Saturday, August 28, 2010

Open and Free Help Desk Ticketing Systems

osTicket
http://osticket.com

osTicket is a popular open source support ticket system. It seamlessly integrates inquiries created via email, phone and web-based forms into a simple easy-to-use multi-user web interface.

osTicket is designed to help you streamline support requests and improve customer support efficiency by providing staff with tools they need to deliver fast, effective and measurable support.

osTicket comes with a web-based installer to simplify the installation process

Features include:

* Web and email support: Users can submit tickets either by email or from a web portal
* Auto responses: Users (and staff) will receive auto-generated emails informing them of the status of their support request with customizable mail templates
* Internal notes: Staff can add internal notes on tickets to help keep track of progress
* Alerts: Staff will receive auto-generated email alerts when a ticket has been assigned to them
* Role-based access: Various levels of access that allow staff to access specific features
* Assign/transfer tickets: Each ticket can be assigned to a staff member or transferred to a different staff member
* Various levels of priority for tickets
* Auto-refresh support
* Captcha support to reduce spam

Zentrack
http://www.zentrack.net


Zentrack is designed to be a highly flexible, quality, project management and help desk solution.

It has a configurable user interface, with administration and internationalization. It works with different databases and platforms.

Features include:

* Workflow and Data Management
o Custom fields - add your own dates, numbers, strings and lists
o Behaviors, complex dependencies and lists
o Enforce approval and testing
o Track hours, estimates and deadlines
* Interfaces and Adaption
o Secure customer portal
o Email gateway for creating and responding to tickets
o Reminders for overdue items
o REST/HTTP API
* Usability:
o Customizable
o Control access on screen-by-screen, field-by-field basis
o Keyboard shortcusts
o Compact and simple design

Roundup
http://roundup.sourceforge.net


Roundup is a simple-to-use and install issue-tracking system with command-line, web and e-mail interfaces.

It is based on the design from Ka-Ping Yee in the Software Carpentry "Track" design competition.

Roundup manages a number of issues (with flexible properties such as "description", "priority", and so on) and provides the ability to: (a) submit new issues, (b) find and edit existing issues, and (c) discuss issues with other participants.

The system will facilitate communication among the participants by managing discussions and notifying interested parties when issues are edited.

One of the major design goals for Roundup that it be simple to get going. Roundup is therefore usable "out of the box" with any python 2.3+ (but not 3+) installation.

It doesn't even need to be "installed" to be operational, though an install script is provided.

It comes with two issue tracker templates (a classic bug/feature tracker and a minimal skeleton) and four database back-ends (anydbm, sqlite, mysql and postgresql).

Features include:

* Simple to use
o Accessible through the web, email, command-line or Python programs
o Track bugs, features, user feedback, sales opportunities, milestones
o Automatically keeps a full history of changes to issues with configurable verbosity and easy access to information about who created or last modified any item in the database
o Issues have their own mini mailing list (nosy list)
o Users may sign themselves up, there may be automatic signup for incoming email and users may handle their own password reset requests
* Highly configurable
* Fast and scalable
o Database indexes are automatically added for those backends that support them (SQLite, MySQL and PostgreSQL)
* Simple to install
* Runs as a daemon process, CGI script[6] or alternatively using mod_python
* An authorization system, based on roles (of users), classes and objects
* Web interface:
o Fully editable interfaces for listing and display of items
o Extendable to include wizards, parent/meta bug displays
o Differentiates between anonymous, known and admin users
o Authentication of user registration and user-driven password resetting using email and one time keys
o Searching may be performed using many constraints, including a full-text search of messages attached to issues
o File attachments (added through the web or email) are served up with the correct content-type and filename
o Email change messages generated by roundup appear to be sent by the person who made the change, but responses will go back through the nosy list by default
o Flexible access control built around Permissions and Roles with assigned Permissions
o Generates valid HTML4 or XHTML
o Detects concurrent user changes
o Saving and editing of user-defined queries which may optionally be shared with other users

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.

Trouble Ticket Express

Trouble Ticket Express is from the same developer, United Web Coder, as the previous system. However, it offers additional features and functionality, more of what a traditional ticketing system provides.

Like Help Desk Lite, it's a CGI script that installs onto your Linux/Unix or Windows web sever. Third-party web hosting is supported as long as CGI scripting is enabled and sendmail or smtp relay is available. Or you can use their fully hosted service, called SmartAnswer.

Trouble Ticket Express provides more ticket states than Help Desk Lite. Instead of just Pending and Open, it also lets you select Responded, On Hold, and Solved.

Correspondence is also improved, which is a web-based bulletin board style instead of just through your email client.

Customization is easier via HTML templates instead of having to manually edit the script. File attachments, email piping, and external database support are available via modules you can purchase.

There's also a demo for Trouble Ticket Express. For the documentation and support, they provide a full operators manual and have a discussion forum.

eTicket

eTicket is a PHP-based ticketing system, now distributed under a license certified by the Open Source Initiative.

It's an improved and enhanced version of a previous project called osTicket.

It uses a Perl gateway, PHP backend, and MySQL database.

Like other full-featured ticketing systems, it can receive tickets via email messages or a web form.

Additionally, it can include a Captcha verification field on web forms to help prevent SPAM. Plus it includes a configurable Spam Assassin mod for automail.pl.

Try the Demo and see eTicket for yourself. On their site you'll also find online installation and configuration documentation.

For specific questions or issues, you can try the community forum.

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