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How To Start A New Forum Site (for dummies)

Jake Bunce

XenForo moderator
Staff member
#1
This is a general guide for starting an online forum. This is intended for people who have never setup a website before and who need foundational knowledge about how to proceed.

You will need the following things:

Web Server
Web Host
Domain Name



Web Server

There are different kinds of web servers depending on your needs. I am going to break them down generally so you can quickly know what you need.

When I say "concurrent users" I mean the number of users that are logged into your forum at once. I am talking about the list of online users (see picture below). This list shows all users from the last hour.

concurrent_users.png

Shared Server

Concurrent users: 1-50
Price: $0 - $50 per month

Shared servers are good for smaller personal sites.

A shared server is a computer that has multiple hosting accounts on it. There is no strict partitioning of resources. As such the performance can be unreliable. For example, if one hosting account gets hit with a lot of traffic then it can slow down other sites on the same server. But shared servers are very cheap.

My experience with shared servers is that they tend to become more reliable over time. I think this is because the server population matures over time as the host allocates the remaining accounts on the server and deals with resource hogs.

Semi-dedicated Server

Concurrent users: 50-100
Price: $50 - $100 per month

Semi-dedicated servers are like shared servers but they have fewer hosting accounts on the server. That means each account gets more resources and you can push more traffic to your site.

Dedicated Server

Concurrent users: 100+
Price: $100+ per month

You get the server to yourself. You get consistent and reliable performance.

Dedicated servers can get very expensive. For very large sites you will need to figure out what server specs you need in terms of CPU, RAM, etc.

VPS Server

Concurrent users: 50-100
Price: $50 - $100 per month

VPS stands for virtual private server. It is similar to a semi-dedicated server except there is strict partitioning of resources through virtualization. That also means you get full root access to the server so you can manage your own server configuration. Performance on VPS servers tends to be slower but more reliable than semi-dedicated.

VPS servers can be good for development environments requiring root access to the server. But for a production environment a full dedicated server is usually a better deal.

Cloud Server

Concurrent users: scalable
Price: varies

A cloud server is a virtualized hosting environment where you can purchase more capacity on demand. Cloud servers can be good if you aren't sure what kind of server capacity you need, and you want to be able to quickly and easily purchase more capacity in anticipation of increasing site traffic.

No matter what kind of server you get you will have allocated storage. People often ask how much storage they need for their forum.

How Much Storage Do I Need?

The two main considerations are the number of posts and the size of the attachments. Post attachments can be a big factor if you allow lots of large attachments on your forum. Those attachments are stored on the server. I always use my forum as an example:

My forum specs:
# of posts - 135,000
# of users - 1,300
total size of database - 280MB
size of attachments - 195MB
size of posts - 65MB

So my forum requires about 300MB of storage (looking at the database size).

Most web servers come with some kind of hosting control panel which is where you manage your server. The two common control panels are CPanel and Plesk. Both are equally functional. I personally prefer CPanel.


Web Host

You rent a web server from a web host. You will need to shop around. Read reviews.

Inquiring minds often ask me who I host with. My current host is:

http://www.asmallorange.com/

Some of my previous hosts include:

http://www.f5hosting.com/
http://www.futurequest.net/
http://www.hostpro.com/
http://www.hostrocket.com/
http://www.hostway.com/
http://www.theplanet.com/
http://www.site5.com/


Domain Name

You register a domain name using a registrar. Here are some registrars that come to mind:

http://www.networksolutions.com/
http://www.register.com/
http://www.godaddy.com/

Some web hosts are also registrars and will let you register a domain at the same time that you purchase a web server. That makes domain registration and setup much easier. But if you use separate companies for hosting and domain registration then this is the process:

1) Get a host.
2) Register a domain with a registrar.
3) Get DNS information from your host and give it to your registrar. That will point the domain to your hosting account.
 

Mikey

Well-known member
#3
Domain Name

You register a domain name using a registrar. Here are some registrars that come to mind:​


Some web hosts are also registrars and will let you register a domain at the same time that you purchase a web server. That makes domain registration and setup much easier. But if you use separate companies for hosting and domain registration then this is the process:​

1) Get a host.​
2) Register a domain with a registrar.​
3) Get DNS information from your host and give it to your registrar. That will point the domain to your hosting account.​
http://namecheap.com too.
 

Dean

Well-known member
#7
Maybe this should be a sticky in pre-sales, lol. Cause in here, they've already purchased XF.
Understood. Perhaps we could work out the details in this thread, then have a simpler thread in the pre-sales forum. Or, on the other hand, this forum is viewable by everyone (except for attachments), so if things are done carefully in this thread that might be enough.
 

Ryan Kent

Well-known member
#8
Nice thread. I am currently on shared hosting and am trying to choose my next step up. I anticipate moving into the 50-100 range immediately after my site opens. Presently my service is great about 90% of the time, with page loads around 1 second. There are spikes every day where page loads just to 5-10 seconds or more. Each time I report the issue, the host resolves it quickly saying it was due to other users on the server, but still that would be a negative experience for my members.

I am trying to choose my next step up and my challenges are:

- I offer video streaming via an embedded media player showing streams from Livestream. I understand streaming video is bandwidth intensive. What I am not clear on is that bandwidth being counted against my monthly allotment? or Livestream's? or both? My current plan offers "unlimited" bandwidth, so it's hard for me to gauge moving to plans which offer set amounts.

- I am gathering a large video library with which will quickly be a couple thousand videos. These are short videos probably averaging 5 minutes, with some being 20 seconds yet others would be saved stream broadcasts and a couple hours long. My current hosting plan offers "unlimited" storage, which is great. My site itself can easily fit into any host's plan but I need a solution for my media files.

- I liked everything about VPS shared above except where it mentioned slower but more reliable. Can anyone elaborate a bit on this aspect? I desire the fastest times possible, but of course reliability is important too.

This being my first site I was suckered into the "unlimited" bandwidth/storage offered by companies for less then $100/yr. I completely realize that was a fantasy. I just need to figure out which rabbit hole to exit with :)
 

Mike Law

Active member
#10
I am not affiliated or get a bonus or something,
But been on some dedicated servers for over 4 years with Jonesolutions.com and couldnt be happier.
The price includes dedicated 24/7 admin unlimited support... I need Sphinx search installed, I email them and 2 hours later its working, stuff like that!

My 3 cents
 

Diana

Active member
#12
- I offer video streaming via an embedded media player showing streams from Livestream.
How did you set up the media player? Xenforo doesn't seem to support livestream embed code. I want to be able to embed the livestream w/chat widget on the forum.

Can this be done in 1.0?
 
F

Floris

Guest
#14
Could namecheap.com please be in the least, it's a much better alternative to faildaddy.
 

LPH

Well-known member
#15
I don't have a relationship with them - except as a customer - but tigertech.net has exceptional tech support for their shared servers.