TL; DR: Blesta is a developer-friendly billing and support management platform for web hosting providers. The solution, built on publicly documented, object-oriented code, is almost 100% open, with only three files encoded for license protection purposes. With roots that go back to 2000, the company now uses its more than two decades of experience to provide industry-leading customer management technology for a growing number of hosting providers.
For hosting companies, finding a dependable billing management provider is essential. Like any company, hosts provide products and services to customers, and they need a customer-friendly way to manage billing, payments, and sensitive information.
Dependability is an important factor in the platform they choose. No host appreciates having the rug pulled out from under them by a third-party billing provider intent on hiking up costs.
“Our goal all along has been to create something we can be proud of and provide the best possible customer experience,” said Paul Phillips, Founder of Blesta. “While a lot of companies make all of their decisions based on increasing revenue, we believe our software should sell itself in a way. People shouldn’t be strong-armed into buying it.”
That passion for customer service is apparent in Blesta’s offerings — and it’s why the platform is quickly becoming a popular choice for client management, billing, and support among hosting providers.
Between an open code base, powerful extensions, in-depth documentation, and a helpful user community, Blesta is exceedingly developer-friendly.
The software relies on the power of automation to eliminate technical burdens, taking care of everything from invoicing and provisioning to suspension and payment. It’s also security-focused and intuitively designed to provide an ideal customer experience for clients and staff alike.
“We aim to create the possible code base so that Blesta does what it needs to do — and does it well,” Paul said.
Providing Innovative Billing Solutions Since the Turn of the Millennium
The history of Blesta began in 2000 with the founding of Phillips Data, Inc.
“We were officially formed as an ISP and web hosting company in December 2000,” Paul said. “We were selling dial-up internet access hosting accounts with maybe 50 megabytes of space; obviously, the industry has changed a lot since then. But one thing we noticed back then was how difficult it was to manage invoicing in Microsoft Word and Excel.”
As the company grew, Paul couldn’t find an appropriate market solution for customer management, billing, and support services. So, in 2003, he built his own.
“I wrote the very first version of Blesta, which I named AC4,” Paul said. “It stood for Automated Complete Customer Control Center — which just didn’t have the same ring as Blesta.”
In 2007, Blesta version 1 was released publicly. “My brother Cody was working toward his computer science degree at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona,” Paul said. “I brought him on board, and he helped turn it into a product by rounding out some of the features we had and getting an installer written.”
By 2013, the team decided to rewrite the software from the ground up using PHP and Blesta’s own open-source minPHP MVC framework for application development. Blesta is now object-oriented and extendable.
“Probably 80% of the codebase in our initial release was written by me, and I don’t really consider myself all that great at software development. So when we decided to rewrite the software, I only focused on managing the project and frontend development. It’s been good to hand the codebase over to much more experienced developers.”
An Open, Developer-Friendly Alternative to the Competition
After the complete rewrite of Version 3.0, Blesta’s simplicity and ease of use began to attract customers in droves. Today, thanks to its innovation, well-written code, and the support of thousands of customers worldwide, Blesta continues to be a leader in the hosting billing software space.
“After one of our competitors got purchased by cPanel, we heard complaints from customers who ended up migrating to us regarding the way their offering had changed,” Paul said.
Blesta is determined not to put customers in any type of bait-and-switch scenario.
“For us, it’s really about the innovation,” Paul said. “Blesta was the first of all of our competitors to add an option for two-factor authentication, which we saw as critical early on. We didn’t charge for the option, but some of our competitors decided to implement it and charge an extra monthly fee for that security. We figured that, in the case of security measures that everyone should be using, there shouldn’t be an additional cost.”
Paul told us that Blesta’s experience-based understanding of billing systems allows them to distinguish themselves from their competitors.
“Most software limits you to monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, annual plans,” he said. “But some people want to create a plan that recurs every 30 days versus every one month, or they might want to have a trial product that’s good for seven days. With Blesta, you can create renewals with any number of days, weeks, months, or years.”
Blesta also makes it possible to pay multiple invoices within a single transaction.
Creating Flexible Omnichannel Customer Experiences
Paul said many of the features the company has implemented came as a direct result of a feedback loop between Blesta and its customers.
“We found that to become critical,” he said. “When people request a new feature, others can upvote that feature so it comes to our attention. It’s always great to get feedback from users who say, ‘Hey, I requested a feature and you guys actually implemented it.’ it just shows that we care about what the customer wants and needs — and that fits with our goal of building the best product we possibly can.”
Over the years, Blesta has brought multiple features to the market that didn’t exist previously, such as multicompany support. Through this feature, Blesta delivers the ability to assign staff to one or more companies, with different permissions and unique roles for each.
It also offers complete separation of client bases, packages, invoices, email templates, and gateways — almost like having two separate installations.
Additionally, multicompany support empowers users to configure each of their companies to use different hostnames with their own branding.
“A lot of people own multiple hosting companies or brands,” Paul said. “And with our competitor, they ended up buying several licenses and dealing with several different installations and staff log-ins. Blesta’s multi-company solution brings everything together under the same installation.”
With Blesta, users can flip back and forth between their companies as an administrator based on the company’s access control list (ACL) permissions.
“This is not something that can be easily tacked onto existing software, which may be why it’s not a common feature,” Paul said.
Next Up: Domain Manager Updates
Paul told us that Blesta’s goal moving forward is to eliminate any feature disparity between its platform and those of its competitors.
“If I’m going to talk about the good, I’ve got to talk about the bad in the interest of transparency,” he said. “For example, Blesta has room for improvement in the domain registration space. We’re working on an update that will enable users to set pricing in a grid for TLDs and have registration dates sync with registrars. We are also going to offer not just a new and renewal price, but a transfer price on domains.”
The company is also working to onboard hosting providers that offer reseller packages.
“Bundling Blesta with their reseller hosting plans not only gives their customers everything they need to succeed but ensures there’s not a draw for them to move elsewhere.