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Selling web hosting is a great way to support an existing business, or start out a new venture offering web space for profit. As your reseller business grows, it will become harder and harder to manage everything manually, and automation becomes an essential part of the job. WHMCS is a tool that automates vital processes and ties up all of the tasks you'll need to carry out. It can also be used for other businesses where billing and support is needed.
History of WHMCS
WHMCS was released in 2005 to help resellers streamline their hosting administration tasks. The application is developed by the same team that makes cPanel and Web Hosting Manager (WHM), tools which many resellers will be familiar with prior to starting their reselling venture.
WHMCS stands for Web Host Manager Complete Solution, although you'll almost never see it referred to under that title, since the abbreviation is used most of the time. Its name reflects the fact that it was initially designed for use with WHM and cPanel, although that requirement has now been removed and it works with a variety of control panels and services.
What WHMCS Does
Initially, WHMCS combined two functions: invoicing and technical support for web hosting. Now, WHMCS supports a range of industries as well as hosting, offering full client management. Its focus is still hosting administration, and that's where you'll find most of its functionality.
Users can link WHMCS to their hosting control panel (WHM, cPanel, Plesk, XPanel, Helm and more), their VPS and other critical services needed for their hosting business. They can also take payments through a dizzying number of gateways; PayPal, 2Checkout, Google, Amazon, Skrill, PayPoint, Nochex and other recognised brands are supported, as are many small providers - and bank transfer payments.
WHMCS generates estimates and invoices in multiple currencies, and lets you bill on a one-off or recurring basis. You can collect any number of data types using custom fields, and create promotions and coupon codes, and let users add items to a cart before they check out.
Once a user pays, WHMCS triggers account setup and can suspend accounts if payment is not received. It also has a nifty pro-rata function that syncs up everyone's billing dates. WHMCS also integrates with many services and web hosting add-ons, so resellers can use it to upsell extras on top of hosting plans. For example, you can resell SSL certificates, domain names and cloud backup services.
In terms of support, WHMCS handles your announcements, social media feeds, knowledge base and ticketing system. The help desk area is surprisingly good, given that it's not the main focus of the tool.
WHMCS is designed to be themed so that it blends in with the rest of your business website. You can download templates to change the look and feel, and remove features that you don't intend to use. If you want to fully integrate WHMCS with your website, it's possible to match both appearance and functionality. From CSS tweaks to the API, all options are open to you, providing you have the skills to edit the code.
There's also a plugin system. Modules can be installed to extend what WHMCS can do. Developers can create their own modules and contribute them to a growing library. WHMCS integrates with more than 150 different services via these modules, so there's bound to be a combination that suits the way you sell web hosting.
You'll need to pay for a license to use WHMCS. There are three ways to do this:
- Buy a subscription, so you essentially lease WHMCS for as long as you need it
- Buy it outright
- Buy a license from your web hosting provider
All options include a secondary key that can be used for a testing server, essentially allowing you to run a live copy and a staging copy.
Note that buying the software doesn't entitle you to ongoing updates, which attract an additional fee. You will also have to pay extra to remove the 'Powered by WHMCS' link at the bottom of the page; this is essential if you want to completely blend WHMCS with your website template.
WHMCS can be installed on most web hosting packages, although you'll obviously need a reseller account at the minimum. For most customers, a virtual private server (VPS) makes sense, since it's difficult to isolate your clients' sites from other sites on a shared server.
WHMCS can run on Linux or Windows servers with PHP version 5.2 or above. You'll need MySQL version 4.1.x or above, plus the ionCube Loaders installed and configured.