Zoho, the SaaS-based software specialist, has launched Zoho Support, a web-based help desk ticketing application with a customer-facing self-service portal. It's an interesting move -- especially when you consider Zoho's sister company is ManageEngine, which develops MSP Center Lite, a network and systems management platform. Here's a look at Zoho's strategy.

Ironically, the Zoho Support help desk arrives only a few days after ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini urged IT Nation attendees to focus more efforts on help desk -- a key step toward maintaining account control as big SaaS vendors target SMBs.

At least on paper, Zoho Support sounds similar to other SaaS help desk software from vendors like Zendesk. Various dashboards help create and track trouble tickets, manage product lists, generate reports, assign tasks, give out role-based permissions, bill customers and so on and so forth.

And on the customer-facing side, you can make a Zoho Support knowledgebase designed to answer basic questions before it ever gets to your staff. If that doesn't do the trick, they can submit their own tickets and track the status in the browser.

Corporate Synergies?

If a Zoho-powered help desk solution sounds familiar, you're probably thinking of ManageEngine, the MSP-tailored solution also owned by the company. But MSPmentor has it on good authority that Zoho Support and ManageEngine won't yet integrate -- not before it gets integration with other aspects of Zoho Apps, anyway.

On its own, Zoho Support doesn't sound like a game changer. But while Google and Microsoft fight over building a better mousetrap in the productivity and collaboration space, Zoho is quietly building support in the IT world by moving enterprise-class applications like invoicing and CRM to the cloud. Check out the Zoho site and you'll see dozens of SaaS applications that MSPs and end-customers can leverage. It makes MSPmentor wonder: While most folks focus on Google, Microsoft, Salesforce.com and other publicly held US companies, is Zoho quietly building its own SaaS empire?

Additional insights from Joe Panettieri. Sign up for MSPmentor’s Weekly EnewsletterWebcasts and Resource Center. Follow us via RSS, FacebookIdenti.ca and Twitter. Check out more MSP voices at www.MSPtweet.com. Read our editorial disclosure here.