Jira Service Desk vs. Helpdesk for Jira: A Comparison of Customer Portal and SLA

This article was written by Kamil Beer, an Atlassian Engineer at Idalko

Jira is frequently adopted as an issue tracker – or a ticketing system. In this role, you usually see Jira Service Desk (JSD), the Atlassian application used for an ITIL-compliant IT Helpdesk, service catalog, or customer portal. Sometimes, the app “E-mail this issue” is used as an improvised support venue instead. This time, we will look at a Jira Service Desk alternative that just recently gained a Data Center supported status – the app Helpdesk for Jira (HFJ). Does it hold when compared to Jira Service Desk?

Jira Service Desk vs. Helpdesk for Jira: What’s the Difference?

Jira Service Desk needs no introduction. Remodeled from a popular add-on into a separate Jira Application back in 2015 under version 3.0, it bears the trademark of a tool officially supported and developed by Atlassian. It’s ITIL compliant for Request, Incident, Problem, and Change management.

Helpdesk for Jira is a Jira app by Team lead, a Russian Atlassian Marketplace Top Vendor, known for tools like CRM for Jira or Calendar for Jira. Having been developed since 2014, it’s certainly no spring chicken. In June 2019, the app became Data Center compatible and has several interesting advantages over its Atlassian-made partner.

Deployment and Licensing

Jira Service Desk, being a standalone application, runs on Cloud, Server, and Data Center. You buy the license for several agents, who are the users with special rights that can for instance talk with the customer and transition the ticket through a workflow.

Jira Service Desk alternative, Helpdesk for Jira, is so far compatible only with Jira Server and Data Center, with no plans of it being deployed into Jira Cloud on the vendor’s Roadmap at the moment. The licensing works through the usual Jira app model, where you need to buy the add-on for the same number of users as is your largest Jira license. For example, for a 25-user Jira Software instance, you need to license HFJ for 25 users, too.

This plays a major role when it comes to choosing a solution to use. If you had 2000 users in Jira Software and you wanted to use a support solution for 5 agents, the (initial) cost of the solution would be 5050 USD when using HFJ, while it would be 2400 USD for JSD. However, if you had a 25-user Jira Software instance and wanted to use the same number of agents, you would have to pay only 400 USD for an HFJ solution versus 10 400 USD for 25 Jira Service Desk agents!

As Helpdesk for Jira is not available for Cloud, in the following parts we will compare the server features only.

Jira Service Desk

Helpdesk for Jira

✅ Available on Cloud, Server, Data center

✅ Good price for a small number of agents, even on a large Jira instance

❌ Price steeply rises with the number of agents.

❌ Available only on Server and Data center

❌ Not very feasible for large Jira instances, as the solution needs to be paid per the largest Jira license in use.

✅ The pricing works very well on small to medium Jira instances, and any user can become an agent.

Ease of Use

In HFJ, customers have three options on how to create tickets; on a dashboard with their already entered Jira issues, through a Customer portal, or via e-mail.

On the portal, the customer adds the ticket similarly as one would create an issue in Jira Software, without any visual differences from the usual “Create” screen. After that, customers can visit the already mentioned dashboard with their issues, which shows some advantages over the JSD “My issues” page. In HFJ, the customer can view fields like the assignee, the component, the SLAs, or filter by status.

The administrator can set up multiple tabs for the customer based on JQL queries. These support HTML, so they can link to another Service Desk, Sharepoint or a Knowledge Base. In JSD, any rearrangement of the ticket view would be possible only through the use of additional apps.

issue visibility

Different customer-visible tabs with different fields

However, the JSD’s function of Organizations is missing here. So if you need to see the tickets from other colleagues, it’s necessary to manually define this (ex. as reporters) in a JQL tab. This means that issue visibility needs some additional configuration, while in JSD it is restricted to the reporter out of the box.

Jira Service Desk

Helpdesk for Jira

✅ Simplified Jira UI that guides the customer.

❌ Several basic and advanced customer-facing features are lacking and are available only via add-ons

✅ Basic Jira UI elements, suitable for customers that already know Jira.

✅ Various additional features like extra fields, views, customer-visible SLAs and other UX improvements.


Solution Administration

In JSD, you do most of the setup through the Service Desk project settings. In HFJ, you adjust everything in the “Manage apps” section, similar to other add-ons. And there is plenty to do.

There needs to be a Helpdesk Superuser created (a user account that enables the customers to remain unlicensed, like in JSD), at least one Jira group for customers, a modified permission scheme, proper screens and fields, and preferably a portal set up – it’s quite a list. However, given that it enables unlicensed users to create issues in a similar comprehensible environment as JSD, this is understandable.

Some of the setup is fairly clunky, requires some trial and error and sometimes results in unusual outcomes (A user that doesn’t have the appropriate permission to browse the Jira Helpdesk project can still see its ticket types, but cannot create a ticket), but the documentation covers everything you need to set the add-on up.

Despite this, Jira Service Desk alternative, HFJ, tries to make the process easy primarily on the customer. For example, the customer needs to log in to the Helpdesk on a special page, which might be confused with a regular Jira login page. However, HFJ redirects the customer to the right page when he tries to log in as a regular licensed user.

Jira Service Desk

Helpdesk for Jira

✅ The initial setup is easy via a comprehensible Jira project admin UI, already familiar to a Jira administrator. ❌ Not a very intuitive setup that takes a long time to get even a basic project off the ground. “?“ boxes on administration pages help.

Feature Differences

Helpdesk for Jira has been going toe-to-toe in many areas with its Atlassian counterpart. We have already mentioned the Customer Portal which works well, albeit in HFJ you can have only one portal. Having more portals for different customers is solved through a vaguely named “My issue tabs settings”, which allows the administrator to set up different issue types (not request types) to be created by different groups. This is an area where HFJ could definitely improve. JSD allows multiple portals for multiple projects, easily accessible through a general “Help desk portal”.

Setting up the portal is similar to JSD, with the parts that are problematic in Jira – like switching the issue type of existing request type – fixed in HFJ. You can also group tickets into categories.

As for a Knowledge base (KB), HFJ supports a Confluence connection via an add-on and a custom field where KB articles appear. A strong point in Jira Service Desk alternative, HFJ, is that you can place a Confluence page on your portal to quickly orient customers around the Helpdesk.

Canned comments, different issue views for an agent and a customer, “create linked issue”, SLAs, and customer-facing workflow transitions are all covered by HFJ. The transitions, in particular, are restricted to the “Transition issue” project permission, so you might need to add some extra workflow conditions first.

An upside of the more complex setup described in the last part is the availability of various features not yet implemented in JSD. For instance, granular permissions that control what the customer can see in an issue, issue link visibility (along with a custom field “Similar Issues” that shows issues with a similar summary), custom “My request” views, creating issues from comments, expanded CSAT, customer-visible SLAs, localizations, and even editing an issue by the customer are the features in HFJ.

What HFJ is missing, are the JSD Automation options and a simplified Queues view for agents, along with a modified left-side Jira project bar.

issue visibility

What can the customer see in a ticket?

Jira Service Desk

Helpdesk for Jira

✅ Standard helpdesk features which are slowly being expanded by Atlassian

❌ Many other helpful features are available only through third-party add-ons, with unsure date and possibility of delivery by Atlassian.

✅ Many practical features that JSD is missing.

✅ Out-of-the-box integration with CRM for Jira, another app from the developer.

❌ No automation options

❌ Limited integration with Insight for Jira.


Jira Service Desk is the standard solution for Cloud and a reliable CMDB platform (with the Insight app), which has no trouble integrating with other systems and apps. JSD is also supported by the Australian guys themselves, which is a big plus. As for HFJ support, I was able to create an HFJ ticket in under a minute (no SEN number or any other details, like on Atlassian support were needed), and the fact that the vendor is using their own solution as a Helpdesk was quite encouraging.

Helpdesk for Jira is a fair Jira Service Desk alternative. While it might be a bit harder to learn, to set up, and lacks an airbrushed look, it offers features that were long asked for by Atlassian customers. I would recommend it to companies that need to have many agents, which was always an issue with JSD because of JSD’s agent pricing. HFJ can, however, turn out to be very expensive on a large Jira instance if you simply want to add a small support squad for 10 USD (price for 3 JSD agents). Despite this, it is a viable solution you can test for free for 30 days.


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