I run a decent sized forum okay, and it's on a pretty shoddy software. I have enough money to buy the xenforo license for 140$ but it feels like to have a quality xenforo forum you're buying modifications over and over and styles over and over and gallery and license removal and all of these other separate things, and then you go from 140$ to hundreds if not 1000+$ which to some people is very little but running a community that makes 0$ in profit isn't really trying to spend that kind of money you know?
I'm curious what you guys think. Is a 20-40$ style and a 140$ license really all you need, or do you need to fully commit financially with modifications and such and run your wallet dry?
You have to consider what is really necessary for you.
A lot of modifications or addons are free and fulfilling the needs.
Even from payed addons there are sometimes light versions for free.
If you dont host many images there is no need for a Galerie. The core attachment system is enough. And so on.
Also there is no need to pay for branding free if you are short of money. It is only an option.
I can understand that someone is thinking about to switch to xenforo he can feel like a child in a candy shop. So many nice, colorful things makes him thinking i want them.
Look which benefits you get and need to run your forum properly.
If it grows and the needs are changing there is the time to think further.
But already with the basic xenforo you will make a huge step into a good direction.
I think you can answer the question yourself. Does a free alternative such as MyBB or phpBB cover your needs? If XenForo is, then it's definately worth the money. You don't have to spend on anything but the license.
You'll either need a VPS or a dedicated server. If your community is small, you shouldn't need a dedicated server. VPS is in many cases the most affordable solution. I'd go with a small VPS with Linux. I only have experience hosting on Debian (a Linux distro) based distros, but I know that a lot of people prefers to host websites on CentOS, which is a RHEL based distro.
If you go with a Debian based distro, here's how you install LAMP. LAMP is Apache, MySQL and PHP - it's basically everything you need to run the XenForo software. Apache is the webserver itself. MySQL is where you store your database containing all information (posts, users, etc.).
Once you've setup LAMP, go to /home/username/public_html and upload the XenForo files. Once they're uploaded, you need to start installing XenForo.
You'll also need to create a MySQL database for XenForo. Connect to phpMyAdmin (a front-end for MySQL) at http://server-ip.com/phpmyadmin and login as the root user with the password you created for MySQL earlier. Go to the 'Users' tab and create a new user with a password. Check the box that says something like 'Create a database for the user' and input the name of the user, the database and the password when prompted during the installation.
Not sure the OP is at the stage he needs a VPS or has the knowledge to install it all himself. Shared hosting which is fully managed will work for smaller forums, as per Brogan's response above. It's easy enough to move at a later point.
Depends on the OS. It's similar in Windows - You can install something called XAMPP or WAMP which is essentially the same as LAMP. The rest pf the instructions are pretty much the same. That is, if you want to host the software yourself.
If you just want to go with shared hosting, everything is much easier. Buy hosting, upload the files and install.