Open Source Help Desks

May 4, 2009


Last month we decided that we needed something a bit stronger than Basecamp for logging IT support requests. So it was time again to look at open source helpdesk solutions. Here is a brief summary of our research.

Our requirements are:-

  • Easy and fast to log support calls
  • Web based
  • Customer and contract driven
  • Knowledge Base
  • Service Level Agreements – Reports
  • Friendly and professional looking
  • PHP / Perl based
  • Isn’t a dead project


  1. Asset Tracker – Old, not easy on the eye
  2. Astres – Written in French and designed for Civil aviation
  3. BATTS – Couldn’t see any screen shots or documentation, felt too technie
  4. BugTracker.NET – Needs Windows Server ASP.NET
  5. Bugzilla – Designed more for software development than IT support
  6. DITrack – Command line driven
  7. Double Choco Latte – Maybe a dead project? Doesn’t look too appealing.
  8. Eventum – Software development rather than IT support
  9. Helpdesk Reloaded – Looks dated
  10. Helpdesk Issue Management – No Knowledge base or statistic
  11. Information Resource Manager – I looked at this one a couple of years ago but appears the project is now dead

This list was made up from

In the end we decided to give Sitracker a bash. Hopefully post an update in the future on how we’ve got on with it.

Dan Moon

August 22, 2008


Back in June, young Mr Paul (sat at his computer) joined the Edinburgh team and apart from his love of S Club Juniors has been a valuable addition to the team. Last month we decided to build upon this and have taken on Dan. Dan is sat behind Paul with Mark in the background from the southern office. Mark came up the other week from the Hastings office to check up on us all. Additional my brother came up from England to do some more work experience!


Mark enjoying work with my Windows Vista machine!

Dan nearly didn’t get the job after he though I might be a Manchester Utd supporter. I decided not to hold this against him, after I found out the poor sod is a Spurs supporter. Thanks for Keane!

So why Dan Moon? Well Dan plays the drums but not any type of drums, Japanese’s ones!


I hope Dan will enjoy working for Terinea and we can eventually wean him off Bon Jovi!


Check out what we’ve been listening too at…

Author: Support @ 2:36 pm

Blue on Windows Vista

April 2, 2008


I came into the office this morning to see that Blue had some opinions he wished to express about Windows Vista.

"In 1999 Microsoft gave us Windows ME, seven years later they gave us Windows ME 2 (Windows Vista)" – Blue

J: What do you mean Blue?

B: Well do remember Windows ME back in the 1990s? That was one poor excuse of an Operating System, built on not much better Windows 98 before it!

J: Yes I do, it was terrible, specially when you consider Windows 2000 Professional was available at the same time for business people. But surely Vista isn’t as bad as Windows ME Blue?

B: Your right, it isn’t, its worst that Windows ME! Vista is like a bad Sequel after XP, think Star Trek V, Sting 2, Star Wars 1, Speed 2, Batman & Robin, Jaws 4, Spiderman 4.

J: What, they are doing another Spiderman film?

B: Yeah!

J: So what is so wrong with Windows Vista?

B: Well you got a new machine the other day after your last Vista machine couldn’t repair itself and to be honest was a little under powered anyway (2.8 GHz 1.5 GB RAM and 128MB Video) . You also had a clients Vista machine that couldn’t repair itself either that week!

J: Yes and yes, but now my old Machine has Linux Ubuntu 8.04 on it.

B: I know, it feels like a new machine does it? And with 3D desktop enabled it puts Vista and Mac visual effects to shame?

J: Your right, it does Blue. But I think that’s a topic for another day

B: Well here is my list of complaints so far…

1. Forget about speed unless you have a 2.0GHz Duo machine and then I’d be looking at Quad Core if you can stretch to it

2. Control Panel mayhem, I can’t find anything quickly

J: Ah, but your meant to search for everything in Vista, programs, email, documents etc, that’s the thinking behind Vista

b: True, but try searching for "Windows Updates" and nothing will appear because you didn’t type it "Windows Update", that’s just laziness on Microsoft part

J: Okay, next

3. Coping files over network has only been fixed with Service Pack 1, why would they ship an OS with a problem like this?

4. Service Pack 1 actually slows down Vista, forget about it speeding things up or adding any new features

5. Mapped Network drives in a Workgroup environment never remember your passwords

6. How many ways do you need to shutdown the computer? Sometimes it doesn’t actually shutdown, it sleeps and even that doesn’t work correctly on your new desktop computer, remember this morning you wasted 20 minutes?

J: Okay, okay we are getting the picture, so what do you suggest?

B: Not much choice, Microsoft will stop large computer manufactures from ship XP machines in June, Windows 7 won’t be around till 2009/10. Linux debate always comes down to the choice of applications you need to run and isn’t as easy as Windows or Apple, although this is improving. Apple operating system has MS Office and Adobe applications going for it, but they are expensive compared to the specs of a Windows machine and if you’re a large company, Apple Servers are ludicrously expensive bit of kit, £3,000 for a basic server. What do you think Jamie?

J: Well I think if your out for a new laptop or desktop which will run Vista, 2 GB of RAM, 2 GHz Duo Processors and separate video card which doesn’t steal system memory or is what you should be aiming at.

Author: Support @ 8:00 am

New Clients + New Projects + More New Clients = No Blogging!

February 24, 2008


After several extremely busy weeks, work is showing signs of getting back to normal, well nearly. When working for yourself or a small business anything not mission critical often gets pushed to one side when your busy. Blogging unfortunately is one them that has to take a back burner.

As a small business wanting to grow, you can’t afford to say no to new clients or new work requests from existing customers. If you provide business critical systems you often have to drop everything to deal with support issues, which might take 5 minutes to fix or 5 hours. If you’re in the middle of project work this can be rather counter productive.

So since Christmas we have been working on…

  • Three group websites, with a group splash page and customised WordPress template for group news (75% finished)
  • CRM Demo system and basic user training
  • Four new IT support clients in Edinburgh (2 x Charities, Agricultural and a Design Agency)
  • Four other websites in various stages of progress
    • Press Release Website
    • Charity Website
    • Fencing Company
    • Shower company
    • Boys Club Football Team
  • Fully ERP System which encompasses front facing touch screen ordering system, stock control via hand held devices, invoicing, accounts and dispatch (Those devices that you sign when you get a delivery from TNT, UPS etc).
  • Order system that allows small Sony distributors to integrate with Sony stock control system.
  • And probably other hundred things I’ve done and now forgotten about.

What hasn’t helped is Christmas. I find that clients tend to take their foot off the accelerator in December and then at the start of the new year feel bad for doing so and then push hard. That’s just business for you. It doesn’t matter what type you’re in, you will find that you push for input from a client and when you finally it get it, the client will want the solution delivered yesterday.

Blog Buffer

I’ve mentioned before how important it is for a business running a blog to have a buffer of draft blog posts for business periods. Unfortunately our buffer ran out weeks ago. So if you already have a draft of blog posts, double it is my advice!

Thank you to everyone for your comments and sorry I’ve not replied to them, I will do shortly.


Author: Support @ 10:00 pm

21 Ways to Bullet Proof your IT infrastructure

January 23, 2008

bullet proof

If backups is about making sure your company data is safe, then building IT redundancy is making sure you have the infrastructure to read that information back. So how can you increase the resilience of your business infrastructure?

Increasing sales, number of clients and profit margins are top priorities for businesses. Building redundancy and fall over systems for the business are probably bottom of the pile. Why, simple because investing in such backup systems doesn’t increase sales, clients or profits. But, if your business does suffer a major disaster, then these redundancy systems have everything to do with profit margins.

image 1. Network and Desktop Protection – I think most people realise they need an anti-virus solution to guard against viruses, a firewall to protect their business network from the outside world. However, without sounding like an insurance sales man, sometimes this is not enough protection. On the desktop front, you need to consider malware, root kits, Trojans along with viruses. Many of the latest anti-viruses solutions guard against all these things. Depending on the size of your company, you might also consider additional protection for your network. This could include dedicated firewalls, internal firewalls, Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), Spam, Malware and virus filters etc.

2. External Backup Email Address – Make sure you have a backup email address that can be used, should your primary address not be available. I would suggest a free email account from someone like Google or Yahoo. Make sure you check the account every so often, else it could be deactivated if it lies dormant for too long. Google Gmail can easily integrate into existing email clients such as Thunderbird or Outlook. You can also download the desktop notification program.

image 3. Online Backup Solution – Backup solutions can be a real pain in the backside. If you have tape solution, you probably need to change the tape on a daily basis and store the tapes in a different location for protection against fire. An online backup solution means your business data is stored offsite in a secure environment. Changes in your business data are automatically encrypted and transferred over the internet to secure location. I would recommend that businesses should have a local backup solution for full quick system recovery and an online backup to protect against complete loss of business premises.

4. Temporary Premises – What would you do tomorrow if you lost your office or factory space? This could be due to fire, flood, maintenance or temporary access to the internet. It maybe worth looking at what office space is available to rent at a moments notice in your area. You could consider a two way agreement with a neighbouring business for office space, or maybe just you’re local Starbucks for internet access!

5. Physical Security – One factor that is often over looked when it comes to protecting your IT infrastructure is physical security. Gaining access to your network, servers and backup tapes is often easily achieved by physically walking into a business premises. Think about quality locks, keypads, swipe cards, visitor badges, safes etc can restrict access to sensitive areas of your business.

I once did a weeks professional training course on hacking (very interesting) by ex-MoD expert, the last day he show us how easy it was to pick and spring padlocks, so make sure you buy quality locks that require the key to engage the lock.


6. User Logon Profiles – Once your staffing levels reach around seven or more, your business could benefit from having a client-server environment. Typically, this will involve a server which authenticates user login details, desktop settings, user files and application settings. This means a user will be able to log in to any computer within the business and have access to their desktop. So next time a computer breaks down you can simply login to a spare machine.

7. File Synchronisation – If you run a business with a server that hosts your company files and documents, you should consider enabling offline file synchronisation. This means if your server or network is unavailable you can continue accessing your personal documents. Once the issue has been fixed, changes to your documents are synchronised back to the server. This is also handy for laptop users who are out and about on the road.

8. Make use of Redundant Hardware – Instead of throwing out that old machine why not install Linux operating system which requires a lot less memory, disk space and processing power compared to a Windows system. What’s more, Linux is free and has a wide range of freely available software you can use. For example your machine could run an as:-

– Intranet or CRM server
– Email Server
– Backup storage
– Network Monitoring System
– Snort (IDS)
– Additional Spam protection
– Firewall (SmoothFirewall)
– Internet access for the staff canteen or warehouse
– Public information point, coupled with a trendy flat screen!
– DNS, Proxy or DHCP server

9. Refreshing Hardware and Software – As the business grows, you should set aside money to replace existing hardware and software. You don’t want to upset the apple cart, but at the same time you don’t want the company to stay stuck in the dark ages. Refreshing parts of your IT infrastructure from time to time will not only give your workforce the best tools, but often additional redundancy features. As mentioned in tip 8, make use of redundant hardware and software as fall over systems to your new equipment.

image 10. Backup Internet Connection – This suggestion all depends on how much your business is dependent on internet access. Consider how much it costs your business per hour without an internet connection. If you are talking in the hundreds then it might be worth considering a backup internet connection. If possible choose an ISP that uses a different technology other than your primary supplier. For example, ADSL internet that uses a standard phone line and a backup connection that uses a cable modem from a cable provider. If you purchase the correct network equipment, you could utilise both connections for increase speed and bandwidth. You could also consider a two-way agreement with a neighbouring business to use their internet connection should yours be unavailable.

11. Knowledge Base System – There are many ways that your business can introduce systems to harvest the knowledge of your staff. This might be a company Wiki, Social Bookmarking, helpdesk or Customer Relationship Manager. Implementing such systems will not only have a positive affect, but also protect against loss of information when staff move on.

12. Software Drivers, Applications, Network Settings and Serial Keys – It is easy to think that once the business data is safely backed up, that the company is protected. However, if the business can’t rebuild the business platform (IT infrastructure) quickly, the company data starts to lose its value. Make sure you have access to driver disks (CDs), application software, router settings, application serial keys etc

13. Software Updates – Make sure you software is kept up-to-date with the latest security patches. This can include applications, operating systems, network devices and servers. A word of warning, sometimes updates can cause a few problems. So be careful when it comes to updating critical systems such as servers and network devices. Its why you need tip number 14!

image 14. IT Support Company – You might be or have a computer guru within your business and have no need for a day-to-day support from an IT company. Although what happens when the computer guru is off or leaves? You never know when disaster strikes and you end up over your head with IT problems. You panic and ringing the first IT support company you come across. Instead, shop around, talk about your current IT setup. Ask if they would be available to help should you land in hot water.

15. IT policy – Make sure your staff are aware and understand how they should use the IT infrastructure correctly. Although you might think it does not need spelling out. Having a company IT policy written down on paper and signed by staff will not only act as a preventative measure, but also keep you protected should you need to let a member of staff go.

16. Fire proof safe – We briefly mentioned this one before, but its worth considering a fireproof safe to secure backup’s, software and serial keys etc. Even if you can’t afford a fireproof safe, regular safe is better than nothing.

image 17. UPS and Surge Protection – Uninterrupted power supply (UPS) allows you protect your computer systems from power cuts. This is a absolute must for any servers in your business. Even if the power cut lasts longer that 20 minutes, the UPS will gracefully shutdown the computer.

18. Hardware Supplier – Another reason to have a relationship with a local computer support company. Typically, they can arrange the correct equipment to be ordered cheaper and quicker that businesses that don’t purchase hardware on a regular basis. More than likely, they will have spare equipment they can lend you.

19. Backup Backup Backup and Test – You can make sure all your bases are covered, but if you don’t have access to your company data, it can all be a complete waste of time. So make sure you have a backup solution or two! Also, unless you test your backup solutions, you can’t say with a 100% certainly that you’re covered.

20. Disaster Recovery Document – Have your IT support company produce a comprehensive imageand professional Disaster Recovery Document. Generally, the report should cover things like IT settings, a recovery plan and suggestions to increase protection. Make sure you have copy available outside the office, which is held securely, remember this is the keys to your business!

21. Come back stronger – If disaster does strike, before you start the recovery process it might be worth taking a step back and thinking how you would do things differently.

What measures do you take to protect your IT infrastructure?

I’m expecting 5 or more from our good friend, Jason!

What are blogs?

November 29, 2007

business week blogs and business

I guess the majority of people who read Terinea Weblog, already know what blogs are? Although, I realised the other day I’ve never actually explained in my own words what blogs are.

Blogs are not a new technology

I find most people struggle to understand the concept of blogging because they are looking for a piece of new technology to be involved. Usually when explaining something new in computing it will involve a new piece of hardware or software. Blogs on the other hand, are simply a collection of web pages which are commonly referred as blog posts. The new posts appear in date order with the latest post appearing at the top of the page. You can think of them as a online journal or web log, hence the name weblog which has been shortened to blog. Posts can contain anything from text, pictures, quoted text from other website’s, links to other blogs, music, charts, tables or embedded video.


The Community

So far you might be thinking so what, they sound like a regular website? Well blogs (good ones!) are all about the community of readers that read and leave comments. For example if you disagree or wish to add something to this particular post, you can simply scroll down the page and leave a comment. As one of the authors of the blog I should acknowledge your comment and maybe even update the post if the comment adds value.


Tell me when you update

Another big different with blogs over regular website’s is something called Really Simple Syndicate Feed or RSS Feed. You might of seen the RSS Feed logo on various web sites or within your web browser. Instead of visiting a blog to check for updates, a RSS Feed will inform you when the blog has been updated. In fact you don’t actually need to visit the blog at all, using something called a RSS Reader will pull new posts down for you.

Still confused? Watch this excellent video from Common Craft.

Business and Blogging

To find out why your business might want a blog, take a look at…

  • Blogs and Wikis: Growing influences and markets of the Internet
  • Benefits and Weakness for Business Blogs

Some external links

If you’re thinking about starting one for your business, check out our

Skip to the end

So in summary…

  • Blogs are a web Journal or Web log
  • Readers can subscribe to the blog using the RSS feed
  • Latest posts appear at the top
  • Old posts appear at the bottom
  • Posts can be sorted by categories and date
  • A two way medium
  • Readers can leave comments
  • Can be about anything from knitting to the stock exchange
  • Blogs should be fun and informal
  • Writing a blog is referred as blogging
  • Can be used for personal or business
  • Reading other blogs and leaving comments is as equally important to running a blog
  • Should be updated more regularly than a website
  • Use a desktop blog writer to make the whole process an easier one
Author: Support @ 8:40 am
Tags: ,

How to send sensitive data securely

November 22, 2007

missing discs

British Government has been in a bit of bother this week after losing two discs containing over 25 million records of personal details of parents who received child benefit. So when dealing with sensitive data what is the best way to transfer the information between offices?

At some point in business you might be tasked with sending large amounts of personal and sensitive data to another business or office. Without getting too technical, here are a couple suggestions and yet effective ways to send sensitive data.

1. Required Data Only – Think about why you are needing to send the data. Maybe only certain fields or records need to be sent, just an update file containing records that have changed. So if the worst happens and the data falls into the wrong hands only a partial picture can be painted.

2. Password Protect the File – Most desktop application have the ability to password protect the documents they create. Although the latest versions of Microsoft Office have vastly improved on security front, you need only do a search for “Microsoft Office Password” and see platter of software aimed at breaking password protected documents.

3. Encrypt the File – Once you have password protected the file. You need to encrypt the file using third party software such AxCrypt with an extremely long password phrase and industrial strength algorithm.

Does anyone else have suggestions for encryption software?

4. Split the File and Send Separately – Whatever means you decide to send the data it might be worth while splitting the file into two parts and sending it separately at different time periods. That way if you lose one part of the file in transit the data is still secure. To split the file you could use 7zip or HJ-Split.

5. Sending the Passwords – All your good work will be un-done if you don’t equally take care when sending the passwords. You should presume sending them via email is not a secure method.

6. Check eBay – You should check eBay if your discs do go missing.


Courier Trouble

That wasn’t the only thing that the courier TNT apparently lost in October. Last month we ordered four rather expensive servers on a tight deadline and only one turned up! We are still sorting out the mess this has caused between them and Computer 2000 who made a complete mess of the whole affair.

Mr Darling told MPs: “Two password protected discs containing a full copy of HMRC’s entire data in relation to the payment of child benefit was sent to the NAO, by HMRC’s internal post system operated by the courier TNT.

If you have any additional suggestions to sending sensitive data I would love to hear them.

Author: Support @ 9:00 am

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