Free Web Based Ticket System - OSTicket
I was looking for a cheap but feature packed tracking system for a new business that I am involved in. As a techie and a geek my thoughts immediately focused on a ticketing system to do this. While the new business that I am doing on the side focuses primarily on Sales and Real Estate (neither area of which I'm personally familiar) the company itself didn't have any real good way of tracking "leads" and their interactions with the customers.
To rectify this glaring gap I thought that a ticketing system met all of the requirements, but price was obviously an issue ... however after some research with my hosting provider and through the web I came across an ideal solution called OSTicket. Best thing of all was the price - it was free!!
Although I admit to being a "geek" and am reasonably competent at utilizing technology, I'm not a programmer or hard-core designer by any means. As such the thing that initially worried me was the complexity of the installation for this solution vs. the tools that my hosting company offered (I'm with Dreamhost for some of my blogs and they offer something called One-Click Installation for a host of products and services ... really simple and easy to use, only problem was that none of them really met my needs!).
However if you have any skills with FTP (& most hosting providers offer a web based FTP program so you don't even have to download a specific application) it really was not that hard at all!
In addition the installation guide offered by OSTicket was very easy to follow and walked you through everything step by step.
Download & Extract
The first part of the installation is to actually download the most stable version of OSTicket (in my case it was Version 1.6.0) and save it to your desktop. Then as mentioned using a web based FTP application that tied directly into my domain I was able to login to the shell level for my domain. Here I created a new folder for my ticketing system (in my case I called it /Support/) ... into this new folder I extracted the OSTicket installation files.
To install osTicket, your web server must have PHP 4.3 (or better) and MySQL 4.1 (or better) installed. If you are unsure whether your server meets these requirements, please check with your host or webmaster before proceeding with the installation.
You will need one MySQL database with valid user, password and hostname handy during installation. MySQL user must have FULL privileges on the database. If you are unsure whether you have these details or if the user has sufficient permissions, please consult your host or database admin before proceeding.
osTicket requires that the PHP directive short_open_tag be on. Depending on your server permission level - the directive can be set on in the file php.ini, .htaccess or httpd.conf.
Installation & Configuration
The installation itself after this point went really well and seamlessly. Once I logged into my domain - http://www.yourdomain.com/support/setup/ - I was prompted at each step of the process with regards to setting up the solution.
Now I have a web-based ticketing system that automatically accepts emails sent to it and opens up tickets for them so that I can track them from "cradle to grave". I'm still working on the configuration - logo's + customization, but I've already made some changes to the functionality by allowing my users to sort by due date in addition to the already provided date field.
Customization & Forums
One of the best features I've found already with this product is that there is an active user base supporting the product and you can find hints/idea's and suggestions to most everything you want in the forums.
For a free product this is essential as if you don't have any support, you are rapidly going to be "up the creek ..." however fortunately for this product this is definitely NOT the case. So far from start to end its taken me about 3-4 hours to get this product up and running ... the hardest part being my understanding of everything it is capable of and adding in the users and groups. As mentioned though I still have some work to go before I consider this product fully live, but considering how much I've already done with it - I'm really pleased!
If you need a web based system that has little to no up front cost (you will need to have a domain so there is some cost there), tracks user interaction, offers a knowledge base and provides you with a way to route your client issue to the person best suited to their requirements I really urge you to give this product a whirl. I doubt that you will be disappointed.
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