Web Host Billing and Account Setup Software Review: WHMCS – Part II
This is the second part of the product review for: WHMCS – WHMCompleteSolution. Part I of the review can be found here.
Modifying the look of WHMCS
To modify the overall look of WHMCS you will need to work in the template section of the installation files. Depending on how your existing website is built, this can be very easy or a little more complicated. For the review I am not going too deep into modifying the template. Changing the header image was a breeze. Just by replacing the existing header image with our own we completely changed the look of WHMCS. We then went into the different templates to see how difficult they would be to change. The templates can be opened in Dreamweaver and modified. The language file also needs to be modified if you are working on the template modification. If you have modified other software templates to meet your design needs you should not have many problems doing the same thing with WHMCS. One option we would like to see would be able to work with header and bottom templates and not just one template for – let’s say – the order page or the index page. It might make things easier to adjust to a certain layout. Overall the template modification is not too complicated.
By the way – the overnight cronjob worked fine right out of the box. We received a notification email from our server this morning. Nice. For anyone having difficulties working with cron, this should give some peace of mind.
Customizing email messages that the system generates is fairly easy, too. A built-in online browser based editor allows for easy customization of all email messages. You can choose from many system variables to beef your messages. This allows for very personalized looking emails.
We now tried to order our newly created product and to see how the system would behave. Some minor adjustments later and we liked the order process. WHMCS allows you set options for the order page and we tweaked it for how we would use it in a production environment. One negative thing: We used the Google Toolbar Auto fill option to fill out the order form. The toolbar became confused with the street address and email address we had to manually correct the entries. Hopefully this can be changed by the developers at one point. The order process is easy, but several pages have to be accessed if you use the standard form (default setting). You can switch the settings from the admin control panel to a single page order form. Personally we are fans of short order forms and the single order form is exactly what we were looking for. It takes away some of the worries that a client changes his mind before reaching the final submit button. In general the order process is easy to go through and should be sufficient. Just choose the order form that you like most. As a result of the order we placed, we received the client and the admin notification emails. The output looks very good even with the default email text options. There is not much work involved to get the order process working exactly the way you want it.
Back into the admin panel we see the pending process and review it. In this case we trust ourselves and approve the order. The hosting account setup in WHM is done automatically and works just fine. That will make life very easy once orders start rolling in.
The Support Area
Almost every customer will need support one day. WHMCS comes with a built-in helpdesk ticket system and knowledgebase. The knowledge base is easy to populate and does a good job in regards to functionality and accessibility. The helpdesk ticket system offers basic functionality + some features not necessarily found in every competing solution. The support system supports Private Replies for just admins, Mail Piping, On Hold & In Progress tickets & Attachments.
Customer and system admins are notified via email once the ticket is open or responded to. Here we see some of the limitations of WHMCS. Advanced helpdesk ticket functionality is not available. Ticket notifications seem to be send to anyone registered as admin/support personnel. Tickets cannot be assigned to a person or a group.
For a new web host starting out this will be sufficient, but for a larger operation with 500+ clients this system will not handle the growth and is not really suitable. Given that WHMCS is sold as a billing and client management solution and less as a helpdesk ticketing software, this is perfectly fine. The small web host operation can use this system until growth and client base justify the expense for a more professional helpdesk system. The limitation of the helpdesk system can be overcome by buying a dedicated helpdesk software down the road.
If you are considering switching from a competing product – WHMCS has import scripts available for switching from WHM Auto Pilot and ModernBill.
WHMCS – the company and customer support
A few days before we actually received a copy of WHMCS we contacted the maker of the software through their support forums with some pre-sales questions. The support we received from Matt (the main developer) was quick and good. He came down to the point and helped us out getting our questions answered. We have not had really any support issues since we received a copy of the software, but if normal support is handled in the same way as our pre-sales inquiries in the support forum, we do feel that customer support is in good hands. There is not much company information available on the website – a little more information should serve well to get more clients and to increase the confidence that WHMCS is around for a long time. However – we talked to Matt Pugh the main developer of WHMCS. An interview with him and more information will be available soon on Webhostingresourcekit.com.
WHMCS is competitively priced. It’s not the cheapest solution around, but by far not the most expensive one either. A customer can choose between leasing the software and buying it. Overall the system seems to be suitable for smaller and mid-sized web hosting businesses. Long-term should show how it can handle a larger environment in a production environment. The available functionality is good and gets the job done. The billing and client management piece makes a very good impression and for us that would be the main reason to purchase this software. The software is easy to figure out and intuitive. Setup/configuration should not pose problems for most people. The helpdesk is good for starting out, but if you are starting out for the long haul it might be worth to buy the helpdesk separately right away and to skip the hassle of migrating customers to a new system. This last recommendation is not just affecting WHMCS, this advise applies to many other billing and client management software packages, too. We give WHMCS two thumbs up. A good price buys you a good value.
WHMCS can be found at http://www.whmcs.com
Disclaimer: Webhostingresourcekit.com has not been paid to do write this review. This review is based on our personal experience of using WHMCS.
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