Solarwinds Service Desk is reasonably priced, highly customizable, but most importantly, easy to use.
Easy to use
Lots of customization options
Reports slow to load
Limited data export options
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Solarwinds Service Desk is a software solution for IT service management (ITSM) aimed at supporting a company’s own employees. It can be used for incident and asset management, cataloging and fulfillment, and as a single portal for the submission of tickets and requests.
Even though the focus of a service desk is more internal, it still has the same end-user focus as all the best help desk software solutions. In this Solarwinds Service Desk review we help you decide whether it could be useful for your business as we take a look at its pricing, features, support, and ease of use.
Solarwinds: Plans and pricing
SolarWinds offers a very simple pricing structure, offering a choice of three plans. The 'Essentials' plan is designed for 'growing teams' and is priced at $39 per month, per technician. There's an additional charge of $0.30 per month per device.
This includes features like Incident Management, as well as your own Knowledge Base and a Service Portal where teams can collaborate on work. SolarWinds 'Essentials' plan also makes it easy for you to respond to user feedback, offering both Satisfaction Surveys and Real Time Agent Feedback.
There's also a helpful Service Catalog for users, as well as a 'Service Request' feature which allows you to capture all service requests along with any relevant details. The plan also supports SLAs (Service Level Agreements) and management of requests and approvals.
The 'Advanced' Plan starts at $79 per month per technician, with an additional fee of $0.50 per month per device. It includes all the features of the 'Essentials' Plan plus superior features such as custom fields and forms, contract management, license compliance, scheduled reports and API access. Crucially the 'Advanced' Plan also supports automation of work flows as well as benchmarking.
The 'Premier' plan is touted by SolarWinds as being for 'full customizability'. Subscriptions cost $99 per month, per technician plus $0.70 per device. It includes all the features bundled with the 'Essentials' and 'Advanced' plans plus a visual CMDB (Configuration Management Database) with Automatic Dependency Mapping. Other perks include a 'Premier' Virtual Agent, up to 1500 API calls per user, per minute and automated runbooks.
The pricing plans are clearly laid out. Our only complaint is the higher charge per device for more expensive plans, as it would be more intuitive to offer greater discounts to customers who are paying a higher charge per user.
All plans support an unlimited number of users and can be tried out free of charge for 30 days.
Solarwinds Service Desk has a large selection of features including tools for incident, IT asset and problem management, an employee service portal, and a knowledge base.
Incident management software is used for streamlining ticket submissions, with tickets able to be submitted by email, phone, the service portal, live chat, or in person. The software also includes the ability to automate simple tasks and route tickets to the right people so that incidents are resolved more quickly. Built-in artificial intelligence can also speed up ticket resolution by recommending solutions.
Problem management functionality allows your agents to easily group similar incidents together to avoid multiple agents working on the same issues and prevent redundancy. Automation features mean that tickets can be categorized and routed to the correct technician without manual involvement.
The employee service portal is a web app that employees can use to submit and track service requests or find answers to questions that may have been asked before via the integrated knowledge base and other resources. Not only is the service portal helpful for employees, but it gives technicians all the data they might need to resolve incidents quickly in one place.
Solarwinds: Interface and in use
Solarwinds Service Desk has a very clean interface that we found easy to navigate. Access to all of the main sections of the dashboard is hidden behind a hamburger menu icon in the top left corner of the window, but the menu itself is very responsive, and it’s easy to find what you’re looking for.
The dashboard comes with a pre-selected group of widgets displaying your organization’s data, but you can add new ones or edit or remove the existing ones. You can also create completely new dashboards if you don’t want to add too many widgets to a single page.
When viewing a list of incidents, you have a lot of control over how the data is filtered and sorted, and you can customize the columns that are displayed. Once you’ve selected an individual incident to view, you again have a lot of control over its settings, and the user interface makes it easy for even novice users to figure out how to update and add to an incident.
For those that do need a little extra help, every page you visit has a text and video tutorial that can be accessed by clicking on the ‘?’ button near the top right of the window.
We were impressed at how easy Solarwinds Service Desk was to use but did find that sometimes pages, or parts of pages that displayed data, were a bit slow to load. In particular, we found building reports to be very slow, even at the very beginning of our testing, when we only had a handful of sample issues.
SolarWinds offers varying levels of support to customers based on their subscription plan. If you choose the lowest 'Essentials' tier you benefit from 'Community Support', where other SolarWinds users can offer advice and assistance via a dedicated forum.
If you don't want to trust your business to other customers' goodwill, you'll be pleased to hear that both e-mail and chat support are available via Service Desk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If you've signed up for either the 'Advanced' or 'Premier' plans then you'll also benefit from phone support, which is also available round the clock, 365 days a year. Advanced and Premier users can also avail themselves of a CSM (Customer Success Manager) ℅ Service Desk, who apparently can answer any question your company has about "using the solution". It's unclear what a CSM would offer over and above a regular Service Desk query but presumably it's safer to have a dedicated Success Manager and not need one than need one and not have one.
We were blown away by SolarWinds free online Resource Center, which includes brochures, white papers, helpful videos, datasheets and demos to name just a few. The pages are easy to navigate as you can filter down by subject category and/or resource type.
As with most providers of helpdesk software, Solarwinds takes a rigorous approach to security, which applies to the various layers that go into developing web apps.
Employees sign confidentiality agreements and undergo specific security training. World-class data centers are used, protected by fire suppression systems and security guards. All changes are logged and regular audits are carried out. Networks are protected by firewalls and malicious code protection, and disaster recovery systems are in place.
SolarWinds confirm all of the above on their dedicated 'Information Security' page, which includes a link to their 'Security Statement'. In this they confirm that they follow the voluntary NIST Cybersecurity Framework, which is designed for companies that form part of the critical infrastructure of the USA.
Unfortunately if you're looking for specific examples of how data is encrypted during transmission and in transit e.g. TLS and AES, then you'll need to contact SolarWinds directly to ask how this is being done.
On the plus side, if you're an administrator configuring the SolarWinds platform, there's an extensive 'best practices' guide on how to secure it, including:
- A recommendation to use at least 2048 Bit RSA encryption for SSL certificates.
- Confirmation that SolarWinds supports encrypted database connections via SSL.
- Support for TLS cipher suites and certificate validation.
- Lockout of accounts after 10 failed login attempts.
SolarWinds also has an extensive policy on data protection requirements for their vendors and affiliates, which include provisions banning shared user accounts and requiring encryption of customer data in transit and at rest.
Solarwinds: The competition
The ITSM market is smaller than the overall helpdesk software market, but there are still some competitors worth considering, like Freshservice by Freshworks and Jira Service Desk by Atlassian.
FreshService has a very similar feature list to Solarwinds Service Desk and also has a choice of four plans that go from $19/month/agent up to $119/month/agent if you're willing to pay annually. There's even a 21-day free trial period and you can book a live demo of the service if you want to try before subscribing.
Jira Service Desk has a different (and rather more complicated) pricing structure, including a free plan, and offers both cloud and self-managed versions of its software.
The free plan is for up to three agents. The Standard plan is $21 per month per agent.
You can also pay $600/year for up to three agents but then increases to $1050 per year for up to 5 agents.
After 15 agents, the price starts to come down slightly. The Premium plan starts at $47/agent/month but you can also make some savings if you have multiple agents and want to pay annually. The paid plans support up to 10,000 agents if you're able and willing to pay for them. All plans also support an unlimited number of customers but only one site, unless you sign up to a bespoke 'Enterprise' plan.
Solarwinds: Final verdict
Solarwinds Service Desk is ideally suited to companies with large IT departments that are looking to provide high levels of service for their own employees and internal customers. It is reasonably priced and comes with a generous free trial so you have enough time to evaluate its capabilities.
While we did find the web app to be a bit slow sometimes, in general, we were impressed by how easy Solarwinds Service Desk is to use and the level of control offered over how data was presented and updated.
The Resource Center is magnificent and we were impressed to see that even customers on the lowest pricing tier can benefit from 24/7 e-mail and chat support. The forum also contains some excellent resources on getting started and customizing the platform for your needs. For the most part other documentation is extremely helpful and detailed. The one exception to this is SolarWinds 'Security Statement', where we would have appreciated more specific information on the type of protections in place, such as how data in transit is secured.
There is no 'free' tier but as we said, it's not likely an SME would need to sign up for so extensive an ITSM, as the range of resources and data customization is better suited to larger organizations.
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John is a freelance writer and web developer who has been working digitally for 30 years. His experience is in journalism, print design and web development, and he has worked in Australia and the UK. His work has been published in Future publications including TechRadar, Tom's Guide, and ITProPortal.