Updated Jan 9 2020 :: by Emily Hall

Are you using or leaning toward using a self-hosted ticketing system?

While many of our clients choose to use our hosted, SaaS version of our ticketing system, we also offer self-hosted for those that prefer it. Choosing this option means that you take more responsibility and control over managing it.

If you’re using a self-hosted ticketing system, we’ve got a few tips here for managing it well:

Free download: Tips for managing your knowledge base

Why choose self-hosted?

Companies have various reasons for opting for self-hosted over hosted versions of software, and they’re worth considering if you’re wavering between the two. Self-hosted software may be chosen for reasons such as:

  • The ability to scale up your usage without paying more. You purchase a license for unlimited users of the software, install it and use as much or as little as you need. Many SaaS options scale how much you pay with usage. So for example, you might have to pay for the next level subscription if you want to add more users.
  • Having complete control over the operation of the software as it is installed on your own servers.
  • Having total control and ownership over the data stored within your software. For some organizations, there is a policy of handling all data themselves.

The choice generally comes down to level of control, which is why it’s important to follow a few best practices to manage your self-hosted system. There are things that you have to take care of that would otherwise be taken care of by the host company with a hosted version.

Managing your self-hosted software

Here are a few tips from us for managing your self-hosted ticketing software:

#1. Back everything up

When you choose a hosted software, the host is responsible for backups of data and ensuring that you’ll be able to retrieve data if anything goes wrong. When you choose to self-host, backups become your responsibility.

We suggest that you back up everything regularly. It often pays to be paranoid about backups because anything could happen at any time to lead to loss of data. There are multiple potential causes of data loss: human error, deliberate data deletion by a disgruntled employee, malware hijacking your system or even a hard drive crash. You need to be prepared in any case.

At a minimum, you probably want to be backing up daily to ensure minimal loss of data should an event occur. You might choose to back-up on media that you own, in which case it is suggested that back-ups are stored off-site (if your building caught fire, you can potentially lose back-ups and current data).

Another method many organizations use is to back-up via the cloud. There are services specifically for cloud-based data back-up, or you can create your own using something like AWS. The key is to ensure that stored data is encrypted and that the right people have administrative access. There was an incident illustrating the importance of this, where a former American College of Education employee changed their Google account password and held them to ransom for it, holding up stored email and course materials for 2000 students.

#2. Follow security best practices

This is related to the previous point - you should follow all security best practices, especially if you want to stay compliant with GDPR, HIPAA and any other requirements. For example, you may need:

  • Identity and Access Management (IDAM). Appropriate controls help to limit access to personal data for authorized employees. As a general rule, employees should only have access to the data that helps them to do their jobs.
  • Data Loss Prevention - to prevent the loss of personal data.
  • Encryption and pseudonymization - Data should be encrypted, but it should also be processed in such a way that it can no longer be attributed to a specific data subject.
  • Incident Response Plan. GDPR requires that you have one and that it meets some very specific criteria.
  • Third-party risk management. You are responsible for relationships with and risk management with third-party providers.
  • Policy management. This includes factors such as reviewing and updating security controls.
  • An “erase all my data” option for customers.

Self-hosting software may require you to manage compliance with GDPR and HIPAA

#3. Use Windows-integrated authentication

If the organization is Windows-based, Windows-integrated authentication allows users and and employees to log into the system without entering any passwords whatsoever. The system logs them in using their “domain account.”

This is recommended for intranet (rather than internet) environments as it does not send the user credentials in the request. Microsoft lists the following reasons to recommend an intranet environment:

  • Client computers and Web servers are in the same domain.
  • Administrators can make sure that every client browser is Internet Explorer 2.0 or later.
  • HTTP proxy connections, which are not supported by NTLM, are not required.
  • Kerberos version 5 requires a connection to Active Directory, which is not feasible in an Internet environment.

(JitBit allows for Windows-integrated authentication for both SaaS and self-hosted environments)

#4. Choose a supportive vendor

You’re probably choosing to self-host because you have the expertise to do so, but that doesn’t mean you won’t ever require help with your chosen software.

Your choice of vendor is important here - some will offer minimal support if you self-host, whereas others (like JitBit) offer guided emergency support, using “TeamViewer” or similar screen-sharing tools.

We suggest you choose a vendor who you can rely on for support if and when needed.

#5. Make regular updates

When software updates come out, it’s very important to keep up with them as a matter of routine. Of course in a self-hosted environment, you must enact the updates yourself.

Updates consist of new features, bug fixes, security updates and industry trends. In fact, it’s possible that missing an update could take you out of compliance with certain security protocols if that update is related to those requirements.

#6. Be mindful when choosing open source software

There are many self-hosted open source software solutions, with associated pros and cons. To help mitigate possible risks, we suggest looking for the following:

  1. Check the open source license that the product has.
  2. Check whether the vendor offers any paid emergency support.
  3. Check that the vendor has been around for a while, has built up a good reputation and that they are consistently making updates. If the last update was some time ago, it can be an indicator that the project was abandoned.

#7. Keep a good knowledge base

If you’ve chosen a good software vendor, they should hopefully have a decent knowledge base prepared for the software. When you self-host, there may be things that you need to add about your company policies and procedures.

Keep your knowledge base updated so that any of your team is able to complete tasks when required.

A good ticketing system should also have a knowledge base that is easy for customers to use. This can help to cut back on tickets, especially if they can easily find the answer they need.

Download our tips for managing your knowledge base here

#8. Reconsider SaaS!

There are many benefits to going with a hosted software rather than self-hosting. For example:

  • Everything is backed up and secured for you
  • The host company is responsible for making updates and these are automatically deployed to you
  • Big data centers (such as Amazon) can be more reliable than the server in your basement
  • Someone else has to spend all the time doing all these things - you’re left with simply using the software.

That’s our final thought on this. While we totally understand that some companies will prefer to self-host, perhaps due to organizational security policy, we’re huge fans of SaaS. If you’re able to choose hosted software, you’re potentially saving a lot of time and avoiding the risk that vital security updates or other important tasks get missed by your department.

If you still need to choose self-hosted? Be sure to follow these tips. It’s a lot of responsibility to ensure that it is well-managed.

'8 Tips for Managing Your Self-Hosted Ticketing System' was written by Emily Hall
Emily Hall
Emily is our writer with a love for technology. She can usually be found reading, writing, or tinkering with her latest gadget.

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