Help desk Solutions – A Review of Desk.com

desk-com-logo-white-thumbAre you shopping for a new help desk solution?  We’ve recently made a switch and wanted to write a quick review of the Salesforce desk.com product.  A little bit of history.  We have been a faithful (if not patient) user of the Spiceworks helpdesk platform for the past 4+ years.  If anything, we are a little picky about our tools especially when it comes to cost and features.  Before Spiceworks, we used Kaseya which was a good tool, but difficult to work with and costly for our organization (which at the time was a single site).

As our organization has grown, we needed a tool that would best allow us to handle multiple sites, multiple departments, etc.  After doing quite a bit of “asking around” and research, we found ourselves looking at the new desk.com product that is part of the Salesforce umbrella.  For those of you who who work in the non-profit space and don’t know about the Salesforce Foundation, you really should.  The Salesforce Foundation provides deep, deep discounts on their flagship products for 501c3 organizations.  For example, we are using the Enterprise Edition of Salesforce for one of our ministries at no cost to us.  We actually get up to 10 licenses for free, and additional licenses are deeply discounted.

Ok, enough about that.  Let’s talk about the Desk.com help desk product.  First, the cost.  Today, Salesforce provides an 80% discount for non-profits.  That’s right, 80% off.  Licensing is done by “agents”, not users… meaning you have have as many people as you want creating tickets as help desk users and you are only paying for your help desk workers, or agents.  For us, we started out with 9 agent licenses, which was enough to cover our IT and Facility Operations teams. To give you a scale of the discounting we received… the regular price for these 9 agents would be $4212 annually.  By doing a one year prepay, you save 25% on top of the 80% that you save as a non-profit.  That means that we got a $4212 solution for $626 annually.

Now $626 is not free, which means it is more expensive than Spiceworks.  True statement.  But when you start to compare feature sets, I think it’s easy to see how we made the switch.  Let talk about features for a bit.

  • Cloud based – Desk is cloud based, meaning never having to deal with putting it on one of your servers.
  • Multiple Departments – Desk works well for multiple departments in a single install.  This was difficult to do with Spiceworks, as you almost had to do a separate install for each department who wanted to use it. We now can do that with ease on a single install.
  • Integration – Desk has a ton of built in integrations with other tools.  You would expect this from a Salesforce product, and you won’t be disappointed.  For example, we easily integrated with HipChat (which we use for team communication) so that every time a new ticket is created, we get a message to our team in HipChat.
  • Mobile apps –  Desk just released a new version of their iPhone/iPad app which is really great.  But even without it, their solution is responsive and beautiful using the web version on a tablet or phone.
  • Customizable knowledge base – While users can still submit tickets by emailing the help desk, they can also use the portal and take advantage of the customizable knowledge base.  It’s pretty amazing and really does help prevent tickets from being created for common issues.
  • Email Workflow – Updating tickets generates and manages the communications back to the user, but even better it allows you to change who the email notifications are sent to, meaning you can add other people into the ticket at any time if you need to widen the scope of the conversation.
  • Tagging – You can create custom tagging for tickets, which can be driven by customizable rules.  For example we have tags for tickets that are “waiting on equipment return”, “waiting on equipment order”, “waiting on user”, or specific to a campus “Fort Worth” or “Dallas”  This allows us to filter based on tags.  The tags for location are automatically generated because the user creating the ticket has a campus associated with them.  Ticket tagging in this case is automatic.
  • Search – It’s search.  I don’t need to explain it.  But it’s awesome.
  • API – As you would imagine from Salesforce, it has a solid API which makes integration possible.  For example, we are using our existing login system for our staff users to authenticate them via our portal.  They login and then are automatically connected to the desk.com product using those credentials.
  • Usability – I’ve saved the best for last.  This is simply the easiest product I have used for help desk.  From a UI/UX perspective, they’ve done it well.  Need to see the details of a ticket?  Just mouse-over the subject line.  Need to send a response, update, and resolve a ticket.  One button.  Want to create a macro that will do a canned response to a certain type of problem, send it, note the ticket, and resolve it?  Easy.

Bottom line, we have been very happy with the transition to the new tool.  If you are looking for a flexible, easy to use, help desk product, you should take a look at desk.com.

With this great phone, who needs wi-fi? Everyone, apparently.

lteI remember when the promises of LTE on mobile carriers made me question (for a moment at least) our decision of deploying campus-wide wireless.  Had we made a mistake rolling out all of the capacity? But as time passed, I’ve come to realize what a sound investment it is.  AT&T and Verizon continue to make their fast LTE internet service painfully expensive, and worse… capped to make it completely unusable.  I thought this article from bgr.com summed up the situation very well.  “Verizon has instituted a system where I actually have incentives to not use its network.”

You can read the entire article here:

http://bgr.com/2013/09/27/verizon-att-lte-data-cap-criticism/

What has your experience been with mobile carriers?  Do you find yourself using free wi-fi as much as possible?

Gorilla Arm

silverback_gorillaThose who know me well have probably heard me talk about Microsoft’s gamble with Windows 8 and the touchscreen experience.  I think the new version of Windows does show a TON of innovation, but I’m not sure it’s the kind of innovation that everyone wants.  In a touchscreen environment, like the Surface, it may actually make sense.  But until the PC is really dead and we’ve given up on having monitors sitting in front of us (even touchscreen ones), the mouse and keyboard is a great experience that most of us really like… AND it’s intuitive enough that even kids grasp the concepts easily.

Of all of the articles I’ve read on the topic, this one from ScientificAmerican.com does a great job explaining the concept they call “gorilla arm.”

When Windows 7 came out, offering a touch mode for the first time, I spent a few weeks living with a couple of touch-screen PCs. It was a miserable experience. Part of the problem was that the targets—buttons, scroll bars and menus that were originally designed for a tiny arrow cursor—were too small for fat human fingers.

The other problem was the tingling ache that came from extending my right arm to manipulate that screen for hours, an affliction that has earned the nickname of gorilla arm. Some experts say gorilla arm is what killed touch computing during its first wave in the early 1980s.

Read the entire article here.

What do you think?  Do you believe that the mouse and keyboard are going away any time soon?  Can you do your job in a touchscreen-only environment?

 

Finally… Google Maps is back on the iPhone.

Google-Maps-iconYesterday, Google released Google Maps for the iPhone into the App Store.  It’s great to finally have an alternative to the Apple Maps fiasco that hit us last year.  I think this review of the new Google Maps app is spot on…

Map App for iPhone Steers Right

Google Maps for iPhone won’t be for everyone, although it’s pretty amazing what they’ve released with this version 1.0 app.  If you are shaky about using Google, I also highly recommend the Waze app.  If you are looking for really great social integration with a maps app, Waze is for you.  It is ESPECIALLY helpful in a traffic situation where cars are stopped and you want to know what’s going on… simply fire up Waze and it will not only reroute you around the snarl, but you can also report incidents, speed traps, or chat with someone further up the road to find out what’s up.  Amazing use of tech, and also fun because you can “level up” by collecting points as you drive.

So check out the Google Maps app and Waze as an alternative to Apple Maps!

Do you have a favorite map app?