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1. Bluehost.com

Bluehost review

Monthly Starting Price $1.99

  • Install phpBB for FREE with one click
  • Automatic site backups conducted daily
  • Manage forum tools directly from cPanel
  • FREE advertising credits
  • US-based support available 24/7 with 99.9% uptime
  • Get started on Bluehost now.

4.7 ★★★★★ Our Review

Bluehost: Our Expert's Review

Ryan Frankel (HostingAdvice.com): We trust Bluehost for many hosting niches, and the company’s forum hosting services showcase Bluehost’s focus on simple setup and reliable servers. Manage all forum operations with your choice of forum software, which can easily be installed via cPanel as you’re getting started. Go to full review »

Money Back Guarantee Disk Space Domain Name Setup Time
30 days 10 GB SSD - 100 GB SSD FREE (1 year) 5 minutes

2. A2Hosting.com

A2 Hosting review

Monthly Starting Price $2.99

  • Fast forum hosting for phpBB, SMF, and others
  • More forum software choices than any provider
  • Unlimited storage, bandwidth, and databases
  • Easily manage your forum hosting with cPanel
  • FREE SSL and SSDs for security and speed
  • Get started on A2 Hosting now.

4.6 ★★★★★ Our Review

A2 Hosting: Our Expert's Review

Alexandra Anderson (HostingAdvice.com): A2 Hosting offers the most options for forum hosting we’ve seen. Whether you prefer vBulletin, MyBB, phpBB, or another forum application, you can easily install from your own cPanel portal. Go to full review »

Money Back Guarantee Disk Space Domain Name Setup Time
30 days 100 GB SSD - Unlimited SSD New or Transfer 4 minutes

3. InMotionHosting.com

InMotion review

Monthly Starting Price $2.29

  • Choose from any forum application
  • Easily set up SMF and phpBB with 1-click installs
  • All-SSD storage means 20x-faster page loads
  • FREE SSL certificate and DDoS protection
  • cPanel management with Softaculous script library
  • Get started on InMotion now.

4.6 ★★★★★ Our Review

InMotion: Our Expert's Review

PJ Fancher (HostingAdvice.com): As one of the best all-around providers in the industry, InMotion Hosting is a predictably strong option for building an interactive online community. The host pairs modern, strong hardware with unrestricted forum application options to deliver a hosting service that can grow with your forum website. Go to full review »

Money Back Guarantee Disk Space Domain Name Setup Time
90 days 100 GB SSD - Unlimited SSD FREE (1 year) 5 minutes

4. Hostinger.com

Hostinger review

Monthly Starting Price $2.49

  • Multiple forum options available via 1-click script
  • Unlimited websites and bandwidth on most plans
  • Optimized WordPress hosting to pair with forums
  • Manage your forum via custom control panel
  • High-speed hosting for less than $1 per month
  • Get started on Hostinger now.

4.5 ★★★★★ Our Review

Hostinger: Our Expert's Review

Laura Bernheim (HostingAdvice.com): Don’t let the low price tag fool you — Hostinger is a high-class host with tons of perks and upgrades available to site owners. The host supports phpBB, myBB, Vanilla Forums, SMF, FluxBB, and other forum programs available through an easy one-click installation script. Go to full review »

Money Back Guarantee Disk Space Domain Name Setup Time
30 days 50 GB SSD - 200 GB SSD FREE (1 year) 3 minutes

5. IONOS.com

1&1 IONOS review

Monthly Starting Price $1.00

  • Launch your forum on high-powered hosting
  • Faster page loads than many competitors
  • Upgrade to cloud hosting for pre-installed phpBB, MyBB, and SMF
  • FREE domain, SSL certificate, and email
  • Dedicated time with a personal consultant
  • Get started on 1&1 IONOS now.

4.4 ★★★★ Our Review

1&1 IONOS: Our Expert's Review

Alexandra Anderson (HostingAdvice.com): 1&1 IONOS offers the full complement of forum software to build an online community on top of reliable, high-performance web hosting. Enjoy around-the-clock support and above-average 99. Go to full review »

Money Back Guarantee Disk Space Domain Name Setup Time
30 days 10 GB - Unlimited FREE (1 year) 4 minutes

6. HostGator.com

HostGator review

Monthly Starting Price $2.64

  • Launch a phpBB-powered site quickly and easily
  • Install forum software in a single click with cPanel
  • Build an online community with custom themes
  • Host up to unlimited domains on one account
  • Instant shopping carts, blogs, forums, and more
  • Get started on HostGator now.

4.3 ★★★★ Our Review

HostGator: Our Expert's Review

Ryan Frankel (HostingAdvice.com): HostGator plans streamline the process of building, hosting, and growing an online forum powered by popular application phpBB. Instantly set up your forum with MediaphpBB, and enjoy all the other tools cPanel has to offer. Go to full review »

Money Back Guarantee Disk Space Domain Name Setup Time
30 days 10 GB SSD - 40 GB SSD FREE (1 year) 4 minutes

7. SiteGround.com

SiteGround review

Monthly Starting Price $2.99

  • FREE forum software with powerful performance
  • Available apps include phpBB, vBulletin, and SMF
  • FREE CDN and multiple server locations
  • FREE site transfer, cPanel license, and SSH access
  • Use the latest PHP version that's most compatible
  • Get started on SiteGround now.

4.2 ★★★★ Our Review

SiteGround: Our Expert's Review

Alexandra Anderson (HostingAdvice.com): SiteGround is an ideal choice for application-specific hosting, including web hosting for forum creation and maintenance. Start with your choice of community-based application, such as phpBB or Simple Machine Forum (SMF), and you’re off. Go to full review »

Money Back Guarantee Disk Space Domain Name Setup Time
30 days 10 GB SSD - 40 GB SSD New or Transfer 6 minutes

Review Breakdown: Best Online Forum Hosting

Ready to start a forum website but don't know where to look? Our hosting experts compiled the table below to give you a quick glance at all the top forum-friendly web hosting providers. As you review each forum host, take into consideration price, features, and software compatibility.

Here are the best forum hosting services:

Best Forum Hosting of 2024
Rank Web Host Price Domain Expert Rating
1 Bluehost $1.99 FREE (1 year) ★★★★★ 4.7
2 A2 Hosting $2.99 New or Transfer ★★★★★ 4.6
3 InMotion $2.29 FREE (1 year) ★★★★★ 4.6
4 Hostinger $2.49 FREE (1 year) ★★★★★ 4.5
5 1&1 IONOS $1.00 FREE (1 year) ★★★★ 4.4
6 HostGator $2.64 FREE (1 year) ★★★★ 4.3
7 SiteGround $2.99 New or Transfer ★★★★ 4.2

Looking for something other than forum hosting?

Cheap Web Hosting

Cheap Web Hosting

If price is your top deciding factor when choosing a web host, check out our recommendations for cheap web hosting plans. Our reviews cover the cheapest hosts with the most budget-friendly features. See all reviews »

Dedicated Server Hosting

Dedicated Server Hosting

Looking for a dedicated server to host your website? Choosing the right host can make all the difference. See what our team discovered when comparing the various dedicated hosting options. See all reviews »

VPS Hosting

VPS Hosting

While not a good solution for beginners, virtual private servers offer ideal computing resources and scalability for those who are comfortable managing advanced settings. Check out our reviews of the top VPS options. See all reviews »

WordPress Hosting

WordPress Hosting

If WordPress is your platform of choice, you'll want to read about our experiences installing and maintaining WP with various hosts before deciding on a hosting plan. See which one has our highest recommendation. See all reviews »

Website Builder

Website Builder

Want your own website but don't know where to start? These services enable you to build your own site, without any coding or programming knowledge required. Be on the web in no time — and at a super-low price! See all reviews »

9 FAQs About Forum Hosting

Laura Bernheim
Laura Bernheim,
Contributing Expert

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. 

Website owners can also run forum plugins in content management like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. Using a CMS typically gives administrators more options for blogging, ecommerce, and SEO. 

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 use became popular with the release of open-source scripts that ran on PHP and MySQL to create dynamic websites and online communities. 

Definition: Forum hosting is a service optimized specifically for online forums and discussions. Plans will likely include user management software, design tools, ample storage and bandwidth resources, and high-performance hardware.

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 $2.49/month.
  • iPage: Host a single domain at $4.99/month with easy script & MySQL installation.
  • HostGator: Shared hosting plans with free domain registration for $2.64/month.
  • InMotion Hosting: Auto WordPress installation and free forum software for $2.29/month.
  • Bluehost: Managed WordPress hosting for bbPress starting at $1.99/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:

Host Name Our Rating Price
A2 Hosting 4.6 $2.99/month
HostGator 4.3 $2.64/month
Hostinger 4.5 $2.49/month
SiteGround 4.2 $2.99/month
Bluehost 4.7 $1.99/month
InMotion Hosting 4.6 $2.29/month

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.

Ultimately, choose a forum application with a free SSL certificate, domain name, and unlimited bandwidth; launch your website quickly using open-source tools.

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.

Most web publishers, aside from the top top 1% of sites, can host their forums successfully on shared hosting platforms at cheap prices. Pay more if you need a scalable cloud or VPS plan, or Windows Server support for ASP.NET.

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. 

WordPress, the world’s most popular content management system, is an excellent platform on which to build your online community. In fact, the CMS’s parent company oversees two of the leading plugins for WP forums and social networking.

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 most popular free forum software is phpBB, which boasts a complete set of features along with the cost-free price tag and open-source licensing. Another top option is bbPress, which has the advantage of working with any WordPress installation. 

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

  1. Define your audience, purpose, and goals. Be specific and establish metrics to help measure your success.
  2. Choose an online forum platform and hosting. We’ve highlighted many of the top options on this page.
  3. Establish rules and key stakeholders. What types of conversations do you want to foster? Who should participate?
  4. Build your forum. Set up the framework for your community, from tags and categories to member signup processes and testing.
  5. 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?

If you need to build a new online forum website, choose a web host with a free domain name on startup. Free hosting can also be good for small community projects. 

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:

  1. Sign up for web hosting. We recommend a cPanel web host with support for unlimited domains.
  2. Choose and install your forum software. You’ll find one-click installs for WordPress and other open-source applications.
  3. Customize your site and add content. Develop your theme and designs, then build the framework for your online forum.
  4. 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. 

About The Author

Laura has spent more than 12 years crafting engaging and award-winning articles that share the passion behind organizations' products, people, and innovations. As a long-time HostingAdvice contributing expert, she combines a reputation for producing quality content with rich technical expertise to show experienced developers how to capitalize on emerging technologies and find better ways to work with established platforms. A professional journalist, Laura has contributed to The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, the Sun Sentinel, and the world's top hosting providers.
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Laura Bernheim