What is WHMCS and When to use it? Explained for Beginners
WHMCS in a nutshell
It's much easier to understand WHMCS making a parallelism with a popular CMS like WordPress. Of the many free CMS, WordPress is the best solution to start a blog. Similarly WHMCS is the way to go for hosting providers, web agencies and IT professionals.
They are the undisputed market leaders in their respective field with WordPress reaching 60% of market share and WHMCS attracting about 50.000 customers worldwide. Both softwares are flexible and accommodate several businesses needs. They're more than just a control panel and a blogging platform.
The similarities however end here with WordPress being free, open source and very good while WHMCS kicks off at 15.95 $ per month, source code is obfuscated and even if it is a solid platform, it has some shortcomings.
There are alternatives that include HostBill, Blesta, ClientExec but the thing is that WHMCS has the best quality/price ratio offering an all-around platform that is highly extensible.
We can argue about who has the best front-end, billing system, domain functionalities but the reality is that WHMCS is good at certain things and okay at everything else.
On the the other hand for example Blesta shines at payment processing but doesn't offer extra features of WHMCS that sooner or later you will surely need.
If you are thinking about creating a custom-made platform to "emulate" what WHMCS already does, think twice. Unless you have the budget of GoDaddy or OVH, you can't keep up with changes in technology. Over the years we helped a lot of companies to move from custom-made panels to WHMCS but we have never witnessed to the contrary.
Find an Expert
The sooner you learn you need a WHMCS expert, the better your decisions tend to be and the quicker you'll be successful. We're not talking about a "general purpose" developers or a "recycled" one that comes from WordPress, Magento, Joomla or whatever you want. You need an actual expert of WHMCS.
Over the years we've seen companies dissipating energies, wasting time and employing workers in labor-intensive processes just because they misunderstood concepts of WHMCS configuration.
Part of our job is to teach companies how to properly use WHMCS. We also help them to rethink their operating models to get out of traps that many people fall into when they design products, options, billing, support system etc.
Don't get us wrong, we're not applying for the job. We don't mind it in fact below we're going to list all our competitors to let you freely choose your partner. The point is that we've seen so many messed-up WHMCS that our eyes hurt.
|Modules Garden 2011|
|WHMCS Global Services 2010|
|WHMCS Services 2009|
Hopefully I will stop facepalming so frequently as more people rely on experienced people. Last time I've seen an heavyweight PHP library used in WHMCS just to run queries on database while all was needed was a single line of code. I suspect the developer was too lazy to read few lines of documentation.
Would you ever work with your server without knowing the command line? Same goes for WHMCS. You have to respect its complexity, there's no room for second thoughts. To this end, we provide any kind of solution including 360° support. We have also developed a wide selection of WHMCS modules.
We understand that the costs for experts are high so If your budget is tiny, go for the "learning by doing" approach but keep your feet on the ground and read our beginner's guide for WHMCS.
Among all softwares of this kind, WHMCS is no doubt the one with the biggest community. Moreover you can choose from thousands of third-party modules to add features and hire a developer to adapt the system to your needs. If you need something done, you can count on the following resources:
Having a community makes things much easier. Luckily WHMCS forum is very active and full of skilled people (cough... Brian) that are willing to help. WHMCS staff also takes part to their forum and provides updates about upcoming features. We partecipate ourselves as well.
Something that always bugs me is that many companies refuse to use or don't know how to configure automation. The very point of WHMCS is that it allows you to focus on your core competencies and on extending your customer base but many still waste their time in labor-intensive processes that could be automated.
If it can be done manually it can be automated. Automation is the main reason why people buy WHMCS. It can increase productivity by reducing the time taken to perform repetitive tasks and lead to more profits. It also reduces defects which in turn saves money since there's no room for human errors.
WHMCS lets you achieve the impressive results with very small efforts. With a growing company, probably you are not going to use from the start all the features it has but it's nice to know that it can support your business to scale from small to large enterprise.
To give you an idea about how well WHMCS performs, it used by companies with million euros in revenue. The amazing thing is that you can get it as low as 15.95 $ per month.
WHMCS can be used also in non-hosting contexts and we are the most prominent example since we use it to sell softwares. Similarly some of our customers use it to commercialize non-hosting services, as billing platform to deliver invoices, project management, support suite and much more.
On paper you could use it even to physical products like you would do on Magento and PrestaShop. Of course we're not saying that it should be used for everything for the sake of it but it's nice to know that it can guide you along the way offering all the functionalities that you would expect from a CRM.
WHMCS is integrated with all leading control panels, service providers, registrars and payment gateways such as cPanel, Plesk, DirectAdmin, eNom, ResellerClub, Weebly, Symantec, CloudFlare, PayPal, Stripe etc. There are over 200 native integrations with many more available in the Marketplace and you can also create your own ones.
There's a lot of debate about WHMCS being closed source (PHP files are obfuscated with ionCube). People claim that WHMCS should open up for a number of reasons. The most popular is that developers could benefit from open source.
Curiously such claims don't come from developers specialized in WHMCS. With more than 10 years of experience with WHMCS, we have never had the need to "see" the actual code. You can get almost anything done with API, action hooks (here is our free collection of action hooks) and programming skills.
Reading source code would have probably helped us a couple of times but we don't think that this is necessary. With that being said, if you've been suggested to stay away from WHMCS because of obfuscation, it's a nonsense. We're the living proof that working with obfuscated code is perfectly fine.
You can't complete a puzzle with missing pieces. If WHMCS is the puzzle, for sure it misses a decent billing system, lacks search engine optimization tools, is not capable to offer the functionalities of a CMS and has a very basic affiliate system.
We didn't wake up one morning to create modules for no apparent reason. We created them to let you finish this puzzle. This way you don't waste time trying to figure out how to get something that doesn't exist in WHMCS.
Transform WHMCS into a complete CMS like WordPress:
The complete billing solution:
Boost business growth with affiliate marketing:
We developed more modules but we're not interested in showing them. Here we want to focus on the weaknesses of WHMCS that can be turned into strengths with these modules.
WHMCS used to be relatively simple when it comes to upgrades but over the last few years the situation has worsen. We know that WHMCS staff would tell you that the latest version is stable and recommended for all new installations and upgrades.
As we mentioned in our integration guide, the truth is that upgrading WHMCS feels like jumping off cliffs believing you can fly so learn this lesson: don't upgrade to the latest version on day one. Running an outdated version (but not too old) is not the end of the world.