SupportPal Ticketing System Review

So there’s a lot of information out there when it comes to help desks and ticketing systems. I’ve used everything from homebrew systems, to Kayako, to Manage Engine ServiceDesk Plus, to osTicket, to the systems that come bundled in with customer management platforms such as WHMCS. I’ve been using a wonderful system for a while now called SupportPal (formerly Arctic Desk). A little back history – Arctic Desk first came on the scene around late 2012 as a contender to the vast array of possible web hosting help desks out there (at the time, the most popular but expensive Kayako) and it’s still not as widely known today despite bringing a lot to the table for the very affordable price tag. Today, SupportPal (renamed at the version 2.0 release in early 2016) ¬†is an excellent competitor to many ticketing systems out there. Let’s look at SupportPal more in depth. If you want the TL;DR, just go to the bottom of this post!)

A UI that is functional & elegant

So when I look at software, I look at functionality as the primary goal. I’m not one to care directly about what it looks like, per se, but does the UI just make sense? There’s a lot of ugly software out there, but it’s functional. With SupportPal, you get functional¬†and it’s pretty to look at! I call that a double win!

A look at my actual installation showing some open tickets

It’s easy to see how beautiful it is, yet how functional it is compared to many other software of the similar type. If we look at a sample ticket, we can also see how elegant and pleasant it is to work in, but at the same time it’s extremely functional.

Even the individual ticket is displayed in a manner that is functional, yet elegant.

As you can easily see, it pulls relevant information from WHMCS about the customer such as products and invoices currently open so your staff can easily get the picture of the customer without having to change systems, if there is billable work involved, we can quickly open an invoice, and we also get a snapshot about the user – recent tickets, when they signed up, and where they are in the world – handy if you have to call someone or need to reach out to them.

The frontend that your customers use can also be customized to fit your look or you can even keep the default if you’d like. We’re still working on site iteration so we’re just using the stock for right now.

Features that’ll make you happy

Some of the amazing features are the ability to merge and link tickets, split replies into their own tickets, close and lock tickets (preventing those “thank you” responses from re-opening tickets or to kill off reply-alls that tickets may get included in), custom ticket numbering schemes (you might have noticed, my company uses “AR-YYYYMMDD##” format in the Billing department and the Catchall department uses “YYYYMMDD0####” format), and the big seller for me which many other platforms either don’t have, is poorly implemented, or costs a buttload extra to add on to your license is multichannel support so we can help our customers on Facebook and Twitter much easier. Anything posted on our Facebook page and any message sent to us on Facebook becomes a ticket in the backend so if a customer has a concern about a billing question, for example, we can route it to our Billing team and they’ll be able to interact with the customer on Facebook. The same goes for Twitter – any at replies or DMs open up tickets which allow our staff to easily communicate with and manage what is normally a mess and a challenge. Since we’re a small company, I really only staff the Twitter account a few times a day. If a customer or lead reaches out to us, I don’t want to miss it and that’s where having SupportPal handle the communications is great. A new feature implemented in the 2.1 release is the ability to have multiple brands. I haven’t taken advantage of this yet as it’s an extra license cost, but from what I’ve tested is that it works great. I’d love to see them maybe throw in an additional brand for free or just open up the feature entirely in the future. SmarterTrack, written on ASP.NET, offers unlimited additional brands at no extra charge.

Another bonus of SupportPal is that it is not SaaS (however, if you do wish to have it cloud hosted and managed by my hosting company, NodeSpace, we’ll be more than happy to assist you!) so it runs on your server. All you need is PHP (5.7 or 7), MySQL, and the latest IonCube Loader for PHP. It’s a breeze to get up and running. So it will run on Linux servers primarily, but you could also install it in a Windows environment easily.

Something that is a major selling point for the affordable price tag is that you can have unlimited help desk agents. A lot of software limits the number of agents you can have active though licensing – Kayako was one before they switch their model but I believe it’s still true, SmarterTrack, ServiceDesk Plus, BMC Track It, and basically all the other commercial packages limit the number of agents. So if you’ve got a large team, you’ll have to pay anywhere from several hundred to several thousand. Even on some of those platforms, simply 5 agents can cost several thousand. So this is another major advantage SupportPal has.

The full SupportPal feature list is available here.

Getting Support

I’m also quite happy that SupportPal has excellent customer support. I have a strange issue between WHMCS and SupportPal causing upwards of 50+ API calls per minute. SupportPal kindly stepped in and while they were not able to solve the issue (it’s so strange they’re even having issues with it), they’re definitely helping to resolve it. Support is quick and friendly and that alone is a winner. I’ve gotten worse support from products I’ve paid top dollar for.

Final Thoughts (or TL;DR)

Overall, I’m really happy with SupportPal. Licensing is affordable for budgets of all size (monthly license is $19.95/mo with additional brands at $9.95/mo/brand; owned license is $399.95 with six months of updates and support and each additional brand is $199.95 one time, per brand). Since my ticket volume is relatively small, I’m not sure how SupportPal handles a high volume of tickets, but my guess is that it can do it fairly well. The interface is functional¬†and pretty, and it is feature loaded. Overall, it’s a great value and I think it’ll fit in perfectly in any kind of company that needs a powerful and useful ticketing system.

The IT Cave Rating: 4/5

There’s still some work to be done and some shortcomings, but it’s an excellent product and I’m not leaving it anytime soon.

Review: Password Manager XP

In the day of password requirements that are absolutely insane, you need a password manager to keep yourself from going insane. We’re going to be taking a look at Password Manager XP from CP Lab. With the amount of passwords we in IT need to remember, a good password manager is critical. I have a few that I use but I decided to see if I could find one with similar or better features than the ones I currently use have.

Obtaining and Installing

You can obtain a trial of Password Manager XP from the CP Lab website here. The installation of the Standard version (which we’re taking a look at here) is a standard next, next, finish install. It doesn’t get any easier. There is a Professional version that has a client-server model that would be more suited towards an enterprise as it has Active Directory integration. The standard edition would be fine for an individual or maybe small teams who share a database.

First Run

Right after you install Password Manager XP, you can launch it and you’ll see the default example database that is installed (if you so choose to install it).

Password Manager XP main screen

Password Manager XP main screen

I like the way Password Manager XP sets up the UI. You can see all your databases and tree view of passwords on the left, and on the right is your main screen. I like having the multiple database views. This can allow you to have a “work” passwords database and a “personal” passwords database, for instance. As always, it’s wise advice to never put all your eggs in one basket. Creating a database is actually very simple. Just go to the Database menu and create a new database. From here, you can name your database and assign a master password.

2016-06-17_18-34-09You can also specify where you’d like to have the database file stored. For me, I prefer to put it in a syched folder such as my OneDrive or DropBox so that it’s accessible on all my devices. However, if you have only one computer, it might make sense to put it in a secure location. Now, your passwords are encrypted in the database, but I also prefer to throw in some security by obscurity – throw my database in a obscure location and one accessible only by my user account. However, for this review, I kept everything default.

Adding your passwords

What good is a database without any data? Pretty useless. Likewise, a password database doesn’t have any passwords is forcing you to remember all your passwords and that’s not good. Once you have a database created, you can start creating entries. To keep yourself organized, you can create folders and to keep it really customization, you can select any icon you wish for the folder.

2016-06-17_18-34-55Once you have some folders created, you can now create password entries. This is as simple as right clicking and selecting “New Record”. On the new record screen, you can select an icon, a name, set the website address (if there is one), and generate or insert your password. You can also attach files, generate a password, set a password expiration date (useful for reminding you to change passwords if the service doesn’t expire them for you), and even leave some notes about the password too.

2016-06-19_13-00-57As you can see, I’ve set some test passwords (no these won’t grant you access to anything in The Cave) so you can see how the data is displayed.

The password generator function works amazingly well and is about as un-complicated as it could possibly be (which is what you’d expect but believe it that other software makes this process just as complicated).

2016-06-19_13-08-11Security is also important as these passwords can access anything. Password Manager XP has built in encryption of all different kinds. You can use any kind you’d like. Or all of them. The choice is yours.


Special Features

This is one of the killer features of this program, in my mind. You can install the program to a flash drive and copy your password database so you can take it with you. This is a really cool feature if you carry a flash drive with you. I always have a USB drive on my keychain which is useful when I need to transfer some files quickly at work.

2016-06-19_13-09-55There is also web browser functionality built in. Other applications require special plugins to be acquired separately and configured separately but Password Manager XP has this all included in the box.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I really like Password Manager XP and I plan on using this as my primary password manager. While there are other options available, I urge you to give Password Manager XP a try along with anything else that you’re considering. I think you will find that Password Manager XP will meet or exceed your expectations! This works with all versions of Windows.

Given what I’ve seen and used thus far in my trial, I give Password Manager XP a 8/10. I highly recommend it!

Running an effective Service Desk – Part 1

helpdesk_servicedeskWelcome to a multi-part series on running an effective Service Desk. This guide will help you build and maintain an effective (and efficient!) service desk for your organization. No matter if you have 5 employees or 50,000, this guide will lay out the framework to allow you to expand and grow as needed as well as make sure your users are getting the best service around. This guide has large-enterprise in mind, but if you are a small organization don’t fret! The same concepts apply.

A little background

Service Desks (formerly “Help Desks” if you wish to evolve the lingo), are a critical part of any organization. They’ve evolved over the years (which is why you see more “service” and less “help” terms) and now many departments share the same platforms as we move more into a service-oriented world. Everyone from facilities to HR to IT are using service desks with the latter being the most prominent. Does your organization have a service desk? If not, you need one. I have seen organizations become much more successful when they have one. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase of “having the right tools for the job”. You wouldn’t plant a tree with a toothbrush, so why would you run a service desk without a proper service desk tool? The tool can be in-house (through this is strongly discouraged and you’ll see why – unless you have the dev team to keep it running) or a third party. In this series, we will look at several different tools to get you started.

This guide has several parts and each one should be read carefully. I’ve seen service desk fail simply because they didn’t follow proper organization. This guide will help you get there.

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