Since forums can be daunting to set up, we’ve created a brief guide below to explain exactly what we do with forum software, and how we can help you build a community online.
In the early days of the internet, Usenet was one way that people could take part in online discussion groups. As the web became more popular, a few early pioneers wrote scripts like “wwwboard”, which allowed threaded conversations to take place on a website. As time went on, more graphical forums came into being, one of the most popular being UBB. In fact, UBB’s linear forum layout is the template that most of today’s popular forums are modeled after.
If you are setting up your own forum, you can easily download the software yourself, install it, and get yourself up and running. But, that’s only good if you know your way around your web server, and how to configure not only the server and everything else, you also have to know how to install new scripts, configure them, and get them running.
This is where we come into play. If you want to focus on starting, running and maintaining your community, but have no clue where to host it, how to install it, or how to work with your server, we will be your silent partner in getting your new forum functional.
We don’t offer one all-inclusive price for installing a forum, as there are many variables to work with. The software developers themselves may charge around $150 to install their product for you, which does not include making configuration changes to your server if needed, or customizing your forum with new themes or styles, or installing plugins to add new features to the forum. (The phpBB and SMF groups do not offer an installation service.) When quoting, we will need to know which of the following services you will need:
- Forum software choice: which product should you go with? We are aware of all of the “open source” forum packages and can offer advice on those. However, for a professional forum presence, we strongly recommend going with a professional forum software package. We can help you choose from either one, explaining the features, benefits and pitfalls of each. This is no place to cut corners: you want to engage your customers and keep them returning to your site.
- Server configuration: is your web server software configured properly? (This could be Apache, IIS, or a few others.) Do you have a database system installed, and any interpreted languages (such as PHP, Perl, etc.) that the forum requires? We can check these for you, if you’re unsure.
- Forum installation: in most cases, the easiest part of the job. We download the latest software package and install it on your server. We also do some basic configuration to ensure your forum is secure, and that you’re secure in taking over with the rest of its setup.
- Forum conversions: if you have an existing forum, we offer conversion services from one forum system to another. Rates are highly dependent upon the forum system originally used, as there are varying degrees of difficulty in importing existing content.
- Customization: if you want new features added to your forum (via plugins or software edits), or want to change its appearance (through templates, styles, etc.), we will take care of that for you. Keep in mind that while good plugins take minimal time to install, restyling a forum, outside of simple color changes, is very time-intensive.
- Tuning and optimization: a new forum will run well when it is first installed. But as traffic grows and you find you have hundreds of users online at a time, you will need to make some changes. If you’ve outgrown your hosting account, we’ll work with you to recommend an upgrade. There are other steps we can take, such as tuning various server configuration files, changing forum settings, installing new modules on your server or within the forum software, etc., to make it run better.
- Professional administration or moderation: if you find your community is growing, but you find you don’t have the time to manage the day to day aspects of forum moderation, or the administration area is still a jumble, we can offer a real-time administration or moderation service. Since this is also time-intensive, it can be expensive. But with a large enough community, and some well-placed advertising, it may be just what you need to keep your forum running smoothly. We have nearly 20 years of forum moderation experience, dating back to the days of Compuserve (before the world wide web became popular), so we know what works, and what doesn’t.
Get in touch with us today to inquire about our forum services. Let us know exactly what you need, and we’ll work up a reasonable quote.
Canton Web Services is a specialist in the XenForo forum system, but we also offer support for other forum platforms as well. Please ask us for a recommendation based on your specific needs.