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Helpdesk vs IT Support: What’s the Difference?

What’s the Difference Between Helpdesk vs IT Support

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Managed IT services, often used interchangeably with IT support, refers to outsourcing IT tasks to a third-party operator. In the past, IT support was overwhelmingly an in-house support department. Dedicated personnel resolved all and any IT headaches. 

However, as corporate IT needs began to escalate, many companies found it cost-effective to outsource IT support tasks. For all intents and purposes, managed IT and IT support are one and the same. Just the method of delivery has changed, which we’ll discuss later in this post.

What’s the Difference Between Helpdesk vs IT Support

How you identify the type of IT support services your company needs will depend upon the specific operational priorities of your business.  In this post, we will clarify how these two support approaches differ and explain what you need to know about these differences to help you make the right IT support/Managed IT decisions for your business. 

“IT Help Desk” is a term that entered industry parlance in the 1980’s as organizations began to adopt local area networking technologies that dramatically increased their dependence upon internally managed technology infrastructure to execute core business functions.  

Back then, IT help desks served as a service operations department focused on fixing any IT issues users encountered that prevented them from executing their tasks.

The help desk’s primary role was to serve as a single point of contact. It used desk software to manage the company’s IT infrastructure and respond reactively to any internal technical support requests and outages.

Technical repairs were typically performed on an as needed, “break/fix” basis. The help desk was primarily focused on troubleshooting and correcting operational issues, which meant there was no time for preemptive or proactive IT system monitoring, maintenance or governance functions. 

Now, however, a help desk is tactical and corrective at the same time. 

IT Help Desk vs Technical Support

Let’s take a closer look at how the help desk service functions evolved over time. 

Primary Functions of the Help Desk include:

  • IT incident troubleshooting & resolution for service to end users
  • Line of business application maintenance and support 
  • Fulfilling internal end user IT support requests 

The advent of the internet and cloud-based networking technologies presented many new technical support challenges that the help desk support model could not address.  As business networks became more decentralized and continued to grow exponentially in complexity, a broader and more comprehensive IT service and support paradigm was needed.

This circumstance ultimately gave rise to the “Managed Services” IT support model which emphasized a much more structured, holistic and proactive approach to IT service and support delivery.  

Although traditional IT help desk services remain a core component of most managed service delivery programs, they are now integrated within a much broader range of professional and technical service offerings. These are designed to address all aspects of a business’ IT governance and include monitoring, maintenance, operational and reporting functions.  


The Managed IT Service Model: 

The core concept behind a “managed service” approach to IT support delivery relates to establishing full transparency and accountability for all IT capabilities and business processes.

This provides corporate management a clear understanding of how well or how poorly the IT function caters to the operational needs of the business. 


The 10 core components of a comprehensive Managed IT Service Program:

A typical service desk manages the following core IT functions:

    • IT Inventory & Asset Management
    • IT System Availability & Performance Monitoring 
    • IT Security Monitoring and Incident Response
    • IT System Maintenance & Administration
    • Data Backup & Disaster Recovery
    • IT Configuration and Change Management
    • IT Knowledge Management
    • IT Technical Documentation Management
    • IT Compliance Administration & Reporting
    • IT Help Desk & End User Technical Training/Support

By combining all of these related IT service and support capabilities into a single, comprehensive managed service plan, your company can gain substantially enhanced visibility and control over all your IT related business operations.  This leads to better IT management decisions, predictable IT expenditures and much more efficient IT operational and end user support service delivery.  

Differentiating Qualities: IT support vs IT help desk

Let’s examine a few salient features of IT support vs help desk. 

  • A help desk provides break-fix solutions (reactive assistance for immediate support issues), whereas a managed service program provides full scope support for all daily IT operational requirements along with a platform designed to provide long term IT operational enhancements.
  • Help desk IT services were born out of the need for providing tactical computer support, while managed IT services sprung from the need for gaining greater overall visibility and control over all strategic IT business functions. 
  • The help desk is more focused on end user incident management and trouble ticket resolution whereas managed IT service plans provide a broad range of integrated technical services and capabilities designed to optimize and measure the ongoing efficiency of all IT support functions.
  • A help desk is a dedicated IT support function within the broader context of a company’s overall IT operations. Managed IT service plans provide businesses with a holistic IT ecosystem enabling control and coordination of all IT functions, processes and systems.
  • Help desk support manages IT needs reactively, while managed IT service plans provide a proactive approach to identifying and correcting IT issues before they impact employee productivity.
  • Help desk services are focused exclusively on improving user productivity. Managed service plans have the same objective, but also help to ensure that all corporate IT systems and operations remain optimally aligned with the company’s broader overall strategic IT business objectives.


What Type of IT Support Does Your Business Need?

By now, you realize that IT help desk services and managed services are complementary service offerings. Choosing between IT help desk vs desktop support for your business is determined by the degree of technological process integration and technical sophistication your company needs. 

For smaller businesses, where IT may not be perceived to play a “mission critical” strategic role, help desk services may suffice to address core operational needs.  However, for most larger businesses, a service desk manages incidents as well as long-term IT needs for greater operational efficiency. Hence, a service desk is strategic in nature.

The Future of Managed IT Services:

As technical advances in IT infrastructure management and cloud-based technology platforms continue to mature and gain sophistication, the challenge of effectively monitoring, managing, securing and supporting corporate IT network computing environments continues to grow exponentially.  

Forward thinking MSP’s are already addressing these challenges head-on. They’re focusing on technical enhancements to their core service offerings in order to gain greater management control and integration of increasingly decentralized cloud networking resources.  

Some of these enhancements include:

  1. Implementing advanced cloud-based IT security monitoring platforms in order to ensure that corporate IT security protocols can be applied uniformly and consistently across all existing systems.  Early adoption of technologies like Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) platforms, CARTA-based Zero Trust, and SDP access security solutions enable MSPs to offer secure cloud computing at scale.
  2. Adoption of new AI and robotics-based technologies to simplify and improve repetitive managed IT service and support tasks.  AI & robotics allow MSPs to program logical “robots” to perform commonly recurring IT management and support tasks. This ensures greater accuracy and consistency for recurring IT administrative functions.  It also enables more effective client knowledge management and self service capabilities which, in turn, helps to reduce ongoing IT support costs.
  3. Integration of MSP help desk ticketing systems and remote monitoring systems with workflow automation platforms (e.g. Slack & Microsoft Teams, etc.)  to improve support team communication response times, client interaction on support ticket resolution and collaborative workflows.


At iTeam Technologies, we have been developing and delivering comprehensive Managed IT service and support solutions for over 25 years to a broad range of NYC- based businesses. Contact us today to learn how a fully customized managed IT service program can help you solve your IT challenges an maximize the efficiency of all of your business technology operations.

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