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> Cost of hosting online forums
Christian J
post May 1 2018, 03:21 PM
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How much does it really cost to run a relatively small* web forum (say 50-100 active users, and hosted in a "first world" country)? A few different examples have made me wonder. One forum collects US$ 3000/year in donations and advertizing, but still asks for more. In contrast, another forum's owner says about US$ 200/year will suffice. Other forums ask for nothing.


* Not sure how to define the "size" of a forum --is it the disc space required for old posts (and maybe lots of large images)? Or is it the data transfer, which may vary hugely depending not only the member activity but also on the amount of content/bloat and bots that keep requesting it?
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pandy
post May 1 2018, 03:57 PM
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I'd say it's the number of users and their activity level.

I don't really see how one forum can be compared to another, not more than any other type of site. Well, of course they can be compared, but not expected to use the same amount of disk space, transfer and other resources.
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Christian J
post May 1 2018, 04:11 PM
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True. Still, it's not that common with heated discussions involving hundreds of posts and dozens of people, at least not on the forums I'm thinking of. Add to that the data transfer savings you get with Ajax-driven forums.

$3000/year sounds like a lot to me, even if you rented a dedicated server (which you shouldn't need for such small forums, or?).
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pandy
post May 1 2018, 05:03 PM
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If it's a small forum it sounds too much. Is the guy saying he's paying $3000 for hosting? Maybe he wants to make a profit from it. He works on it x hours a month and he wants the same hourly wage as at his day job, something like that.
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Christian J
post May 1 2018, 05:41 PM
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The site is making $3000 already, yet the admins are hoping to collect more, apparently for running it (hosting was not mentioned explicitly). FWIW it's a non-profit organization, that doesn't rule out someone getting paid but nobody's mentioned that.

The other $200 forum is privately owned.
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Christian J
post May 1 2018, 06:40 PM
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One major difference is that the expensive forum lets members upload images without restrictions. Not sure if that explains all of it.
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pandy
post May 1 2018, 06:55 PM
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I see! A pr0n site. glare.gif

Sounds odd if it's non profit.
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pandy
post May 2 2018, 05:25 AM
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Come to think of, do they run a spendy forum software and pay for other stuff? A vBull license is $249.00 (a year?). IPB is between $225 per 6 months (if I understand it right) and $800 a year depending on how much support you want. A business license for DW is at least $39.90 a month (jesus, Adobe's site is hard to get around now!).
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Christian J
post May 2 2018, 05:49 AM
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I thought forum software was still sold, not rented. Maybe the forum vendors justify it by offering free bug fixes. wacko.gif

Yes, the expensive one may pay a subscription, and maybe for a premium version as well. The inexpensive one uses phpBB which still seems to be free.
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pandy
post May 2 2018, 06:40 AM
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At least vBull has used that model for a long time now. You pay for support, I guess.

BTW I don't think vBull is as popular as it was anymore. I see long time vBull forums have changed platform, webhostingtalk for instance. Personally I liked it less for each new version. A lot of useless fluff was added all the time. From a user perspective, that is. I've never been involved with a vBull forum.
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Christian J
post May 2 2018, 07:01 AM
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I can imagine how renting a forum may hurt a community in the long run. One year the admin of an old forum asks for donations, and the regulars gladly donate more than is needed. The forum admin then runs off on a shopping spree and installs a new expensive forum package. The following year(s) the forum regulars are typically not as keen to donate yet again, but the software subscription must still be paid. Perhaps the admin must replace the new software with a less expensive one in the end, which disrupts the community spirit even more.
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pandy
post May 2 2018, 07:07 AM
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Since the licenses are so expensive, it could very well hurt a small forum. I think small forums often start with a bunch of guys with a common interest. One person offers to set up a forum and host it at a server he already has an account at. Fair enough, no real cost involved, just some work. With licenses and software it's a whole other game.

Thankfully there are still great free forums for small sites. Often with great and free support too. I've run phpBB and SMF and I don't think they lack anything obvious. Well, the templates are a mess, HTML and CSS wise, but I think that goes for the Big Ones too.

Once I tested a whole bunch of less popular free forums and really liked a couple of them. But I didn't dare to choose one of them. Maybe development and thus patches would suddenly stop, maybe they weren't secure to begin with. Better stick with something well known, I cowardly thought.

One of those forums I tried, don't remember what it was called, had great templates. They had basically classed everything, so it was super easy to rewamp. SMF for instance, the version I run anyway, reuses classes that uses pretty specific names. If there is a class called "topnav" one thinks that CSS rule affects only the topnav. But oh no, they have reused it for other things that they want to have that color and font and so on and that can be things you don't immediately spot, like an edit box or something related to PMs. It was pure hell to change the look of the thing. Would be easy enough with straight HTML but with a rat's nest of templates, not so much.

Classing everything is of course "bad CSS", but under the circumstances I think it was a pretty good idea. More to type (and download), but very clear.
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Christian J
post May 2 2018, 10:00 AM
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QUOTE(pandy @ May 2 2018, 02:07 PM) *

Once I tested a whole bunch of less popular free forums and really liked a couple of them. But I didn't dare to choose one of them. Maybe development and thus patches would suddenly stop, maybe they weren't secure to begin with. Better stick with something well known, I cowardly thought.

That's probably how a lot of people think, and what the well known forums monetize ("if it's expensive it must be good"). But in reality it's the well known forums that get targetted for exploits the most (though it's mostly bots looking for unpatched forum versions, so if you patch you might stay safe), and the forums probably spend as much of their profit on advertizing as on bug fixing.

Long time ago I ran a free forum script, FD Board I think it was called. This was in the good old days when you didn't need to create an account to post on most forums. One day it was completely flooded by a spam bot, with no tools for easy spam post removal. I just gave up and deleted the whole forum. cool.gif

QUOTE
SMF for instance, the version I run anyway, reuses classes that uses pretty specific names. If there is a class called "topnav" one thinks that CSS rule affects only the topnav. But oh no, they have reused it for other things that they want to have that color and font and so on and that can be things you don't immediately spot, like an edit box or something related to PMs.

Sounds like an improvised forum design. If so maybe that goes for the server-side scripting as well.
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pandy
post May 2 2018, 10:25 AM
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No, backend is solid. I think it's more a matter of programmers not being interested in, or good at, frontend.
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