I have about a hundred customers to which I sell software and support.
I currently use email for everything, which is not scalable. I would like a web interface.

Customer use cases:

  • Log in using received password
  • Download software installers available to him/her
  • Create an issue, see all open/closed issues, comment, close

Admin use cases:

  • Create a new customer
  • Upload a file to a customer's "download zone"
  • Triage issues by criticality, see the list of issues (all customers mixed) sorted by criticality, comment, close


  • A customer can't see another customer's issues and software installers
  • Email notification to both customer and admin
  • Free, open source


  • Bonus if the customer can have several people using different passwords and screen names
  • Bonus for multiple admins, when admin1 comments admin2 receives a notification
  • Bonus for issue creation by email, issue comment via email reply
  • Bonus if admin can re-use a recently uploaded file. File can be duplicated, as disk space is not a problem.
  • Bonus if a "subscription period" can be chosen, for instance 3 years from 2016/02/15. Customer can still use the system normally but "Subscription expired" appears everywhere. Issues from expired customers don't appear in admin's default issues list.
  • Bonus for other CRM features (keep track of last contact date, warn before subscription expiration, client details, admin-only memo about each client)
  • Bonus if runnable on a PHP/MySQL server

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Tried: Akeeba Release System is great for the download part but does not have the issues part.

4 Answers 4


I use redmine for such things. It has issue tracking, you can create a "project" for each customer, then any logins they have are members of only that project. There are places for wikis and for files so you can upload and they can download.


I'd look at CiviCRM integrated with Drupal... very powerful and you can create a nice portal for your clients. You can trigger a subscription (a membership in CiviCRM) and schedule reminders etc. With a little coding I believe all of your bonus requests can be handled as well.


forums... phpbb comes to mind for open source, then vbulletin is so much yearly but tends to be cream of crop in my opinion. with lots of extra addons / mods.

you can setup forums to be "private" or rather only certain user and/or users can see new posts. and use it like a help desk. an example on many forums, newbies with less than 10 posts, all there posts require admin approval before being seen by others ((mainly for spam purposes, but also point out newbies and helping them))

folks can subscribe to forums, and adjust there settings within the user control panels to be notified or not via email, when ever they get a reply to a post or a new post to a thread they subscribed to.

the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) or rather HTML editors, have picture uploads built into them. if not some larger "button" below editor to attach files. some of the editors allow "drag and drop" of files into the editors to attach documents.

various addons/mods for some sort of online chat. that might get initiated if need be.

various addons/mods for connecting user creation with third party software. with SSO (single sign on)

if clients register with forum, and make an initial single thread/post. you can reply to thread for any files you want, and as long as they get email update of new post. they will receive notification.

you can normally setup "user groups" company X has 20 employees. and they all can get username/passwords. and be assigned to a specific forum just for company X. and if need be use it as there own private forum.

you could always setup a forum software for them to use. and setup yourself as "admin" with a "help / support" forum. and just subscribe yourself to it. and let X company use what ever forums for there own private purpose.

there normally some sort of "check mark" for addon's/mod's that lets you click something to note a "problem was resolved" for a given thread, kinda like stackexchange "check mark"

lots and lots of websites use forums just for "support" from random games, to microsoft, to others.


moodle it is a LMS (learning management software) many schools use it as an actual software in class. and designed for average person / teacher using it, setting tests, using forums, etc...

the forums that come with it are not completely top notch. there is a better forum plugin last time i checked.

you can setup a "class / course" for X company and have it completely hidden from everyone else, just like phpbb and vBulletin. and assign folks different roles within each course.

fairly easy for someone to setup tests, Q/A notations, along with various reading material, if company is required to deal with various tests for employees through out the years, example MSDS (material safety data sheets).

those with permissions can upload files within a course. and if need be students / regular employees can also upload files within a course (kinda of a submit course project) but it could be anything with a description.

email notifications are there. with correct options checked during the course creation menu / course settings menu.

moodle you can create a "custom database" within each course. fairly easy to use "non programmers aka generic students / teachers" can figure it out. to create a tracker issues perhaps.


what ever you end up choosing, from civiCRM / drupal, phpbb, vbulltin, moodle, joomla, etc... there is going to be a learning curve and perhaps some customization / addons / mods to get things going within reason for how much effort you want to put into it and make it just right. and each software has its own quirks per say. how much is your time vs paying for something. not all the paid stuff is what it is cracked up to be.


We use Kayako, and have been using it for over a decade now, it's pretty mature. Including an iOS app so you can manage tickets from your phone, it also has a desktop client for dealing with online support (live chat on your website).

  • 1
    Is it free and open source, as required by the question?
    – Nicolas Raoul
    May 31, 2016 at 10:45
  • 1
    doh, didn't see that. No, it's neither. I must learn to read questions better.
    – Adrien
    May 31, 2016 at 11:10
  • But it would probably still work out cheaper than "free / open source" if you place any value on your time.
    – Adrien
    May 31, 2016 at 11:11

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