Web Host Billing and Account Setup Software Review: WHMCS – Part I
We are currently in the market looking at a few web hosting business related client management, customer billing and hosting account setup software solutions. Most people – when asked – refer to Modernbill or Clientexec as great tools. Both applications have a great reputation. After a little more research we ran into a newcomer in the market offering great functionality and a lot of features, too. WHMCS = WHMCompleteSolution is a Client Management, Billing & Support System designed for CPanel and WHM Web Hosts. The feature list is extensive and pricing is very competitive. As mentioned – we are in the market for a client management and billing solution, WHMCS got our attention. Currently we have budgeted a 250 client license of Modernbill and an owned license of Kayako’s eSupport helpdesk software. Both applications are feature-rich and would be a solid foundation for a new web host as well as for large web hosting businesses. They are not cheap, but for a web host entering the market a good investment as it reduces the need later on to migrate to a different system.
Almost by accident we received the opportunity to work with a full version of WHMCS. We decided to put the software to the test and see what it can do. Maybe this would be a solid solution that would a) give us similar functionality compared to Modernbill and eSupport and b) save us a lot of money at the same time.
Instead of comparing feature lists and browsing through support forums, we were now able to use the software on our own server. We started installing the software. After unzipping the installation files we took a quick look at the installation instructions. The steps to get the software installed are fairly easy and we finished the installation in no-time. One cronjob needs to be setup, but the entire command line is available for copy and paste so that even non-technical people can take care of this.
Accessing the admin panel did not work – we do not have Ioncube installed on this server. But the WHMCS installer package is prepared for that scenario. We uploaded the available Ioncube folder with the runtime loader for Ioncube and instantly the software works. The available documentation is detailed and easy to understand.
The installation process already includes some setup pieces – so, be prepared to have your server or reseller account information available. Note: You can add additional servers or reseller WHM accounts later on.
Once we logged into the admin panel we took some time to look around and to make us familiar with the interface. The available options are:
Home – Pending Orders – Clients – Support Center – Transactions – Configuration – Reports
For the new setup we choose to inspect the "Configuration" area. After a quick non-guided tour we decided to jump into the setup and see how problematic or easy it would be get going. We want to sell web hosting and setting up a product is our first choice. The product setup form is well structured. Two things were just a little bit confusing for a first time user. 1) The product price – personally I think it could be beneficial to see a currency symbol next to the cost field to make life just a notch easier. 2) WHM Account setup details – just enter all the account features and a package name as needed to associate the right feature settings and allowances with your product. If the existing package is selected it might be easier (for the first time user) if the manual options would be grayed out. These 2 items are not a major issue. Just a small thing that could be improved or be structured differently in our opinion.
Once we finished the product setup we moved on the payment gateways. We decided to use PayPal and Credit Card (Authorize.net) as the available payment options. Both options are very easy to setup. The Credit Card option is named "Authorize.net" in the system and shows up as the same on the order form in the beginning. The name "Authorize.net" might be confusing to consumers as they cannot really associate anything with it. You can easily change the display name for this option from "Authorize.net" to something more descriptive like "Credit Card Payment". A confirming look at the order form showed the results of the change.
Enough for one evening of testing. Please see the second part of our review here.
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