Ticketing systems for the sales department: paid and free OTRS systems

11 January 2024by Admin

Any business owner is constantly faced with a multitude of organisational tasks. You have to create the product itself. Decent money is paid for advertising and attracting customers, as well as for salaries of employees. How do you make sure that the owner or manager of the firm can see what his employees are doing? How do you measure employee performance? And how to make sure that no incoming leads are lost and all complaints are closed on time and with a satisfactory result?

There are different solutions to solve these types of problems. We are not IT people, and we are interested in such products primarily from the point of view of marketing and interaction with the sales department. When checking the efficiency of the sales department, we necessarily pay attention to the presence and active use of the company’s existing order processing system.

Business software seems to be very expensive and costly in terms of customisation. This was the case 15-20 years ago, when you had to buy a whole software package for several tens of thousands of dollars. But now there are great products that pay on a per-employee basis.

OTRS (abbr. from Open-source Ticket Request System) is an open-source system for processing applications from customers. We have prepared material that will help you orientate yourself in the main packages.

Free software for business is a controversial story. A company that chooses such software should understand that either it will have to face open source and look for a developer to support the software, or accept the free version of the software as it is, without hope for support, revision and training. And what happens if the developer refuses to support the software? You will have to look for a new solution, and this is time, money, not to mention the complexity of switching to a new platform.
We decided to explain everything on the example of one popular software that can be useful for both large and small companies. Let’s understand it together.

It all starts with a ticket

All companies interact with customers in some way, but often correspondence on problems and requests is limited to email or dialogue in social networks. This is, of course, illiterate management of customer requests for any kind of problem.

It is important for any company that handles customer requests en masse to store not only all requests (tickets), but also decisions on them. Over time, these documents will form a knowledge base that you can refer to in the course of regular business and give access to newcomers to train them on how to work with customers.

Working with tickets is very convenient when they are available in a separate interface, where the most complete information is linked to each incident. With a ticketing system, you don’t have to gather bits and pieces of information about a problem.

Your customers will love a ticket system, too, because the handling of their requests will be transparent, finite, and competent. In most systems (including OTRS), you can link to a web-based customer account where they can enter tickets and track their status.

Finally, if you are an IT company or IT outsourcer, it is important that your ticketing system conforms to the basic principles of ITSM. There are variations, but certain laws of interaction between resources, people and technology will have to be followed.

Now let’s talk about the functions of a ticket system in more detail and compare 4 popular ticket systems that we found to be the most balanced for use both within the IT sphere and outside it.


Necessity of using a ticket system as the business develops

If the company is small and support is provided by 1 – 2 employees, there is no special need for a ticket system. They can respond to emails, social media and phone calls on their own. When the volume of requests grows, a larger number of support staff is needed, and here a number of problems arise.

If responses come from one email, it is not clear which employee answered and took the ticket to work. Moreover, sometimes the chain of emails gets lost and requests remain unattended.
Evaluation of support work quality: time of the first response, time of the last response, average time of request closing. The support department is a division with strict KPIs, and they should be measurable and objective.

Transferring customer support from one employee to another can cause confusion, and there are also problems for internal counselling between employees.

Integration with the Personal Cabinet on the company’s website is too labour intensive. If the main support channel is via email, then in essence there is only the possibility to pick up emails via IMAP (or POP) and send them via SMTP. Everything else (binding of requests to users, parsing of attachments, etc.) must be implemented in-house – and this is a very large amount of work.

To solve such problems ticket-systems are developed – software with specialised functionality and user-friendly interface.

We decided to consider several international level ticket systems, which are used in Europe.

OTRS Community Edition – previously the most popular open source ticketing system, which since the 7th version ceased to be an opensource, got a paid cloud version, but at the same time in full compliance with the spirit of free software retained the free OTRS Community Edition with open Perl code. There are quite heated discussions around this software. Some people consider OTRS to be the only decent ticketing system, and others think that one should not expect anything good from free software. However, according to those who already have experience in implementing such products, OTRS is really good – in all versions.

Zendesk is rightly considered the standard of ticketing systems, it is looked back on, it is copied, it is used by large corporations. It is a powerful and functional system, but it has its own disadvantage – it is too expensive, especially for small businesses.

Freshdesk is another strong system that is popular around the world. It has everything you need from a ticketing system. The downsides are localisation issues and a fairly high cost of ownership.

Kayako is a little less popular, but no less functional than the previous two systems. It is distinguished from the others by the presence of various pleasant little things that make the interface more friendly. So, if Zendesk and Freshdesk gravitate to CRM-systems on the scale and seriousness of approaches to business processes, Kayako is more focused on communication with the client, ease of interaction and mobility.


Why do we think OTRS is the best solution?

OTRS is the most rigorous, functional, laconic and businesslike of the above: minimum “frills”, maximum usefulness. OTRS Community Edition is an open source ticketing system based on OTRS. It means that you can modify the system as you need (or order modification from specialists who know it). The first release was over 20 years ago. The system is stable, time-tested, and used by many large and not so large firms. OTRS also has an important advantage – a well-developed international community ready to help, give advice, provide a hundred links on GitHub and, if necessary, work with the configuration for a fee. We all know how important community is for such software and the presence of a large community says a lot about the system itself.

As we said above, Zendesk, Freshdesk, Kayako are systems similar to each other. They work on the SaaS (Software as Service) model, i.e. it is necessary to pay a subscription for each employee on a monthly basis.Since the systems are very similar, we will not go into details. They are very different for each business and are driven by current business processes.

Let’s consider 2 options:

  • Deploy OTRS Community Edition on your own and use it
  • Purchase a subscription to any of the ticketing systems (Zendesk, Freshdesk or Kayako).
Project Cost

It’s a logical assumption that even a small firm wants user support to be delivered in a company-owned domain – it’s serious, weighty, prestigious and looks secure. In this case, all SaaS ticketing systems need a subscription. Let’s assume that we have 5 employees answering user requests. In this case the cost would be:

Zendesk: 25$ * 5 = 125$ / month (19$ * 5 = 95$ / month when paying for a year)
Freshdesk: 19$ * 5 = 95$ / month (15$ * 5 = 75$ / month if paid for a year)
Kayako: 15$ * 5 = 75$ / month

In case of OTRS Community Edition we need a virtual machine with 2 cores and 8 GB RAM. If we take this service from a third-party service provider, we get the cost of $20 / month. This is many times cheaper than subscription to other ticket systems. By the way, an additional advantage: you know exactly on which hosting your ticket system will be placed, where and how the data will be stored; in case of problems you can easily contact them and discuss all the problems in your native language.

The most interesting thing starts when you increase the number of employees: for example, if during the year the number of support staff doubled and became not 5 but 10. Then the cost of all ticket systems will increase 2 times. All of them except OTRS CE. In case of OTRS CE you still pay $20/month – for your virtual machine. According to our experience such configuration effectively serves several dozens of support staff with a large volume of requests.


Easy installation and maintenance

Online support services are originally designed to require minimal technical knowledge to use. That is, the user is simply required to link a bank card and specify access parameters to an email account.

In the case of OTRS, the programmer is required to have basic knowledge of Linux. The official website provides an installation package for CentOS. It is necessary to install the database and this package. Then the configuration is done through the web interface. If the company has an employee with Linux administration skills, the installation and configuration should not cause difficulties and takes a couple of hours.

To simplify this task, you can download a pre-prepared image with installed OTRS and the necessary software for its operation. Such an image can be obtained, for example, in RUVDS service. After creating the image, the user just needs to enter the web-interface of the installation wizard and specify the necessary parameters. This image allows you to reduce the installation time and gives you the opportunity to try as soon as possible how well this product suits the needs of your company.


Integration with company services

Almost all ticketing systems have an API for integration or are integrated with other applications through plugins and addons. OTRS has some advantage due to the openness of the code – everything you are missing can be finalised and transferred to your configuration on the server.

Let’s take a look at the functions of each service.


The OTRS ticket system includes customer accounting, ticketing, calendar, reporting, dashboard, and admin panel. Tickets have a modest interface, but they have everything you need: ticket body, priority in the queue, status, delegation and escalation functions, etc. There are templates, prompts, chat. In addition, remember that this is open source and you can get everything you need for your OTRS instance (by paying a Perl programmer once).


Zendesk includes help desk capabilities, CRM for sales, knowledge base, chat, etc. – depending on the configuration you choose. The one we chose for comparison contains ticket management with mail, business rules configuration (a stripped down version of the usual business processes), several dashboards, basic platform features. By the way, Zendesk is also in Russian.


Freshdesk in the version we are considering contains basic functionality, ticket export, cancellation of sent message inside the ticket (eh!), public and private notes operators on tickets, templates, tags, quick actions, to-do sheets with reminders, creating tickets on schedule, basic business rules SLA, etc. Overall, this system is functionally the most responsive, contains a ton of triggers and important little things for handling tickets. However, you can’t say it saves resources or time – it’s just convenient.


The version of Kayako we are considering has the most basic features, a huge number of Zapier-based integrations, omnichannel including social networks, settings for differentiating ticket groups by operators, some macros and templates. In fact, this is the most affordable solution among paid ones, but all its features and chips start in the senior editions.


So, let’s summarise.

What is good about the OTRS ticket system available under the GPL v.3 licence? You can modify it yourself, it is as simple and reliable as a machine, you don’t need to pay for licences (even when scaling up!), it has no restrictions on the number of tickets and operators (as on standard SaaS-tariffs), at the same time it is not inferior to similar “tariffed” systems in terms of basic functions and security.
You can also simplify its handling by creating an image in a marketplace,


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