View Full Version : Hosting (FQ reseller) management software?
07-18-2009, 03:05 AM
Hiya, cool cats...
I've discovered that I'm lousy at billing. So I'd like to find a package for FQ-based accounts that will allow me to automate billing and even account control if possible.
I have the feeling that there may not be a package out there that can interface with FQ's CNC like some solutions work with Plesk.... And that would be a bummer, but I thought I'd ask anyway.
I'd be interested in something that uses PayPal (as much as I hate them at times), since I don't know that I want my own merchant account at this point.
Right now I have 30 client sites plus a handful of my own. I'd be interested in expanding my hosting offerings if I could automate much of the process.
So, what do you other resellers use for billing, account creation, etc.? (A help desk could be a separate subject...)
07-18-2009, 09:10 AM
I think you will find most (all?) FQ resellers use their own home-grown software, at least when it comes to interfacing with accounts/CNC. There is a variety of billing software out there, but nothing that I am aware of that will actually interface with FQ's systems.
07-18-2009, 03:00 PM
Arrgh... I really wish FQ would create some sort of new API or at least add some hooks to the CNC to allow this. I've gotten to the point where the billing and other maintenance tasks are more of a hindrance, getting in the ay of my other work. Heck, I just plain forgot to bill some accounts over the last few months. And that doesn't reflect well on moi.
A lot of clients are also asking for credit card payment methods now, and I don't blame them. I think the only things I write a check for now are my rent, my doctor, and my mechanic.
Anyway, any pointers to the solutions everyone is using would be mucho helpful.
Keeping in mind that I run a Mac shop.
Here's what I'd like:
1) A Questadmin-like interface that has as many of those features as possible without needing the hooks directly into the accounts. I other words, the data is stored in a database and maintained there, semi-manually.
2) A method for clients who do not have full shell-level access to add and delete email accounts, and set account limits.
3) An interface for new customers to create new accounts -- either with full/partial human intervention or automatically.
4) User-accessible domain registration and control
5) Billing system that automatically invoices, disables unpaid accounts (yeah, I know, the tough one), etc. I can get PayPal to do the scheduled invoicing, but the rest?
...Basically, the usual stuff that a Plesk Billing or other solution would provide (not that I know Plesk, really, but you get the idea.)
I'd be open to an all-in-one system, either on my account at FQ or at a third party site, or a hybrid of local software on my Mac and scripts running on my own account -- or even scripts that run directly on each client's account, which might be the most practical way to control the account. Maybe have scripts on each account capable of turning things off and on directly through passwording, moving files, etc. Then just have a script on the controlling server contact that script and send some hashed codes?
Just talkin' off the top of my head here.
I suppose I could build all of this stuff, but I'd prefer it if someone smarter and faster has already done the work for me.
I think this is a good idea.
disables unpaid accounts
This would have to be configurable by the reseller. I know with seasonal businesses here I give them the better part of the year on a case by case basis. Things can be tight and I understand this so I try and be as flexible as possible since I know most of my customers on a face to face basis. But of course, this wouldn't work at all for someone reselling hosting only to unknown people on the Internet.
the usual stuff that a Plesk Billing
Just a note - I'm not wild about the parallels business automation billing system (parallels/virtuozzo/plesk bundle.) I have a VPS account that is based on parallels, and every month even though I'm on an auto-bill plan set to automatically charge my card on file, I get an email that:
Your subscription cperiod expires 06-Jul-2009. To renew your subscription please pay the renewal order. To view this order or subscription (if renewal order has not been generated yet) go to this address: <snip>
If you have automated credit card payments setup, this e-mail can be ignored
Then hours or a day later I get an email that I have been charged. I asked if the order could be reversed, so I'd only get an email if I needed to take action, but they said this could not be configured. I don't like the way it is because you end up reading the email to figure out if you have to take action when none is necessary.
Oh and the bandwidth in parallels doesn't tabulate correctly (though I shouldn't complain because it only accounts half of what I use as reported by the linux vps container itself), the cpu reported is wrong, etc.
I think FutureQuest could do a nicer job :)
07-18-2009, 05:48 PM
You mentioned PayPal - they do have reoccurring/subscription billing options now. I have not used yet, but as I understand, you set up once, and they automatically send invoice at your determined periods (weekly, monthly, yearly).
Does not integrate with FQ, but maybe a step better than what you do now.
07-18-2009, 05:51 PM
John - Thanks. Right... That's part of the plan, and would at least cover invoicing. Account control is the real problem.
Bob, you are not going to find something off-the-shelf to interface with FQ's system. I have requested API hooks and even outlined a simplified mechanism to reduce work required on FQ's part and have seen no indication of any progress / effort in this area. Over the years I have developed a number of systems to streamline FQ reseller operations, but there just isn't much motivation to pursue it further when there is so little support on the other end. The systems I have in place work with Authorize.net. The reseller base is so small and platform so niche that there is zero financial incentive to extend this to support alternate payment systems or even resell the code.
As for billing, take a look at www.freshbooks.com. It's strictly billing, but should help avoid some of the problems you mention.
07-20-2009, 03:12 PM
I kind of figured as much, as I remember some discussion of a possible API over the years.
I've often thought of doing the reseller thing on a larger scale, but problems like this and support have kept me from doing it. I'm starting to think that while FQ is fabulous and I love them dearly, they aren't the right place for a reseller operation of any real size. So while I'll keep sites that I develop here on FQ, I'm now starting to look for a provider with the quality level of FQ, but where billing and account control are easier. Guess I'll start another thread for that.
As for Freshbooks, I've heard of them... but I'm a little wary of relying on the cloud for storing everything -- including my time tracking. My own system includes some features I don't see there, like the ability to comp some time. I guess I need to look at them a little more in-depth to see if they're a good fit for me.
Thanks for the info!
07-24-2009, 11:28 AM
So, what do you other resellers use for billing, account creation, etc.?
Heh, one of my favorite reseller tools is Thought Nozzle's FQ Package Planner (http://www.thoughtnozzle.com/packageplanner.html). :clapper:
I admittedly have a small client base, but have found it easier to simply manage everyone's account (also domains) for them and bill once a quarter (or sometimes yearly). If you leave things to the client, they almost always forget to pay or renew or something, and it's more trouble than it's worth. I let FQ bill me automatically on a monthly basis so it never gets forgotten. Those charges I use as expenses on my SchedC btw. I also let clients know they have the option of picking up the tab directly, but will then get no reseller discount and "own" the maintenance issues if a problem arises. Most of them choose to let me handle it. For credit card payments, I accept PayPal as long as the amount is less than $500, otherwise it has to be a check or transfer.
cheetos for thought,
I think this thread should be moved to Resellers/ Affiliates section. -Matt
08-01-2009, 01:55 PM
Heh, one of my favorite reseller tools is Thought Nozzle's FQ Package Planner (http://www.thoughtnozzle.com/packageplanner.html). :clapper: Ah! Thanks... Didn't know if anyone still udes it. I suppose I should slap some Google Analytics code on it. :)
And crunchy Cheetos they were! Thanks!
08-01-2009, 01:55 PM
I think this thread should be moved to Resellers/ Affiliates section. -MattI think you may be right...
08-07-2009, 06:09 PM
I use the package planner, too!
10-28-2009, 04:36 AM
Thanks again for all the responses (and thanks to those of you using the long-neglected but apparently still-operational Package Planner!).
I have been looking at all of this off and on for the last few months and have decided to take an interim step, semi-automating some of the billing and account-creation and configuration for my clients who do not have full access.
Matt-- Looks like I'm probably going to go with FreshBooks, although I'm still considering Harvest. They both have decent APIs and the recurring billing thing would be a godsend. Thanks for the recommendation... you may have helped seal the deal.
As for the rest of the automation, unless FQ has decided to finally roll out that CNC API for Christmas of 2009, I guess I'm going to have to roll a few of my own kludgey solutions. As a programmer, I'm a great designer,--so if anyone has any code they're willing to part with--whether releasing it as open-source or putting a price tag on it--let me know.
I think this is a good idea.Sorry I didn't respond directly before... I must have been napping! :wink:This [automatic account disabling] would have to be configurable by the reseller. I know with seasonal businesses here I give them the better part of the year on a case by case basis.Yeah, I know what you mean. I have a few clients who have needed that flexibility, and I offer it gladly. It's only come back to bite me once, so maybe I've been lucky, or I just have good instincts when it comes to new clients.
The other issue is branding. As a designer, branding and the look of the interface is extremely important to me, and the unbranded CNC--unless it's been made skinnable since last I looked--just isn't right for me. To have to do some sort of gut-and-glam with the info in the CNC sounds hellishly complex, tricky and unreliable--especially if there are changes in the CNC pages that aren't announced well in advance.
If no one can provide code, I might be willing to wade into it for myself, but I could see it taking a time commitment I can't give it within the timeframe I'm looking at. I'd like to complete something of a hosting-related site with client login, billing dashboard, and at least an order form for add-ons, by January 1st.
So what do you say, Arthur? Have something like an API in your red bag for us? :bow:
If you do, I might hold off on my hacks until after the holiday goodies are passed out. :yeah:
10-28-2009, 05:09 AM
So what do you say, Arthur? Have something like an API in your red bag for us? :bow:
If you do, I might hold off on my hacks until after the holiday goodies are passed out. :yeah: Can't say too much about it yet, but yes, there will be holiday goodies...
10-28-2009, 05:12 AM
Can't say too much about it yet, but yes, there will be holiday goodies...Ooh! I just got goose bumps! :wink:
Thanks for the tease!
Bob, I have a fairly extensive codebase, some of which is running publicly at www.webspacecreations.com (integration with FreshBooks is something else we're working on behind the scenes). I also have a significant amount of legacy FQ CNC code. We are not investing further resources in building FQ-specific code, so I'm not sure how useful this would be to you. Feel free to PM me if you're truly interested. I'm not holding my breath, but I am interested to see what FQ has in store for the holiday season.
10-28-2009, 10:51 AM
I'm not holding my breath, but I am interested to see what FQ has in store for the holiday season.From what I have been able to gather, there is a new TweetBob(TM) service. You submit your request to the TweetBob API, and within a random but short amount of time your request is fulfilled. So, say you need a new email alias setup, you would% tweetBob email alias create email@example.com forward [to] firstname.lastname@example.orgOccasionally, fulfillment of the TweetBob service will take place on the Canadian servers, in which case, you must follow all requests with an eh:% tweetBob mysql create [db] xexample-trickortreat ehResponses will take the form of: 200 OK
201 NOT OK
202 Bob OUT TO LUNCH
203 NO HABLO INGLES
404 ICK, A SPIDER
10-28-2009, 02:14 PM
Matt-- You're a mensch! I may PM you soon.
Hobbes-- You're a madman! :confuz:
10-28-2009, 04:44 PM
% tweetBob sendmoney $20 xsquillo eh
(worth a try)
10-28-2009, 05:28 PM
% tweetBob rename otherbob xfqbob eh
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