Google can tell you the difference between yams and sweet potatoes (yams are darker). It can also tell you the difference between bourbon and whiskey (bourbon is just a type of whiskey), and the difference between latitude and longitude (latitude is a position north to south, longitude is a position east to west). However, Google is no help whatsoever in determining the difference between a help desk and a service desk. That’s left up to us.
What Is a Service Desk?
Like the whiskey, the service desk is an all-encompassing term that means the office that provides the services offered by the IT department. The service desk oversees the services of the IT department as a whole, assuring that the right services are offered to users and that the right processes are in place to provide those services. The service desk also keeps those services up to date with current technologies and assures those services are working properly.
What Is a Help Desk?
The help desk is the bourbon — part of the service desk but not all of the service desk. The help desk deals with individual user questions, issues, and problems under the purview of the service desk. The help desk works in ticket resolution. In other words, users open a ticket to ask a question or report a problem. The help desk troubleshoots or resolves the issue for the user. The help desk then closes the ticket, thus ending their responsibility in the matter. The service desk, however, is responsible for tracking the whole of those tickets, identifying recurring issues and problems that need to be resolved once and for all.
It works like this: Suzy in accounting has a problem printing. She calls the help desk, opens a ticket, and the help desk fixes the printing problem, resolving and closing the ticket. Later, those resolved tickets make their way into a report, which goes to the service desk. The service desk notes that Suzy in accounting, Steve in human resources, and Chris in research and development, all experienced printing problems within the last week. The service desk recognizes the pattern and opens a ticket with the help desk to identify and resolve the recurrent issues with printing.
The service desk oversees the IT services as a whole, while the help desk works with individual problems within the grand scheme of the IT environment.
How to Determine if You Need a Help Desk, a Service Desk, or Both
Does your company need a service desk, or a help desk, or both? The answer lies in the size of the organization and the complexity of your IT infrastructure. Larger companies with lots of users and a complex IT infrastructure need both a help desk to address individual user issues, as well as an all-encompassing service desk to oversee the lay of the land. Small-to mid-size businesses might get by with a service desk to monitor the IT environment and utilize a cloud-based help desk service like Samanage’s ITSM solution. Large businesses can also benefit from a cloud-based ITSM solution, which relieves the service desk from mundane user issues and frees them to work on how technologies can better serve the business.
About Kyle Shepard
Kyle is a Senior Manager of the Customer Success team for ITSM at SolarWinds. He works directly with customers to provide ongoing support in service management strategy for their evolving goals. He speaks on webinars and other educational resources in ITSM. He also played college lacrosse.
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