As both WHMCS and cPanel have finished our move to our new offices, released new versions of our respective software, I wanted to take a moment to catch up with Matt Pugh, CEO of WHMCS. Below is our conversation where I ask some questions about the relationship between our companies and some of the exciting features both companies have worked on together.

Aaron: How long have cPanel and WHMCS been partnered together?

Matt: We joined forces back in mid-2012, so it’s been a little over 3 and a half years now.

A: Over the length of the relationship how have the two companies been working together?

M: Teaming up with cPanel was always about delivering a better and more integrated experience for the common customers of our two platforms. cPanel dominates the web hosting control panel market and as such anything we do to better our product for cPanel users benefits more of our customers and their end users than anything else we could do. So it simply makes a whole lot of sense to do those things.  It’s for that reason we’ve built features like Single Sign-On, Application Linking and more.

A: Does being located in the same building help the relationship and if so, how?

M: Absolutely, we frequently attend each other’s demos and collaborate on things that affect one another. With two products that are so closely coupled together, developing them in the same geolocation has huge benefits. A recent example that comes to mind is the Two-Factor Authentication that was introduced in cPanel & WHM 54. As a consumer of the cPanel API, we had a range of input and suggestions that helped shape the delivery of that feature.

A: About the new Application Linking, what is the overall intent of this feature and why is it important to the overall relationship between cPanel & WHM?

M: This feature is all about removing the separation between the control panel and billing. Today users have two distinct control panels, one for their website, and one for billing. While users have been able to login to cPanel from the WHMCS Billing Portal for some time, with Application Linking and Single Sign-On, they can now do the reverse too and transition seamlessly from cPanel into WHMCS. This completes what we’re calling the full circle of integration, providing us with the basis we needed to do some even deeper integration between our two products.

A: The Application linking feature was part of a joint effort between the two companies, what feature/functionality did cPanel develop to make this feature possible?

M: We needed cPanel to provide the ability for third-party applications to define links that can be rendered within cPanel.  We also needed them to provide a way that allowed us to perform secure authentication of users.  On the WHMCS side, we chose to implement OAuth 2.0 to facilitate this, which also paves the way for a Client API, more powerful third party integrations and more.  Speaking of which, our new Marketplace will be launching soon – be sure to check it out!

A: One of the big features of application linking is the display of icons and direct access to various part of WHMCS, how does this improve the overall customer experience?

M: We’re bringing billing and support resources into the cPanel interface providing easier and more convenient access for end users. I think it can be summed up with these five key points:

  • One Login – Single Sign-On technology handles securely authenticating the user in the background, so they only need to remember one set of login details
  • Unified Panel – The separation between control panel and your website/customer portal is gone, giving a more streamlined and seamless experience for your customers
  • Support – Easier for customers to get help when they need it with links to support resources within the UI
  • Selling – Up-selling opportunities for upgrades and additional domains are front and center every time a customer logs in to administer their website
  • Branding – Keeps your brand in customers minds at all times and enables you to look like the big guys

A: Are there new features that WHMCS is developing that will be focused on cPanel & WHM and if so, do you care to share details about them?

M: Application linking is just the start. Setting up a trust relationship between WHMCS and cPanel accounts is the first step in some very exciting plans we have. I’m afraid I can’t give away any more than that just yet… nice try though!

A: If cPanel Partners want to enable this feature, do they need a specific version of WHMCS and cPanel & WHM? (if yes, what versions)

M: Yes, to use Application Linking, you need WHMCS 6.2.0 or later and cPanel & WHM 54 or later.  WHMCS 6.2 has been out since December and cPanel & WHM 54 hit RELEASE status last week, so if you have automatic updates enabled you probably already have it.

A: As a hosting provider, why would I care about Single Sign-On or Application linking for my customers?

M: This feature allows hosting companies to get more engagement with their end users. Now any time users login to their web hosting control panel, users have quick, simple and convenient access to their hosting companies brand with quicker access to support, manage billing and more. All of which we hope will lead to a more positive and, as a result, longer relationship with consumers.

A: If I am a customer and want to see a working demo of the latest WHMCS integration with cPanel, how can I do so?

M: Check out our video demo.

A: My favorite features are ones that increase revenue, or reduce churn, do you think this feature plays into either one of those?

M: Absolutely. Better user engagement through easier more convenient access to support equals happier customers, which hopefully equals longer lasting relationships.  As well by putting links to purchase upgrades, add-ons and domains within cPanel, we’re creating more up-sell opportunities for customers, making it easier for them to spend more money with you, their host.

A: If I want to enable Application linking, where should I start?

M: You should check out our Quick Start Guide. It has everything you need to get started.

A: Does Application linking work for reseller accounts and if so, do hosting providers have to enable it for the reseller?

M: Yes Application Linking can be used by everyone, and hosting providers don’t have to do anything. Be among the first to simplify the experience for your customers – turn it on today!

A: (Bonus Question) Regarding churn, did I hear you have some new reporting for hosting providers that can help them understand this a little more?

M: Indeed we do. WHMCS 6.2 introduced the storing of cancellation dates for products and services, along with a new report that helps you analyse how long customers stay with you and their average revenue helping you identify trends and make better-informed business decisions. We did a feature spotlight on this recently, read it on our blog.

A: If you were riding in an elevator and had exactly 28 seconds to describe Application linking what you would say?

M: I’d describe it as the future of web hosting.  Where billing and control panel blend to become one from a customer’s perspective.  No longer do customers have to remember two separate URLs, and both cPanel and WHMCS are never more than a click away no matter which platform the user is logged into.  It’s so much more convenient for end users… there’s simply no reason not for every web host to begin using this feature right now.