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Technology Review: Solarwinds Web Help Desk (WHD) V 12.1

Home » Reviews » Technology Review: Solarwinds Web Help Desk (WHD) V 12.1

solarwinds-inc-logoThis is an independent review of Solarwinds Web Help Desk, reviewed in March 2014.

AT A GLANCE

A global leader in the market of service automation software and remote management
SolarWinds mission is to provide purpose-built products designed to make IT professional’s jobs easier.

This review takes a look at the core capabilities, the route to market, competitive strengths and weaknesses, product development roadmap and market reach of SolarWinds Web Help Desk (WHD) V 12.1, which was released in January 2014.

Available as both self-hosted and SaaS (through their partner Loop1) SolarWinds WHD has an intuitive browser-based user interface with customizable forms, easy to create rule-based workflow and integration with many network and application management tools.

SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS

Strengths

Weaknesses

Easy installation and deployment  Separate Change Management area needed
Consistent look and feel with other SolarWinds products   No Release Management
Easy scalability   No graphical representation of asset relationships
125,000 strong user community   No Service Catalog

PRIMARY MARKET FOCUS

Although encompassing a broad range of industries and sizes of organization, SolarWinds WHD is popular in the Education sector and with SMB’s.

70% of SolarWinds customers are currently based in North America but purchase is being made in both EMEA & APAC.

With several products that fit into the ITSM space, namely Dameware Remote Support, Patch Manager and Mobile Admin, SolarWinds are now actively promoting these together and plan to offer bundled sales packages.

ANALYSIS

Named as Forbes Best Small Company in America in 2012, SolarWinds provides a wealth of network and system management tools including over 30 free offerings.

In 2012 SolarWinds made the logical move to add a ticketing tool to their product portfolio by procuring Web Help Desk, at the time their seventh acquisition since 2011.

Products are grouped into the following categories:

  • Application and Server Management
  • Log and Security Information Management
  • IT Alert and On Call Management
  • Network Management
  • IT Help Desk
  • Virtualization Management
  • Storage Management
  • Database Management
  • File Transfer

The company has headquarters in Austin, Texas and operates out of a growing number of worldwide regional offices (eight at the time of writing).

SolarWinds community, Thwack, has over 125,000 users worldwide who collaborate and share.  As a result with a little searching you can find a Knowledge Base article or forum post with the answer to almost any question you may have.

With advanced and well integrated suites within almost every aspect of IT Management this competitive differentiator means that they are a good fit for network support heavy IT Departments wanting to track tickets and assets with the minimum of fuss.

Fully customizable forms make fitting the tool around your processes much easier than with some others.  It’s surprisingly easy to define complex rule-based workflow meaning that no matter how obscure some of your processes are, with careful consideration and time spent on Thwack you’re sure to find a way.

Native asset discovery and integration with 3rd party software platforms for asset discover and asset management.  This together with the Parts area of the tool which helps to catalogue spares such as keyboards, mice, etc. should help to ensure that even the most controlling of Asset Managers are happy.

Most current competitors offer some kind of integration to third party discovery/event management tools but not to the extent or with the ease of SolarWinds WHD and are often accompanied by extended consulting engagements. With the right marketing SolarWinds with their cost effective tool and highly integratable portfolio should climb the ITSM tool vendor ladder swiftly.

The Self Service portal along with the Tech area contains a reservation desk to check in or out assets and warranty and lease alerts are configurable to ensure vendor maintenance contracts are maintained.

SolarWinds WHD has the ability to easily scale to the largest of organisations whilst still maintaining the ease-of-deployment and use that has made SolarWinds among the most popular vendors for the mid-market.

SolarWinds WHD is an excellent entry nearing mid-range Service Desk tool.  However with the development of Change Management/Release Management this would raise the profile of the tool considerably.

Like Asset Management, Change Management is not an area usually dealt with by the Service Desk Analysts and as such I believe it warrants it’s own area separate from tickets.  A dedicated Change calendar would also be useful with the ability to set blackout schedules.  This combined with some degree of Release Management, even if basic, would open SolarWinds to a much larger audience.

SolarWinds face the challenge of educating the market of their new capabilities in ITSM in a market crowded with competitors. However, they face these challenges with an already huge existing user base and from a position of proven track record in the IT Management sector.

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KEY CAPABILITIES

The table below shows the key capabilities of SolarWinds WHD

Tickets
  • Eases migration by importing tickets from legacy ticket systems
  • Enables configuration of multiple tiers and groups of IT staff and assignment of triage and escalation tasks to tiers and groups
  • Includes easily-customizable and dynamic ticket forms with unlimited custom fields
  • Simplifies ticket organization by allowing linking of unlimited incident tickets to a single problem
  • Dynamically routes and assigns help desk tickets to a specific technician or group of technicians
  • Each ticket’s processing sequence is time stamped and user tagged, including system updates and automation decisions
  • Automates load balancing of ticket assignment

 

Asset Management
  • Easy to build parent/child relationships between assets
  • Shows software licensing distributions across network, including how many license keys of a particular software are in the field versus ready for assignment
  • Calculates warranty and lease end dates based on purchase order information
  • Tracks by asset type, status, location, manufacturer and model
  • Enables you to manage who uses what by associating an end user with a specific asset or group of assets
  • Associates end-users to service requests or incident tickets with a specific asset or group of assets
  • Provides a running history of all service requests for a given asset
  • Allows end users to select their current location and then provides a list of all assets in that specific location for easy asset identification
  • Asset discovery data from any source can be scheduled to import regularly or on-demand
  • Includes a Reservation Center that allows end users to request a designated check-out time and date range for a specific asset
  • An overdue alert system easily identifies lost or stolen inventory

 

Change Management
  • Enables association of service request types with approval and change processes
  • Approvers can approve or deny directly from email or via the web interface
  • Supports individual voting and voting by panel
  • Approval processes can be simple or complex as needed, from a one step sign-off to multiple levels of succession
  • Approvers can be configured based on roles, ensuring the request is addressed by the appropriate individual based on location, department and position

 

Knowledge Base
  • Enables you to query a knowledge base article that resolves a request and inject a hot link to a FAQ or tool tip into the trouble ticket note
  • Offers related FAQs and tool tips to end users as they submit a service ticket
  • Supports embedded videos and file attachments
  • When technical knowledge base articles are intended primarily for internal use or reference, SolarWinds Web Help Desk can organize your knowledge base articles and flag visibility to the departments of your choice
  • Enables you to grow your knowledge base organically by letting your IT staff easily submit common ticket resolutions as potential knowledge base articles for internal or external public consumption
  • Automatically flags each newly submitted article as “unapproved” requiring final approval from your knowledge base manager before becoming visible

 

GO-TO-MARKET STRATEGY

Founded in 1999 SolarWinds have grown year on year and provide over 50 IT management tools in their portfolio.

SolarWinds sells it’s products through an inside sales model and through channel partners all over the world.  Rather than involve consultants, potential SolarWinds customers are encouraged to self evaluate for a period of 30 days and visit the user community, Thwack, to witness the sharing and support that take place.

With a good solid grounding in the network, systems and application management arena the move into the Service Desk area completes a very comprehensive set of IT tools.

With the consistent look and feel of the SolarWinds products WHD will

It is estimated that the average user now deploys 2.5 of the main product groupings.

SolarWinds WHD is licensed per user/technician in a perpetual licensing mode which is scaled down as users are added.

Prices start at $695 per user and scales down as users are added.

Business Partner Summary

Key Business Partners
  • Loop1 (Loop One)

Market Penetration

Number of customers on maintenance 4,000+
Typical Customer
  • Small-medium business
  • Based in North America
  • Late adopters

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IMPLEMENTATION

Typical Installation

Installation of SolarWinds WHD is fast and straightforward taking anything from 10 minutes to a few hours to set up depending on the complexity of importing/migrating configuration data such as tickets, locations, request types, FAQ’s etc.

SolarWinds WHD can be implemented/deployed using only internal staff and typically can be dealt with by one technician/engineer.

Full installation requirements (please note this is not the case for evaluation installations):

Software Requirements
Operating System
  • Windows Server 2003 32/64-bit, Windows Server 2008 32/64-bit, Windows Server 2008 R2 64-bit, Windows Server 2012 32/64-bit, Windows Server 2012 R2 32/64-bit
  • Recommended for installations with more than 20 technicians, Windows Server 2003, 2008 or 2008 R2, and 2012 64-bit OS .

 

Web Console Browser
  • Chrome 30, 31, and 32
  • Firefox 24, 25, and 26
  • Internet Explorer (IE) 8, 9, and 10
  • Safari 5 and 6

Note: Chrome v32 and Mozilla v26 are the latest versions of those browsers tested with WHD 12.1.0. Because Google and Mozilla release new versions of their browsers so often, testing WHD on the very latest browser is not always possible. It is likely, however, that WHDv12.1.0 will work with Chrome and Firefox releases newer than those it has been tested on.

Hardware
  • CPU Speed – Dual Core 2.0 GHz or faster
  • Hard Drive Speed – 20 GB
  • Mac Architecture – 64-bit Intel
  • Memory – 3 GB (add 1 GB for every 10 additional technicians/engineers)
  • Application Ports – 8081 (or alternate browser port), 1433 (SQL)

The installer configures the application and the optional embedded PostgreSQL database automatically.  A setup wizard walks the administrator through initial configuration steps.  It is suggested that you run the SolarWinds WHD application and external database on separate servers for optimal performance.

As an alternative to Windows, Mac, and Linux installer applications, a Linux-based virtual appliance is also available.

To fully benefit from all features, WHD requires configuration (e.g. email, Active Directory/LDAP connection, Asset synchronization etc.) however it is possible to use it almost instantly by using web UI to raise tickets, auto-creation of users and the Free version requires very little configuration and is basically a straight-out-of-the-box solution for very simple use.

Time to Value

The short time required to install SolarWinds WHD together with the ease of use, scalability and minimal manpower costs for deployment suggests a rapid ROI.

Resources Required

As with all ticketing systems the tool is only as good as the information inputted.  Ongoing maintenance and data verification will be required especially with regard to Knowledge Management and Asset Management.

Scalability

The application is implemented as a J2EE servlet running under Tomcat, with JDBC connections to a relational database that can run on a separate server or cluster. (Comes bundled with an optional embedded PostgreSQL database. MySQL and SQL Server are also supported.) Additional servlet containers, running on the same or separate nodes, can be configured as needed. For most SMB customers, the application’s caching mechanisms facilitate scaling to increased performance requirements by simply allocating additional memory, without requiring additional hardware nodes. For larger customers, a common configuration separates background daemon processes such as asset discovery and e-mail processing onto a second server, which can be set up using the standard application installer

PRODUCT ROADMAP

SolarWinds have several directions in which they plan to further grow Web Help Desk

  • Provide tighter integration with other SolarWinds products, particularly Orion based, to provide streamlined problem resolution and the remote support product, Dameware
  • Enhance the reporting capabilities to provide data that will help customers understand and foresee issues for greater IT control.
  • Further develop configurability and ability of Web Help Desk to adapt to the customers processes
  • Enhanced project management capabilities

The next product release is tentatively scheduled for September 2014.  There are usually 1 major and 1-2 minor releases per year.

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PRODUCT PORTFOLIO

  • Server and Application Monitor
  • Virtualization Manager
  • Storage Manager, Powered by Profiler
  • Patch Manager
  • Log and Event Manager – Affordable SIEM
  • Web Performance Manager
  • Web Help Desk
  • Dameware Remote Support
  • Dameware Mini Remote Control
  • Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server
  • Mobile Admin
  • System Center Extension Pack
  • Virtualized Application Performance Pack
  • Web App Monitoring App
  • Log and Security Information Management
  • Log and Event Manager – Affordable SIEM
  • Firewall Security Manager
  • Alert Central
  • Network Performance Monitor
  • Netflow Traffic Analyzer
  • Network Configuration Manager
  • IP Address Manager
  • User Device Tracker
  • VoIP and Network Quality Manager
  • Engineer’s Toolset
  • Network Topology Mapper
  • Database Performance Analyzer
  • Database Performance Analyzer – VM Option

COVERAGE

Head Office Austin, Texas
Regional Offices Utah, Colorado, Canada, Czech Republic, India, Singapore, Australia, Ireland

FURTHER RESOURCES

Website – http://www.webhelpdesk.com

Demo – http://www.webhelpdesk.com/download-demo/

VENDOR PROFILE

In their own words:

“Named by Forbes as one of the top 10 fastest growing technology companies, SolarWinds is improving the way IT management software is developed, priced, purchased, delivered, and used. At SolarWinds, we are fanatical about putting our users first in everything we do. We strive every day to deliver powerful functionality that is easy to use with one of the fastest and longest lasting ROIs in the market.

Our IT monitoring and management software is built for SysAdmins and network engineers who need powerful, affordable, and easy-to-use network and server monitoring software that saves time and simply gets the job done. Evaluating, buying, deploying, and using enterprise software shouldn’t be complex. IT management and monitoring software from SolarWinds is easy to try, buy, deploy and use. That’s unexpected simplicity.”

CONTACT DETAILS

SolarWinds Contact Details

Head Office 3711 South MoPac Expressway, Building Two, Austin, Texas 78746 P: 866.530.8100 F: 512.682.9301
Other Locations EMEA Headquarters Unit 1101, Building 1000, City Gate, Mahon, Cork, Ireland P: +353 21 5002900 F: +353 212 380 232APAC Headquarters Intec House, Level 22 – SolarWinds, 215 Adelaide Street, Brisbane, QLD, 4000 P: 1 800 090 386 F: +61 (07) 3319 6401Tulsa, OK 4111 S. Darlington Ave. Suite 500, Tulsa, OK 74135New Zealand Duckworths Building, 20-22 Munroe Street, Napier, New Zealand

Singapore 6 Temasek Boulevard #39-01/02, Suntec Tower Four, Singapore 038986 Tel : +65 6593 7600 Fax : +65 (0)6 491 5123

Dallas, TX 4040 McEwen Road, Suite 240, Dallas TX 75244

India Module 4, 6th Floor, Block A, SP Infocity, #40

MGR Salai, Perungudi
Chennai – 600 096, Tamil Nadu

Brno, Czech Republic Holandská 6/873, 639 00 Brno, Czech Republic

Post Falls, ID 510 S Clearwater Loop # 100, Post Falls, ID 83854

Lehi, Utah 2500 West Executive Parkway, Suite 300 Lehi, UT 84043 385-374-7000

SUMMARY

SolarWinds WHD is a good fit for SMBs and organizations in the Education sector with IT Departments heavily dependent on network monitoring and event management.

Strengths

Weaknesses

Easy installation and deployment   Separate Change Management area needed
Consistent look and feel with other SolarWinds products   No Release Management
 Easy scalability   No graphical representation of asset relationships
125,000 strong user community  No Service Catalog

Disclaimer, Scope and Limitations

The information contained in this review is based on sources and information believed to be accurate as of the time it was created.  Therefore, the completeness and current accuracy of the information provided cannot be guaranteed.  Readers should therefore use the contents of this review as a general guideline, and not as the ultimate source of truth.

Similarly, this review is not based on rigorous and exhaustive technical study.  The ITSM Review recommends that readers complete a thorough live evaluation before investing in technology.

This is a paid review, that is, the vendors included in this review paid to participate in exchange for all results and analysis being published free of charge, without registration.

For further information, please read our Disclosure page.




1 Response to " Technology Review: Solarwinds Web Help Desk (WHD) V 12.1 "

  1. Vic says:

    check http://helpdeskreviews.com/ for more helpdesk reviews