Most people have heard of IT support in terms of help desks and service desks. However, few understand the distinction between them since both groups seem to be working toward the end goal of supporting users. What’s the difference between an IT service desk and tech support? We’ll explain how they differ from each other, how they are related to each other, and why there is so much confusion regarding these terms.

What's the Difference between an IT Service Desk and Tech Support?

The IT Help Desk

The IT help desk primarily solves immediate technical problems. These are the people you call when you have a problem, and they’re generally the ones that solve it. Help desks generally receive and handle individual tickets as quickly as possible. They will escalate tickets when necessary, but that’s only when greater resources are required. This is why help desks are generally considered Tier 1 IT support. The next level of tech support

Help desk systems seek to minimize customer wait time and handle as many people’s problems as possible. Help desks also tend to be much smaller than service desks. Larger organizations seek ITIL compliance, and this requires breaking out the help desk from the formal ITIL compliant service desk.

Tech Support

The broader IT help desk solves more difficult problems, but their main job is to take care of business needs. They will maintain servers, major IT assets, and software applications. This is why tech support is fully integrated with other IT service management agreements. They also seek to meet service level agreements. They typically outline the configuration for the entire organization’s infrastructure and upgrade hardware and software as appropriate. They will handle software change requests, new computer installations, and software license issues as they arise. That’s in addition to work required by maintenance contracts, network support, and website management.

The Relationship Between IT Help Desks and Tech Support

Help desks may be incorporated into the larger tech support department or hand off problems to tech support when it isn’t something they can resolve. Tech support may have an IT help desk as the first or single point of contact so that it resolves as many issues as possible, tracks all incidents, and teaches people how to use self-service options. The help desk is then the gatekeeper to tech support, but they’re all working to provide service to end-users across the organization.

When help desks are working under the umbrella of a formal IT service desk, a tool like SysAid could help. SysAid is a software solution that integrates all essential IT tools for the help desk, service desk, and IT service management functions. Organizations gain insights into metrics for each department. This allows you to gain far greater insight into operations and improve performance. They can use SysAid to automate a number of functions, minimizing how many repetitive tasks they have to do.

The Differences between Tech Support and IT Service Desks

Service desks should work from an established service catalog that is offered to customers. The customer should be directed to self-service websites to troubleshoot their own issues where possible and request the necessary IT service if that isn’t sufficient. The service catalog helps automate requests that otherwise require a third-party intermediary like a helpdesk. This allows service team members to focus on strategy and problem-solving.

In contrast, help desks are receiving a constant stream of tickets. These may be phone calls, emails or online tickets. The help desk is expected to interface with the customer. Yet service desks may handle service requests that would otherwise be handled by an ITIL compliant service request such as facilitating changes.


In larger firms, the service desk is removed from the daily grind and allows firms to focus on long-term strategy and optimized performance. However, the two teams need to work together seamlessly for the good of the organization.