Starting a New Forum Website

TheFoxRocks

New member
Hey guys and gals,

I was hoping this community could help me. I have been reading on here a little to try and figure things out and understand that some things have recently changed with the XenForo platform if I understand correctly. I am nearly new to website design and the only way I can accomplish it is with software that helps you do so. I took some Dreamweaver and it is just not something I wanted to invest a lot of time learning. That brings me to my first question.

If it helps I would love my website to be similar to www.lawnsite.com for reference.

1.) If I reserve my own website with a domain provider can I simply implement the XenForo software/client over my website or do I need to lease my website at XenForo? I have no clue how this works.

2.) I am making this community because I and others see a need for it. However, with time I hope that I will be able to generate ad revenue and I heard that using XenForo has big advantages in this category. Is this true?

3.) I guess my final question is whether or not this is something that one person with limited knowledge will be able to figure out? Like most websites I plan to appoint moderators and such to help out but I guess a lot of the work will come from me using the software.

4.) Also I would like to know about cost, I did a little research and saw the plans seem to start at $60.00 a month. I saw there is also free software available as well. So could I start out with the free software and achieve what I want and if I begin to get more traffic or expand will I be able to easily transition?

You guys do not need to answer every question. It would be great if you knew something about a particular topic and shed some light on it for me. I appreciate any aid in advance.
 

Valeyard

New member
That would entail installing Linux (most companies do this part), setting up a database, and configuring a webserver. That will likely be the hardest part.

If you're installing on a VPS you install Linux, then the Control Panel (e.g.Virtualmin), then set up PHP, Database, and webserver/host. Then install forum, and then set up SMTP relay (e.g. Postfix/Dovecot/PostSRSd) with the required DNS settings and PTR Record assuming you want to avoid paying for a third-party SMTP relay like MailChannels. Then you'll want to set up daily database backups. OP is better off finding good shared hosting for their forum.

1.) If I reserve my own website with a domain provider can I simply implement the XenForo software/client over my website or do I need to lease my website at XenForo? I have no clue how this works.

I'd recommend Namesilio for domain registration. As for shared hosting you want to find somewhere that provides you with use of their SMTP relay server and has daily database backups, ideally through JetBackup. Any shared host with an SMTP relay server for their clients won't be tolerating email abuse. Ask before you buy, or check the hosting forums like the WebHostingTalk and LowEndSpirit.

So can I begin making a forum website for free using whatever software I select or do I need to pay for it upfront before starting my community?

As others have said, don't do that. MyBB, phpBB, and Vanilla are not even worth installing any more IMO. Discourse has had its run unless you're running a corporate forum, but even then XenForo is the better software for the price (as an example here, cPanel's forum is XF). There's a zillion different forum software options, but unless you find one that does exactly what you want how it is on its default settings, then it probably isn't what you want. Your ability to migrate from something else will vary, unless you pick something that's "popular" and well supported for migration. XF has the advantage of being highly customisable well beyond how much versatility is possible with others.
 

Telesphoreo

New member
If you're installing on a VPS you install Linux, then the Control Panel (e.g.Virtualmin), then set up PHP, Database, and webserver/host. Then install forum, and then set up SMTP relay (e.g. Postfix/Dovecot/PostSRSd) with the required DNS settings and PTR Record assuming you want to avoid paying for a third-party SMTP relay like MailChannels. Then you'll want to set up daily database backups. OP is better off finding good shared hosting for their forum.
You don't need to install any control panel. It is entirely possible to install XenForo without using it, I personally prefer less bloat. I wouldn't recommend shared hosting because the resources aren't guaranteed to be yours, which is a problem for a large amount of traffic.
 

Muddy Boots

Active member
@TheFoxRocks

Late to the party however, My Two Penneth

For hosting, I would seriously recommend you don't host on your home ISP, you will just aggravate members and loose them, take a look at @eva2000's CentMinMod LEMP Stack! A lot here use it, get yourself a small VPS that is easily upgraded, CMM is really easy to implement and maintain, support from @eva2000 is second to nonce (apart from @Brogan here of course).....

I'd also recommend you dont use a cpanel/direcadmin server, memory and resource hungry and expensive, shared hosting is an option but has its limits including bad IP reputation from other users...... So just go the CMM VPS route and in years to come you will certainly not regret it, CMM Uses CentOS7 so spin your VPS up with that on install, @eva2000 is working on a new CMM release to support Alma Linus 8 at present.

Next be careful picking a VPS, Vultr for instance will not (in my opinion and experience) open any mail ports which means more jumping through loops to get the mail out of the server, Hetzer will open ports under specific issues. My suggestion is if you go down the CMM VPS route, use SMTP mail for the community mail (like NameCheaps Mail offering) and get mail ports open on the server (I now use Hetzer) just for sending out VPS alerts (ie logins, firewalls etc) There is some interesting chat over at CMM forums on how CMM users do their VPS emails. You can get free $$$'s and spin up a VPS for a month and it will cost you nothing.

I would personally recommend Namecheap for domain hosting, I have been with them for 12+ years now and have nothing bad to say about them

Just bite the bullet and pay the XF license and dont go down the phpBB route or any free forum software as then when you migrate to XF it will just be a headache (do-able) so start fresh now especially if your site will grow with members like you suggest it will.

For a theme take a look at @Russ PixelExit themes - Excellent, very fast and clean, very customisable, and @Russ will do customer theme work and his support is again second to none.

Links in my Sig for Hetzner ($20) - you do get some free $$$ credit with them, basic VPS - AN example of pricing is a CX21 Hetzner VPS, 40GB HDD, 4GB Ram, Standard (shared resources not dedicated), 20TB Traffic costs 5.88 Euros a month, with automatic backups 7.06 Euros a month.

Finally if you spin up a VPS like Hetzner, dont pick a large one at first ie 16GB 160GB HDD as you cannot downgrade to a small image (HDD size wise) so just pick a small one with something like 4GB ram although it will run on 2GB........
 

Valeyard

New member
You don't need to install any control panel.

Of course you don't need to, if you're happy to make it a target for hacking 😝 and to cause yourself 6x the work. It's also totally possible to write your own custom forum software 100% from scratch and many people have done it (originaltrilogy for example still uses 100% custom software for their forum). It's possible to do all kinds of things DIY, but that doesn't make it the best option in all situations! Webmin & Virtualmin aren't bloated, they use very little resources.

take a look at @eva2000's CentMinMod LEMP Stack!

Really with no SMTP server on CentOS 7? I would suggest using Virtualmin instead, at least the SMTP set up will be much easier.

shared hosting is an option but has its limits including bad IP reputation from other users......

And why do you think that is? You get your VPS IP onto a blacklist and you'll find yourself out of a host pretty quickly, I didn't hear anything about the complicated lengthy PITA process of setting up properly authenticated SMTP + forwarding on the VPS (just a recommendation to use Namecheap business email). Why don't you show us a mail-tester result for how your emails are currently being sent?

Setting up external SMTP relay is not that much less complicated, and the only reason to do so is if you were sending newsletters or if you really need user mailboxes (but only because the SPAM filtering will eat up RAM on your server) - standard transactional forum emails you don't need it.
 

BassMan

Well-known member
I have years of experience with shared hosting and XenForo. I can't say anything bad about shared hosting if you find a good one. It's much cheaper, you can get CPaneland all that stuff needed. There are some limitations, i.e. you can't run the XenForo Enhanced Search add-on.

Setting up SMTP is not complicated, for instance, with shared hosting I can typically use Amazon SES, Cloudflare, etc.

So, I'd recommend some shared hosting for a start, make sure it runs on SSD, and storage - 10GB is more than enough for a start (if you limit audio and video uploading). But make sure you'll be able to upgrade it easily anytime. That's how I do with my host.
 

Telesphoreo

New member
Of course you don't need to, if you're happy to make it a target for hacking 😝 and to cause yourself 6x the work. It's also totally possible to write your own custom forum software 100% from scratch and many people have done it (originaltrilogy for example still uses 100% custom software for their forum). It's possible to do all kinds of things DIY, but that doesn't make it the best option in all situations! Webmin & Virtualmin aren't bloated, they use very little resources.
Not installing an admin panel doesn't automatically make you a target for hacking... That's illogical and not backed up with any sort of facts. I'm not saying to write anything from scratch. Installing a database software using the CLI is not coding anything from scratch so I'm not quite sure where you got that from. If you (not you specifically, anyone) doesn't want to do anything DIY, then self hosting is not the option for you.
 

Muddy Boots

Active member
Of course you don't need to, if you're happy to make it a target for hacking 😝 and to cause yourself 6x the work. It's also totally possible to write your own custom forum software 100% from scratch and many people have done it (originaltrilogy for example still uses 100% custom software for their forum). It's possible to do all kinds of things DIY, but that doesn't make it the best option in all situations! Webmin & Virtualmin aren't bloated, they use very little resources.



Really with no SMTP server on CentOS 7? I would suggest using Virtualmin instead, at least the SMTP set up will be much easier.



And why do you think that is? You get your VPS IP onto a blacklist and you'll find yourself out of a host pretty quickly, I didn't hear anything about the complicated lengthy PITA process of setting up properly authenticated SMTP + forwarding on the VPS (just a recommendation to use Namecheap business email). Why don't you show us a mail-tester result for how your emails are currently being sent?

Setting up external SMTP relay is not that much less complicated, and the only reason to do so is if you were sending newsletters or if you really need user mailboxes (but only because the SPAM filtering will eat up RAM on your server) - standard transactional forum emails you don't need it.

My signature says its all in reply to your post......
 

Valeyard

New member
If you (not you specifically, anyone) doesn't want to do anything DIY, then self hosting is not the option for you.

If you're operating a VPS you need to be able to DIY, but you don't need to and nor is necessarily desirable to do everything when you can let a Control Panel handle part of the workload. Why not write your own perl-based webserver as well, why not ditch OpenSSL and write your own TLS implementation, why stop with the CP?

My signature says its all in reply to your post......

Yeah and you'll end up with people that create "fragile servers" that they're afraid to ever do anything with for fear of breaking it.

Setting up SMTP is not complicated, for instance, with shared hosting I can typically use Amazon SES, Cloudflare, etc.

Well those are external services, my point is that if you're using shared hosting like anything else my advice is pick a host that comes with all the features you need, access to a mail server included. Why pick a host that's missing essential features that you need?
 

Mendalla

Well-known member
I have years of experience with shared hosting and XenForo. I can't say anything bad about shared hosting if you find a good one. It's much cheaper, you can get CPaneland all that stuff needed. There are some limitations, i.e. you can't run the XenForo Enhanced Search add-on.

Setting up SMTP is not complicated, for instance, with shared hosting I can typically use Amazon SES, Cloudflare, etc.

So, I'd recommend some shared hosting for a start, make sure it runs on SSD, and storage - 10GB is more than enough for a start (if you limit audio and video uploading). But make sure you'll be able to upgrade it easily anytime. That's how I do with my host.
That's certainly how we went with Wondercafe2 and given our fairly small, static community at this point, it is still working just fine for us. There's a also the fact that our principle admin (which would be me) is probably the only one with the skills to setup and manage VPS or self-hosting. But he has a full-time day job in IT with the site being a side project. Shared minimizes the time spent on IT tasks related to the site.

The lack of Enhanced Search is most just that a lot of shared hosting packages don't offer Elasticsearch. If you had one that did then you could use XFES, I would imagine. Mine does not and I am not feeling the lack right now.
 

Mendalla

Well-known member
Well those are external services, my point is that if you're using shared hosting like anything else my advice is pick a host that comes with all the features you need, access to a mail server included. Why pick a host that's missing essential features that you need?
This. Mine offers enough email capacity to handle my site, but if we got really busy (ha ha), then I would possibly be looking at needing to move hosts since we are already on their top-end web hosting package and their VPS offering has been "coming soon" since we signed up. I did not choose the host originally else that might have been a red flag. I do have an alternative picked if we have to move, but I have not seen the need yet.
 

Arantor

Active member
If you (not you specifically, anyone) doesn't want to do anything DIY, then self hosting is not the option for you.
I guess that after 16 years of running servers, the fact I can’t be bothered to do the management myself and give over to managed VPS hosting is a sign that self hosting is not for me? There are so many different options in the world, it seems a shame to eliminate them based on assumptions and judgements.
 
Yes, yes is there a place here maybe someone recalls where I could read about the various advantages a XenForo site would hold over a Facebook group? This is obviously a boast I already thought about to get people to navigate.

I think I already mentioned it but my biggest obstacle is bringing people together from the various websites, Facebook and YouTube and showing them having our own community on a website is what we need.
Has anyone tried to turn XenForo into a full-fledged social network? I know that XF is essentially a framework, but I'm not sure if anyone has ever tried to go the whole way with XF and morph it into something that comes to resemble a Facebook-lite.

Obviously something like that would cost a bit of money.
Nah you won't, one of mine is growing around 8gb per year. You can of course set limits to the attachments. Size limits, and file type. Allow image types only, remove music & video formats. I believe the default allows them, so definitely change those.

You won't have to worry about it right away, if you can attract so many users to even grow a few gigs per day, I'd consider that a good problem.

If they're coming from FaceBook or other social media sites, I'd assume they'd be discouraged by image uploading limits.

But disabling audio and video formats is always a good idea.

I have mine on 8mb and no size limit, I actually wanted the images to be uploaded at full size. Seems to be doing okay so far, the largest images I can see average 5mb, and no one complained yet.
Have you ever worried about having trolls on your board who also go a bit silly with image uploads? How do you combat that?

I know that some other Xenforo forums (like Neogaf and Resetera) don't allow you to post threads until you've posted a certain number of comments. The first few comments by a new user are also pre-moderated before being published.

Have you ever thought about imposing image upload / post / comment limits? For example:
User can't upload more than 30 images per day.
User can't post more than 5 threads per day.
User can't post more than 50 comments per day.
As others have said, don't do that. MyBB, phpBB, and Vanilla are not even worth installing any more IMO. Discourse has had its run unless you're running a corporate forum, but even then XenForo is the better software for the price (as an example here, cPanel's forum is XF). There's a zillion different forum software options, but unless you find one that does exactly what you want how it is on its default settings, then it probably isn't what you want. Your ability to migrate from something else will vary, unless you pick something that's "popular" and well supported for migration. XF has the advantage of being highly customisable well beyond how much versatility is possible with others.
I'm currently building out my website using WordPress. I have every intention of replacing the comments section with a full-fledged forum. With that being said however, I'm not sure as to whether I should go with a WP only solution (like BBPress), or whether I should be looking to integrate XenForo.
 
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dknife

Well-known member
If you're operating a VPS you need to be able to DIY, but you don't need to and nor is necessarily desirable to do everything when you can let a Control Panel handle part of the workload. Why not write your own perl-based webserver as well, why not ditch OpenSSL and write your own TLS implementation, why stop with the CP?
You're being ridiculous. Going from operating your own VPS and using built-in firewall functions to coding your own webserver and SSL stack is like saying if you ride a bike you might as well just build your own Tesla.
 
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