Product Reviews

Help for the Help Desk: HelpStar 7.0 Professional

Keep track of support requests with one of these packages.

There are times during an installation of new software that you have to stop and just admire the care for detail that went into the procedure. That is how I felt when I began to install HelpStar 7.0. I knew from reading the accompanying literature that HelpStar 7.0 had many features that help desk or support engineers, their clients and their managers would be interested in, and I was anxious to start using the package right away. I fall into one of the above three categories, in that I am director of client services for a software development company. I know first-hand how important support is for an organization and also how the appropriate help desk software can boost productivity and customer satisfaction.

I installed HelpStar to work with a Microsoft SQL Server 2000 installation that I already had available. Otherwise, I could have opted for a version that installed and used MSDE. HelpStar created the database and copied the installation files; then, it presented me with an option to load my new HelpStar database with my data. I was anticipating hours of meticulous data entry. The process, however, was very straightforward thanks to the wizards that stepped me through each step and explained how the data I was keying was interrelated. For example, when adding users, I got an understanding of what a user was to HelpStar: either an internal user, who was most likely a support engineer with security privileges higher than an external user, or client, who might only be able to create incidents. Inside of 10 minutes I was already working within HelpStar's client application (self-described as being Microsoft Outlookish) and adding support cases. There is a bar on the left, for instance, that is similar to the Outlook Bar, which contains buttons to indicate which support cases are overdue or "In Queue' as opposed to "In Dispatch." Having a receptionist or call-taker area for logging is a small but nice touch. This way the customer receives a real person instead of a voice mail system.

HelpSTAR 7.0
The HelpSTAR interface will be comfortable for anyone familiar with Outlook.

HelpStar contains other features that I consider as standard for help desk software: auto-escalation, a Web interface that supports internal and external clients, and a comprehensive reporting engine. The only thing that I honestly did not like about HelpStar was the StarWatch application that runs in tandem with the client application and handles tasks like the auto-escalation. It does the job of a service but it has a GUI. I found that a little odd. Still, HelpStar is a well-rounded and well-designed application with good documentation and an easy-to-learn interface that will be utilized to its full potential.

About the Author

Rodney Landrum is an MCSE working as a data analyst and systems engineer for a software development company in Pensacola, Florida.  He has a new book from Apress entitled ProSQL Server Reporting Services.

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