What’s the difference between a Service Desk and a Help Desk?

Service Pc Desk and people

All IT professionals, myself included, know what an IT Help Desk is. Many of us, in fact, have grown up providing assistance on hardware and software, or offering system and networking support for the users of our organization.
IT has been structured over time, favoured by the increased computerization of business processes. We have moved from providing a simple Help Desk service (assistance or support) to an advanced IT Service Desk, aiming at a complete and structured IT Service Management (ITSM),
This important step still leaves many IT professionals with a major doubt: what does an IT Service Desk do compared to a traditional Help Desk?

Let’s try to shed some light on the difference between Help Desk and Service Desk.

Anatomy of an IT Help Desk

A traditional Help Desk is mainly focused on the following activities:

– Providing a Contact Point for technological support activities;

– Offering support to internal users of the company; in some cases, also providing support to external customers using similar methods;

– Fixing hardware incidents or bugs upon request of a user;

– Basic provisioning activities: ordering and setup of devices (new PCs, phones, etc.) or software;

– Ordinary administration of internal systems: network authority, e-mail, Active Directory profiles, etc.


The IT Service Desk is focused on IT Service Management (ITSM) and evolves from the needs of the business instead of the user’s ones.

In particular, the Service Desk focuses on the processes that organizations establish to implement management policies to constantly improve service delivery, in terms of technology and economics.

Here is the big difference: the objectives of an ITSM derive from a series of best practices that cover different areas of the company, not only technological. In fact, the last and most important stakeholder to be accountable to is company management.

Activities of an IT HELP DESK

The IT Help Desk generally offers a reactive support, with services such as:

– Printer management

– Passwords creation and reset

– Problem resolution on devices

– Support on applications and software

A Help Desk is usually considered to be a “tactical outpost” that provides assistance and implements new technological features.

Activities of an IT SERVICE DESK

The IT Service Desk has to implement strategies that are unusual to an IT Help Desk, in order to actively communicate with the business.

To reach this objective, a Service Desk has to provide:

– Service Catalog: a list of all services offered, specifying which groups of users can access it;

– Change Management: a structured system management, linked to the other company services and the costs of technological implementation, considering suppliers as well;

– Incident management and request fulfillment services structured for constant improvement, aiming at a reduction of activities and costs;

– Problem management to prevent recurring problems, thus eliminating frequent incidents and reducing the impact of those that cannot be avoided.

– CMDB: the management of devices and processes in a structured “container”, which allows to take appropriate actions in response to a change. The CMDB guarantees an optimal service; it allows to produce timely reports in case of an audit and to constantly improve the service.

Instruments of an IT HELP DESK

IT Help Desks usually adopt the Deepser Service Module to track tickets and respect internal Service Level Agreement (SLA).
In particular, they use just a few types of standard services, such as Incident Management, Problem Management (problems involving multiple Incidents) or basic Request Fulfillment Management (device requests, provisioning and implementations).

IT Help Desks need to implement a smaller set of features compared to a Service Desk, as it focuses on a more “operational” side of ITSM.

In general, a Help Desk does not need a Service Desk, on the other side, a Service Desk always includes the Help Desk activities in its operation.

Instruments of an IT SERVICE DESK

IT Service Desks typically are structured following best practices, such as the ITIL framework, which represents a major reference tool.

The Deepser Service Module is used to provide Incident Management features and respect Service Level Agreements (SLAs) in a proactive way.

Additional services, such as Problem Management, Request Fulfillment and Change Management features are required and configured. Adopting Deepser, a Service Desk can also implement other types of Service, tailor-made according to business needs.

In addition, an IT Service Desk typically connects the Service module with Deepser CMDB module, focusing on asset tracking and on the service guarantee on its devices, rather than just a typical ticket tracking.


Service Desk and Help Desk often perform many similar functions, but the big difference lies in the objective of the two structures.

– The Help Desk aims to manage daily IT activities, providing support and technological innovation; the IT Service Desk, on the other hand, aims at ITIL’s Continuous Service Improvement;

– Both the IT Help Desk and the IT Service Desk function as Single Point of Contact (SPOC); however, the Service Desk acts as a service provider to a corporate customer, rather than just an internal IT support;

– A Service Desk has to implement specific policies for planning, optimization of resources (human and economic) and advanced reporting, communicating with the management.

To conclude, a Service Desk has a broader impact than that of a Help Desk; clearly the first is an essential instrument for organizations that need the implementation of ITSM.

In general, we are noticing how all organizations are increasingly moving from an IT Help Desk service to an IT Service Desk, in order to be able to implement best practices. The adoption of a Service Desk aims at improving the perception of the work and the range of services offered to corporate users, internal and external.

Do you wish to experience the benefits of a unique software that serves as a Help Desk and a Service Desk? Do it with Deepser, activate now the free demo.

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