ITSM stands for IT Service Management. This category of IT business is very broad. It encompasses almost all IT system activities. The field includes the design, creation, management, and improvement of IT and information systems.
In this field, you need to monitor and manage networks, user endpoints, servers, and software. Most ITSM software can handle robust service desk and ticketing operations.
Here is our list of the best ITSM tools and IT Service Management software:
- SolarWinds Service Desk EDITOR’S CHOICE A superior cloud-based Help Desk platform that includes asset management functions and task automation. Integrates with a growing list of over 200 apps. Try it risk-free on a 30-day free trial.
- N-able (FREE TRIAL) An asset management system aimed at managed service providers. This is a cloud-based platform.
- Atera Helpdesk Software (FREE TRIAL) A SaaS system to support managed service providers (MSPs) that includes system monitoring, patch management, and incident response tools.
- ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus (FREE TRIAL) A service management package that fulfills the ITIL Service Operation requirements. Available for Windows Server, Linux, and as a cloud-based platform.
- Freshservice A comprehensive cloud-based service desk management platform, written to ITIL standards.
- ServiceNow IT Service Management Cloud-based ITSM platform that covers incident management, problem management, change management, release management, and request management.
- Alloy Navigator Cloud-based or on-premises, this tool supports incident management, problem management, asset management, change management, knowledge management, organization management, and contact management.
- SysAid ITIL-based ITSM suite that installs on Windows Server and Linux, or can be accessed as a cloud-based service.
- InvGate ITIL-compliant ITSM package that is available on the Cloud or as on-premises software that installs on Windows and Mac OS.
- Kaseya BMS Professional services automation package that is delivered from the cloud with a multi-tenant architecture aimed at MSPs.
- Vivantio ITSM Cloud-based or on-premises, this ITSM platform is offered at two service levels.
Once a business system has been set up, you need to monitor its performance to ensure that the resources that have been installed are sufficient to meet the needs of the business. Detected shortfalls may require resources to be adjusted or supplemented. Once the new system has settled in, you still need to keep track of its performance and provision for natural growth in activity and also be prepared for any new requirements.
ITSM requires tools that can monitor every element in a business system and try to head off performance problems. You need to cover the performance of networks, the internet, servers, software, services, applications and network, and endpoint hardware. That monitoring also needs to be able to track the activities on any Cloud-based services that your company might use. You need to ensure that capacity is coordinated across sites, and also account for the connections to home-based staff and field operatives. In a modern business network, you will also need to control the activities on mobile devices and protect your network from intrusion and infection.
Just about every business keeps records on people, including customers, suppliers, and employees. Legal requirements demand that you protect the data held in your business, block access to it, and record every event that might compromise the integrity and security of that data.
So, ITSM systems have to encompass many functions. You can write your own ITSM system, source software from different suppliers, or look for complete, out-of-the-box ITSM solutions. In this review, we will look at the ITSM suites that you can install to cover all of the system monitoring and management activities of your IT department. ITSM packages are also of interest to managed service providers (MSPs) that provide system management for their clients.
What is ITSM and ITIL?
ITSM is closely linked to the ITIL standards. ITIL stands for “Information Technology Infrastructure Library”. The standard was commissioned by the British government, which is still a part-owner of the system, along with the data services company, Capita. The current version of ITIL is ITIL 2011.
The ITIL system is a documentation standard, which creates checkpoints and workflows for IT management issues. The standard is organized as five areas of competence:
- ITIL Service Strategy: document the business’s goals and customer needs.
- ITIL Service Design: interpret the service strategy to create a development plan.
- ITIL Service Transition: introduces new services into supported environments.
- ITIL Service Operation: manages services in supported environments.
- ITIL Continual Service Improvement: refines service delivery in both incremental and significant steps.
The standards are issued literally as a library with five volumes, each of which covers one of the five topics described above.
For the first three topics, you are looking more at system design, development, and implementation. There are a range of design, engineering, and planning tools that cover these topics. The most active of the five topics are the service operation and service improvement categories. Generally, when people talk about ITSM tools, they refer to management systems that address those two topics.
ITIL Service Operation
As the IT manager of a stable system, your main concerns will be those covered by the Service Operation topic of ITIL. There are five important areas of work in this field of operations:
- Event Management
- Access Management
- Request Fulfilment
- Problem Management
- Incident Management
These are probably the day-to-day tasks that are written into your employment contract. These management tasks are implemented through the following four departmental functions:
- Service Desk: the classic Help Desk plus software and contract management.
- Technical Management: the monitoring of devices and equipment.
- Application Management: ensuring that all system services and user software is available.
- IT Operations Management: prevention of failure or overloading.
The four functions of ‘Service Operation’ form the core of all ITSM suites.
ITIL Continual Service Improvement
This task category covers all of the work the IT department does to head off long-term resource exhaustion. Temporary measures, such as reorganizing equipment to add resources to overloaded areas of the network are part of the Service Operation topic.
You should expect demand to increase continually at a trend rate and you also need to be prepared to field requests for more services on the system and to accommodate more personnel connecting to the network.
This topic requires you to analyze existing performance and project future capacity requirements in all elements of your IT system.
As an IT manager, your search for ITSM tools should focus on software that supports ITIL Service Operation and ITIL Continual Service Improvement topics. In this review, you will read about suites of tools that will cover all of these topics and support your operational responsibilities.
The best ITSM tools & IT system management software
What should you look for in IT service management software?
We reviewed the market for ITSM tools and analyzed the options based on the following criteria:
- Automated asset discovery processes that assemble a device inventory
- Scanning for the contents of all devices to establish a software inventory
- Software license management
- The ability to manage assets on multiple sites
- Routines to keep operating systems up to date
- A free trial or money-back guarantee for a no-cost assessment period
- A good price for the functions that are included
In this section, you can read details about each of the eleven recommended tools listed above.
SolarWinds Service Desk was written to ITIL standards. This is a Cloud-based service desk solution that provides a central contact point for your Help Desk and includes asset management features.
The help desk functions of the utility include a ticketing system with automation that allows you to input technician and operator availability to get an automated task allocation workflow distributing work for you. The system includes a task tracker to ensure that calls are responded to and solved promptly. Other technical support features include a self-service portal and a knowledge base utility to solve problems for users without the need for Help Desk resources. Service Desk recently made it to the top spot in a recent industry comparison list. You can download the report here.
Configuration management, change management, release management, service level management, and IT asset management are all there in the package. A benchmarking tool helps you track performance and plan for expansion and a reporting module helps you track system utilization.
A great feature of the tool is its Risk Detection module. This continuous assessment tracks the configurations and software installed on all of the devices in your system. It identifies illegal software and checks on the versions of all permitted software to ensure that all is up-to-date. The tool also monitors the versions of your AV software and threat databases to ensure that you have the very latest versions.
- Designed for MSPs using ITIL standards
- Automated workflows help NOC teams prioritize tickets based on SLAs or custom rules
- Continuous scans of endpoints help reduce stress on the NOC
- Flexible pricing and cloud hosting make this one of the most flexible ITSM options
- Works well for both small and large networks
- Search functionality
SolarWinds Service Desk is charged on a subscription basis and is available in three packages: Team, Business, and Professional. The cheapest of these plans gives you a Help Desk and the SolarWinds Service Desk self-service portal and knowledgebase platform. To get the full ITSM package, you need to get the Professional plan. You can get any of the SolarWinds Service Desk plans on a 30-day free trial.
- Asset management
- Task automation
- Integrates with 200 apps
SolarWinds Service Desk is a powerful tool for consolidating, managing and prioritizing incoming tickets which is great for streamlining processes. It integrates with a growing list of applications like MS Azure, OneLogin, AD Google Apps, Slack and Zendesk just to name a few.
Start 30-day Free Trial: solarwinds.com/service-desk
Managed services providers can’t afford to slip up. They need full visibility of clients’ information systems and they need to log and audit every action. Thus, systems written to support MSPs make excellent ITSM tools. N-able is a leader in the IT infrastructure monitor market and it has produced a Cloud-based suite of tools that will work just as well for in-house IT departments.
The N-able suite includes ten main elements:
- Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM)
- Backup and Recovery
- MSP Manager
- Mail Assure
- Service Desk
- Risk Intelligence
- Take Control
- Endpoint Detection & Response
- Threat Monitor
You don’t have to take on all of these elements. If you are running an MSP, then the whole suite would be useful to you. If you operate the IT department of a single-site company, then the RMM module probably wouldn’t interest you. However, you should also consider the RMM even if you only have one site because this module includes patch management, network monitoring, and mobile device management features.
The PSA and Ticketing module will give you the Help Desk functions needed for ITIL. You can also guarantee the security of your data through Automated Threat Monitoring, Backup and Recovery, and Mail Protection and Archiving.
- Suite is designed to be an all-in-one bundle for everything an MSP would be, helping cut down on bulky multi-vendor solutions
- Robust PSA and SLA alerting and reports
- Hosts RMM features that are optional, but a great added bonus
- Multi-platform support for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS allow for support for any type of client
- Reporting feature could use an overhaul
This system is Cloud-based, so you don’t need to worry about software compatibility with your server operating system. The tool can monitor events on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS. The monitor will track activity on network, servers, endpoints, and network devices. It tracks software, services, applications, and virtualizations.
- For used by MSPs
- Asset discovery and inventory
- Asset management
The complete package will give you data security, event logging, and auditing, team monitoring, and task management features. You can try out the N-able on a 30-day free trial.
Atera Helpdesk Software is part of the Atera suite of services that enables managed service providers to monitor, support, and assess the IT systems of their customers. The remote monitoring and management (RMM) functions of Atera provide constant system monitoring with alerts for performance problems. Alerts feed through to the ticketing system of the professional services automation (PSA) module in Atera.
While the ticketing system manages team capacity utilization, it also tracks problem resolution and records the frequency of incidences. This record of problem resolution provides a useful source of information to help clients see which parts of their system need to be replaced or upgraded.
Atera also includes software license management and patch management functions that enable the MSP to keep each endpoint in the client’s system up to date.
Useful ITSM facilities in the service are the access that customers get to the help desk ticketing system. This enables technicians to be assigned to problems. Using the built-in remote access system of Atera, technicians can get to the problematic endpoint, troubleshoot, and fix problems without bothering the user. A remote desktop system in Atera lets technicians resolve problems while the user watches. A communication channel built into the remote desktop software also enables the technician to explain the solution to the user.
Other ITSM features built into the Atera include preventative maintenance routines and disaster recovery procedures that are implemented by backup and restore functions.
- Has one of the best user interfaces among other ITSM tools
- PSA is built-in, and works well with the integrated ticketing system
- Inventory management can automatically generate reports and alerts for faulty hardware, and create tickets for proactive upgrades
- Remote access is part of the agent install, meaning you won’t need to find another vendor for remote access
- Can store policies and procedures based on SLA or client
- Computer name changes sometimes lag
- More ticketing automation features would be a welcome addition
Atera is a cloud service so it includes processors and storage space as well as the RMM and PSA software. Charges are levied by subscription per technician per month with no setup fees or minimum service periods. Atera is available for a 30-day free trial.
The “Service Desk” concept is more than just your regular Help Desk. Service Desk is one of the functions specified in the ITIL Service Operation topic. This function includes the handling of change requests, maintenance contracts, service-level management, software licenses, configuration management, and availability management features as well as the Help Desk central point of contact.
ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus covers all of the ITIL Service Desk tasks. However, not all of those functions are available in all of the packages that the company offers for this module. The utility is offered at three levels: Standard, Professional, and Enterprise. The Standard package gives you a Help Desk system that includes SLA management. The Professional package adds on IT asset discovery software asset management, and contract management. The full ITIL Service Desk function is provided by the Enterprise package, which adds on IT project management, configuration management, and change management features to all of the utilities offered in the Standard and Professional packages.
- Robust all in one tool for managing client contracts, maintenance requests, and other ancillary services MSPs normally offer
- Automatic asset discovery helps keep NOC teams informed of scope and new devices that are added to the network
- Cross-platform support work with Windows or Linux server distros
- Available as a cloud product for streamlined onboarding
- Ticket template field could be easier to customize
- Reporting tool can feel limited depending on the use case
ManageEngine produces a range of IT asset management tools and ServiceDesk Plus can interact with these other modules. This will enable you to get a full suite of infrastructure monitoring and management tools. The ServiceDesk Plus utility can be installed on Linux or Windows Server and it is also available on the Cloud.
- On-premises or cloud-based
- SLA management
You can get a 30-day free trial to try it out for yourself.
Freshservice is a cloud-based system management tool that is suitable both for in-house IT departments and for managed service providers. The tool is delivered in modules and is available in four editions. Each progressively more expensive edition includes more modules. All of the editions include all of the front-end channels that a Help Desk needs in order to facilitate contact by users.
The service desk features of Freshservice start with a user self-service portal. This includes a knowledgebase facility and a ticketing system. Users can create tickets either through the portal in a form or via email. Internal Help Desk staff can create tickets as well if they are dealing with customers either by phone or in person.
The ticketing system then tracks progress on problem resolution and includes work allocation, prioritization, and task tracking features to implement team and task management. All of these features are needed for ITIL Service Operations Incident Management activities. The tasks management functions can be refined with a service level agreement screen. This allows the team manager to set priorities for ticket prioritization according to the requirements of the support team’s SLA. This aid automation task allocation and implements escalation as deadlines approach.
- One of the better user interfaces for ITSM tools
- Flexible subscription and annual pricing options
- Includes a self-service portal to help reduce inbound tickets
- Simple ticket creation is user friendly for new staff
- Trial period
- Automation workflow between ticket could be better
- Integrations into other ITSM tools are complicated
Certain tasks can be automated, such and approvals to close tickets, communication receipt confirmations, and problem categorization. Many team management tasks are also automated by the reporting tool of the platform. This produces timesheets per technician, performance monitoring, and goal achievement records. The tool also includes a project management feature that enables the support team to communicate through an internal chat system.
- Task automation
Freshservice is charged for by subscription per technician. The fees can be paid either monthly or yearly, with the yearly payment period working out cheaper. You can try out the Freshservice system with a 21-day free trial.
ServiceNow IT Service Management tool is a Cloud-based ITSM that is very strong on cost tracking.
The application is divided into the following units:
- Incident Management
- Problem Management
- Change Management
- Release Management
- Request Management
The Incident Management module gives you a Help Desk system. Access to technicians is a front end self-service portal and then a Virtual Agent. The Virtual Agent works off a knowledge base that builds up over its service life. Therefore, after a few months of operation, frequent problems can be fielded automatically without resorting to actual human intervention. This combination of problem solving with machine learning via the Virtual Agent means you can focus your company resources on more critical tasks.
Problem Management gives you ITIL-linked automated workflows that check for system performance limits being breached to head off potential failure. This module focuses on short-term solutions to capacity issues. Longer-term capacity planning is supported by Performance Analytics available in the dashboard.
- Heavily focused on helping MSPs track costs alongside tickets and technical issues
- Offers a knowledge base that can be used internally, as well a forward-facing as a self-help resource for clients
- Automated workflow help streamline ticket completion
- No on-premise version
- No free trial, only product demo
- Interface is clean but limited
You can access an online demo of ServiceNow IT Service Management tool. However, the company doesn’t offer a free trial period. The service is offered in two plans, which are ITSM and ITSM Professional. The cheaper plan includes Standard Help Desk tools, configuration management, and other ITIL Service Operation functions. To get the Virtual Agent and ITIL Continual Service Improvement functions, you need to opt for the ITSM Professional package.
- Capacity planning support
- Higher-service package is fully ITIL compliant
Alloy Navigator is offered at two levels. The top package is called Alloy Navigator Enterprise, and this gives you the full ITSM suite of tools. If you don’t feel you want to go the full ITSM suite route, there is a cheaper package available, called Alloy Navigator Express.
Alloy Navigator was written along with ITIL guidelines, and it gives you:
- Incident Management
- Problem Management
- Asset Management
- Change Management
- Knowledge Management
- Organization Management
- Contact Management
The Incident Management module includes the Help Desk system. Problem Management and Asset Management is based on a network discovery function that maps all of your assets to create an inventory. That inventory becomes a list of assets to keep checking for performance problems. The data gathered by the health checks feeds into plans for change management and service improvement capacity planning tools.
- Includes seven different management sections that are written in accordance with ITIL guidelines
- Available as an on-premise or cloud solution
- Interface can feel dated and cluttered at times
- Could have better internal communication tools
This ITSM suite can be installed in-house or used as a Cloud service. The software installs on Windows Server.
- On-premises software or cloud-based
- Asset management
- Change management
SysAid is available as a Cloud service and also as on-premises software. Whichever platform you choose, you have the option of buying the Basic package or the Full plan. Both plans include Help Desk software functions including online and email-driven ticketing. Both levels also include access rights management features, but only the Full version gives you the ability to apply group policies to permissions management.
Configuration management is built into both packages. This is driven through automated processes, so you don’t have to manually keep track of the configuration of all of your devices – the process is policy-driven and follows ITIL methods.
- Cloud service
The big difference between the two plans lies in Project Management and a group of functions that SysAid calls the ITIL Package – both of which are only available in the Full plan. The ITIL Package includes extra Incident Management utilities and Request Fulfillment workflows apart from the standard Help Desk functions. Problem Management and Change Management tools are also part of the ITIL Package. The higher plan also includes SLA management utilities.
- Allows for remote group policy and permission management
- Comes in two simple pricing plans that fit well for small to medium-sized businesses
- Supports an ITIL package
- User interface is outdated and visualization are limited
- Uses email-driven ticketing which in most cases isn’t scalable
- Lacks robust automation features found in competitor products
The on-premises version of SysAid installs on Windows Server and Linux. You can get either of the SysAid plans on a 30-day free trial.
InvGate Service Desk is an ITIL-compliant ITSM suite that is available on the Cloud or as on-premises software. The software can be installed on Windows and Mac OS. The ITIL guidance that went into the development of InvGate Service Desk covers Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, and Service Operation. These guidelines produced the system’s incident management, problem management, change management, and request fulfillment software.
- On-premises software or cloud service
This tool introduces a great deal of automation into your IT service delivery tasks. The most visible part of the system is its Help Desk ticketing system. Access to the Help Desk is channeled through a knowledge base that fields straightforward problems. InvGate also includes SLA goal monitoring and analytical tools to aid in Continuous Service Improvement.
- On-premise and cloud-based deployment available
- Focuses heavily on automation to improve TTR, and aid MSPs in scaling
- SLA goal monitoring works well out of the box
- Interface is simple, yet effective
- No mobile app
- Integrations into other platforms are limited
- Reporting features are limited
You can get a 30-day free trial of InvGate Service Desk.
Kaseya offers a range of tools that are very useful for MSPs, including Kaseya VSA, which provides remote monitoring and management. Kaseya BMS supports all IT support functions for business and includes professional services automation, which is also very interesting for MSPs.
- Designed for MSPs
This isn’t just an MSP tool, though, the BMS utility contains many functions that IT support departments will need. These include the Service Desk module, which is the core of Kaseya BMS. The Service Desk provides Help Desk functions and also includes a knowledge base platform. Other features of the tool are asset management and request fulfillment automation.
- Has BMS and ITSM features built-in
- Focuses heavily on automation to help MSPs scale
- Builtin help desk works well out of the box without many changes needed
- Trial could be longer
- Interface could use improvement
- More integration supported would be a welcomed addition
There is a 14-day free trial offer available for Kaseya BMS.
Vivantio offers two levels of ITSM plans. The lower of these two packages give you basic Service Desk functions. This is called the Pro plan. The full plan is called ITSM and gives you all of the support for the full ITIL implementation. However, there isn’t much difference between the facilities offered by the two plans; all but very large organizations will get all of the functions they need for successful ITSM with the lower package.
Vivantio has a good SLA goal planning and tracking module and extensive reach to include mobile device management. Vivantio ITSM is a good tool for the Service Operation topic of ITIL. The service is available on the Cloud or on-premises. There isn’t a trial period offered for this software, but you can access a demo version.
- On-premises software or cloud service
- Top plan is ITSM
- Reliable goal planning and SLA management for any size team
- Pro plan supports ITIL standard implementation
- Simple two price plans
- Install quickly either on-premise or in the cloud
- No trial version
- Outdated interface with limited customization options
- Not built for large enterprise environments
- Admin portal interface can be confusing
Selecting an ITSM software suite
ITSM should take care of all of your IT operations. However, you may not want to tie all of your overall IT resource management to ITIL processes. The choice is up to you and your own IT service delivery strategy. If you are introducing ITIL processes into your entire IT organization, then choosing an ITSM software suite to support that goal is the only sensible option.
Do you use an ITSM tool? Would you recommend the system that you operate to others? Are you following ITIL? Leave a message in the Comments section below and share your technical experience with the community.
IT Service Management FAQs
What are the ITSM processes?
ITSM processes derive from the ITIL standards, which defines a total of 26 processes. The parts of ITIL that define the processes of ITSM is divided into five stages:
- Service Strategy contains five processes that include service portfolio management and demand and capacity management.
- Service Design contains 11 processes including risk management, service level management, and compliance.
- Service Transition contains five processes including project management and service asset and configuration management.
- Service Operation contains three processes, including problem management.
- Continual Service Improvement contains two processes: IT service report and process evaluation.
Which is a benefit of using an IT service management tool to support incident management?
IT service management tools offer computerized support for incident management. The benefits of this process automation are many. As with all administrative procedures, closed-loop IT systems reduce personnel costs, removes human error and ensures that all information flows from one task to another. IT service management tools also provide comprehensive event logging, which is important source data for billing and for proof of SLA and data security compliance. Records of work throughput and problem resolution can also provide source information for capacity planning and bid estimates for more incident management contracts.
What is the difference between the service desk and the help desk?
The Service Desk concept is a single point of contact for a client company to seek support from the service provider. So, the service desk is the client support contact within a service provider or IT department acting as a cost center. As the agent acts as a representative of the entire IT department or managed service provider, the “Service Desk” is actually the entire organization that provides IT services. The Help Desk is part of the Service Desk system. The Help Desk is the typical technical support team that IT users contact when problems occur.