First, a little introduction. I have been in the web hosting business since 1996. My company is one of the oldest, still existing domain registrars in Norway. From 1998 to 2011 we have been using a billing and automation system developed by me and my business partner. In 2003, I started a seperate company selling my own CMS and webshop systems. In 2007, I bought my business partner's share of the original company, and in 2011 I decided to start two new web hosting companies, one for the international market, and one for the scandinavian market.
With four companies to run, I had to find a simpler solution for our hosting businesses than to keep maintaining our own billing system. We bought an owned WHMCS license (version 4 something), but found it to be lacking a lot of the features we wanted, and that the order form templates was old fashioned and just plain ugly. We put the whole WHMCS-thing on hold, and continued using our own system. We knew that WHMCS had a lot of customers, and thought that eventually they had to come up with something better working, better looking. Naturally, when version 5 was announced, we were super excited. I was absolutely certain, without a doubt, that version 5 had to be a lot better, and that the order forms in particular had to be greatly improved, having been the biggest drawback with WHMCS v4.x. Man, was I wrong. WHMCS 5 had a new client area, based on a rather basic Twitter Bootstrap theme. The order form was mostly the same old.
At this point, we couldn't afford waiting any more, so we updated our WHMCS installation and started configuring it to fit our needs. Our original, Norway based hosting service was first out, so naturally we had to make sure the Norwegian translation was perfect. Which it wasn't, far from it. So we decided to translate the whole application ourselves, only to find out that WHMCS had left a lot of English text hard-coded in the templates, making the translation a three day job. Only to get the text right.
On January 5th 2012, we replaced our old billing system with WHMCS. We were sceptical, since the order forms didn't look nice, and the ordering process in WHMCS was quite illogical compared to our old one. And unfortunately, sales dropped by a whopping 70 % almost over night! Clients started mailing and phoning in orders instead of ordering them on our webpage, and even today - more than a year later, most orders are processed this way. Before WHMCS, close to 100 % of the orders was done by the customer on our web page.
So, for our other companies, we started looking for other alternatives. One of them were HostBill, which we had looked at before without being particularly impressed. This time though, we were truly impressed. Not only did it come with most of the features we needed, but it was packed with beautiful and functional order forms. Time hadn't stood still in HostBill country!
We bought a HostBill license, installed it, integrated it with our design, translated it using HostBills amazing translation plugin and put it into production. Wham! The customers loved it. Sales improved immediately (I can't say by how much, since this company had a small client base to begin with).
On our third site, we started using WHMCS at the same time as our first WHMCS site. It was never a success, so we decided to cancel our WHMCS license and bought a HostBill license instead. Once again, it had a huge effect on sales!
We have a fourth site, the one for our international customers. Unfortunately, we also use WHMCS on this one, because we got a great deal on a really nice WHMCS template. Originally, we were planning on publishing this site in November 2012, but all the WHMCS downsides made us stop and reconsider. I put a question in the WHMCS forums, asking if we could expect a new version of WHMCS with decent looking order form templates anytime soon, but never received an answer (didn't really expect one either).
OK, so it's time to make a comparison. This is based on our experiences, and in some respect also my own, perhaps somewhat biased opinion. Also, we don't use all of the functions in WHMCS and HostBill. We only sell domain registrations (mainly .no and most generic domains), web hosting (Plesk for Windows and cPanel for Linux), VPS (OpenVZ, KVM, Xen) and dedicated servers.
Both WHMCS and HostBill is quick and easy to install. An extra point to HostBill for cPanel auto-installation.
Security and development
WHMCS has had some issues lately, but they have been solved quickly and professionally. However, as a professional developer myself, some small issues like the lack of routines to avoid hard-coded text MAY be an indication of poor developing practices in general. Also, I truly believe that most of WHMCS could really be developed by any mediocre PHP developer.
HostBill, as I have understood, has a better security record. That may also be due to the fact that it's not as widely used as WHMCS yet. There are a lot of things in HostBill that indicates that the developers are much more skilled than the WHMCS team, such as the use of AJAX in places where you really shouldn't use traditional full page refresh (like WHMCS does for the most part).
Also, HostBill publishes new subversions every month - often packed with new functions. The WHMCS team found the v5 upgrade so comprehensive that they just had to publish it as a new major version, whilst HostBill's subversion updates often feels much more comprehensive.
WHMCS clearly has a nicer admin panel, and it is disappointed that Hostbill hasn't made an effort to improve the layout of their admin panel. I'm quite sure this is the deal breaker for many customers. At the same time, I appreciate the fact that they put so much work into the client area, since the customer experience is way more important than the admin experience.
Another thing to consider here, is what I have mentioned earlier: AJAX. HostBill uses AJAX callbacks extensively, which make the admin panel much more functional.
Oh man, where to start. HostBill is so superior in both layout and functionality. There is really no competition here. Hostbill is packed with beautiful looking order form templates. The client area templates are clean and simple, and a breeze to integrate with your own theme because they have managed to avoid using generic css names for divs and classes, so it shouldn't conflict with your main style sheet.
WHMCS on the other hand has decided to use a Twitter Bootstrap layout. It's really basic - almost out-of-the-box, using generic names for divs and classes, so it's bound to collide with your exisiting theme.
But where HostBill really, really shines is with the Simple Hosting module. With this module, my web hosting clients can do most of the day-to-day administration within the client area. They don't have to log on to cPanel to create or manage email accounts, databases, FTP accounts, backups and so forth. This is a huge plus! WHMCS doesn't have anything similar to this. You can do this with third party, commercial plugins in WHMCS (ModulesGarden has a really nice one, by the way), but not within WHMCS itself.
For more information on HostBill's Simple Hosting module, see: http://hostbillapp.com/features/simple-hosting.php
cPanel Extended for WHMCS (by ModulesGarden): http://www.modulesgarden.com/product...ended/features
For those of us operating non-English sites, translations are important. Both WHMCS and HostBill has some drawbacks here. WHMCS has hard-coded English text all over the place (or at least had in v5.0). HostBill also has some hard-coded English text, although not as much.
Translations in WHMCS has to done in a text file. When new versions are published, you have to copy your old translations to the new language file. Problem is, even though WHMCS has tried to put all the "new text" in the bottom of the language file, my experience is that they also put some new text in between the old translations, making it a living hillbilly to upgrade the language file.
HostBill on the other hand, has a built-in language module. When upgrading, all your current variables are kept intact. You just have to find and translate the new ones. If you are installing a new HostBill site, just export your translation and then import it into your new site. Also, you can always see the original English translation to the right of your translated text, which is extremely helpful.
Both systems integrate well with both cPanel and Plesk. HostBill fethces your package details from your server, so you can select the package you will use. You don't need to know the name of the plan. WHMCS asks for the service plan name, and checks if it exists. If you have entered a wrong name, you receive an error.
We offer OpenVZ, KVM and Xen servers with SolusVM. HostBill's integration works really good. I'm sorry to say that I don't know enough about WHMCS' solution since we haven't received many orders on our WHMCS site (even though we have thousands of existing customers on this site, while the other one was launched just recently).
HostBill's order forms are more fitted for selling VPS packages though, and there are more to choose from, so I have to give HostBill the point here.
Colocation and Dedicated Servers
HostBill is clearly better than WHMCS for selling and managing Colocation and Dedicated Servers.
Support Tickets and Chat
The support ticket solutions for WHMCS and HostBill are mostly the same. HostBill has a built-in chat application, which WHMCS lacks. I read that WHMCS introduces chat in 5.1, but I haven't been able to find it. Both lack a WYSIWYG-editor, which I really don't understand. We have used WYSIWYG-editor without problem in our own support system for years. It is a huge advantage, and doesn't affect the security or functionality at all.
Adding products and services
Again, HostBill clearly has the edge. You can select different order form for each product group, which is an absolute necessity. I can't understand how WHMCS has managed to miss such an important feature. In WHMCS, if you want different order forms for different product groups, you have to set the order form in the URL. First of all, this is not possible if the customer selects product group from the client area. Secondly, WHMCS remembers the order form selection throughout the whole session, so in order for it to work, you have to make a hard link to each and every product group.
So what does it really mean? Well, you may want a comparison table for your webhosting plans, a slider for your VPS plans and boxes for your dedicated server plans. In HostBill, you just select the order form you would like to use for that particular product group. In WHMCS, you set the order form template under general settings, and that affects all your product groups.
Setting prices for products and services
We all know how particular WHMCS is in this area. Want to set up a web hosting product with the possibility to select either monthly or anually payments? At a price of 3 dollars/month? And 10 dollars for setup IF the customer selects monthly and no setup costs if he selects anually subscription?
Set One Time/Monthly Setup Fee to: 10
Set Quarterly Setup Fee to: 0
Set Semi-Annually fee to: 0
Set Anually Setup Fee to: 0
Set Biennially Setup Fee to: 0
Set Triennially Setup Fee to: 0
Set One Time/Monthly Price to: 3
Set Quarterly Price to: -1
Set Semi-Annually Price to: -1
Set Annually Price to: 36
Set Biennially Price to: -1
Set Tirennially Price to: -1
Edit Monthly, and set Price: 3 - Setup Fee: 10
Click Add Pricing Option
Select Annually, set Price to: 36
It is much easier to set the initial prices for _ONE_ TLD in WHMCS, if you want to set prices for MORE than one year. However, if you want to duplicate the prices for several TLDs, that's not possible in WHMCS. You must enter all the prices (register, transfer, renewal) for all the years, for all the TLDs manually. In Hostbill, enter the prices for the intervals you want to offer once, and duplicate as needed.
If you only want to offer one year registrations, say with a registration price of 15 dollar, a transfer price of 15 dollar and a renewal price of 15 dollar:
Set 1 Years Register price to: 15
Set 1 Years Transfer price to: 15
Set 1 years Renewal price to: 15
Set 2 through 10 years Register price to: 0
Set 2 through 10 years Transfer price to: -1
Set 2 through 10 years Renewal price to: -1
That's 9 times 0 in Register price, 9 times -1 in Transfer price and 9 times -1 in Renewal price.
Do this for every TLD.
Set Period: 1 Years, Register 15, Transfer: 15, Renew: 15.
Click Save Changes
While both WHMCS and Hostbill has good documentations, I personally feel that WHMCS has the edge here.
HostBill can be updated by activating auto-upgrade and clicking "Upgrade Now" within HostBill.
WHMCS must be upgraded by uploading the new version using FTP.
The comparisons above is based on our experiences and how the two products function in our companies. Others may come to different conclusions. I have tried to be as objective as I can, and I have also tried to find more "pro WHMCS" arguments, but no matter how I look at it, HostBill comes out best in almost all areas.
The reason I made this comparison in the first place is that the WHMCS vs HostBill question seem to come up every now and then, and I suspect that many of the WHMCS fanboys haven't actually compared the two thoroughly. I have used both for some time, and have compared their strengths and weaknesses in detail. What strikes me the most, is how incredibly fast Hostbill seems to evolve. WHMCS has fallen so far behind and seems to evolve so slowly that I really, truly doubt they will ever be able to keep up with HostBill. For WHMCS to become _as good_ as HostBill, they'll have to implement AJAX in all admin areas, design a ducking lot of professional order forms, redesign the way of adding products and prices, make a new client area without using generic names for divs and classes, making it possible to select different order forms per product group instead of a general setting - and most importantly - make something like HostBill's simple hosting and DNS management features. I don't see it happening anytime soon, and meanwhile HostBill will keep on evolving, making the gap even bigger.
Please remember that this is my OPINIONS. Also, even though I have updated to the latest version of WHMCS, there may be minor changes from 5.0 to 5.1 I have not discovered yet, as we kinda gave up on WHMCS after v.5. Also, we're just using parts of WHMCS and HostBill. There may be functions or modules that we don't use at all that are invaluable to others.
I am absolutely, positively convinced that there will be a lot of WHMCS fans trying to break my arguments apart. I'm okay with that, though. We are all humans, with different opinions and taste. This is merely a summary of MY subjective opinion of the two. I have no personal interest in WHMCS or HostBill. I don't know any of the employees in either of the two companies, I am not a partner or affiliate and I have not been paid or otherwise motivated to write this post. My only objective is to give my personal and honest opinion based on our experience with WHMCS and HostBill.
The URLs of our WHMCS and HostBill sites will be submitted to the moderator for verification.