How much to run a message board?

I’ve been toying with the idea of approaching the employer to see about setting up a technical message board in my area. I am a techno-peasant, so I need help with explaining the concept and making the case. So as usual, I turn to the Dopers for help:

  1. How much does the vBulletin software cost?

  2. What kind of server do you need to run it? What would the costs be for the server?

  3. How much maintenance does it need? (E.g. - Jerry on this Board)

  4. Do costs increase directly with the number of users? geometrically? high initial costs and low marginal costs after a certain number of users? (I’m thinking of a trial run with ~ 50 users, but if successful it could get a lot more over time.)

  5. Can you set it up so that some forums can only be accessed by certain groups of users, but there are other forums that are open to all users?

  6. Can the software be set up so that a new user can’t just sign up, but has to have the application approved by the admins?

  7. Can the board be set up in another language?

Not even sure what else to ask???

  1. vBulletin costs $85 for a 1-year leased license, or $160 for a permanent license of the version that you buy.
  2. Any server that supports PHP 4.0.6 and MySQL 3.23.33.
  3. Depends on how much you want to do. You could take an active role and make sure all posts are in the right forum, put out flame wars, ban annoying users, etc. or you can let it sit there and let the users wreak havoc.
  4. vBulletin doesn’t charge you more for additional users. However, more users will generally mean more bandwidth used, which will cost more money. I can’t give you an exact amount because it depends on how graphics-heavy your site is, how often each of your visitors use your site, how much stuff they post, etc.

For example, the host iPowerWeb offers 50GB of bandwidth a month for only $8 or less. They also have plans with more bandwidth available that you can upgrade to. But I don’t know how long 50gb will last you.
5. Yes.
6. Not sure, but I think so.
7. Yes, vBulletin offers German and Chinese. Not sure about additional languages.

vBulletin isn’t the only choice for web boards (although it is one of the best). Other options include UltimateBB, ezboards, phpBB, etc. Some of these may be free or low-cost but may not be as powerful as vBulletin.

iPowerWeb, for example, includes phpBB for free so you won’t have to pay for vBulletin if it can do the job.

Oops, for #1 above, the permanent vBulletin license also includes 1 year of free updates. Afterwards, you can still continue to use the last version you downloaded, you just won’t be entitled to any further updates.

  1. Reply’s reply to this question was correct as regards moderation. However, there are technical aspects to keeping a board running smoothly. I am not familiar with them, only that they do take technical support time. I’m placing the names of The Loaded Dog, Una Persson, jdavis, Elmwood, and No Clue Boy, all of whom run or have run successful VBB message boards, in this post so that if any of them do a vanity search, they can comment on the above questions, and in particular this one.

I’ve used phpbb, which, as Reply replied, is free.

It’s pretty easy to install and configure. I’d recommend running it first until you’re comfortable enough with the administrative aspects and features to be able to intelligently decide if you need vBulletin. My guess is that phpbb will fulfill all of your needs.

Qualifications: Professional Programmer, familiar with the topic but not specifically concerned with this realm. Will answer as I know.

A server can cost anything from exactly $0 forever to $50,000 for a server and $40,000 per year for a techy to live with it. It will depend on how many people you want to people able to serve to, how much control you want to have over the server, and how much you care that your service never goes down.

Again, for a BBS you could do anything from having you yourself moderate it in your freetime, to hiring 20 moderators who do nothing else. It depends on what you are going for.

If you are hosting yourself (that is, you own and control the server) then cost will increase with the popularity of the site. The number of users in a BBS would be less important than the number of posts per second (i.e. usage.) I suspect that the rate at which server costs go up per usage is fairly linear–in a sense. My WAG would be that the usage of a site will grow exponentially over time (until plateauing), while as the price of servers will grow linearly with each subsequent rank capable of handling an exponentially greater number of users.

So it wouldn’t be 50, 100, 150 person servers, it would be 50, 500, 5000 person servers, but this would probably match real world growth habits of users. Again, this is a bit of a WAG.

It will depend on the BBS software you use. I have seen BBSs that can do this that were probably started and run for free by individuals, even though I can envision professional packages that may not be able to do this. If this is a large issue, you will want to specifically verify that this is a capability of the software before purchasing.

Same answer as #5.

Same answer as #5.

Less asky, more telly. More information on how important this website would be vs. what level of funding you think you could get out of higher ups would allow us to better get you an answer. Outside of that the best we can do is give the 2 second, “Well it just depends ya know because of X, Y, and Z”

A zero dollar (or any other denomination) example that is both solid and probably pretty flexible is Yahoo! Groups. Another might be Talkspot the maker of whom I know, though this is a package more for making a website, rather than just a BBS.

Yahoo will pop up advertisements, and will just always look like a Yahoo! Group, so that might not be acceptable if you want to make this seem like it is a profesional site for your topic. However, I Yahoo also automatically has the manpower and servers to be able to handle any number of users without interruption.

Talkspot will offer more control and, though you are limitted to the templates provded, will look like a personal site. It is hosted by a professional hosting company and is currently running several thousand webstes–so I know that it at least can handle quite a bit and probably anything you can throw at it. I don’t know that it has been tested for international use so Japanese characters or such might get trashed by the DB, and I know that anything which is templated will only be English.

And certainly there are more packages in the world, these are just two of that I know of which might be good entry-level packages that are capable, aren’t going to be crashing every two seconds, can probably handle more users than you will ever throw at it, and are free.

  1. That’s funny. I was toying around with my new bulletin board when I read this. I have a website hosted by Start Logic.. Start Logic is a sound provider and I believe it is stupidly cheap. $85 a year or less buys you a domain name, 2 gigabytes of space, and 60 GB transfer a month. That should be much, much more than you will ever use. It includes the open source phpBB referenced before. phpbb should meet your needs.

You register online, pay the fee upfront, and then log in and create your message board. You will need some intermidiate web skills but there is no real programming involved. They even have tools that help you click your way through building a web site that looks much better than FrontPage ever has.

I would certainly stay away from hosting your own domain on your own server. There is nothing economical or practical to come from that. My website has been up 100% of the time since I started it 6 months ago and they do they backups and send me the reports.

Other providers provide similar plans if you want to find another one for some reason.

If you have a web site already, you can start poking around with PHPbb, which is open license bb software that has actually come standard on any site I’ve ever owned. It’s got almost all the features of vBulletin and should give you a good feel for most message board mod and admin style tasks.

iPowerweb is one of those hosts that offers this in the package. I do not recommend iPowerweb personally - in fact they screwed me over on two sites and their customer service, IMO, blows donkeys. But they were mentioned and they offer the software in the standard package. In their defense I never had a problem with any technical issues; my problems were all billing related

I was just playing around with my phpBB board. It has nothing in it so this will give you a feel about how it comes out of the box. Take a look at this. It is included in Start Logic’s plan.

For what it’s worth, iPowerWeb has always been great to me and their customer service has been helpful. But as picker pointed out, that doesn’t always apply. YMMV for either better or worse…

Wow, i should refresh a little sooner before I hit submit. I see this ground has been well covered in the 15 minutes I left the window open, came back and whipped out my response.

I stand by my comments on iPowerweb though.

My costs for running my Board are detailed here:

The connection is 3MB down/384kb up, and can handle somewhere around 200-300 simultaneous users, maybe more. I also spent a lot of time optimizing graphics, layout, getting rid of a lot of database queries that weren’t needed, etc., so the thing used to be able to run very well on a P2-233 with 64MB RAM.

We have a very powerful server now - a P4-2.8 1GB RAM, 240GB RAID1 system. Only cost about $1000, and it was paid for almost entirely by donations from Members (proving that the donation system does work).

PS, if you do go the home-grown route, the P4’s hyperthreading REALLY helps speed the board up.

I use phpBB at PHPWebHosting for $10 a month.