Is There Really a Difference Between Help Desk and IT Support?

For how similar IT helpdesk services and IT support services may be, there are several differences between the two that are worth exploring and understanding.

Your IT infrastructure consists of various components that need to work together cohesively to achieve peak performance. If one or more of those components malfunctions or needs replacement or repair, a help desk or service desk can provide you with the support or repairs you need.

But the real question is, should you choose a helpdesk or a service desk? In this article, we’ll compare the two while focusing on the core components of a highly functional IT support model.


IT Support vs. Help Desk: Which One Do You Need?

While some organizations use the terms help desk and IT support (or tech support) interchangeably, the two are actually quite different from one another.


Service Desk

A service desk is primarily a reactive service. 

It is staffed by expert technicians devoted to engineering excellence who answer support calls or emails and troubleshoot technical issues “on-demand.”

Although a service desk can provide reactive support when necessary, it primarily focuses on proactive solutions to tough IT challenges. Specifically, it helps to reduce inefficiency and technical debt while supporting business productivity and growth.


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Help Desk

Help desk manages incidents when they arise and help desk personnel are often the first point of contact between a Managed Service Provider (MSP) and the end-user. The help desk’s main focus is to provide effective customer service by fixing problems quickly to help a business achieve peak efficiency.

What Does the Help Desk Do?

Help desk support agents resolve relatively straightforward issues, answer ‘how-to’ questions, and provide technical guidance that delivers real value to the end-user. They also escalate more complex IT issues to senior specialists.

Some help desks are staffed by multiple levels of technicians. For example, a Level 1 technician might take the initial call and provide base-level support. If they are unable to resolve the user’s issues, they might escalate it to a Level 2 or higher technician.

Additionally, the help desk acts as a centralized point of communication for all support tickets, phone calls, and emails. By relying on a single point of contact, a company can organize support tickets and improve workflow efficiency for the helpdesk. This creates a more positive experience for end-users.


IT Support

Helpdesk vs. IT Support

IT support engineers are seasoned professionals who focus on long-term planning, preventative maintenance, and addressing more complex infrastructure challenges.

Their goal is to achieve peak efficiency for your infrastructure to improve its reliability, scalability, and security.

What Does IT Support Do?

IT support specialists take a more holistic view of your infrastructure. They regularly review and analyze your system and logs and take proactive maintenance measures as needed.

They also handle escalations from the help desk and perform tasks that go beyond the capabilities of a traditional help desk.These tasks include everything from system analysis and upgrades to solving thorny technical problems or planning major strategic IT initiatives.

Generally speaking, these knowledgeable IT professionals have:

  • The ability to deliver best-in-class technical support
  • Experience working with specific systems or hardware
  • The power to provide advice or direction to less experienced personnel and end-users

The IT support team provides real value by improving your business’s efficiency while reducing the burden on the help desk. They also identify and remediate the root causes of recurring IT issues and reduce technical debt while designing systems that help you achieve peak efficiency backed by engineering excellence.


The Differences Between IT Support and Help Desk Support

Help desk support and IT support overlap at times, as they both handle IT issues that come their way. But the roles differ in their method and purpose.

1. Different Goals

The help desk focuses on delivering end-user support in the most efficient way possible. Users typically contact the help desk when they encounter a problem that prevents them from completing their daily tasks.

IT support engineers also prioritize efficiency, but their goal is to identify why problems happen and ways to solve them strategically. In some cases, IT support focuses on remediating complex issues escalated from the help desk to help your business achieve its long-term IT goals.

IT Support and Help Desk Support


2. Different Listening Styles

Since help desk agents are the first line of contact, they must play an empathetic, customer support role and reassure users that their problems are understood and being actively addressed. Their main goal is to evaluate issues quickly from the initial call to resolution to ensure client satisfaction.

IT support, focuses on fixing critical issues or planning strategic IT initiatives that keep their clients’ businesses up and running. When specific user issues are escalated to IT support engineers, the help desk often assists by maintaining direct communications with the customer through resolution.

3. Different Approaches to Problem Solving

Help desk support technicians must have a broad understanding of IT and specific knowledge about each customer’s environment in order to help with routine end-user problems. Their broad knowledge base makes them ideal for evaluating and organizing tickets and handling requests without necessarily having in-depth technical skills across multiple IT disciplines.

In contrast, an IT support department is usually organized into specific technical disciplines such as systems, networking, cybersecurity, cloud services, and so on. This is because not all engineers can be experts in every category.

These more seasoned support engineers handle complex strategic projects as well as any service tickets assigned to them or escalations from the help desk for their particular areas of expertise.


How IT Help Desk and IT Support Achieve Efficient Infrastructure Maintenance

Your IT infrastructure is critical to your business operations. To ensure optimal efficiency, you need both front-line personnel who focus strictly on day-to-day technical issues in real-time (help desk) and an IT department that can focus on resolving more complex issues and developing longer-term strategic plans to support business growth.


Hiring vs. Outsourcing

Many companies believe in having internal IT resources.

However, attracting and keeping a broad range of IT talent on staff is difficult and expensive. In addition, having deep expertise in every critical technical area is nearly impossible for small and medium-sized businesses.

The best and most cost-effective way to build a robust IT support team is to partner with a trusted managed services provider (MSP) who is focused on engineering excellence across a wide range of disciplines and is dedicated to customer service.

This model offers access to an entire team of IT professionals whenever necessary, without having to pay for all of them all the time


Support Your IT, Support Your Team 


Your One-Stop Shop for Help Desk Services and IT Support

For over 25 years, ITSco has built a reputation based on offering a full range of advanced IT services at fair prices. One secret to our success is our ability to attract and retain some of the best IT talents in North Carolina. We do that by offering a satisfying work environment that is focused on long-term customer satisfaction.

Talented people enjoy working for a company devoted to the success of its clients. That’s why ITSco is one of the most trusted IT firms in the Triangle, the Triad, and across North Carolina.

When you partner with us, you get a full-service IT department that includes well-trained and helpful front-line service desk personnel (help desk) to experienced senior IT engineers (IT support) and architects, technical project managers, and executive-level IT managers.

For more information, contact us today to learn more about how our talented team can support your information technology needs.

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