Setting up and hosting a Forum – It’s Easier than you ThinkMarch 12th, 2012 @ 11:20 am
Many people are intimidated by the idea of starting a web forum because it seems like a daunting task that requires a lot of attention and resources- and while it is a very big project to undertake the process of actually setting it up and hosting it is pretty simple. The real work begins when it comes time to populate your forum and turn it into a lively discussion board that drives traffic, but you’ll never make it to that stage if you don’t take the first step and learn how to set up and host a forum.
Choosing and installing forum software
Web scripts make it extremely easy to set up a functioning website, without them web development would be a nightmare. So, considering how easy it is to set up a blog using a foundation like WordPress, it should be just as simple to set up a forum using the right script.
However, not all forum templates are created equal. You should learn about their varying functionality and extendibility to see which one best suits your purposes before installing anything. The main contenders in the world of forums are Phpbb3, MyBB, bbPress, Simple Machines, and a few others. Most of these should be available from your QuickInstall or Fantastico menu depending on your hosting, but you can also download them from their official websites and install them yourself.
Here’s a quick overview of the two forum scripts usually recommended for beginners so you have a general idea of what they’re best for, make sure to do your own research and check out the features of each one.
PhpBB is an open source platform (like many forum packages) that’s been in development since 2000, it boasts one of the most complete feature sets of any forum software and it’s very flexible with a lot of room for customization. This emphasis on micro management can be a hurdle for beginners, but the streamlined GUI makes it easy to digest. The community is large and very active, they are more than happy to help people out with technical issues and they have created a cornucopia of different extensions and modifications. This is one of the most commonly used and reliable platforms and it’s suitable for almost every situation due to its extendibility.
MyBB was once considered an outsider when it comes to forum software, but it’s proven itself to be one of the most intuitive and easy to use solutions around. It’s open source which is always a plus, there is a huge community behind it and the development team gives it a lot of love with frequent updates. One of the most attractive parts about it is the streamlined administration panel, everything is laid out in a way that makes sense and even a beginner can figure out how to manage their forum just by clicking around on their own. Don’t let its ease of use fool you, MyBB is very powerful and extendible and some of the largest boards on the net run it. The library of plugins and themes is mammoth and with version 2.0 on the horizon it shows no signs of slowing down.
Choosing a hosting plan
Forums are a different beast than the average website or blog, the content is created entirely by the users which means that interactivity is a big factor- it’s much more difficult for a server to load a page worth of dynamic forum posts than a regular static article, the information is coming from a variety of sources. The database will be much more complex because it needs to store everything about the users and what they’re doing, which means the more they interact with the site and each other the more power you need from your host.
A shared plan from one of the bargain hosts isn’t going to cut it, sure they claim to give you ‘unlimited’ resources in a lot of areas but that simply isn’t true- it’s called shared hosting for a reason and those resources are being allocated to other sites as well. It may be fine to start out with a shared plan for testing purposes, but once (if) you start getting traffic you will need to invest in either VPS hosting or reseller hosting at some point to handle the load if you haven’t already.