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Types of Help Desk

Updated: Apr 26

What are the types of help desk?

Effectively, most people group help desks into one of three types;

  • Internal

  • External

  • Managed service providers

All the following advice and guidance can be used across each of the types of Help Desk, but some points may be more relevant to particular styles than others.

Here is a quick breakdown of the three.

Type of Help Desk


Target Audience


Examples of Services


Within organisation


Ensure smooth operations and minimise downtime for the organisation's employees.

IT support for hardware, software, and systems; password resets; network connectivity issues; VPN support.


Outside organisation


Maintain high levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty by resolving customer issues.

Product troubleshooting; billing inquiries; account management; technical support for software or services

Managed Service Provider (MSP)

Third-party organisation

Internal / External depends on agreement

Provide help desk services on behalf of another company, allowing them to save costs and focus on core business functions.

Outsourced IT support; network monitoring; infrastructure management; security services

Help Desk vs Service Desk

What is the difference between a Help Desk and a Service Desk, and who would win in a battle?

Many often use the terms interchangeably, but there are notable differences, particularly in ITIL (what's ITIL? We'll come to that shortly).

To cover it off quickly so that we continue to build that standard frame of reference, and nobody is yelling at their screen, 'But it's a Service DESK!', you can categorise help desks and services desks by the following broad criteria;

Help Desk

Service Desk

Technology focused

Can be extended to other services such as HR or Facilities

Primarily focused on resoving incidents & handling user requests

A single point of contact for all service related issues

Typically reactive to issues

Proactive service management processes

Knowledge management practices are ad hoc

Incorporates advanced knowledge management practices

Basic metrics on volumes

Advanced metrics and reporting capabilities

So, for the sake of consistency, I've focused on using the term 'Help Desk' as it's more widely used, but the reality is that as the help desk evolves, it will mature into a 'Service Desk'.

How and when you use the terminology is entirely down to you. However, it can be a way of relaunching yourself in the future as a 'Service Desk' and letting customers know what's different and new and why you're changing.

Customers Vs Users

While we are clearing up terminology, I also use the term 'customer' as a catch-all.

We should be treating our 'users' as customers. We want to give them excellent service, whether an internal company colleague or an external paying customer.

Typically, 'user' means the person using software or a service, and 'customer' refers to whoever pays for it. So, for example, you may have several end-users accessing a software application, but the customer is the person you are engaging with on a managerial/commercial level.

But resolvingthis point forward, any reference to 'customer' and 'user' are synonymous.


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