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Nine solid months in production, RunUO.com's journey with XenForo

Discussion in 'General XenForo Discussion and Feedback' started by Ryan McAdams, Sep 15, 2011.

  1. Ryan McAdams

    Ryan McAdams Active Member

    Over the years I've spent my fair amount of time utilizing all of the big named forum software packages and some I can’t even remember. Ultimately I settled on vBulletin many moons ago and stuck with it. I liked the software and thought it was headed in an innovative direction which would help my community grow and become a place people would enjoy visiting. I was right… vBulletin provided blazing fast forum software and my community prospered. I ended up buying six licenses and working with some of my team members we wrote a custom integration for vBulletin that let us share our userbase across all of the sites in a seamless manner. It was an amazing setup and ran like a champ for many years… but upgrading was a nightmare due to our highly customized platform.

    When vBulletin was sold to Internet Brands I immediately went into panic mode, knowing the future of vBulletin was bleak at best and I wanted to get my community off of vBulletin as quickly as possible. The post I wrote to my community was pretty simple and to the point (while it lacked a little tact) and I told them:
    I immediately went on the hunt for a vBulletin replacement and spent about two months working with the team at Invision Board to pay them to migrate my forums (all of them) to a single forum because they were concerned about the structure we had and how ‘complex’ it would be with Invision Board. I myself for the sake of management was ready to consolidate our forums to a single domain as quickly as possible in an effort to provide myself with a level of sanity and make my life easier when it came to upgrades and general management of the sites. Invision Board’s quote was out of this world expensive and while I don’t mind paying good money for good work my long term business should count for something… thus I was off to the races again…

    I found XenForo early in the beta phase and wasted zero time. I bought it and installed it and went to work on a plan to test it and migrate to it. The design and feature/functionality sold me immediately and once I installed it and tested it I was ready to look at importing my boards in a test bed and seeing how things worked. The import was an utter nightmare at first (mostly system issues) as I was trying to consolidate 6 sites, 3M posts and 150k users. Overall once I worked out the kinks and ran the importer the process went really smoothly and I had a functioning board in my development environment.

    I began testing it, figuring out what the nuances of such a large import were and working through any issues that came up. Within two weeks I was ready to attempt a full blown migration of all sites to XenForo in production on their beta software. Keep in mind we’re not your typical users, we are a huge software community and we can typically handle most of the trivial issues we run into internally so we really were not that concerned about the fact that XenForo was in “beta”. The migration took us about 24 hours to do the imports and another 24 hours of general preparing the forums to release to the end users. Once we were done the overall feedback was timid. Our users were in shock… XenForo is such a complete departure from what they were used to (vBulletin for *years*) I’m not sure they even knew how to react. Eventually the feedback started coming in at a trickle, they were interested and then the floodgates opened and about 90% of the users were enthused with the change.

    The migration itself for such a large site was not without pain… we had trivial issues that required help from Kier and Mike (and the Sphinx search add-on). Between them and the wonderful users here at XenForo.com we were able to get the migration done relatively quickly.

    Our board at RunUO.com (www.runuo.com/community/) has been running XenForo since December 7th, 2010 in production. I’m not sure what beta release we went live with off of the top of my head but as I look back on what we went through and how far we’ve come I wouldn’t change a thing. Kier did his best to discourage people from migrating to the beta products but he showed genuine interest in helping us even though we did. With a solid nine months behind us I can say the community recovered from the “shock and awe” XenForo put them through and has grown at a steady pace with a higher amount of contribution than with our vBulletin setup.

    We’re currently hosting about 150 sites on the server our community runs on, the server itself is a Dual Quad Core Xeon with 8 gigs of RAM and the database for our forums is on the local server. We’re running custom compiles of Apache 2.2.19, PHP 5.2.17 and MySQL 5.5.9 and Sphinx for our search engine. The overall traffic from this server runs a 95th percentile of about 30Mbit so it’s under a pretty heavy load however our community runs like a champ.

    XenForo has provided us with a state of the art forum platform upon which most anything can be done. While you won’t find a large addon community the size vBulletin has you’ll realize very quickly vBulletin is dying a very public and very painful death right now. A simple search through Google trends will show you the decline vbulletin.com is going through right now. Acquisitions like vBulletin typically do not go well and products usually suffer. Internet Brands doesn’t have the best of track records and what’s happened here with XenForo in the past year is nothing short of amazing.

    RunUO.com as a site is past our “glory days” but we still have a great community of users who love a decade old game. We all play it together and have a great time and XenForo has brought our community together in a way which I never thought could happen.

    I hope my feedback can be helpful to anyone who’s in the position I was in… and I am looking forward to XenForo 1.1 and the ancillary products which could allow us to look at dumping Sphinx in favor of an all XenForo platform and am hopeful we’ll see much more development in the future ;)

    Sorry for the long post, it got away from me. I hope it's helpful!


    P.S - Kier – Please don’t sell XenForo to Internet Brands, we enjoy our new home here.
  2. Cezz

    Cezz Well-Known Member

    Awesome post, Really informative and detailed example of migrating to xenforo.

    One question though is why the choice to leave the forum with the default theme? The style of the rest of your site is very nice it is a shame to go the the community forum and be hit by the default xenforo style (though it is nice) it doesn't match your site!
  3. Ryan McAdams

    Ryan McAdams Active Member

    We left it with the default design because we rolled the migration during the beta. At this point there really aren't any great designs out there that I'm a fan of and as we're an open source project we dont really have the funds to hire someone to do a custom design :)
  4. Edrondol

    Edrondol Well-Known Member

    How much hit to your server does ArrowChat take? Have you noticed a performance hit?
  5. Cezz

    Cezz Well-Known Member

    Even customising the color scheme to match the rest of your site may be a good start... though I do like the visual appearance of the rest of your site it would be nice if you could at a minimum customise the xenforo header to match what is going on elsewhere... currently the forum just seems so detached! (Just my personal feedback)
  6. Ryan McAdams

    Ryan McAdams Active Member

    We're actually using CometChat and I havent noticed any increase in load at all.
  7. Ryan McAdams

    Ryan McAdams Active Member

    I appreciate the feedback, we're going to revamp the main site shortly and when we do that we're going to look at the idea of customizing the look of XenForo. :)
  8. Edrondol

    Edrondol Well-Known Member

    Ah. It looks a LOT like Arrowchat. Probably because the guy who runs Arrowchat basically copied the look...
  9. Ryan McAdams

    Ryan McAdams Active Member

    They all copied Facebook :)

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