FOSSBilling: A New, Free, and Open Source Billing Platform

Not_OlesNot_Oles Hosting ProviderContent Writer

Introduction

The new FOSSBilling free and open source billing platform was discussed here at LES in December 2022. The 2022 discussion included very helpful background posts from FOSSBilling developers @jaapmarcus and @evrifaessa.

FOSSBilling has progressed a lot since the December 2022 LES discussion. Indeed, shared hosting providers already have been using FOSSBilling in production.

Recently, I signed up as a customer at two shared hosting providers who use FOSSBilling. This post details the results of my testing FOSSBilling from the perspective of a shared hosting customer. Also presented after the test results are, courtesy of @BelleNottelling, insights about the upcoming 0.6.0 FOSSBilling release along with tips for using FOSSBilling.

FOSSBilling Demo

The FOSSBilling website has a great demo, which enables everyone to see both the administrator panel interface and the client area interface.

FOSSBilling vs. Blesta

When FreeVPS.org was started, the FreeVPS Team went with Blesta instead of FOSSBilling because the FreeVPS Team had experience with Blesta. However, unless, like FreeVPS, you have a generous donor of a Blesta license (Thanks @Cloudie!), using Blesta normally requires monthly payments or more expensive lifetime licenses. Also, Blesta is not 100% open source.

FOSSBilling Tested At HostByBelle And At YetiNode

Shared hosting providers already using FOSSBilling in production include HostByBelle and YetiNode. Belle is one of the FOSSBilling developers. She is @BelleNottelling here on LES. YetiNode is run by our very own indomitable Yeti, @AuroraZero.

My overall experience testing FOSSBilling as a customer was excellent at both HostByBelle and at YetiNode. I had no trouble launching a test html page on each provider's shared hosting service. Here are links to the two test pages: HostByBelle and YetiNode.

Both providers use HestiaCP to provision shared hosting. Billing with FOSSBilling and provisioning with HestiaCP were very similar at HostByBelle and at YetiNode. I tried FOSSBilling's Support Ticket interface at HostByBelle. @AuroraZero talked with me by PM here at LES.

Screenshots Of FOSSBilling At HostByBelle

The gorgeous dark theme :) shown in these screenshots comes from the reverse colors engineered by Chrome Browser's High Contrast Accessibility Extension. These screenshots are what I actually saw during sign-up at HostByBelle. If you also wish to see the normal, non-reversed color mode, please look at the above linked FOSSBilling demo.

  • Sign-Up

  • Dashboard

  • Ordering

  • Payment

  • Hestia Control Panel

  • Invoices

  • Support Tickets

  • Quick Ticket Reply

Additional FOSSBilling Discussion

  • Emails

FOSSBilling sent transactional emails every step of the way, including sign-up, payment, and support tickets. The email setups at HostByBelle and at YetiNode differ slightly. HostByBelle uses a transactional email provider, and YetiNode self-hosts its email MTA.

  • Payment Providers

FOSSBilling at HostByBelle offered Paypal and payment from account credit. Payment wasn't involved with YetiNode, because I tested their free tier instead of their paid tier. Paypal payment worked fine at HostByBelle.

  • Provisioning Shared Hosting and VPSes

Like most billing panels, FOSSBilling requires the use of another additional software package to provision hosting services. Sometimes, modules can be added to billing panels to send instructions to the additional provisioning software's API.

As shown at both HostByBelle and at YetiNode, FOSSBilling works well with HestiaCP for shared hosting. FOSSBilling's five (including Hestia) already-working provisioning integrations are listed in the FOSSBilling Documentation. Integration of Proxmox also has been discussed on the FOSSBilling Forum and, more recently (8/21/2023), on the FOSSBilling Discord.

  • FOSSBilling Forum

If you have additional questions about FOSSBilling, you might want to check out the FOSSBilling Forum.

HestiaCP

  • App Installation

As noted above, both HostByBelle and YetiNode use Hestia Control Panel for shared hosting installs. Here is HestiaCP's One Click App Installation Panel as seen at YetiNode.com. As expected, the HestiaCP app installation is similar at HostByBelle.

  • Let's Encrypt Certificates

SSL certificates from Let's Encrypt were provisioned with one click at both HostByBelle and YetiNode.

FOSSBilling Updates

Both FOSSBilling's client theme and its multiple administrative user permissions hopefully will be updated in the next 0.6.0 release or soon thereafter. Belle posted screenshots of the updated client theme on FOSSBilling's Discord.

Hints From Belle

Belle said to me, about FOSSBilling, "If someone is going to use it, they should be technical and ideally be able to handle some PHP development."

Speaking of updates and changes, Belle advises FOSSBilling users to review the FOSSBilling changelog before updating. Changes occasionally affect people with customized installations, but people "using FOSSBilling as-is out of the box shouldn't really have such issues."

Last, but not least, Belle also advises reading the FOSSBilling FAQ.

Conclusion

FOSSBilling quickly and efficiently handled sign up, ordering, invoicing, and passing me to HestiaCP for provisioning. Support tickets and transactional emails from HostByBelle all worked as expected. FOSSBilling successfully kept track of payment and support transactions and also showed the history of each in clear interfaces. With HestiaCP, I quickly installed my above linked html test pages at HostByBelle and at YetiNode. Security certificates, like everything else, were easy.

Belle was super friendly and helpful via the HostByBelle FOSSBilling Support Tickets. @AuroraZero was, as always, wonderful, both via LES PMs and via email. Both HostByBelle and YetiNode are recommended for shared hosting.

FOSSBilling worked excellently from the perspective of a tester of shared hosting. The new era of a working, free, and open source billing platform has begun!

I hope everyone gets the servers they want!

Comments

  • Hi Tom. Really nice write up on FOSSBilling. I was not aware that it had progressed to this point. I'm going to set one up and see if I can replace my Blesta with this and save a few bucks.

    I am currently traveling in mostly remote areas until sometime in April 2024. Consequently DM's sent to me will go unanswered during this time.
    For staff assistance or support issues please use the helpdesk ticket system at https://support.lowendspirit.com/index.php?a=add

  • Not_OlesNot_Oles Hosting ProviderContent Writer

    Congrats to the FOSSBilling Team! Congrats to HostByBelle and to YetiNode!

    I hope everyone gets the servers they want!

  • good article and panel can be handy as an alternative.

    Thanked by (1)Not_Oles
  • Once I clear my plate a bit I am going to look into adapting some plugins and what not to FOSS.

    Right now I am swamped with some things. Hopefully some of them bugger off soon though.

    We will see how it shakes out. :)

    Done no more Yeti dating or marriage

  • Congratulations to FossBilling.

    How are you... online?

  • Hey, Tom!
    Thanks for the write-up and for following the FOSSBilling project.
    I had a great time getting to talk to you and I'm glad I was able to give some input on the article!

    For anyone else who is seeing this, Tom did a fantastic job covering all of the basics for FOSSBilling.
    I think all I'd have to add is that we'd love to see some friendly contributions so if you're handy with PHP or front-end and think it's something you might be interested in, feel free to take a look at the open issues on our GitHub.

    Our docs for contributors are still quite lacking, although I am hoping to be able to set some time aside and get those filled out a bit better in the coming weeks.

    However regardless of if you have some questions about contributing or they more align we actually using FOSSBilling, we have both a FOSSBilling forum as well as a FOSSBilling discord, both of which are good places to ask any questions you may have.

    Thanks again to Tom and the LES community, I hope you all are doing well!
    -Belle

    Thanked by (3)Not_Oles liujia adly
  • bikegremlinbikegremlin ModeratorOGContent Writer

    Good writeup.

    Why FOS is the way to go:
    https://i.ibb.co/9W6PhcD/IMG-3756.jpg

    Thanked by (4)FrankZ _MS_ Not_Oles host_c

    Relja of House Novović, the First of His Name, King of the Plains, the Breaker of Chains, WirMach Wolves pack member
    BikeGremlin's web-hosting reviews

  • I got nothing against free hosting automation. If you are providing a free service, I understand getting a free panel. Otherwise you better be showing me that you are supporting the opensource project by donations.

    If it’s not broken, keep fixing it until it is. Blink twice if you agree.

  • Not_OlesNot_Oles Hosting ProviderContent Writer

    Hello!

    I am delighted to say that FOSSBilling at HostByBelle sent me an invoice notice by email today, conveniently giving me two weeks prior to the due date. Support ticket emails also have continued as expected. It's great that FOSSBilling is efficiently keeping track of billing and support tickets! Belle also recently added a Getting Started to the HostByBelle website.

    Best!

    Tom

    Thanked by (1)BelleNottelling

    I hope everyone gets the servers they want!

  • bikegremlinbikegremlin ModeratorOGContent Writer
    edited September 2023

    @somik said:
    I got nothing against free hosting automation. If you are providing a free service, I understand getting a free panel. Otherwise you better be showing me that you are supporting the opensource project by donations.

    Based on my decades of experience:

    If you do good stuff for free, you can reasonably expect a lot of good energy and vibes, and some doors opened more easily.

    But you can not reasonably expect people (or companies) to directly help you with your work or donate any money. Some will, but that is a very, very rare exception.

    Note: marketing geniuses like the wordpress .com owner can pull it off to make tons of money, but very few people are that gifted.

    Thanked by (3)FrankZ AlwaysSkint ialexpw

    Relja of House Novović, the First of His Name, King of the Plains, the Breaker of Chains, WirMach Wolves pack member
    BikeGremlin's web-hosting reviews

  • Great write-up, Tom! Thank you for sharing!

    Thanked by (1)Not_Oles
  • Nice, I may have a go at it now that it seems to be a little more up to date.

    Thanked by (1)Not_Oles
  • Congrats to FossBilling. Maybe you guys can provide the community with a solution that doesn't overwhelm admins with bugs.

    Thanked by (1)Not_Oles
  • I thought of checking it out today, tried with docker but could not make it work.
    Has anyone tried FOSSBilling with Docker?

    Thanked by (1)Not_Oles
  • @sh97 said:
    I thought of checking it out today, tried with docker but could not make it work.
    Has anyone tried FOSSBilling with Docker?

    Not yet, but it's on my "maybe" list =)

    Thanked by (1)Not_Oles
  • edited October 2023

    Nice job! I can see it's come a long way since when you originally posted it, Plesk install works flawlessly too.

    Thanked by (1)Not_Oles
  • @Ibrahim said:
    Nice job! I can see it's come a long way since when you originally posted it, Docker install works flawlessly too.

    Could you share the docker compose you used? Thanks! I used one from readme as is, and it did not work. Got a weird DB connection error.

    Thanked by (1)Not_Oles
  • @sh97 said:

    @Ibrahim said:
    Nice job! I can see it's come a long way since when you originally posted it, Docker install works flawlessly too.

    Could you share the docker compose you used? Thanks! I used one from readme as is, and it did not work. Got a weird DB connection error.

    Sorry I didn't use Docker I set it up via Plesk, got confused w my wording while I was reading ur comment lol

    Thanked by (1)Not_Oles
  • edited October 2023

    I'm using FOSSBilling for managing current users' subscriptions without noting them on the calendar, and it works well. There are some bugs, but Belle and the project contributors addressed It very fast. Hope to see how it grow in the future.

    Thanked by (2)Not_Oles adly
  • Hi all!
    Sorry it's been awhile. I've been meaning to return here, respond to some comments, and share a bit more info if needed.

    Docker support

    @sh97 said:

    @Ibrahim said:
    Nice job! I can see it's come a long way since when you originally posted it, Docker install works flawlessly too.

    Could you share the docker compose you used? Thanks! I used one from readme as is, and it did not work. Got a weird DB connection error.

    Docker generally seems to be a bit hit or miss for some people. I'm unsure if this is a technical issue on our end or rather an issue with documentation, though. With that being said, I seem to recall the docker installation steps in the readme being outdated and they are completely gone now. These instructions should be up-to-date, but there still isn't a ton of info: https://fossbilling.org/docs/getting-started/docker

    Docker has been a bit of a "best effort" option from us as we really only have one team member who's properly familiar with Docker & he was unavailable for some time due to person reasons. With that being said.. he's back and has been putting some great work into the project, including Docker support.

    As of a few weeks ago, we now publish Docker images for both AMD64 as well as ARM64. The newer docker images should also include all of the required and suggested PHP extensions for FOSSBilling and so they should be more compatible and performant than before. Future images should also be getting upgraded to PHP 8.3 soon & I'll ask him to review the documentation I shared above to resolve anything that's incorrect and/or add missing info to it.

    0.6.0

    Some of you may have noticed that 0.6.0 was "upcoming" nearly 3 months ago and that the latest release as of the time of writing is 0.5.6. We haven't stopped working on the project and it hasn't been forgotten about, things just ended up taking longer than previously expected and the overall scope of 0.6.0 ended up being quite a bit larger than originally planned.

    Having said that, we've crossed off all of the items for 0.6.0 on the roadmap as well as many other great improvements and at this stage all that's stopping a release is regression testing and handling any issues that may come up in that testing, so this time I am fairly confident to say that it should be out soon. A couple weeks if things go to plan.

    I've been keeping the changelog on our website up-to-date so if you want to dive in and see every change you can do so there, however I also know that not everyone has the time to or wants to read a long wall of text, so I also recently spent the time to put a write up on our forum that highlights some of the most exciting changes in 0.6.0 which can be found in the 0.6.0 Sneak Peek post.

    Thanks

    Thanks again to everyone at LES and double thanks for the people who have been testing FOSSBilling along the way and being patient with us when it comes to bugs. Tons of work has been going FOSSBilling it and it's all made a bit easier with the feedback and testing that we've been able to gather from people. Looking forward to making it better and better over the coming releases.

    Take care! :smile:

    Thanked by (2)sh97 Not_Oles
  • Not_OlesNot_Oles Hosting ProviderContent Writer

    @BelleNottelling said: I also recently spent the time to put a write up on our forum that highlights some of the most exciting changes in 0.6.0 which can be found in the 0.6.0 Sneak Peek post.

    Hi Belle!

    Congrats on the continuing improvements in FOSSBilling! I read the Sneak Peek! Haha, one of my peak :star: FOSSBilling experiences already came a few weeks ago when FOSSBilling successfully changed the billing on my HostByBelle account from monthly to yearly while simultaneously managing the necessary transactional emails. I look forward to the Huraga theme upgrade shown in the Sneak Peek and coming in 0.6.0! :star:

    Thanks for visiting here at LES to update us on FOSSBilling's progress!

    Tom

    Thanked by (2)adly BelleNottelling

    I hope everyone gets the servers they want!

  • I've been watching FOSSBilling for a while now, the 0.6.10 drop now you can specify the default network interface for FOSSBilling.

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