9 FAQs About Forum Hosting
Enabling communities to interact and grow online, the best forum hosting often starts with cheap shared hosting plans featuring cPanel and Softaculous, which includes 14 different forum scripts that can help start the conversations.
With Softaculous, website administrators can install a choice of phpBB, SMF, MyBB, AEF, Vanilla Forum, PunBB, FluxBB, XMB, bbPress, Phorum, FUDforum, Carbon Forum, miniBB, or LayerBB for free as a forum solution.
We think most users will find the best forum hosting on cPanel platforms that include a shared Linux server with support for PHP and MySQL databases. Web hosting forum sites are relatively affordable and easy to set up using this method of development.
Windows hosting servers have another suite of options available for forums built with ASP.NET solutions.
In the forum software marketplace, vBulletin is still a leading option for professional design, with some scripts available in Softaculous looking somewhat outdated or lacking modern design features.
The FAQ below discusses the benefits of forum hosting with free PHP scripts for small businesses, niche communities, and social networks, along with how a forum hosting service can help you with customer support.
1. What is Forum Hosting?
Forum hosting developed in the so-called Web 2.0 era as a means of threaded communication between users, similar to Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) and email discussion groups in Web 1.0 technology.
Forum hosting, social bookmarking, and social networking all developed from the same scripting resources, including both open-source projects and proprietary software solutions like vBulletin or InVision Community.
Scripts like Simple Machines Forum (SMF), phpBB, and bbPress are free discussion board alternatives to forum software products that charge a license fee or subscription to use.
Fortunately for those on a budget, you can often use open-source scripts for free to build any forum project. Forum hosting is regularly included with unlimited domain and website hosting, primarily via cPanel and Softaculous or other popular script installers like Fantastico.
In forum hosting, the web hosting service provider delivers a fully-managed PHP and MySQL environment that can be used to develop unlimited websites with prices starting at around $5 or less per month.
What’s more, you can easily include Google AdSense advertising or other solutions on forum pages to build passive income from website content and online communities to pay for hosting service costs.
2. Why Should I Use a Forum Hosting Service?
Site owners can run and operate forums for a relatively low cost on shared hosting plans using open-source scripts that run on PHP and MySQL.
Small businesses can easily interact with and support customers through subdomains like forum.example.com. Look for free web hosting if you need a community forum but cannot afford the costs of premium server resources.
Benefits of Forum Hosting:
- Online Communication: Forums allow you to build discussion threads on any topic.
- Community Building: Social networking integrates forums with groups and profiles.
- Niche Publishing: Build content around any topic and use SEO to drive web traffic.
- Technical Support: Forums make it easier for companies to support their products.
- Free Software: Use WordPress or a free PHP script for additional savings.
- Open-Source Development: Build on tools that are made via communities.
- cPanel Administration: The easiest way to launch and develop new forums quickly.
- Dynamic Websites: Forum scripts run on PHP and MySQL databases in web hosting.
Forums were one of the earliest ways that people developed online communities before the rise of social networking and social media websites, and are still a key method for companies to provide customer service or technical support.
The people who do best with forums are niche publishers who can attract users organically through keyword-driven SEO traffic to their shared server websites.
The ability to monetize niche forums is made possible by including advertising on pages or subscriptions for user engagement.
3. How Much Should Web Hosting for a Message Board Cost?
You can find cheap forum hosting plans for as low as $2 per month for a single domain, or support unlimited domain names from most web hosts on shared platforms for $5 or less.
With unlimited domain names and website hosting plans using cPanel, you can install a CMS like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla as an alternative for forum scripts at the same price.
You can find many different plugins, modules, and theme solutions for each CMS that may also cost extra to use or install commercially. Open-source forum software allows you to deploy quickly without extra licensing costs found with some WordPress plugins.
Best Low-Cost Web Hosts for Forum Hosting:
- Hostinger: Single website with forum hosting and subdomains for $1.99/month.
- iPage: Host a single domain at $1.99/month with easy script & MySQL installation.
- HostGator: Shared hosting plans with free domain registration for $2.75/month.
- InMotion Hosting: Auto WordPress installation and free forum software for $2.29/month.
- Bluehost: Managed WordPress hosting for bbPress starting at $2.95/mo.
With prices this low, it is easy for independent web publishers to build passive income through advertising on forum sites. For the best results, use a forum solution like bbPress with a managed WordPress hosting solution.
The premier service will grant you access to all of the WordPress community resources to build your social community with plugins and ecommerce support.
The PHP forum scripts associated with budget shared hosting plans won’t quite replicate the modern look and feel of a WordPress forum, but the free and easy-to-use alternatives are great for those looking to save money on customer support.
4. How Do I Choose the Best Forum Hosting?
To us, the best forum hosting includes cPanel with Softaculous, Fantastico, or another one-click script installer that can be used to quickly deploy new sites.
These apps are designed like an encyclopedia of open-source PHP scripts that can be installed on MySQL databases to support dynamic website construction.
Best Web Hosts for Forum Hosting:
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InMotion Hosting, A2 Hosting, and HostGator all offer easy forum solutions with cPanel on shared Linux servers. You can use Softaculous on these accounts to install PHP forum software.
This saves the trouble of creating a new MySQL database and will help make software updates easier. You can manage forum database information through phpMyAdmin if required.
You’ll likely only need a shared server when choosing a new host, though affordable and low-cost cloud and VPS plans may be useful for larger communities. Only the top 1% of websites by traffic will need dedicated hosting.
We recommend GoDaddy for multi-domain publishers with a large number of forum sites to support. You can integrate web hosting with the popular domain registrar for sales and marketing in AdSense Empire campaigns.
vBulletin has a mobile app subscription and cloud plan, but we recommend using a managed WordPress hosting provider with support for unlimited websites and options for the bbPress plugin.
If the web hosting provider also has a community forum and knowledge base for customer service, even better.
5. Should I Use Shared or VPS Hosting for My Online Forum?
Most publishers can use shared hosting plans that support unlimited bandwidth, storage, and domains for the best value in forum hosting.
If your Windows host supports PHP and ASP.NET on the same servers, you can run WordPress and other forum scripts on Windows servers without changing companies. Otherwise, stick with the most popular solution of cPanel administration of managed Linux servers.
These should support up to 200 simultaneous registered forum users. If you have more than 1,000 users at a time on a platform, you will probably need to move to a VPS plan or dedicated hosting.
Learn more about choosing between shared vs. VPS hosting by reading our article here.
Shared Linux hosting for forums is the most readily available service in the marketplace, with the lowest prices and dependable support.
Like many PHP scripts, your forum’s performance will depend on how you configure the application to run in production. Using page caching and CDN servers can take an extra load off of shared hosting sites.
6. Can I Host a Forum on WordPress?
The number of available WordPress plugins and themes makes building discussion boards and social networking solutions easy.
Some projects require a less complex forum solution. Others prefer to avoid the complexity of CMS website management and use a free, open-source PHP alternative.
The bbPress plugin seamlessly integrates with the WordPress interface to offer familiar oversight into your forum. The plugin was the original solution for the WordPress support forums, so the lightweight codebase is easily customizable and extendable.
BuddyPress goes a step further with social networking, enabling organizations to create a website for user groups, individual profiles, messaging, activity streams, and other productivity features.
The combination of these plugins with others from the WordPress developer ecosystem allows web publishers to build a comprehensive forum site with social networking capabilities other scripts don’t have.
The advantages of using a CMS website like WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla for forum requirements are many in the current era of publishing.
In addition to the open-source affordability and development communities, WordPress application hosting is optimized for speed, security, and scalability.
The WordPress platform helps site owners easily produce blog content, and drive traffic with SEO optimizations.
Look for a WordPress hosting company with a free domain name and free SSL certificate at signup for starting your online forum.
You’ll only need a dedicated server if you have thousands of registered users online at the same time; the majority of shared and cloud-supported WordPress plans will provide ample room for most sites to grow.
7. What is the Best Free Forum Software?
As with many decisions, you’ll want to research your options and make sure which of our recommendations work best for your specific project goals.
The best days of Simple Machines Forum (SMF) are likely long passed, with new options like FUDforum, Advanced Electron Forum (AEF), and Vanilla Forum becoming more widely used in web development.
Best Free Forum Scripts for PHP Hosting:
- bbPress: A complete forum plugin for WordPress that is easy to use with any theme.
- phpBB: The most popular open-source forum software in the world, used by millions.
- SMF: Simple Machines Forum (SMF) was one of the most popular early forum scripts.
- FUDforum: The Fast Uncompromising Discussion Forum is a free alternative option.
- AEF: Advanced Electron Forum includes options for different themes and languages.
- Vanilla Forum: Built for SEO requirements, Vanilla can be integrated into any web app.
Take a look at Softaculous and demo the message boards to test forum functionality. Other new options for PHP and MySQL include miniBB, LayerBB, XMB, PunBB, MyBB, and Carbon Forum.
These days it is difficult to wow customers with a forum website centered solely around an online discussion board. CMS platforms allow you to integrate more social networking features to a forum platform or operate alongside other content without requiring a separate subdomain for the script.
8. How Do I Build a Successful Online Community?
Although there is no foolproof formula on how to create a successful community online, we can certainly offer you a few tips.
Ultimately, people come together in online groups to discuss topics of shared interest through threaded conversations.
Your forum subject matter certainly goes a long way to building and reaching an audience. Be specific when identifying the hobby, sport, knowledge, or occupation you’re looking to engage in.
Focusing on a niche also allows you to build the authority of your domain for relevant keywords and topics, which will lead to greater community growth through organic traffic.
5 Steps to Build a Successful Online Community
- Define your audience, purpose, and goals. Be specific and establish metrics to help measure your success.
- Choose an online forum platform and hosting. We’ve highlighted many of the top options on this page.
- Establish rules and key stakeholders. What types of conversations do you want to foster? Who should participate?
- Build your forum. Set up the framework for your community, from tags and categories to member signup processes and testing.
- Promote and engage with your community. Meaningful interactions will help grow your community, as will promoting it on your website, social media, email newsletters, and other marketing channels.
Businesses looking to establish a forum can quickly inspire brand ambassadors, build authority, and assist customers with any problems or questions they may face.
Use best practices and plugins for search engine optimization to increase the influence of your forum on the web, and further boost your audience ranks by adding a subscription service and linking your forum to podcasts.
A forum application is essential for customer service in large organizations. Use VPS hosting to support enterprise brands with forum websites or message board solutions.
9. How Should I Get Started With Forum Web Hosting?
A message board doesn’t have to be expensive, with many plans around $2 or less for a single domain. VPS hosting is more expensive but worthwhile for multisite publishers with a lot of web traffic or unexpected spikes from viral links.
Most hosting plans accept payment for a new forum hosting plan via credit or debit card, PayPal, or even cryptocurrencies.
4 Steps to Build a New Forum Website:
- Sign up for web hosting. We recommend a cPanel web host with support for unlimited domains.
- Choose and install your forum software. You’ll find one-click installs for WordPress and other open-source applications.
- Customize your site and add content. Develop your theme and designs, then build the framework for your online forum.
- Reach your audience. Promote your forum to friends, family, social media connections, and community members you’re hoping to serve.
A shared server is excellent for building community forum apps from a web hosting provider with free PHP and MySQL tools.
You’ll find many free forum script solutions to choose from, including CMS plugins and managed WordPress platforms. Be sure to test the features of every script using staging and subdomains.
A dedicated server should not be necessary for forum hosting; even enterprise brands can use VPS plans for a forum application.
Open-source forum software will save money over commercial products like vBulletin, which cost roughly $250.
Build user engagement through the combination of a web hosting forum and knowledge base in online community development.