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What is a Help Desk?

Nicole Madison
Updated Jan 20, 2024
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A help desk is a resource designed to provide end users with information and assistance regarding problems with computers and related devices or software. Though some help desks do involve a support person working at a physical desk, often services are provided via a call center or over the Internet. In fact, some help desks consist primarily of lists of questions and answers posted online, geared towards assisting users in tackling technology-related issues.

Many corporations provide help desks for the use of their customers, offering support services via Internet or phone. Often, companies provide help desk services to their employees as well. In some cases, both customers and employees use the same help desk to obtain assistance, while in others separate support services are used.

In addition to those set up by corporations, there are many other types of help desks. Smaller companies, private organizations, and educational facilities often provide various help desk services to their customers, employees, students, or members. Furthermore, some help desks are available to anyone in need of help. Usually, no affiliation is required to use this type of service, but the user must typically pay a monetary fee to obtain support. This fee can be a flat rate or an hourly amount, depending on the particular rules of the service.

Large help desks often provide different levels of support. For instance, at the basic level, a large help desk may provide answers to commonly asked questions. At the next level, support personnel may handle more difficult issues and problems. Often, a large service will have entire teams dedicated to working on specific issues. Smaller help desks may provide similar quality support on a narrower scale.

Though help desk services are often provided completely via telephone or Internet, some situations may require on-site assistance. Some help desks provide on-site troubleshooting in certain situations, but many do not. Depending on the particular service, support personnel may work in a company building or in just about any other location. In fact, some help desk technicians choose to work entirely from home.

Many help desks use remote software to manage assistance requests and track users. Remote software allows the user to control a computer from a remote location using a network connection. Often, remote software is also used to troubleshoot computer-related problems. This software enables support personnel to gain access to the user's computer and apply appropriate fixes. Using remote software, a help desk technician can assist an end user located in virtually any part of the world.

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Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison , Writer
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGeek writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

Discussion Comments

By buildaHD — On Dec 17, 2012

This was a very clear and to the point article about what a help desk is. Another key item is help desk ticketing applications to track and classify support requests. If your ticket classifications are setup correctly, you can provide a trend analysis, reported issues and first contact resolution reports.

By anon295640 — On Oct 07, 2012

I agree with your post. Companies and their employees need a reliable group to obtain IT help from. An IT Help Desk is not just having an knowledgeable person available but creating the processes and deploying the tools needed so the end user experience meets expectations by an IT Help Desk Agent with customer services skills.

By anon289381 — On Sep 04, 2012

How helpful they are depends on the company they work for and how well they speak the native tongue.

By runner101 — On Jul 27, 2011

@saraq90 - I am not sure about help desk job qualifications as there can be so many different help desks.

But I do know that to become a help desk manager you often need to have an associate's degree or educational equivalent and at least a few years experience in technical or managerial areas.

This person needs slightly different skills than the help desk personnel because they are actually managing the people that work at the help desk.

But I would think they also have to know what it is like to work at a help desk so they could be a more understanding manager!

By Saraq90 — On Jul 26, 2011

I always find it funny when the help desk people whether they are web help desk people or a help desk located in a building are not friendly people! And it almost seems they are bothered by you asking for help.

It makes me wonder what qualifications the help desk job requires.

I have had many good experiences with online help desks, the kind that pop up when you enter a site and the window says "So and so is here to assist you, please type in your question or comment."

I just type in what I am looking for and that person answers my question or leads me to the information. I feel the help desk online has saved me an abundance of time searching for a specific answer!

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison


Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGeek writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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