The Best Help Desk Software for 2022 (Free & Paid Options)

Communication is at the center of most businesses.

Whether it’s communicating with customers to help resolve service-related issues or fielding IT requests from employees, most businesses eventually need some way to manage those conversations.

One of the best ways to do that is with help desk software.

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What is help desk software?

Help desk software is a tool used to organize, manage, and respond to service-related requests. Some help desks are used for external requests from customers, whereas others are used for internal service requests from team members.

Using a help desk platform is a great way to improve your customer experience — 75% of customers desire a consistent experience, regardless of how they engage a company (through social media, in person, by phone, etc.) — because it consolidates all of your customer support interactions into one omnichannel tool.

Help desks may include a variety of tools like a shared inbox, knowledge base software, and a live chat solution. However, not all help desks include all of the tools mentioned.

The 15 best help desk software for 2024

  1. Help Scout

  2. Hiver

  3. Zendesk

  4. Front

  5. Gorgias

  6. Kustomer

  7. Google Collaborative Inbox

  8. Freshdesk

  9. Zoho Desk

  10. SysAid

  11. Jira Service Management

  12. Spiceworks Cloud Help Desk

  13. Solarwinds Service Desk

  14. ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus

  15. Freshservice

1. Help Scout

Best overall help desk software for teams who prioritize customer satisfaction.

Help Scout is a complete customer support platform that includes every tool you need to deliver an outstanding customer experience. When you sign up for Help Scout, you get access to a number of tools.

Shared inboxes

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Help Scout's shared inboxes include collaboration tools like @mentions and private notes to ask others for help or to add more context to a customer conversation.

Saved replies make responding to routine customer queries a breeze. There’s also collision detection to reduce duplicate work, help desk workflows to automate routing and routine tasks, and artificial intelligence (AI) features like AI summarize, AI assist, and AI drafts to help make your support team's work a little easier.

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Customer profiles and integrations

Customer profiles are automatically created for customers you’ve interacted with. They show basic information like their company, their role, and any previous interactions you’ve had.

To make the information shown in the sidebar even more valuable, integrate Help Scout with your favorite CRM, ecommerce software, or a project management tool like Jira to get a fuller view of each customer and their interactions with your company.

Knowledge base

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With Docs you’re able to create, manage, and organize self-service content.

The WYSIWYG editor, equipped with AI assist, makes content creation a breeze. You’re also able to upload videos, images, and other types of content directly to articles or embed videos to create even more robust self-service content.

Performance data helps you see which articles are performing best, which ones could be doing better, and what content you should create next.

Live chat

Help Scout's live chat widget, Beacon, is a multi-use tool that includes live chat as well as proactive messaging options through Messages.

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The live chat function has online and offline options to help customers find the answers they need when and where they need them.

With Messages, you’re able to segment audiences based on specific customer attributes, schedule messages, create microsurveys, and even see performance data to help further refine your efforts.

Reporting

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Help Scout comes loaded with pre-built dashboards, so you’re able to see how your team’s performing right away. You can also create custom reports that focus on the metrics of your choosing.

If you want to do even more with your data, our API lets you export to the business intelligence tool of your choosing.

Mobile apps

Finally, Help Scout offers mobile iOS and Android apps for teams who need help desk access while on the go.

Best-in-class customer service

Though Help Scout's features are impressive, we think our best asset is our world-class support team that is ready to help out 24/6. We also have an extensive knowledge base, live classes, and plenty of resources to help you deliver delightful experiences to your customers.

Price: Free trial available. Plans start at $20/user per month.

2. Hiver

Best basic help desk for small businesses.

screenshot of hiver's customer service software

The best way to think about Hiver is as an extension to your Gmail account. With it, you’re able to do a lot of the things you can do with a stand-alone customer service software like leave internal notes on conversations and assign messages to other agents.

Other Hiver features to look out for include reporting, a knowledge base builder, integrations, customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys, automation tools, and some basic AI functionality. However, some of these features are only included in their higher-cost plans.

Price: Free trial available. Plans start at $15/user per month.

3. Zendesk

Best help desk software for enterprise teams.

zendesk

Almost anyone working in customer support has heard of Zendesk. They make a multi-channel support solution that includes features like a shared inbox, a knowledge base, and live chat tools.

Along with those, they also offer some more advanced AI-based solutions for chatbots and autoresponders (though those are only included as part of their higher-cost plans).

You also get access to a host of productivity and automation features as well as over 1,000+ integrations to connect with other tools in your support ecosystem. To be honest, there’s not a lot Zendesk doesn’t do or many communication channels it doesn't cover.

However, the flip side is that it’s a very complex and complicated product that requires a lot of time, energy, and resources to get up and running.

This adds substantial additional costs on top of the monthly rate. Since most teams don’t need access to all the features Zendesk offers, it’s possible you could find a solution with what you need for less money.

Price: Free trial available. Plans start at $19/agent per month.

4. Front

Best shared inbox software for group email collaboration.

Product Screenshot: Front
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When communicating with customers, most teams opt to use a group email address (e.g., support@yourdomain.com) to accept support customer tickets. However, some teams prefer to communicate from personal email addresses but still want the functionality of help desk software. Front lets you do just that.

With Front you can connect email (personal and group addresses), SMS, and social media accounts to a shared inbox. The platform includes collaboration features like internal notes and reply drafts as well as automation and AI features to reduce manual work. It also offers a knowledge base builder, reporting features, and the ability to create chatbots.

Price: Free trial available. Plans start at $19/seat per month (two seat minimum).

5. Gorgias

Best help desk support system for low-volume support teams.

Product Screenshot: Gorgias
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Gorgias is a help desk solution mainly focused on ecommerce. Gorgias offers access to standard features like a shared inbox tool, knowledge base tool, and live chat tool. The main differentiators from other options on the list are its Shopify, Magento, and BigCommerce integrations.

Through those integrations, you’re able to see order details, edit orders, and even do refunds directly from your help desk, which can save a lot of time and hassle for your team. However, one major drawback is that all of their plans have ticket limits, meaning your costs could vary month over month depending on volume.

If you’re curious about this type of usage-based pricing, we have a post that goes deeper into Gorgias' pricing structure on the blog.

Price: Free trial available. Plans start at $10 per month for 50 tickets.

6. Kustomer

Best help desk management tool for project management functionality.

Product Screenshot: Kustomer

Kustomer combines help desk and project management software to create a unique type of solution. Kustomer offers multi-channel support for email, chat, phone, and social accounts. On the project management front, you can create, assign, and set due dates for tasks.

You’re also able to see a complete picture of each customer and update multiple systems at once, saving time and energy. Though Kustomer offers some impressive features, it is quite expensive, and the pricing is somewhat confusing as there are a number of tools that are add-ons.

Price: Plans start at $89/user per month (eight seat minimum).

The best free help desks for ticket management

If you have inescapable budget constraints or just don't have enough support volume at the moment to justify paying for a dedicated support tool, the three free help desk software platforms below might be a good fit for your team.

7. Google Collaborative Inbox

Best free help desk for teams that already use Google Workspace.

Google Collaborative Inbox

If you’re already using Gmail and want to add some structure to your support efforts, Google Collaborative Inbox could be a good option.

Setting up Collaborative Inbox is relatively simple. You create a Google Group, add people to that group, turn on the collaborative inbox option, and configure the appropriate settings. Now everyone in the group can respond to emails in the group mailbox without sharing login information (which is huge for security).

Beyond that, you’re able to assign conversations to different group members and set statuses for different conversations (closed, on-hold, etc). You can also set different permission levels for collaborators, though it is somewhat limited in capability.

Price: Free with Google Workspace.

8. Freshdesk

Best free help desk software for businesses looking to scale.

Product Screenshot: Freshdesk
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When you sign up for a free Freshdesk account, you get access to a shared inbox tool where you can manage incoming email and Facebook requests. In addition, the free plan also includes access to a knowledge base builder and some basic reporting dashboards.

While the free plan is pretty bare bones, Freshdesk’s paid plans are much more powerful. The inbox and knowledge base have additional functionality like additional contact channels, custom ticket views, and article versioning. There are features for the management of service level agreements (SLA), automation and AI tools to make your work easier, and more analytics options to help you keep track of it all.

The platform gives your team a lot of room to grow, which makes it a great option for small businesses looking to scale in the future.

Price: Free trial and plan available. Paid plans start at $15/agent per month.

9. Zoho Desk

Best help desk software for small, sales-focused teams.

Zoho Desk Screenshot

You may be familiar with Zoho as a customer relationship management tool, but they also make a support solution for customer interactions.

Zoho Desk is another software option that can grow with you. Zoho’s free plan is not quite as robust as Freshdesk’s. It restricts you to three agents, a private (internal) knowledge base, and only offers one report (agent performance).

However, when you’re ready to expand your operations, Zoho Desk has all of the usual suspects when it comes to functionality, including AI-assisted response and advanced automations for taks like conversation sorting and tagging.

If you’re currently using other Zoho products, like the CRM tool, Zoho Desk integrates seamlessly with them, making it a great choice for an initial help desk tool.

Price: Free trial and plan available. Plans start at $14/user per month.

The best service desk software

While help desks and service desks have many overlapping features, service desks may also have additional functionality that would specifically benefit IT teams. Here are a few options for those looking for these specialized features.

10. SysAid

Best service desk software for IT service management (ITSM).

screenshot of sysaid's help desk

SysAid is a help desk software that manages internal IT requests. They offer a number of SLA management features like ticket and workflow automation to reduce SLAs. You can also build a self-service portal for knowledge management so employees can handle basic requests like password resets on their own.

You’re able to get things going quickly with a host of templates and default forms, or you can create your own custom ones to best serve the needs of your organization and your team. Since most IT tools are used in conjunction with one another, you also get access to a number of third-party integrations.

Finally, SysAid has powerful asset management features that make it easy to manage all of the assets in your network and see the hardware and software for each of your end users.

Price: Free trial available. Contact SysAid directly for pricing.

11. Jira Service Management

Best ticket management system for technical teams.

screenshot of jira's help desk

Jira Service Management is generally associated with engineering and technical teams due to its relation to Atlassian’s more widely known Jira project management tool.

The platform is a great ITSM solution that lets your team tackle request, change, incident, problem, asset, configuration, and knowledge management all in one place. It allows you to build out self-service portals for end-users and has collaboration features like a shared inbox for managing email and chat requests. Combined with custom workflows, AI tools, and reporting capabilities, the platform makes responding to user requests a simple and efficient process.

Price: Free plan available. Paid plans start at $22.05/agent per month.

12. Spiceworks Cloud Help Desk

Best free service desk for IT support firms managing multiple clients.

screenshot of spiceworks' help desk software

Spiceworks is another solution that helps you to build an IT help desk. With it you can easily organize and manage conversations as well as set up a self-service portal to empower people to get answers and solutions on their own.

You’re also able to automate a number of manual tasks to free up time for your IT professionals. If you’re an organization providing IT services to a number of clients, you’re able to create individual sites and user portals for each. Best of all, Spiceworks Cloud Help Desk is completely free.

Price: Free.

13. Solarwinds Service Desk

Best free help desk for IT support teams.

screenshot of solarwinds' free help desk

If you need a tool to help you better manage IT-related requests, then Solarwinds Service Desk could be the right option for you. With Solarwinds Service Desk you’re able to create an online form where people can submit service-related requests.

You’re also able to create a self-service portal and automate some ticket routing to reduce manual work for your staff. Finally, you get Active Directory and LDAP authentication tools.

You are limited to just one technician login, but there aren’t any contracts to sign or time limits you have to meet before upgrading to a paid account.

Price: Free plan and trial available. Paid plans start at $410; contact Solarwinds for a quote.

14. ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus

Best service desk option for enterprise teams.

Product Screenshot: ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus

ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus is part of Zoho’s portfolio, focusing on service management. The platform offers similar channels (email, phone, chat, and a self-service portal) and includes a lot of the same features as a help desk — ticket management features, a knowledge base builder, SLA management tools, and options for automation.

Beyond these typical help desk features, ServiceDesk Plus has everything that you need to offer IT and business support to large organizations. You can view tickets on a kanban board for better efficiency, collaborate cross-functionally using the built-in project management functionality, keep track of company technology with asset management tools, and streamline planning and releases with change management features.

Another great aspect of using ServiceDesk Plus is that it can be implemented as an on-premises or cloud solution, allowing your team to have more control over the security and privacy of your data.

Price: Contact for quote.

15. Freshservice

Best service desk software for teams who offer multi-language support.

Product Screenshot: Freshservice

Freshservice is another platform that is part of a larger portfolio represented on this list. Both Freshservice and Freshdesk are part of the Freshworks Suite of software, with the former catering to IT and business teams.

The feature list is essentially the same as what you will find in ServiceDesk Plus, at a price that is accessible to just about any size team. Its Starter plan offers tons of great features like separate workspaces for internal teams, incident management tools, a knowledge management solution, self-service portals, workflow automations, and SLA management features for just under $20/agent per month. The option to localize the self-service portals is a nice plus for global organizations, too.

This price and feature set makes it a great option for teams that are looking for a solid tool without a lot of fluff.

Price: Free trial available. Plans start at $19/agent per month.

The benefits of using a help desk ticketing system

While it’s definitely possible for businesses to manage support or IT requests through email platforms like Gmail or Outlook — most companies start out this way — it doesn’t scale. Email is difficult to manage when your request or employee volume starts to grow, and these systems also lack reporting capabilities which make it hard to quantify service efforts and report back to the greater company.

Help desks ease these burdens by providing:

  • Transparency: Help desk features like ticket assignments, statuses, and views help create a clear picture of what is going on within the service organization at any point in time. This makes it easier to balance workloads and understand where additional support may be needed.

  • Easier collaboration: Working out of the same email inbox (or even a collaborative one) can be confusing. There’s not a good way to split responsibilities, work together on tough issues, or keep service consistent. Help desks offer email templates, internal notes, and collision detection features that take the guesswork out of providing service as a team.

  • Better organization: Email clients come with labeling and search functionalities, but help desks can go further. You can merge related conversations and tag them by issue or importance. You can also integrate with other systems in your tech stack to link specific conversations to other projects the business may be working on.

  • Increased efficiency: While there is some automation available in email clients, help desk systems typically come with workflows that let you automate busy work. AI features are also being introduced to help support teams work smarter.

  • Reporting: Most help desk platforms come with out-of-the-box reporting functionality, making it easier to measure your team’s efforts. This allows you to make data-driven decisions and report service efforts back out to the rest of the company.

  • Security: Sharing passwords amongst multiple people is a big safety risk. Help desks allow everyone on a team to have their own login information, helping keep your customer and user data secure.

What are the different types of help desk software?

There are multiple ways you can categorize help desk software options. For example, you could break it down by software type, in which case there are three major categories:

  • Cloud-based: Cloud-based help desk software, otherwise known as a web help desk or a SaaS-based help desk, is proprietary software hosted online through a vendor’s site or an application. In order to access the tool, you log in to the site or application and generally pay a monthly or yearly fee.

  • Self-hosted: Sometimes referred to as an on-premise help desk, this is when the software is installed directly onto your own servers. It could be something you build yourself or purchase from another company. Similar to cloud-based, it is also proprietary software.

  • Open source: Open source help desk software lets developers access the source code of a program directly, giving them the ability to customize the software in whatever way they see fit. This software is generally non-proprietary, meaning there’s no single owner of the program.

Though the above may come into play when making a purchasing decision, if you’re buying an external solution, 99% of the time it’ll be cloud-based.

Another — and possibly more useful — way to think about help desk software categorization is in relation to who you’re using the software to serve. In that case, there are two categories: internal and customer-facing.

  • Internal: An internal help desk solution is generally used to manage IT-related issues. Employees can log tickets directly with your IT team, making it easier to manage and organize those requests. Human resource (HR) departments may also use an internal help desk to manage requests surrounding benefits or employment issues.

  • Customer-facing: Customer-facing help desk software is generally used by customer support teams to manage incoming customer conversations. These tools range in functionality, but most include things like a shared inbox and some form of collaboration, productivity, and reporting tools.

The final way you might categorize software is by the size of your business:

  • Enterprise: These are large corporations that consist of 1000+ employees. These companies need the ability to build customized and often complex support solutions that integrate across the many software platforms used by their organizations, and they have the resources to maintain these setups in-house.

  • Small and midsize businesses (SMBs): These are companies that range from <100 (small) to 999 (mid) employees. SMBs are often looking to offer multiple support channels (email, live chat, social, messaging, self-service), and they benefit from out-of-the-box collaboration, reporting, automation, and integration capabilities.

  • Startup: Though the terms are often used interchangeably, a startup is different from a small business in that it is a company that is focused on rapid growth. Given that employee count, resources, request volume, and budget may fluctuate, startup help desk solutions need to be flexible, cost-conscious, and have the ability to scale with business needs.

  • Sole-proprietor or single-person LLC: Businesses that are run by a single person are different from all of the above in that they don’t need to focus on collaboration. These businesses may instead focus on features that allow them to manage multiple communication channels from a single interface.

What help desk software features are important to look for?

Depending on your specific use case, some features will be more important than others. That said, whether you’re using a help desk for internal or external conversations, there are a few key features to look for.

Easy-to-use interface

Any new software takes time to learn. However, some tools have much shorter learning curves than others. The quicker you’re able to train agents, the quicker they’re able to get back to doing what they do best: supporting others.

You should also see what the experience is like from the submitter side. Submit a request and do a few back-and-forth interactions to really get a grasp on what it’s like to use the tool from both sides of the conversation.

Collaboration and productivity tools to help automate your workflow

Two of the biggest benefits of using a help desk tool are the capabilities to collaborate with others and to streamline work. Access to those tools helps reduce the burden on agents, giving them more time to focus on the people they’re supporting.

For example, with Help Scout, you can manage multi-channel support requests as a team via a shared inbox, add more context to a conversation with private notes, reduce duplicate work with collision detection, and give lightning-fast responses to common questions using saved replies.

You should also keep an eye out for workflow features that help you automate manual tasks like assigning and sorting incoming requests and AI help desk tools that can help you address customer or employee needs more quickly.

Self-service features for better service experiences

Look for help desk platforms that help customers and end-users find answers on their own. This can be done through a knowledge base solution where answers to FAQs and other important information can be published.

Alternatively, some businesses may want to include chatbots as part of their support strategy. When done well, support chatbots can help with answering simple questions like providing order updates and giving status updates on outstanding support tickets.

Reporting and metrics

Though not every part of what makes a great customer experience can be quantified, there are plenty of things that can be. With access to reporting and metrics tools, you’re better able to understand which areas you excel in and where you still have room for improvement.

Scalability to help you grow

Whether you're looking to purchase a help desk software solution for your school or your company, one thing is certain: As your team continues to grow and change, so will your needs. Since switching help desks is a big undertaking, finding a solution that can grow with you is important.

It’s best to look for a tool that will work well for at least the next 18-24 months. Anything less than that and you might be setting yourself up for a future headache. Anything beyond that timeframe gets pretty hard to reliably predict.

Quality customer support

No matter how user-friendly a tool is, chances are you’ll have questions about it at some point. Though you may assume people making help desk ticketing software would be very helpful, that’s not always the case.

Once you have a list of serious contenders, take a look at each of their knowledge bases to see how comprehensive their content is and how easy it is to navigate. You should also send a few requests to their support team to see how quickly they respond and how helpful they are in your interactions overall.

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Best practices for choosing the right help desk tool

The help desk you choose can't deliver great customer service for you, but it is a critical early step in setting up customer support at your company. The right help desk will help your team consistently create the quality of customer service you want to provide.

To find the best help desk software for you, start by answering questions about your customers, your team, and your company.

Define “great customer service” for your company

When you’re deep into help desk comparison shopping, it’s easy to forget why you’re picking a help desk at all. You don't need to find the “best help desk software” because there is no best choice for everyone. The right help desk for you is the one that allows your team to serve your customers most effectively and consistently.

To figure that out, you need to understand the type and quality of customer support and service you want to offer. Here are some questions to help you understand.

  • What type of support do your customers expect? Your particular customer base will come to you with their own requirements. Do they prefer email? Are they comfortable using self-service tools? Do they expect an answer within an hour or within a day? Look for clues as to what your customers expect from you and how satisfied they are currently.

  • What experience do you want to offer your customers? Imagine the ideal customer support interaction from your customer’s perspective. Do they need to use a website to get help, or can they fire off a quick email? Can they choose to contact support via multiple channels? Can they answer their own questions easily using self-service tools?

  • What experience do you want to offer your support team? “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz loved his favorite pen so much that he bought the entire stock when it was discontinued. While your support team may never have the same love for help desk software, they will use it constantly and rely on it heavily.

Determine what needs to change about your current support

Whether you’re moving from a shared Gmail mailbox or you’re switching from one help desk tool to another, this change is an opportunity to rethink your customer support approach.

Look at your existing customer service activities and consider the following:

  • Is this still the best way to solve this issue?

  • Is this approach essential to our customer experience, or could we get the same result another way?

  • What is our team capable of now that we weren’t capable of the last time we thought about our tools?

Once you sketch out a clear picture of the customer service you want to offer, you have a goal to measure help desk features against. Whatever help desk software you choose, it needs to help you deliver the type of service you have outlined.

Select your essential help desk features

Now it’s time to go one step further and create your list of essential features and “nice to have” features.

Help desk software that has all of your essential features beats a service desk tool that implements more “nice to haves” but misses a key requirement:

  • Essential help desk features: If the help desk does not do X, then we cannot create the customer service experience we want to provide.

  • Non-essential help desk features: If the help desk does X, we could potentially make use of it to improve the customer experience.

Work to keep that first list as short as possible. Features that sound good on a list but are poorly implemented or rarely used inhibit good service by frustrating your support team.

Now you can exclude from consideration any products that don’t cover all of your required features (either directly or by tight integration). The next step is to create an evaluation team to test your shortlisted help desks.

Create a help desk software evaluation team

If you’re just starting out or at a very small company, the evaluation team may be just you. If you have a larger team, we recommend the following mix:

  • One junior level customer service person.

  • A couple of help desk power users.

  • A manager or senior leader.

Combining their different needs and backgrounds will give you a more effective way to tell if the help desk really will be a good fit for your whole organization. We also recommend you get the whole evaluation team looking at the same tool at the same time, rather than each person reviewing a different option.

When you're ready to dig in and deeply evaluate your help desk options, move on to the next few steps.

Test the customer experience of each help desk solution

How will your customers interact with the help desk you choose? Use some of your typical customer questions as examples, and complete a support conversation from the customer perspective.

What will the customer see? How easy is the process for them? (Help Scout, for example, has no customer-facing portal or ticket numbers, so your customer only receives personal emails.)

Consider the experience you want to create for your customers, and test that against each tool.

Trial the help desk user experience

Your customer service team will be using this tool all day, every day. How easy is it for them to navigate around, how fast does it load, and how quickly can they find answers?

The help desk software you choose should, as much as possible, be frictionless for your team, allowing them to use all their energy helping customers and not fighting their tools.

Consider scalability

Will this solution continue to work as your business grows? Ask the sales and success teams of the solutions you are considering for an estimate of their bigger customers’ support volume.

You don’t want to pay the higher fees and complexity of software you don't need, but you also don’t want to have to pick a new help desk 12 months from now.

Review reporting options

Testing reporting is tricky when you don’t have real data to report. Demonstration accounts can give you a sense of what is possible. If you’ve thought carefully about which customer service metrics you use and why, talk to the help desk provider about how they can help you get those results with their tool.

Prioritize reliability and support

Who supports the support team? When your help desk system has an outage, when a feature is confusing, or when a process needs reworking, how will you get help? You’ll want to know which support channels are available, how quickly you’ll be helped, and how competent the team is that is helping you.

Every software product experiences issues, but some companies do much better than others in handling those situations. Submit sample requests to each help desk support team, and see how timely, useful, and friendly the responses are.

As well as your own trial experience, you can make use of external reviews and opinions to inform your choice. Customer service communities such as Support Driven are full of people who use h