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Cerberus Helpdesk Introduction
Many organizations rely on email to accomplish their customer service work. This is good on the one hand because most customers would prefer to communicate via email. On the other hand, conventional email is not a terribly efficient or organized tool for dealing with long-term or complex issues, handling prioritization of large numbers of issues, or for communicating within a team. Project and task management systems work well for tracking tasks internally, but they don't always make communication with the customer a convenient step in the work cycle. Cerb, also known as Cerberus Helpdesk, seeks to solve these challenged by providing a Ticketing and Helpesk software that provides the (needed) complexity of Project Management software with the communication convenience of email.
The Problem of Email
Email is easy, ubiquitous — everyone has an email. It is easy to print an email address on a product or package, and it is easy for customers to use email to communicate their challenges. Very few customers are interested in filling out an online form — they would generally prefer to send an email.
But email is notoriously bad for dealing with customer problems:
- Do several people check a single email account?
- How do emails into a single support address get distributed to the right service member?
- How do various team members know when an email has been dealt with by someone else?
- How do separate internal conversation that you don't want the customer to see from responses to the customer, without losing the context of the conversation? (And how do you avoid embarrassing reveals of internal conversations through email replies?)
Email is a great communication tool — so it makes sense that your customers should want to use it to communicate with you, and that it is the best way to respond. But you need a system that bridges the external communication convenience of email with an internal project or task-management system.
Systems like this are usually called Ticketing Systems, or help desk systems. One popular help desk system is Cerberus Helpdesk, also known as Cerb.
How Cerb Handles Email and Tasks
Cerb is a task management system that is built around email. It is designed to look more like a typical email client than like a typical task manager, and the central point of work — the ticket — is an email conversation.
Incoming tickets (email messages) are routed to various inboxes based on customizable rules. Tickets are viewable by a number of different people who may be responsible for it — members of a particular work group, people assigned to specific projects, employees in particular departments, or supervisors. Anyone who can view the ticket can see what has been done, and what needs to be done. Sub-conversations can be attached or linked to tickets.
Other Cerb Features
Cerb has a number of features that help users handle help desk tickets and communicate with customers, while tracking their work. Here are a few:
- Automated Virtual Attendants — Essentially this is a built-in scripting (macro) tool that allows users to speed up repetitive tasks.
- Groups and Buckets — Cerb has several overlapping means of grouping together people (such as teams and departments) and tasks, so that anyone who needs to access and deal with a particular issue can do so
- Custom data fields — All types of objects (workers, issues, companies, etc.) can have custom data fields attached to them. There is an easy-to-use GUI for doing so.
Cerberus Is Commercial Open Source
Cerb is developed by Web Group Media, a commercial enterprise that releases all of its software under an open source licensing model. If you would like to inspect, modify, or redistribute the code, you are free to do so — you can even install and run the app for your business without paying for it. The code for Cerb is available on GitHub.
Why Would You Pay for Cerberus Helpdesk If It Is Free?
Cerberus Helpdesk is available in two paid versions:
- On-Demand — a SaaS (Software as a Service)offering which requires an ongoing paid subscription, and frees the customer from installation and server maintenance.
- On-Site — a self-hosted option, which has a single upfront charge
The On-Demand plan clearly provides something the Open Source version does not: hosting. The On-Site license also include installation, support, and upgrades.
Depending on the particular needs and resources of the business, it may make more sense to pay for the supported version than it does to save money by simply using the available source code.
Hosting Cerberus Helpdesk
Cerb is available as a self-hosted application, or as a SaaS subscription. If you would like to host it yourself, you'll need to meet the following hosting requirements:
- Operating System
- Linux (Recommended. Ubuntu Linux preferred.)
- Mac OS X
- Nginx (Recommended. v1.4 or later preferred.)
- Microsoft IIS
- PHP 5.3 or later
- Required extensions:
- Recommended extensions:
- file_uploads = On
memory_limit = 64M(or higher)
upload_max_filesize= 32M (or higher)
post_max_size = 32M(or higher)
- MySQL 5.0 or later.
- Recommended: Strict mode disabled.
Cerb Client Requirements
- Google Chrome and Firefox are recommended.
- Internet Explorer is specifically not recommended.