Your Help Desk Needs: Zendesk vs. Atlassian JIRA Service Desk

Your Help Desk Needs: Zendesk vs. Atlassian JIRA Service Desk

No one can downplay the importance of utilizing an efficient and effective IT Service Management (ITSM) software at work in your organization or enterprise. A business must be able to respond both externally to customers’ requirements, and internally to stakeholders with inquiries or support needs in an acceptable amount of time and maintain consistent communication throughout the process. Two applications dominating the ITSM market with their innovative approaches to service management are Atlassian’s JIRA Service Desk and the Zendesk platform. To be effective, ITSMs often need to provide reporting capabilities, SLA’s, automation, and need to be easily extendable / adaptable across multiple teams. Here we’ll examine the pros and cons of both applications, along with our recommendations based on our use of both applications across different environments.

Note: comparisons between Zendesk and Service Desk were made using the Zendesk Cloud platform, and the JIRA Service Desk Cloud / v 3.3.1 (server) implementations. 


Founded in 2007, Zendesk is a system for tracking, prioritizing, and solving customer support tickets (thank you Wikipedia). Zendesk is a completely cloud based ITSM. After I went to their application site, and clicked “Get Started”, I was up and running in a matter of 5 minutes. Pretty cool! I began customizing my Zendesk instance right away, and was happily greeted with a straightforward user interface (see Figure 1 below). Just adding a new field was a simple task. Much of the administration was intuitive, no training required!

Figure 1: Adding a New Field

After setting up the system itself, users entering tickets would see a screen similar to this one:

Figure 2: Entering a Ticket into Zendesk

Here are some of my thoughts based on my experience working with Zendesk in the past and just recently.

Starting Price:

$5.00 per agent per month (agent denotes someone who is a user and administrator of the ITSM, not a customer)


  • Straightforward User Interface and Administration built into the Zendesk application. Take a look at Figure 1 above to see just how easy it is to add a field to a ticket.
  • Triggers, Automations, and SLA’s are now a core feature built into the Zendesk application.
  • Social Media Integration (yes you can link to Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
  • Reporting and Views functionality allows users to create views using specific conditions selected from multi-select boxes. Users can drag+drop columns to better organize their reports.
  • Rich App Marketplace for add-ons and extending the functionality of your Zendesk instance. Some of these add-ons are free and easily installed on your instance with a few clicks.


  • As its hosted in the cloud, the URL will appear as “” rather than having it on a dedicated URL.
  • Price of $5 per month per agent can be costly to a small business depending on the number of agent accounts you would like to create.
  • Limited overall customization capabilities: while Zendesk is simple to get up and running, and it is certainly extendable, there is much less functionality out-of-the-box with Zendesk when compared with JIRA Service Desk.
  • Zendesk is not specifically ITIL compliant. While it is possible to install plugins in order to bring the system close to ITIL compliance, it is not ITIL certified out of the box.

JIRA Service Desk

Built on the power and flexibility of JIRA Core, JIRA Service Desk is a standalone ITSM software developed by Atlassian for use as an IT Help Desk ticketing system. After navigating to the Atlassian website and clicking “Try it Free”, I’m brought here where I can create my own Service Desk instance in the Cloud: and I’m off and running. Service Desk can also be downloaded locally to your own server.

After I create my instance, I can create a Service Desk Project based on previously defined templates, or I can create a custom project, including workflows, fields, request / issue types, permissions, notifications, etc. Figure 3 shows the types of customizations, for instance you can perform creating custom fields.

Figure 3: Customizing Fields for JIRA Service Desk

Figure 4 provides an overview of how the ticket / request type forms will look like if you choose a standard out-of-the box template.

Figure 4: Entering A Ticket Through JIRA Service Desk 

Starting Price:

$10.00 for 1 – 3 agents in the cloud / server instances.


  • To start, JIRA Service Desk is ITIL Compliant and Certified. This is a make or break decision for some organizations looking to implement an ITSM that complies with ITIL.
  • Excellent price points initially (1 – 3 agents are only $10.00 / month), though it can become expensive if you begin scaling (i.e. a service desk with 6 agents would run you $3,000.00 per year, compared with $30.00 per month using Zendesk).
  • The administration section of JIRA Service Desk is extremely customizable, you can customize anything from field types, to request types, automation & SLA’s, and create custom dashboards using built-in gadgets.
  • Comprehensive reporting using JIRA Query Language (JQL), allow you to create advanced reports easily.
  • Atlassian Marketplace is filled with Add-Ons (some free) that further extend the functionality of Service Desk.


  • Too many customization options require the Service Desk administrators to be specialists. Nuances abound when administering a Service Desk instance.
  • For clients using the server-based version of Service Desk, they will need to have a separate server / hosted environment which may add to the costs.
  • If you are using the Atlassian Cloud instance, you will be stuck with a URL such as “”, very similar to Zendesk.
  • There are inconsistent functionalities across the Cloud and Server versions of Service Desk. New functionality is often introduced in the Cloud before it is found on the Server version.


Zendesk and JIRA Service Desk are both powerful ITSM’s in the marketplace. They provide a full range of functionality for users of all types of organizations. Interestingly enough, these systems have long since decided to interoperate with one another. Users may install add-ons for JIRA that allow JIRA data points to be displayed in a Zendesk instance (and vice versa).

Our recommendation: JIRA Service Desk is best suited for organizations who require more complex reporting out-of-the-box, additional functionality / control, and who may need their Service Desk instance hosted behind a firewall. Zendesk is preferential for smaller organizations (not to say it can be used for larger organizations as well) who do not require the complex administration / management / reporting, but want a dependable system running in the cloud.

What are your thoughts, have you used Service Desk or Zendesk?

The Right Agile Tool For Your Team

The Right Agile Tool For Your Team

Software development and the processes that guide it have been evolving over the past twenty years. The Waterfall methodology, thought by many to now be obsolete, paved the way for both iterative and agile based software development methodologies. Agile itself is not confined to a single method, but is often fluid and changes between process frameworks (i.e. SCRUM vs. Kanban) and the organizations that use agile (Non-Profits, Government Agencies, and Commercial firms). Due to Agile’s propagation among software projects, and the need for teams to stay organized, tools have been developed in order to help software developers, scrum masters, product owners (and the list goes on) stay organized. Here we’ll be examining four agile tools used for planning and organizing teams: JIRA, Trello, Targetprocess and Bugzilla. Specifically, with these tools, we will be examining their pros, cons, and the types of organizations for which they are most suited.


JIRA is a versatile issue tracking system built and designed for software teams to track project related tasks / issues. Atlassian utilizes Kanban and SCRUM based boards that are highly customizable. As JIRA Experts and Partners, we are not only (slightly) obligated, but also thrilled to write about JIRA and JIRA Agile’s capabilities. JIRA also enables users to create complex reports and filters using Jira Query Language (JQL) which functions similar to SQL. You can find out more, and try JIRA for free here:

Figure 1: JIRA Agile Board

Starting Price:

10 users for $10 /month (Cloud and Server). Data center options are available.


  • Highly Customizable: you can create custom fields, boards, reports, etc.
  • Built for Cloud + Server: you can install and manage JIRA-Agile in your data center or access it through the cloud.
  • One of the most widely used Agile tools on the marketplace.


  • Price: after you get past the 10 users, the price quickly jumps for 15 users to $75 per month. 2,000 users may run you $1,500.00 in the cloud per month. 10,000 users in JIRA Server will run you close to $36,000.00 per month.
  • Add-ons may be pricey, and are sometimes required to extend the base functionality of JIRA.
  • There is a steep learning curve for administration, installation, and customization.

JIRA is a great overall tool for both small and large teams. However, in our experience we’ve found JIRA may offer too much customization for a small team to get a tool “up and running”. But, for many organizations, JIRA is the first tool we show them when helping them select an agile tool. We would recommend JIRA for small but established teams as well as medium sized and large teams / organizations.


Trello is an agile, cloud-based tool recently acquired by Atlassian. It currently does not have a standalone installation. The boards allow users to define their own lanes or columns (called “lists) where you can drag and drop cards. Cards on the board also allow you to attach images and files, write descriptions and you can assign cards to Trello users (or add them) who have access to your board. Trello Boards can be public or private. You can try Trello for free here:

Figure 2: Trello Agile Board

Starting Price:

$0, Trello Gold will run you $5 per month, or $45 per year.


  • (In our opinion) The most fluid / easily understandable UI of all the tools we reviewed.
  • No costs upfront: you can create a Trello board with limited costs to you and your team. This is excellent for small teams or startups.
  • Ability to add potentially unlimited number of users to your board.


  • Lack of customization (custom fields, screens, and issues / tickets).
  • Limited reporting capabilities (no fancy advanced reporting or dashboards here).
  • No way to link code to cards that are being developed unless you use the advanced APIs.

Trello is excellent for small and medium sized agile development teams, but may not hold up well against larger teams due to its lack of overall customization capabilities. We would recommend this mostly for small teams and startups.


Targetprocess is an Agile tool allowing users to build out detailed projects and project schedules. Very similar to JIRA, it allows users to customize boards, user permissions, notifications, and issue types (called entities). It has a standalone installation that is normally used for large organizations or projects, and a cloud-based application. You can find additional information regarding Targetprocess, and try it out here:

Figure 3: Targetprocess Agile Board

Starting Price:

Its free, you can begin using Targetprocess at $0.00.


  • Starting price of $0.00 is a huge motivator for small teams looking to begin development.
  • Free courses on basic and advanced system features. You do not have to pay for training.
  • Highly customizable tool with excellent customer service.


Targetprocess can be used for both small and large project teams. It has a nice blend of rigid controls and permissions that compare with those provided by the Atlassian tool suite. However, the UI seems to be a bit outdated, but its rigidness may apply best to large programs and projects where users may only be allowed to execute limited functionality.


Actively maintained by the Mozilla foundation, Bugzilla is a true open-source bug tracking tool. There is no cloud instance, which means you are required to download and install it on your server or in a hosted instance (i.e. AWS). Of all the bug tracking / agile tools we’ve touched on here, it is the oldest (being released in 1998) and to this day is still actively maintained. You can download and install Bugzilla here: Bugzilla does not come out-of-the-box with an Agile based board installed, you will need to install one:

Figure 4: Bugzilla using the KanbanBoard Plugin

Starting Price:

$0.00 (its open source!)


  • Absolutely Free, you will never pay for the actual Bugzilla application.
  • Highly customizable: you have full documentation on the code from the Mozilla group that you can review and build atop the success of Bugzilla.
  • Heavily documented tool and actively maintained.
  • Majority of add-ons for Bugzilla are free, you can extend the functionality of Bugzilla for little to no cost.


  • There is no customer support for this tool. Should you have an issue or question, you can consult the Mozilla documentation, Stack Overflow, and other support forums.
  • No cloud hosted option for small teams, you are required to use a standalone server (or purchase a hosting platform).
  • Outdated, clunky UI for many of the Agile based add-ons.

Bugzilla is great for project teams of all sizes who may have some extra server power lying around. And maybe for that reason, it would be geared towards established smaller teams who want to have the customization and configuration capabilities of JIRA / Targetprocess and want to host it on their own server / instance.

What Should You Choose?

While each tool has their strengths and weaknesses, they all appeal to a specific team / project / organization and the way in which they will use the tool.

Let us know if there’s a tool you would like us to review. You can contact us through our site, or comment on this blog entry!

Which tool is right for your organization?

Co-Authored By: Mike Brown & Ben Dickshinski — Ascend Integrated