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Product Review: WHMCS
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by Anand Narayanaswamy
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Introduction

I had reviewed billing software named APlusbill few months back. The product does not have an attractive user interface and lacked many features. Hence, I was searching for another alternative product which can automate my daily task and I managed to find WHMCS. It is a powerful product developed using PHP and runs under MySQL, but can be installed under both Windows and Linux environments. The vendor has specially developed the software for those who run web hosting business. However, it can also be used if you sell other products like templates, themes, etc. The latest version 2.3, which I reviewed, contains lot of improvements and bug fixes compared to previous versions.

Installation

In order to install the product, you need to upload the files using FTP and run the web based installation wizard. The whole process took only ten minutes to complete and I was able to manage the software immediately after the completion of the installation. My first task was to complete few initial procedures by logging into the administrator control panel. I was impressed with the look and feel of the home page as it has links to all the important management pages including a complete breakdown of earnings along with a detailed statistics.

Figure 1: Admin home page

As an administrator, you need to add products and services to facilitate clients to place orders from their portal page. For this purpose, you should select Products/Services link from the Configuration menu, add a new group and then add products to the created group.

Figure 2: Product Page

As you can see, there are several options separated by Tabs. While you need to specify a short description and set the cost of the product from the Pricing tab, other settings are optional. The pricing page is very systematically arranged and is flexible as you can see from Figure 3. The product enables you to set cost for several billing cycles or only one depending upon your preferences. The product automatically sets the next due date as and when a user signs up for a service through the client portal and also generates invoices and receipts. You should note that receipts are only generated if the payment is made through PayPal or Credit Card.

Figure 3: Pricing Page

A key feature of the product is that you can add custom fields to the order page in addition to fields displayed by default. For instance, you can ask clients whether the hosting account is to be created in the UK or USA based servers by creating a field with the Drop Down menu.

Adding Clients

Administrators can easily add their existing clients to the system and set a due date for them to pay for the service. A new client can be added by selecting Add New Client link from Clients menu.

Figure 4: New Client Addition Page

The product displays the profile page with links to all possible actions which needs to be done immediately after adding a client from the above displayed interface.

Figure 5: Client Profile Page

Adding Products

In order to add a product for the client, you need to select Add New Order link and a page as shown below will be displayed.

Figure 6: Product Addition for Clients

You can either generate an invoice immediately or manually set a due date after adding the product for the client. The product automatically generates invoices on the due date and emails them to the relevant client. The system reminds the concerned client periodically to pay for the service until the administrator has marked the invoice as paid. There are lots of features included with the product and I would suggest you to explore a live demo hosted at the website of the vendor.

The client page displays links to the login area, knowledge base, announcements, and server status in addition to support tickets as shown below.

Figure 7: Home Page of the Client Portal

The product enables clients to either view the status of the ticket or submit a new one for resolution. The ticket home page will display relevant links to each department provided it has been configured by the site administrator as shown in the figure below.

Figure 8: Ticket Home Page

A screen will be displayed upon clicking the relevant department link.

Figure 9: Ticket Submission Page

As you can see from the above figure, a CAPTCHA image is displayed to protect the site from automated submissions made by spammers. It also enables users to select a priority level based on the importance of the issue. Moreover, tickets can be piped into e-mail system after its generation provided it has been activated by the site administrator through a process. This means that all emails sent to the relevant ID will automatically get loaded into the support system. In order to reply to a ticket posted by the clients, administrators should login to the control panel. However, they will receive an e-mail notification as and when a new ticket is logged into the system.

The product can be easily integrated into your existing site design by modifying the relevant header and footer files. You can activate automatic domain registration by enabling the relevant modules and trigger account creation if you have direct access to the hosting server. The relevant hosting account will be instantly created and the details mailed to the client upon successful payment.

I am yet to explore all the features included with the product and I feel that it can be done only upon continuous usage of it. The vendor has provided a step-by-step comprehensive documentation in the form of a wiki and regularly updates it as and when a new build of the software is released. I am very much satisfied with the product and it significantly reduced my daily work. I am now able to interact with my customers in a user friendly manner with the help of the ticket system. The vendor has implemented several security features into the product. For instance, if somebody tries to access your administrator control panel then you will receive an e-mail with the IP which you can use to track and investigate the failed login attempt.

I would suggest the vendor provides a forum module to have better social networking among customers. It would be great if there is an option to disable support tickets and knowledge base modules from the administrative side because some vendors prefer to use other products for the same.

The vendor hosts a forum where news and announcements relating to the product are posted regularly. You can also post questions and submit suggestions for including new features which have to be implemented in the future updates of the product for the attention of the product team. They also provide excellent support through e-mail with an average response time of 30 minutes. I also noticed that the founder of the software itself replies to the questions during weekends.

The product comes in different licenses which can be managed from the administration control panel. You need to pay more in order to remove the copyright information from the footer. The vendor provides a 15 days free trial which I feel is sufficient to learn the features included with the product. I would suggest you try this offer before buying a license if you have any doubts regarding the usage of the product. I am sure you will be impressed and purchase the license well before the 15 days time.

About the Product

Title

WHMCompleteSolution (WHMCS)

Price

Starts at $15.95 Per Month

http://www.whmcs.com/order.php

Related URL

http://www.whmcs.com/

Rating

*****

About the Reviewer

Anand Narayanaswamy (Microsoft MVP and Chief Technical Editor, ASPAlliance.com) is the author of Community Server Quickly.


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