osTicket – Review
Recently at work, we noticed that IT topics from programming requests to help desk had no documentation. Furthermore, if an employee called, left a message, only that IT member was potentially aware. Additionally, an issue occurred where one staff member missed a help request email, and the affected manager took it personally. This manager used the team members excellent response reputation as evidence that he/she had intentionally ignored him/her. How do you like that those beans, eh? Thus, the search for a quality ticketing system began.
osTicket is a widely used and trusted open source support ticket system. It seamlessly routes inquiries created via email, web-forms and phone calls into a simple, easy-to-use, multi-user, web-based customer support platform. osTicket comes packed with more features and tools than most of the expensive (and complex) support ticket systems on the market. The best part is, it’s completely free.
The above statement is straight from the osTicket.com website. We’ll go over the features shortly. However, I immediately appreciated how aesthetically pleasing the osTicket website looks. The site shows an interest in promoting their product with a loud “we care about this!” statement. When investigating potential solutions, I’m immediately turned off by a lackluster website. It does not mean I will not take the time to evaluate a product, but it hurts a little. Especially considering how easy erecting a professional looking website is these days, something that any self-respecting programmer or IT professional should be able to do. osTicket advertises the following features. We will also consider how simple the product is to get up and running in a stable configuration.
- Custom Form Fields
- Rich text HTML for enhanced visual experience
- Ticket Filters
- Help Topics
- Agent Collision Avoidance
- Assign and Transfer
- Internal Notes
- Service Level Agreements
- Customer Portal
- Dashboard Reports
- Plugins <- Important for Windows users. Not many of those around right?
Custom Form Fields
osTicket allows for the customization of form fields, so that end users see questions related to their problem. These areas are shown to the user when they establish a new ticket. A low-resolution GIF should give you the basic idea here.
Form Field Setup
Form fields are not too difficult to set up. To provide drop-down lists and various options that reflect the user needs, you access two distinct areas within the program. You must access Help Topics within the Manage submenu located in the Admin Panel. Furthermore, Once you create a help topic, you establish the form fields in the form tab of the newly created help topic. You add a custom form from a drop-down menu that lists created custom forms. To create a custom form, you must use the forms tab under the manage tab. In this menu, you add a new custom form menu, and after that, you add it to the help topic. This process is more complicated than necessary, in short, these two areas should be accessible from each other.
Rich Text HTML
Rich text or HTML allows for markup in staff replies and email. (Assuming your email server permits it). In any case, osTicket allows you or any agent involved to color code response, include pictures, gifs and much more. A user experience enhancement. Want to make sure the reader pays attention to a specific point? Highlight and bold that statement in red. This feature worked accurately and as described except for one problem. In v1.10.1, there is a problem when using drag and drop on an image. Saving the image locally and using drag and drop always fixes the issue. When this problem presents itself, it results in a duplicate key database error. This error is not significant and does not cause any problems with data integrity. Below you can see an HTML table created in the comment. Unfortunately, it seems that some CSS features do not function.
Ticket Filters and Agent Collision Avoidance
osTicket does an excellent job with not only filters but also agent collision avoidance. osTicket allows the agent to perform a custom search on close status, user, department, topic and any other field added to tickets. What it lacks, however, is a method for custom columns in the ticket dashboard. To change the columns that appear in the ticket list, you have to edit the software code. Not difficult given its open source nature, however, too much to ask the casual admin to do. The software will inform you if another agent is editing a ticket and also timeout the other agent if they leave their desk while doing so.
Autoresponder and Internal Notes
osTicket permits internal admin notes in a lot of locations. These locations vary from the actual ticket to the knowledge base. Useful anytime you want to make a note about a rude customer or not overcomplicate an article on why a solution works. All notes receive a date, time and author stamp ensuring that who, why, and when is never brought into question. The auto-responder comes with the most common email templates filled out and ready to go. These templates are easy to adjust, the interface informs you of available variables such as the agent name. Many variables exist and are easy to implement and replace, in truth, nothing noted as missing here. Both the auto-responder and the internal notes operate just as described and expected.
Service Level Agreements & Customer portal
Service Level Agreements (SLA) are easy to configure, and assignment is a breeze. Setting up an SLA includes establishing entries for name, grace period, status, transient, overdue alerts, and internal notes (See above). Easy to establish, easy to connect to a help topic. Just the way we like it. The customer portal is very straightforward as can be seen in the below image. The osTicket software allows for the assignment of ticket collaborators, this automatically notifies them via email and sends all future communication on the ticket as well. The user, when logged in, can view their current tickets, their closed tickets and any tickets they are collaborating on as well. My team found this immediately useful, gone are the incidence where an individual rewrites history in their favor. We now have documented and stored proof of what was said and what solution as it relates to the problem.
Dashboard reports through osTicket leave a lot to be desired. However, what it provides is adequate and delivers general details on agent performance. If you need detailed agent reports, low-cost options are available from multiple providers. One such report option is at this link. We have not purchased this plugin, we currently do not need the additional reporting. There are two confusing points to remember with the dashboard, firstly, when first installed no data is available, and the chart will display NaN (Not a Number). Secondly, the date range with the label “today” is not the current day as you might think but yesterday, a strange choice. These two components together mean that your graph will not show any data until the next day. I banged my head against a wall for a while trying to figure out why my test tickets where not showing up on the graph.
osTicket supports plugins, a critical component. The active directory plugin allows the software to connect to a domain controller and automatically add and sync users into osTicket. This active directory sync meant that we did not have to give our users a new username and password, this would have been a deal breaker. The plugin was easy to install and connected right away. Once installed, users logged in using their username and password for active directory and most everyone found the process of creating a ticket very easy. The most significant obstacle my team encountered dealt mainly with the opposition to a new process. A problem quickly solved with proper management in place.
We did try one other solution. My team also installed and tested the “free” solution from Spiceworks. This product was much easier to install, standard click the icon and wait for the progress bar to hit 100%. It doesn’ t get easier than that right? The charts also appeared to show more data and internet explorer let customers skip the login altogether. However, the interface felt very cluttered, and we were immediately turned off by all the advertisements. Especially the advertisements that appear to be from instant messaging services, but are not. Once both products passed the evaluation, we determined that osTicket had everything we needed at a fantastic price, free. The choice was simple. It’s not a perfect product, but its the best product you’ll find for the price. If you are determined to spend money, you can always pay for their official support as well.
osTicket turned out to be an excellent open source product. I found it easy to set up, about as difficult as WordPress. Of course, this is not as easy as some commercial products with their one button click installations. The initial form setup is more detached than necessary forcing navigation to two distinct tabbed areas, and the default dashboard report is not as detailed and customizable as we would like, but it still provides a good general view of activity. All in all, osTicket is a solid choice for help desk software and won’t disappoint. If you are in the market for help desk software, osTicket deserves your consideration. Download the main product here, tab over for the downloads once on the page.