Free Open-Source Help Desk Solution Running on IBM i Appeals to Users and Management

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osTicket has paid support if you need it, but a robust user community is there to help the uninitiated.

 

In a recent episode of Help Desk, the Web comics cartoon series that parodies the computer industry, Alex (the cartoon's protagonist) is confronted by a caller who asks for a list of questions to which Alex knows he has answers. The reason? "It seems like every time I call, you can't help me," the anonymous voice says. "Whatever problem I have just so happens to be the one issue that is completely out of your hands." The caller's solution to this dilemma is to work the problem backward. "Why don't you give me a list of topics you know you have an answer to, and I'll pick one of them?"

 

Help desk work can be trying, and people who answer these crazy questions need the best tools available. Sadly, the best tools often cost too much, so the result is that often the company just stays with the solution it has been using forever.

 

Enter osTicket, an open-source support-ticket system that may not have every feature one could dream of, but it has just the right features to get the job done—and the nice thing about it is that it's free. It also runs on the IBM i as a PHP application on Zend Server and can access data in DB2 for i through MySQL or Zend's DBi, the MySQL replacement for IBM i.

 

Now a lot of open-source software claims to be easy to install and configure—until you actually get down into the trenches and try to do it. osTicket has a lot of user testimonials to the effect that it truly is simple to install and configure, and it happens to be one of the favorites of Jon Paris of Partner400 in his "Fast, Free Applications for your IBM i" presentation. Paris is a big believer in open-source software on IBM i since it allows programmers or administrators to quickly satisfy user requests while avoiding the frustration that could eventually force them to turn to a Windows solution.

 

While the osTicket software is free and open source, the osTicket team that developed it earns a living by providing support to SMB and enterprise customers that would like to see a real policeman at the door when they dial 911. When you have a program that integrates inquiries created by email, Web-based forms, and the telephone (through staff), and it's all in the same MySQL database or passed through to DB2, you can't help but get into some interesting technical challenges. Nevertheless, osTicket has a robust user community and a very active forum, so if you want to dive into installing and configuring it yourself, you likely will be successful. And if you should run into sticky wickets, there's a support team available should you need it (that was always my backup plan too when I would begin dismantling my ex-wife's car on a Sunday night).

 

Nevertheless, take courage from the IT manager who wrote, "osTicket really is easy to install and configure. I can see that it is quite configurable if you want to tweak it, but I could not believe how quick I was up and running with a ticket system allowing email generated tickets with attachments." osTicket comes with its own Web-based installer to help guide the IT manager through the installation process.

 

What you get with the application is:

  • Web and email support with tickets are automatically created from emails and online forms.
  • Automatic replies are sent whenever a new ticket is opened or a new message is received, and email templates are customizable.
  • For frequently asked questions, there are predefined responses.
  • osTicket can attach an internal note to a ticket for other staff members.
  • You can categorize incoming tickets by department and restrict staff members' access to a ticket based on the department as part of the role-based access configuration features.
  • Alerts and notices are configurable with flexible settings so that staff and users are kept up to date by email alerts.
  • Tickets can be assigned to a staff member or department and transferred between staff.
  • Login is simplified by just using the ticket ID and email address of the user so no user account or registration is required.
  • All support requests and their responses are archived.

 

The world of open source has changed the dynamics of IBM i forever, and RPG programmers and system administrators need to be taking advantage of the many PHP solutions available online that can be up and running for users quickly at very nominal cost.

Other Free IBM i Apps?

If you have free business apps you're particularly fond of, tell Executive Editor Victoria Mack by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You may see your favorite app in a future edition of MC TNT!

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