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Popular Tools for Managing a Hosting Company
If you are running a hosting company, or a web hosting reseller business, there are a number of useful tools that will make managing and running your web hosting business easier.
AccountLab Plus - AccountLab Plus is a web hosting account management tool that integrates with Virtualization and Control Panel software to handle account tasks such as billing and user profile data. It is compatible with Plesk, Cpanel, DirectAdmin and lxadmin control panels and integrates with a number of domain name registrars.
ClientExec - ClientExec is a complete web hosting business solution that provides extensive functionality through a rich plug-in system. CientExec handles account management, billing, domain registration, virtual machine provisioning, and most other web hosting functions.
phpCOIN - phpCOIN is a very basic web hosting account management system that relies on an administrator setting up and provisioning hosting resources.
AccountLab Plus and phpCOIN are pretty tough to beat as applications for managing your web hosting business because they are free (or open source) and readily supported. With these two solutions, a startup web hosting company can be up and running quickly with no financial barriers.
ClientExec is a commercial software, but licenses are very affordable - particularly if you are going to use it as a platform for running your entire hosting operation.
That said, If one of these three applications is not the right solution for managing your hosting business, you still have plenty of options to consider. Below are five more alternatives to these hosting tools to help you streamline your business and improve customer support.
TheHostingTool: An Open Source Software Alternative
TheHostingTool is an open source software solution that was launched in December 2008. While it hasn’t been on the web as long as many of the other hosting business management tools reviewed above, it is fully compatible with cPanel with limited support for DirectAdmin.
The website suggests it is best applied to hosting providers that power forums, so MMORPGs and those who need server hosting for gaming might find tool useful as an alternative to any of these business management solutions.
For most hosting providers that are looking to increase the efficiency of running their business, this is not the most relevant solution on the market.
Hosting Billing Tools
Advanced Web Host Billing System (AWBS) is a commercial software with monthly and one-time payment options that bills itself as being able to instantly turn your business into a hosting company. The automated alerting is robust, informing you when new accounts are created, orders are placed, upgraded, downgraded, or cancelled, and billing needs adjusted for bandwidth overages. On the domain name registration side, AWBS provides automated notices of renewal and expiration. There are over 50 different features on the AWBS platform to help you run a hosting company.
Blesta is a commercial system developed by three brothers that serves as a complete billing system for hosting providers. The Blesta system features all of the essential tools for running the financial end of a hosting company: professional invoicing, multiple payment gateways, payment reminders and automation, multi-currency calculators, client management tools, and support ticketing. However, from a commercial software standpoint, it is a standalone billing platform. Because of this, it is probably not the top alternative to AccountLab and phpCOIN.
HostBill is another commercial software that is available only through a one-time license purchase. Their license fees differ based on how the hosting business plans on hosting the software, enabling customers to provision online, and based on what client portals they want to feature. The four-figure license fee will keep most startup and early-stage hosting companies away from using this as their management solution, and the platform is not as feature-rich as WHMCS for the investment.
WHMCS is practically the industry-leader when it comes to softwares for managing a hosting business. The popular management platform integrates with almost every control panel solution - but it is a commercial software. It can be white-labeled for an additional fee and integrates with over 75 different payment gateways so that your customers) can pay you in a way that they prefer. One of the most interesting billing features of WHMCS is its “prorata” format, which allows your customer due dates to be the same in recurring months - no matter when they sign up! There are also mobile and tablet friendly applications for WHMCS, which make it easier for your customers to manage their server (and you to monitor your business) from anywhere!
Virtual Machine Management Options
HyperVM - HyperVM is used by Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting providers to provision and manage virtual machines for customers. HyperVM is integrated with Kloxo control panel, which means that HyperVM can be used to create a fully featured web hosting system.
Alternatives to HyperVM
If HyperVM is not available from your hosting provider out of the box with your hosting solution, a license can be acquired very easily because it is an open source software solution. That said, there are a wide variety of alternatives on the market for managing virtualized server hosting.
There are six commonly recommended open source alternatives to HyperVM. They include highly popular platforms like Proxmox Virtual Environment and Archipel to less frequently suggested solutions like Xen Orchestra, OpenNode Cloud Platform, HyperVM and WebVirtMgr.
On the commercial side, there are really only two major players to consider: VirtKick and VirtPanel.
Other Tools for Web Hosts
H-Sphere - H-Sphere is a hosting automation control panel used to set up and manage share hosting accounts on a server. It is written in Java and works on Linux and Windows systems, with MySQL, PostgreSQL, and MS SQL Server.
H-Sphere provides a number of important features: - Automated billing, with multiple payment options; supports over 30 payment gateways - Preconfigured hosting solutions for various types of web hosting. - Email hosting, with anti-spam and integrated webmail - customer help center - user tools and control panel - multi-language support - support for multiple and clustered servers
H-sphere vs cPanel, Plesk, and Kloxo
There are many competitors to H-Sphere in the control panel industry - cPanel and Plesk are two of the biggest names, but even smaller players like Kloxo deserve some mention in comparison to H-Sphere.
H-Sphere is a known stand out in the control panel industry because it allows hosting managers to control tons of minute details while also carrying a long track record of success integrating with the Linux platform.
H-Sphere is a commercial software and the license is known to be be somewhat costly, but the license cost is billed differently than most control panels. Instead of being billed by server - H-Sphere is billed per cluster.
Any growing web hosting reseller in an aggressive period of growth may find that payment model to be much more affordable for them in the short term than paying per server.
ISPmanager - ISPmanager is a web hosting management control panel. It can be used to manager multiple server types, such as a web server, email server, and database server.
ISPmanager can be used as an individual, to manage a a server for a single user or set of users, or as a reseller, using it so set up a shared hosting system. Its API allows for integration to third party systems such as billing systems.