SoftwarePlusWeb.com has developed a billing system named APlusBill for web hosting
providers. Even though it is not very popular, I decided to test drive it out of
interest. The product is PHP/MySQL based and, therefore, it is preferable to
have access to a shared account under Linux. It can also be installed under
Windows 2003 Servers.
I simply followed the instructions provided in the
documentation to install the product. It involves modification of some of the
items in the configuration file and triggering the automated installer. The
readme file also includes the required information of the steps to be followed
after the installation. I noticed that the installation process is a bit
complicated and would suggest the vendor create a wizard kind of installer so
that beginners can easily setup the product without modifying any parameters in
the configuration file. In order to get started you should enter the
administrator password and registration key which can be located from the
As soon as you login as an administrator, a startup page
will be displayed which lists the total number of accounts, staffs and
As you can see from the above screenshot the product
separately provides the breakup of earnings in four different cycles.
Administrators can create and manage clients by selecting the different tabs
located on the top of the administrator page. The process involves creating a list
of products and setting up the client accounts. The documentation provides the
required instructions to be followed in a step-by-step manner, which I hope
will help administrators in getting started with the system.
The product enables you to create bulk mails and knowledge
base articles in FAQ format. The bulk mail feature will be very useful if you
want to inform your clients about any scheduled maintenance, change in policies
or to announce any special offers. I found a lot of options and hope that it
will only take 2 or 3 days to master each one of them. Moreover, administrators
should setup CRON jobs or Scheduled Tasks in Windows by following the
directions given on the website of the vendor. Otherwise, the system will not
generate recurring billing invoices. It would be helpful if the vendor could
provide detailed documentation for each setting along with the product in PDF
The product includes a powerful client management system.
Your clients should first create an account by accessing the order page. As
soon as the required information is submitted, the system will automatically
mail the password to the relevant client email address. Clients can then login
to their account page by selecting the My Account button and entering their
username and password. If the credentials are correct they can place an order
for a product or service and the system will notify both client and
administrator with the required information.
The order placement system has been divided into two categories
named Subscription and Non Subscription, as shown in Figure 2. Recurring orders
like hosting, renewal of product licenses and fees for listing your site in a
directory can be placed under the first category. If you would like to sell a one
time product, such as a product license, then you can include them under Non
Subscription category. Once the order is confirmed then you can pay for the
service by clicking the appropriate link displayed on the Order Confirmation
The product supports a wide range of payment gateways such
as PayPal, Authorize.net, Nochex, World Pay, 2checkout and Check. If you do not
want to bill clients using any one of the above internet payment gateway, you
should enter the required instructions for fulfilling the custom offline
payment inside the relevant PHP file and the system will display them during
checkout. Although the above gateways cater to the needs of all webmasters, I
hope the vendor will add support for more payment gateways in the future
releases of the product.
The product also includes an integrated helpdesk system with
which clients can submit sales, support and billing related queries by setting
the priority level. Even though the entire system does not look attractive like
other competing products, it fulfills the basic job of billing and supports
tasks very effectively. The product can be easily customized by modifying the header
and footer files and by incorporating some modifications to the style sheet. It
can also be integrated into your HTML template. The product will shine better
if it comes with excellent designs.
I would prefer to see some of the new features in the next
version of the product. It includes implementation of customized URL's for each
product as it enables clients to signup directly using the relevant web
address, implementation of coupon code system to facilitate customers to
purchase products at discounted prices, ability to modify mail templates
directly from the administrator area, implementation of designs using various
skins, a separate section for posting public news and announcements,
implementation of downloads section, ability to check the availability of
domains, display of server status and the ability to remove the copyright
instruction from the footer. As I mentioned above, the vendor has built the
product for the purpose of hosters. Therefore, the inclusion of the above
mentioned features will be a big boost for the product.
I noticed few spelling errors in the documentation file and
hope that it will be corrected in the next release of the product. I feel the pricing
of the product is very affordable when compared to other similar products.
Moreover, extra licenses can also be purchased for discounted prices. The
vendor provides excellent support through the help desk and all queries are
replied within one day.
I noticed that the learning curve for the product is a little
less when compared to other products and I would recommend APlusBill if you are
on the look out for a cheap billing solution for your web hosting business.
About the Product
About the Reviewer
Anand Narayanaswamy (Microsoft MVP and Chief Technical
Editor, ASPAlliance.com) is the author of Community