The Best BuddyPress Hosting: Who’s The Best For Your Site? [Updated: 2018]
What is BuddyPress?
Social networks offer easy communication, and a way for a group with common interests to stay in touch.
With BuddyPress, you can build your own social network on your WordPress site.
Who is BuddyPress For?
Want to turn your website into a robust social network? Sure, you could simply rely on templated setups such as Ning.
But why do that when you can build your own, and customize it specifically to your group?
You can do that with BuddyPress.
BuddyPress is geared toward smaller, purpose-built social networking sites.
These could be clubs, for schools or even for internal office groups on an intranet.
BuddyPress is for Self-Hosted WordPress Sites
BuddyPress is a WordPress Plugin that adds full-featured Social Networking capabilities to a self-hosted WordPress site.
With BuddyPress, users can host their own profiles, similar to profiles on other social sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Yes, you must use BuddyPress with a self-hosted site.
Is BuddyPress Free?
The software is open-source, just like WordPress.
It’s licensed under the GPL and people are encouraged to contribute to its development.
Company Ownership of BuddyPress
Automattic has owned the BuddyPress project since 2008.
What Are WordPress Plug-Ins?
The great thing about WordPress is its plug-in system.
With its open-source code, anyone with the right technical skills can extend WordPress in ways that its developers never imagined. You can add calendars, options for commenting, and social network integration.
BuddyPress Integration With WordPress
BuddyPress is one such extension.
It extends WordPress from a blog engine into a social networking site.
As it’s based on WordPress, administrators have a choice between how much the two are integrated.
BuddyPress gives administrators a lot of flexibility in how they design their forums instead of a standard “canned” look and feel of other forum software.
Can I Customize BuddyPress?
BuddyPress, with its flexibility, appeals to people who like to customize their sites instead of just taking whatever the defaults exist on installation.
BuddyPress takes advantage of the vast WordPress ecosystem of themes and plug-ins.
Ever come across a cool WordPress theme and wish you could use it for your forum? You can with BuddyPress.
You can use other WordPress plug-ins with BuddyPress. There are also over 700 plug-ins available in the WordPress repository.
What are Some Advanced BuddyPress Features?
BuddyPress also integrates with bbPress for more advanced features, like:
- Support forums
- Discussion forums
- Adding the label “new” to any unread topic
- Protected forums: you can disable new topic creation for specified groups of users
Who Needs a Custom Social Network?
With so many people already using Social Networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, you might think there isn’t any need for another social network.
Actually, niche social networks are very popular.
Small social networking sites help specific communities of people network, keep in touch, and share their passion for a topic or area of interest.
Whether it’s dog breeders or church musicians, stamp collectors or Star Trek fans, people enjoy spending time online with other people who share their interests.
Existing “real world” organizations, like churches and social clubs, can also use custom social networking sites to keep their members in touch between meetings or services.
BuddyPress Development Philosophy
Clean and transparent coding: The WordPress team believes that “Code is Poetry,” and this philosophy extends to their development of BuddyPress.
The code is elegant, easy to read, and well documented.
Modular design: each component of BuddyPress is built to be used independently.
Use only those features you need.
The project is also notable for its community orientation. The developers love to show off the ways the users have found to use BuddyPress.
There’s a section of the forum devoted to it, but they also highlight uses on their own official blog. These include stories from the users themselves
What are BuddyPress Modules?
BuddyPress isn’t one giant program. It is a series of small modules that each provide one aspect of a social networking experience.
This means that you can pick and choose which features to enable.
You can use BuddyPress to create a full social networking site with all the bells and whistles, or you can use it to just add one small piece of social interaction to your existing blog or website.
In addition to the BuddyPress Core (which just provides features needed by all the other components), BuddyPress modules include:
The Members module adds account and notification settings into the existing WordPress User profile.
With this module, the BuddyPress site admin can add an unlimited number of data fields to the user profile. Data fields can be one of several input types (multiple choice, checkbox, drop-down, free text, etc).
This can be used to add community-specific biographical information to the user profile. For example, if you are running a social network for Model Train enthusiasts, you might want to ask them which type of trains they use.
This module adds the ability for members to be linked as friends. Features include sending and responding to friend requests and displaying lists of friends on user profiles. Also used in conjunction with other modules like Activity Streams and Messaging.
Allows users to send and receive private messages. Users have access to an Inbox, Sentbox, and Drafts folder, and can turn on email notification.
Works in conjunction with other modules to let users know about messages and activity. Notifications appear in the user’s toolbar and can also be sent via email.
Lets members stay up-to-date with commenting, favoriting, sharing, and other activity via RSS.
Allows users to organize themselves into Public and Private Groups.
Members of your BuddyPress site can run individual blogs. Posts, comments, and other blog activity will then appear in activity streams and notifications.
Discussion Board functionality is provided by the bbPress project, also from the makers of WordPress.
What are BuddyPress Themes?
BuddyPress is designed to work with a website’s existing theme and style sheets, so any well-crafted WordPress theme will already support BuddyPress and its expanded functionality. (Not all WordPress themes are “well-crafted.”)
There are lots of BuddyPress-specific themes available on the internet, both free and premium. The latter is paid for. A quick Google search will get you thousands of both community and commercial themes.
BuddyPress offers detailed instructions in its documentation on creating and installing themes.
Does BuddyPress Display Activity Streams?
Like many other social networking sites, there are activity streams where you can see what other people are doing on the site, whether commenting, liking, or posting.
Users can see activity site-wide, from friends, from users they’ve favorited or from groups.
What are BuddyCamps?
BuddyPress is all about building community. The software was built by a community of open-source developers, and their project website uses BuddyPress in order to promote a high level of social interaction.
Along with that commitment to community are regular gatherings of BuddyPress developers and users, called BuddyCamps.
BuddyCamps are a part of the WordCamp movement and are a great place to learn more about the software and engage with the larger user community.
What are the BuddyPress Hosting Requirements?
BuddyPress hosting comes with a specific set of server requirements.
These include the following minimum specifications:
- PHP 5.2.4 or better
- MySQL 5.0 or better
- Apache Module mod_rewrite enabled (for “pretty permalinks”).
- The imageck or GD modules to be able to resize images in WordPress. The avatar image uploads will fail unless they are installed.
Additional Recommendations for BuddyPress
BuddyPress requires that you have WordPress installed first. Do not use a one-click install script (Simple Scripts, Softaculous, Fantastico, etc) to install WordPress if you are going to run BuddyPress.
The BuddyPress team strongly recommends that you install WordPress manually. (This is not difficult. Instructions are available at WordPress.org.)
How to Install BuddyPress
Assuming you’ve already manually installed WordPress as they’ve recommended, there are two methods to install BuddyPress, manual and automatic.
Here are the steps required to install BuddyPress manually:
- If WordPress is not already installed, install it.
- Navigate to Plugins->Add New in wp-admin
- Search for BuddyPress
- Enable pretty permalinks
- Activate BuddyPress
- Start setting up your forum
In both cases, you go to your WordPress control panel and activate BuddyPress.
What Kind of Support is Available for BuddyPress?
True to the project’s open-source nature, BuddyPress has good online support. The biggest source of support is from the BuddyPress site itself.
The site has some useful features:
- Project news
- Case studies
- Opportunities to contribute to the project
BuddyPress has simple but extensive documentation on its main site.
There’s also a forum where users can get help with any problems they’re having with the site.It’s also built with BuddyPress, itself, showing that the developers “eat their own dog food,” or that they use their own product. That’s an encouraging sign.
The best part of the BuddyPress community is their commitment to the product itself.
As mentioned previously, the project’s forum devotes space to showing off uses of BuddyPress itself. These range from custom themes to full installations of BuddyPress.
Summary: BuddyPress in a Nutshell
The development team strongly recommended against using shared and discounted hosting for BuddyPress. They suggest, at a minimum, using a Virtual Private Server (VPS) for hosting a BuddyPress site.
A cloud host would give you a lot of flexibility in hosting with low capacity for smaller sites and the ability to ramp up when you run into a sudden burst of popularity.
It’s also a good idea to back up your database in case something goes wrong during installation.
My Top 3 BuddyPress Hosts
Shared accounts are adequate for small forums, but if you’re at all serious about hosting a forum, you should look into hosting options that give you more control.
Cloud servers are cheap because they don’t have the overhead of buying a physical server. BuddyPress is designed for smaller, low-traffic sites. This should help keep hosting costs down in any case.
There are plenty of options for finding a suitable server for hosting with a manually-installed WordPress.
You can get by with a small forum using a shared account, but you may want to look into a VPS if you want to host a larger forum.
The good news is that there are cheap and easy options for hosting a BuddyPress site, even if it takes a little more money and work than hosting a Facebook group.
SiteGround is one hosting provider that’s bubbled to the top. Their cloud hosting plans start at $80.00 per month, with 5 terabytes of transfers and 40 gigabytes of storage space.
That should be plenty for a small social networking site. The servers are fully-managed with 24/7 support.
Bluehost has cloud plans starting at $6.95 a month with 100 gigabytes and unlimited transfers per month.
Small sites might not need that kind of generous space and bandwidth, but it’s always nice to have in case of a sudden spike.
Liquid Web is another good choice, starting at $50.00 per month. The company specializes in cloud and VPS solution.
Plans start at 50 gigabytes per month and 5 terabyte transfers. It’s a cheaper alternative to SiteGround with slightly bigger storage.