Navigating The Different Types of Knowledge Base Software Options

Choosing the right knowledge base software for your organization shouldn't feel like an endless climb. Explore the various types and choose what best suits your needs.

Navigating The Different Types of Knowledge Base Software Options

Imagine, you just climbed a mountain cliff and you’re patting yourself on the back and celebrating this huge milestone. You then look up, hoping to see nothing but clouds hovering over you. But, to your disappointment, you see another cliff waiting for you to climb and all your celebrations come to a halt.

That's exactly how it feels trying to set up a knowledge base for your company. You sit with your team, frame common questions that customers ask, or ask your HR team to come up with an internal knowledge base structure.

Just when you think you’re done with the major chunk of the work, it's time to decide on a Knowledge Base Software. With so many different options out there, it's easy to get fed up trying to choose one.

But fear not! This blog will help you find clarity on the different types of Knowledge Base Software available. Let's start by classifying the types of Knowledge Bases into Audience-based and Host-based Knowledge Base Software.

Types of Knowledge Base | Trainn

A. Audience-based

Different audiences have different queries and needs, which means answers have to be tailored for each audience. While it’s not feasible to create a knowledge base for each type of audience, we can broadly classify them into internal and external audiences. This helps us to create separate knowledge bases that cater to everyone.

1. Internal Knowledge Base

An internal knowledge base serves those audiences within an organization which includes employees and internal stakeholders. It contains information about the company and its products, or services that employees might need. This makes sure that all employees are on the same page and are efficient at work. This also helps the company to be more transparent.

Since an internal knowledge base stores sensitive and confidential information, companies mostly secure them with login access. This access also allows them to restrict certain information based on who’s logging in.

Internal Knowledge Base Software prioritizes integrations with tools used by the company like Slack, Google or Microsoft suites, HR portals, etc. These integrations make it easier to search for answers. Examples of Internal Knowledge Base Software include Guru, Slab, Bloomfire, Tettra, etc.

An internal knowledge base generally includes:

a. Company policies and procedures

It describes how the company runs. It covers various topics related to the company’s missions and values, code of conduct, attendance and leave policies, health and safety guidelines, IT and data security protocols, and the performance review process. Employees can have a glance at this information whenever they need to without needing to search for it in different places or ask the HR team.

b. Best practices and guides

It provides detailed workflow and process optimization instructions, software usage tutorials, and other operational practices that contribute to enhancing employee productivity and ensuring consistency across the organization.

c. Onboarding material for new employees

Information that a new employee would require is stored inside the internal knowledge base making the onboarding process more efficient. It includes a welcome letter, an overview of the company’s history and structure, job roles and responsibilities, job-specific training materials, etc.

2. External Knowledge Base

This is designed for those audiences outside the organization, including customers, clients, and partners. They are publicly accessible to external stakeholders. An external knowledge base lets customers search for answers whenever they want, thus making customer service 24/7.

The information stored here aids customers with the use of the product, which helps with customer satisfaction and retention. Here are some popular knowledge bases that are externally facing: Trainn, Hubspot Knowledge Base, Front, etc. The external knowledge base includes:

a. Frequently Asked Questions

Under this section, the questions that are asked frequently by the customers are put up. These questions are mostly simple and non-technical. Making FAQs easily available enables customers to self-serve answers and reduces the burden on the customer support team.

You can check Dropbox, which provides an extensive FAQ section that covers, simple and nontechnical, everything from account management to file sharing and syncing. Their clear, straightforward answers help users resolve issues independently.

Dropbox Frequently Asked Questions | Trainn

b. Guides and Product Tutorials

Offering a service or a product is not enough, especially if your product has a learning curve; it is crucial to show users step-by-step instructions on performing certain actions to avoid frustration from trial and error.

This guidance can be delivered through instructional or interactive guides, videos, and other formats. Guiding people on how to use your product helps a lot with product adoption.

A prime example is Canva, whose guides and tutorials are exceptionally clear, concise, and visually appealing. They offer a vast library of content that showcases the best use of their features.

Canva Tutorial Guides | Trainn

c. Announcements and updates

This section is for users to read about the latest company developments. This can include announcements of new products or features, updates, roadmaps, information about upcoming events like webinars, etc.

d. Community creation

There is a separate section in the knowledge base, involving user-generated content where users share their insights, provide answers to queries or ask queries themselves. This helps cultivate a loyal group of users who help each other. Organizations can benefit from this by looking at users' common troubles and effectively updating the knowledge base.

Hubspot runs various discussions in different silos so that users could share their insights and drive better awareness.

Hubspot Community | Trainn

B. Host-based

While setting up a knowledge base, there comes a question of where and how to host them. Companies can either host their knowledge base on their servers or go for a third-party server. Let’s have a deeper look at both these options:

1. Self-hosted

When a company sets up a knowledge base on its server, then it's self-hosted. This provides the company with control over security, privacy, and uptime. However, it has high initial set-up and maintenance costs due to the need for dedicated IT resources and infrastructure. So this is a viable option for companies who wish to invest time and afford such costs.

However, companies need not always build a knowledge base from scratch.

a. Open Source Software

This is more or less a template, upon which you can build your knowledge base software. Open-source software has its source code open for anyone to use and modify, which gives a high degree of flexibility in customization and feature sets. Since the foundation is already there, it takes less time to build the knowledge base compared to building one from scratch. Some examples of open-source software are Documize and Bookstack.

2. Third-party hosted

Third-party hosted knowledge bases are typically found as tools that you can purchase or subscribe to. The tool providers take care of the server maintenance, and security, and update the tool from time to time. One of the main advantages you get is the immediate set-up without the need for a developer. Third-party hosted knowledge bases are found in:

a. Dedicated SaaS Tools

A SaaS knowledge base is a standalone software that users can subscribe to use. SaaS Knowledge Base software often provides high customizability and feature sets. Small and medium-sized companies find it affordable to build a knowledge base through a SaaS tool. Eg: Trainn, Document360, Helpjuice.

b. Product bundle

This knowledge base usually comes along with a customer service suite. The main advantage of going for such tools is the native integration with their other customer service tools and features. They are usually costly since they offer a wide range of features. Medium to large companies find this as a better alternative. Eg: Hubspot Knowledge Base, Zendesk Guide, Freshdesk.

c. CMS plugin

A CMS plugin is like an app you install on your phone that adds a unique feature that you want, except here you’re adding the knowledge base feature to your existing content management system. This is ideal for users who are already familiar with their CMS’s interface and don’t want to switch out of that environment. Eg: Echo Knowledge Base, Open Knowledge.


Setting up a knowledge base can feel like climbing an endless mountain, right as when you decide on the contents for your knowledge base, the next challenge is to choose the right knowledge base for your organization.

To make it easier to see what type of software to go for, let’s divide knowledge bases into two types: Audience Based and Host Based Knowledge Base

A. Audience-based:

  • Internal Knowledge Base: Serves employees with company policies, best practices, and onboarding materials. Examples: Guru, Slab, Bloomfire, Tettra.
  • External Knowledge Base: Caters to customers with FAQs, guides, product tutorials, updates, and community sections. Examples: Trainn, Hubspot Knowledge Base, Front.

B. Host-based:

  • Self-hosted: Self-hosted knowledge bases offer control over security and customization but require significant setup and maintenance. Open-source options like Documize and Bookstack provide a foundation upon which a knowledge base can be built.
  • Third-party hosted: Third-party hosted knowledge bases are mostly offered as services that can be subscribed to. It offers a quick setup with ongoing maintenance by providers. Options include:
  • Dedicated SaaS Tools: These are standalone software that offers high customizability and feature sets. Examples include Trainn, Document360, Helpjuice.
  • Product Bundles: These are packaged with customer service suites with native integrations to their other customer service tools. Examples are Hubspot Knowledge Base, Zendesk Guide, and Freshdesk.
  • CMS Plugins: These are add-on knowledge base features to existing CMS systems like Echo Knowledge Base and Open Knowledge.

So there you have it! With this knowledge base software breakdown, you’re well on your way to start narrowing down the options that match your needs. The new mountain cliff doesn’t seem too hard to climb now, does it?
Finding yourself stuck while climbing the knowledge base mountain? Check out our in-depth Guide on Knowledge Base Software [2024]

Chethna NK

PUBLISHED ON: 7/8/2024