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If you sell anything, or provide any service via your website, you must also provide support and help to your customers. Sure, FAQs are good, and forums can be very helpful. And if you go a step further and install either a contact form or a trouble ticket submission system, then you are taking good care of your customers.

But if you sell the kinds of products and services that perform important functions, and can leave your customers in the lurch if those products misbehave, the immediate support of a live help system is unbeatable for keeping customers happy.

Enter Help Center Live

Help Center Live (HCL) is a live chat and support system. It allows you to provide live assistance to your customers. If you've always thought only the large companies were able to afford or manage live help, think again. This system allows you to compete with those larger businesses by providing the same high quality and immediate service they do at a fraction of the cost.

Of course, it is not just a support system. You can also set up Help Center Live to offer sales assistance if a potential customer needs help choosing the right product or service to meet their needs. You can answer questions about features and costs right away. This can help you increase conversion rates and boost customer loyalty.

If a potential customer sends in a question via email, and it takes 24 to 48 hours for your business to respond, you run the risk of the customer changing their mind in that time, as the customer may get a direct and immediate reply from a competitor. This translates to lost sales and revenue. Provide live support, and show customers the kind of assistance they'll get when they become customers, and you increase the probability of making the sale, and creating a foundation of customer loyalty.

    Basic Help Center Live features include:
  • Live Support
  • FAQ
  • Trouble Tickets
  • Unlimited Operators/Departments/Users
  • Unlimited Chat Sessions
  • Transfer Chat
  • WinApp addon so that the application can be minimised
  • system tray
  • Help Center Live is an open source application. Development of various mods is encouraged by the creators of the app. Custom themes and modules are available for download as well.

    Help Center Live hosting requirements and installation

    In case you are interested in setting up Help Center Live, you need to make sure that your server can handle it. Luckily that should not be a problem for most platforms.

    The current version, v2.17, requires PHP 4.3.2 or greater, as well as a MySQL 1.3 or later database installed. You also need to make sure that the database name, user name and password are correctly set up.

    Help Center Live can be installed automatically, using one-click solutions like Installatron and Softaculous. Many hosting companies offer one-click HCL installation with a number of different hosting plans.

    However, bear in mind that additional module installation is usually not covered by these one-click solutions. Adding modules may involve a bit of tinkering on your part.

    To manually install Help Center Live, you will need to download the HCL Core files, unzip them on your machine, upload the contents of the HCL directory to your server and tweak the configuration files in case you want to use different folders rather than the default ones. You will then have to create a MySQL database and use your browser to set up the application (the default URL for this operation would be your site URL/hcl/setup.

    Once you are done, you can proceed to edit the config.php file and set various options. As we pointed out earlier, installing modules is usually a manual affair and you need to follow specific instructions for each module. This should not be a problem for most users.

    Of course, many users will not bother with manual installation at all – they will use Fantastico, Softaculous or other services. The process is straightforward and a lot of guides are available online.

    Upgrading should not be problematic, either. The developer provides guides for various upgrades, which usually mimic the installation process, but also require the deletion of obsolete folders. It should also be noted that some versions of HCL are not supported on Windows servers with PHP 5, but should work with PHP 4.x.

    Help Center Live Hosting Frequently Asked Questions

    • What is Help Center Live used for?

      Help Center Live is an open-source, community driven live chat and support solution. With Help Center Live you can easily provide real-time live support on your website for your customers. Help Center Live includes support for managing live help, support tickets, and FAQ.

    • Which databases are supported by Help Center Live?

      Help Center Live database support is limited to MySQL databases. Accessing other data sources is not supported, as Help Center Live unfortunately lacks the support for the ADOdb PHP database abstraction library.

    • Does Help Center Live have any special requirements? Can it run on my server?

      Since it is PHP based, you should have no trouble running Help Center Live on a standard web server. However, there are some basic requirements to keep in mind. You will need PHP 4.3.2 or higher and MySQL database server version 1.3 or higher. Also, make sure that the database name, username, and password are set up correctly.

    • How do I install Help Center Live? Is it complicated to set up?

      You can install Help Center Live automatically or manually. Automatic installations use one-click solutions like Installatron and Softaculos, and many hosting companies offer one-click installations from their control panel. For manual installations, you will need to download Help Center Live core files, unzip and upload them to your server. You can tweak the configuration files, and you have to create a MySQL database for Help Center Live. You will also have to have the necessary permissions on your servers. Numerous guides are available online, so you should have no trouble installing it yourself.

    • How are Help Center Live updates managed, should I backup my data first?

      The current version (and last version) of Help Center Live is 2.1.7, but this version has been around since 2008. Unfortunately, no new versions are planned as this project was taken over by a commercial company and is no longer in development. Updating from earlier versions to 2.1.7 is not complicated, it is similar to the installation process, but also requires manual deletion of some items from the existing installation. Backing up your data before updating is a good practice in all situations.

    • I am working in a Windows environment and I’m worried about IIS compatibility. Anything to worry about?

      Running Help Center Live on Windows IIS server should not cause any problems, but bear in mind that some versions of Help Center Live are not supported on Windows servers with PHP 5, but they do work fine with PHP 4.x. This may be a potential issue IIS users.

    • Help Center Live is free. Do I need to worry about any unexpected expenses?

      No worries here – Help Center Live is completely free. The software is published under the GNU General Public License Version 2 which grants you the free usage of Help Center Live, access to the source code and the right to modify and distribute Help Center Live.

    • Can I get different themes and modules for Help Center Live?

      Help Center Live is open source, so the development of custom themes and modules was encouraged by the development team. Custom themes and modules are available for download, but installing them and adding them to your site is done manually and can include some tinkering on your part. Of course, development has ground to a halt in recent years, as Help Center Live is not being updated.

    • What about other features of Help Center Live?

      Help Center Live also features: live support, FAQ, support tickets, support for unlimited operators, departments and users, unlimited chat sessions, transfer chat, WinApp add-on so that the application can be minimized in the system tray.

    • Should I use Help Center Live, since it is no longer in development, what are the alternatives?

      Well, you can give it a try, the last version is still available and Help Center Live supports a lot of features for free compared to up-to-date solutions. On the other hand, if you are going to install a live support solution, it could be better to go with one of the active open source projects like Zopim Lite, osTicket, tawk.to, chatwoo or Tidio Chat Basic. Many of these alternatives offer free plans as well as paid plans with more features and an unlimited number of concurrent chats.

    • What if need some expert advice, or support?

      Since Help Center Live is no longer actively developed, support is limited to online sources. Even the official forum has not had any activity in the last four years, so you cannot expect expert advice or support from the developers or the shrinking community. There are other alternatives to Help Center Live and you could consider using them if you need help and support.

    • What are the chances of getting Help Center Live preinstalled on a shared hosting account?

      They are still pretty good, despite the fact that Help Center Development stopped in 2008. Since it is free and feature packed, in its day it was very popular, so a lot of hosting companies will still provide you with access to Help Center Live “out of the box”. If Help Center live is not already installed, you or your host should have no problems installing it. You can use one-click solutions like Installatron and Softaculous or install manually.

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