A help desk is an information and assistance resource that troubleshoots problems with computers or similar products. Corporations often provide help desk support to their customers via a toll-free number, website and/or e-mail. There are also in-house help desks geared toward providing the same kind of help for employees only.
Some schools offer classes in which they perform similar tasks as a help desk. In the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, within companies adhering to ISO/IEC 20000 or seeking to implement IT Service Management best practice, a Help Desk may offer a wider range of user centric services and be part of a larger Service Desk.
A typical help desk has several functions. It provides the users a central point to receive help on various computer issues. The help desk typically manages its requests via help desk software, such as an incident tracking system, that allows them to track user requests with a unique ticket number. This can also be called a Local Bug Tracker or LBT. The help desk software can often be an extremely beneficial tool when used to find, analyze, and eliminate common problems in an organization's computing environment.
The user notifies the help desk of his or her issue, and the help desk issues a ticket that has details of the problem. If the first level support technician is able to solve the issue, the ticket is closed and updated with documentation of the solution to allow other help desk technicians to reference in the future. If the issue needs to be escalated, it will be updated, noting what was attempted by the technician and dispatched to second level support.
Larger help desks have a person or team responsible for managing the tickets and are commonly called queue managers or queue supervisors. The queue manager is responsible for the ticket queues, which can be setup in various ways depending on the help desk size or structure. Typically, larger help desks have several teams that are experienced in working on different issues.
The queue manager will assign a ticket to one of the specialized teams based on the type of issue. Some help desks may have phone systems with ACD splits that ensure that calls about specific topics are put through to analysts with experience or knowledge on that topic.
Many help desks are also strictly rostered. Time is set aside for analysts to perform tasks such as following up problems, returning phone calls, and answering questions via e-mail. The roster system ensures that all analysts get time to follow up on calls, and also ensures that analysts are always available to take incoming phone calls. As the incoming phone calls are random in nature, help desk agent schedules are often maintained using an Erlang C calculation.
The deskside team (sometimes known as desktop support) is responsible for the desktops, laptops and peripherals such as PDAs. The help desk will assign the desktop team the second level deskside issues that the first level was not able to solve. They set up and configure computers for new users and are typically responsible for any physical work relating to the computers such as repairing software or hardware issues and moving workstations to another location.
Some companies have a telecom team that is responsible for the phone infrastructure such as PBX, voicemail, VOIP, telephone sets, modems and fax machines. They are responsible for configuring and moving telephone numbers, voicemail setup and configuration and are assigned these types of issues from the help desk.
Companies with custom application software may also have an applications team, who are responsible for development of any in house software. The Applications team may be assigned problems such as software bugs from the Help Desk. Requests for new features or capabilities to in-house software that come through the Help Desk are also assigned to Applications groups.