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Which Is Right for You—Help Desk or Service Desk?

Level 10

Help Desk and Service Desk are names that are often interchanged in IT. But, have you ever thought, what does Help Desk and Service Desk meanand how do they differ?

Confused ??


In this article, I’ll take you through the different characteristics of Help Desk and Service Desk, and by analyzing the discussed points, you will be able to understand which tool best suits you and your organization.


A helpdesk is useful when a service needs to be provided for customers (mostly IT users and employees, both inside and outside of an organization). This service needs a multi-threaded troubleshooting approach to maximize its benefits.

Helpdesk provides:

Case management - Ensures all tickets are addressed and resolved in a timely manner. Further, this helps prevent tickets from being overlooked by technicians.

Asset management - Keeps asset information up-to-date. In turn, making it easier for technicians to quickly address and complete tickets. Moreover, you gain access to knowledge base articles related to the issue raised.

SLA’s - These are associated with help desk, but are not business oriented. Rather, they are technology focused. For example, SLA’s like - % of space left in the storage.

Service Desk:

Service Desk comes into the picture when technicians or business administrators need service and or coordination in the IT department. Any business that might integrate with IT for their business needs will then likely need Service Desk in place. In a nutshell, service desk is the point of contact for all IT-related requests and is much more complex and integrated than help desk.

Service Desk provides:

Incident management - Helps customers get back on track (in a productive state), as soon as possible. This can be done by passing information, work around for the issue, or by resolving the issue.

Problem management - Helps customers to identify the root cause of a reported issue.

Change management - Helps making orderly changes to IT infrastructure.

Configuration management - Helps to organize the assets change requests in organizations. The service desk also maintains the Configuration Management Database (CMDB), where all configuration data is saved.

Service desk also helps in the design, execution and maintenance of SLA’s (Service Level Agreement) and OLA (Operating Level Agreements).

So, which is best for you?  Take a look below at a few more things to consider when choosing Help Desk or Service Desk:

Help Desk

Service Desk


To provide excellent technical support.

To provide excellent incident management.


To solve problems efficiently and effectively.

Customer to be back up and running to productivity ASAP.


To have a single point of contact for all technical issues.

Have ITIL framework for IT processes.


IT infrastructure changes to happen in an informal process.

IT processes to be formally defined.


Keep track of the IT assets in the network.

Keep track of configuration changes and the relationships among them using CMDB.


Define to customer how you will solve the issue.

Define only SLA and OLA to customers.


Well, I hope this article helped you get a better understanding on which solution is best for you or your organization. Also, please feel free to fill in more interpretations about the differences between Help Desk and Service Desk in the comments below.

Level 14

Terrific job in putting this together... particularly the "points to consider".  I have never seen anyone take the time to analyze and articulate the differences.

I think the best analogy is that a Service desk is like the server at a restaurant and the help desk are the cooks! (One man's humble opinion).

Level 12

We currently switched from help desk to service desk in the past year. At first it was mostly a name change, but later as we started to implement the remaining elements of service we became even more integrated with our business and a lot more proactive.


We currently have both...the lines have become somewhat blurred.

Level 13

Great explanation.  I view the difference as internal vs. external to our company.  Help Desk to support our internal users (to help them with every day stuff) and the Service Desk as a support vendor providing support services if we can not correct the issue. (mostly hardware related).

Level 11

We currently only have the Helpdesk. Being an ISP, we should really go to a solution such as the Service Desk. I think it would streamline processes and make a better end result in the long run.

Level 11

I think that is what would happen at our line of Business also.

Level 11

As an ISP, this is how I would like to setup our Helpdesk and Service Desk.

Level 10

This is nice. We are moving from Help Desk to Service Desk within my organization.  However, the Web Help Desk tool is till currently more tailored towards help desk operations based on what I see so far, though there are components within WHD that you could say support Service Desk operations.


I thought they both meant the same thing! I can see they are different now. We use a service desk.

Level 17

#6 is the key. Being on a Help Desk turned Service Desk was an experience that was very insightful. The Help Desk days our role was strictly defined. If something was to change it was figured out, and our end as the Help Desk was put into place. We had our role doing more than that was just customer service and building rapport. Of course there were those present at the time when the Help Desk did not do 'Application Support' (Tangent : I always considered it odd that a user would call for basic Excel help when their Job Posting has excel or MS Office Proficiency listed as a requirement, but I digress even though it keeps me in a job) and it was available for them to say - 'We do not provide application support'.  A Strictly Defined Role. Now fast forward to the Service Desk where the customer determines if the issue or service request has been resolved. The old system you could close the ticket if the user replied it would re open the ticket. Even if it was a thank you - and those sometimes are few are far between if you support the right group. So thank you's aside you know that your done, and almost immediately or at least very soon if the customer is unhappy. Even if your reply was to state we did not deal with this issue, or that you created a new ticket and placed that in the queue of the team that would handle it (regardless of time frame), you were good so long as your due diligence was done and you fulfilled your role and obligation. And Management would back you up, there was no nervousness going home at night with an unresolved issue. Now the new system put in place along with the change to the Service Desk - relies on customer feedback to close/resolve the ticket or service request. Some one thought ahead and built in a 3 day auto close if the client does not respond. But the client can reply after the auto close to reopen. The Built in SLA does not consider when the ticket was created nor weekends or holidays (next stage maybe?) and on paper this creates the need for near round clock support. The on call tech can not cover all night. But now your efforts to meet SLA are off, or every ticket gets a low priority just to not miss your window. Essentially the largest change is the customer driven resolution. Our 3 day no reply is a great idea, because without it you end up getting a perpetually unresolved request. Now we see new tickets with a title : unresolved ticket 123456.  eh, just call it Forever unresolved. None of this insight is intended at user shame, and at no point if any Analyst wants to keep their position (maybe everyone's - as outsourcing is big these days) should they project or infer shame for lack of knowledge or the need for help onto or towards any user. The chatter aside, knowing the role of your group will provide the key insights on how to offer the most help, and at the same time make the user feel like you are helping even if all you do is pass the issue along to another group. Interchanged or not, these are two different worlds with different needs and requirements. Defining your role and adhering to specific support topics is far different from the SLA driven cycle of customer based involvement for incident resolution. Both parties need to understand the difference, or at least know what structure is in place. It only builds tension and apprehension when you fail to meet the unrealized expectations of someone who is relying on you for service. The apprehension is what keeps them from calling back and thus finding help in a different group. In the end, your reduced call volume has the potential to make others wonder while you still exist.

Level 10

Thank you cahunt. #6 has been explained in detail.

Level 12

helpdesk is importent....

Level 15

We are moving to the service desk moniker as well.  Great post with both helpful and educational items.

Level 15

Oh, can you elaborate Jfrazier‌ and dasher‌ how you are using help desk and service desk together and what for using each? I'd expect that over time one would move from one to another and stay with one, so this is interesting .

Level 15

Good observations there garciann‌. WHD definitely start with intention to be easy to use, but flexible. Service Desk will almost always bring extra overhead and more load on IT department in terms of managing the Service Desk itself, configuring and maintaining the flows and automation. However as we ass our users growing out of simple needs we actually have ambitions to grow WHD into Service Desk. It is actually pretty close! WHD has some pretty advanced features and flexibility which you would have a hard time finding in other help desks. It's a powerful help desk (some customer would call it service desk already).

What is it in your eyes, that would WHD help to grow into a Service Desk?


Our NOC is more of a service desk while our help desk is for the general user within the company.  They do overlap some....

Level 11

We currently do not use both but I think, as an ISP serving internal and external users, this format would work well. Help desk for internal and Service desk subscribers and Business entities. In my mind, it is easy physical way to separate and draw a line. Business entities need and want to know there is great structure/format with other businesses they are partnering with, even if it is there ISP.


Great blog. Clears the mud

I passed this on to my buddy who manages a Help desk that is run like a Call Center.

Level 10

We ended up going with the term "TechCenter." It has become our "brand."

Level 9

"Ask The Google!"

Level 15


Level 15

I think if you to work a company more 10 people, you need service desk

Level 9

When I interviewed at IBM to work on their QRadar SIEM which is the most complex program/solution you have ever seen in your life.  They asked me, "What do you do when you don't know the answer to something?. I sheepishly said ask "The Google"  they all roared with laughter and hired me on the spot!  🙂  You have to learn to fish for yourself.  But maybe you are right, IBM might not have more than 10 employees left.  We WERE our helpdesk, security team, and fixed our own servers and laptops.
@cjfranca    :-)!!!!!!!!

In my experience, a good Desk is one that combines both. The help desk description defines good operations of a 1st line team: They answer the calls, raise the tickets, inform the relevant internal resource that there is work to be done, and so on.These guys are key to any organisation which provides a SERVICE to clients (and are too often used as a piñata by management when things don't go as planned).

The service desk side describes the good management of the Desk. The 2nd & 3rd line guys and those who manage the whole Service Centre for your business. Without good people, who are prepared to help those in the earlier lines develop their skills, it'll all fall apart eventually.

In my opinion, to have a first class service offering,  you have to have a Desk that combines both aspects you outline.

Level 7

Nice article. It exactly show clear out explanation and the difference between these two desks. But I'm honestly accessing help desk, because I can take care of my customers problems through this way. I don't like any troubles or inconvenient, so based on my necessity. I signed up with the help desk software, Apptivo. It helps to manage each and every customer cases unless problem solved.