of use. If possible, you should also run some tests using the software from the customer’s perspective to ensure their experience is as intuitive as possible.
Always remember, the most sophisticated, powerful features aren’t much use if no one but your most tech-savvy agents and customers know how to make them work.
- What portion of your service operation does the ticketing system automate?
Simply put, what makes a ticketing system valuable to your organization is its return on investment. But quantifying certain aspects of the system, such as ease of use, is not always possible. Instead, you can look at what portion of your existing service process you can automate with a prospective ticketing system. That way, you can quantify the time and associated cost of manually executing these service processes.
While it’s not the only metric to consider, the amount of service you can effectively automate gives you a very good idea of a particular system’s ROI.
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