Help desk

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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 single point of contact, to receive help on various computer issues. The help desk typically manages its requests via help desk software, such as an issue tracking system, that allows them to track user requests with a unique number. This can also be called a "Local Bug Tracker" or LBT. There are many software applications to support the help desk function. Some are targeting enterprise level help desk (rather large) and some are targeting departmental needs.

In the mid 1990s, Middleton [1] at Robert Gordon University found through his research that many organizations had begun to recognize that the real value of their help desk(s) derives not solely from their reactive response to users' issues but from the help desk's unique position where it communicates daily with numerous customers or employees. This gives the help desk the ability to monitor the user environment for issues from technical problems to user preferences and satisfaction. Such information gathered at the help desk can be valuable for use in planning and preparation for other units in information technology.


Large help desks have different levels to handle different types of questions. The first-level help desk is prepared to answer the most commonly asked questions, or provide resolutions that often belong in an FAQ or knowledge base. Typically, an issue tracking system has been implemented that allows a logging process to take place at the onset of a call. If the issue isn't resolved at the first-level, the issue is escalated to a second, higher, level that has the necessary resources to handle more difficult calls. Organizations may have a third, higher level, line of support which often deals with software specific needs, such as updates and bug-fixes that affect the client directly.

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