What You'll Learn
If you're interested in growing engagement on your blog or website then you may want to explore launching an online discussion forum.
In this article, you'll learn the basics of online forums; then we'll dive into what vBulletin has to offer in this arena.
We'll explore vBulletin's features and I'll share resources you can use for technical assistance.
You'll learn what to look for in vBulletin hosting. And I'll share a few of my own personal recommendations for quality vBulletin hosting.
What is vBulletin?
Want to build an online community centered on shared interests and discussion?
You need a forum or bulletin-board management system for this.
VBulletin is a popular forum software application available for self-hosting or as a Cloud-based service.
What is a Forum or Bulletin Board?
A forum, or a bulletin board service, is an online discussion area where users can post new topics for conversation, and then all the users can discuss through comments.
This method of community communication is one of the oldest forms of "social media" on the internet and remains popular today.
Does vBulletin Include a Content Management System (CMS)?
VBulletin is forum and bulletin board management system that allows you to easily set up an online discussion website.
It also acts a Content Management System (CMS).
This means that if you intend to build a site with a forum and also other types of content (blogs, pages), you don't need two separate systems.
vBulletin Screenshot via Whoishostingthis.com
Vbulletin is not Open Source software. It comes with a licensing fee and restrictions on copying or modifying.
It's a professionally developed product with a support staff and a customer service team. Sometimes, this tradeoff makes a big difference.
What Product Variants Does vBulletin Offer?
vBulletin software is available in two different forms; VBulletin Connect and VBulletin Cloud.
VBulletin Connect is the self-hosted version, which you purchase and install on your own hosting plan.
VBulletin Cloud is a SaaS (software as a service) offering — they host it for you and you pay a regular subscription fee.
Differences between vBulletin Connect and vBulletin Cloud
The self-hosted version gives you a little more control over your site as compared to the SaaS version.
Additionally, certain organizations with particular concerns about data privacy might prefer to host the software themselves.
The biggest difference, from a business decision standpoint, between the two versions is the pricing.
With the self-hosted version, you pay more upfront. With the subscription service, you can started with much less investment, but you will end up paying more over a long period due to the monthly fee.
Are there Open Source Alternatives to vBulletin?
Depending on your specific needs (and temperament), you may find that an Open Source bulletin board system is a better fit for your forum project.
bbPress: Easy WordPress Integration
If you are already running a website using WordPress, you can add forum functionality with the bbPress plugin.
Doing this will ensure tight integration between the different parts of your website, and automatically extend your branding and style to the forum.
phpBB: A Standalone Option
Another very popular option is phpBB. This is standalone software, not associated with a larger content management system.
It's easy to set up and carries a relatively small footprint, requiring less computing resources that some other options.
Significantly, it looks and feels like a typical internet bulletin board, which can either be a feature or a liability, depending on your intended user base.
Find The Best vBulletin Hosting For You
Reasons to Use VBulletin software
- Personal Preferences
- Mobile-Friendly apps
- Ease of Use
The simplest reason might simply be that you like the software better. (For example I don't use Linux on my home computer. Even though I have to pay for it, I like OSX better.) Its a good idea to demo several options, and if the paid version is the clear winner, then pay for it.
Another reason is support. If you are paying a company for a product, there is clearly someone to call or email when there is a problem. This isn't usually the case with free message board software.
Economics might factor into this decision also, and not always in favor of free over paid. If you spend more time dealing with the complexities of managing an open source application, it may be less expensive overall to use the subscription-based service.
VBulletin does have one important feature that (at the time of this writing) the other options lack: Mobile apps. The vBulletin Mobile Bundle license includes software to publish native iOS and Android apps which act as clients for your vBulletin forums.
Ease of Use
If you're not sure which forum management system is right for you, try setting up a demo of each one. Finding out how hard it is to install and setup will tell you a lot about whether you are going to be comfortable running your website with it over the long term.
To learn more about your options in this area, see this page about various forum management systems.
vBulletin Web Hosting
If you decide to use the vBulletin Cloud, you don't need to worry about web hosting, because they are providing a hosted solution. However, you may pay more for that each month than you'd pay for equivalent web hosting.
If you plan to use the vBulletin Connect, you have to host it yourself, which means you'll need a web hosting plan that supports its requirements.
|vBulletin 5.0.x||vBulletin 5.1.x|
|PHP 5.3.0 or Greater||PHP 5.4.0 or Greater|
|MySQL 5.1.5||MySQL 5.5.0|
|mod_rewrite / URL Rewrite or equivalent||cURL|
vBulletin 5.0.x is designed to run on any server that has PHP 5.3.0 or greater and MySQL 5.1.5 or greater installed. You must also have mod_rewrite, URL Rewrite or equivalent and you must upload the included .htaccess file to your server.
vBulletin 5.1.x requires PHP 5.3.7 or greater and also requires that you have cURL installed
It is recommended to use PHP 5.4.0, or later and MySQL 5.5.0 or later.
Here's What Your vBulletin Hosting Needs To Offer
VBulletin is a proprietary application for building forums. It also acts as a content management system (CMS), allowing you to combine forums with things like blogs. There are many free forum applications, but vBulletin has certain advantages -- especially in terms of support. In addition, it provides users with a couple of hosting models. For vBulletin hosting, we recommend SiteGround.
How to Install vBulletin
Most CMSs are easy to install and there are a number of methods designed to simplify the process.
Script Installer method
A host typically gives you some sort of control panel like cPanel in your host account, which includes a tool like Softaculous script installer which lets you install a CMS in just a few clicks.
The problem is that those script installers usually only include free, open-source software, meaning that vBulletin is not included, so you have to install it on your server yourself.
VBulletin Installation Guides
Luckily, it's not too hard and there are plenty of guides available on the web to walk you through the process. Check the vBulletin site for instructions.
Steps to Install VBulletin
The main steps, which are similar on any host, are to:
- Get a vBulletin license
- Create a MySQL database.
- Download vBulletin software and edit the configuration files.
- Upload the vBulletin files.
- Run a vBulletin install script.
Even though a cPanel control panel doesn't let you install vBulletin directly, it will make uploading, editing, and running files easier than having to do it through a terminal. I recommend finding a hosting provider that does offer cPanel in your host plan just for convenience.
Points to Remember
What to look for in a vBulletin host:
- Minimum PHP 5.4.0 and MySQL 5.5.0
- Large amounts of disk space and bandwidth
- Fast servers (SSDs or custom configuration for vBulletin)
- Web security features (backups, security monitoring)
- A simple way to install vBulletin.
My Top 3 vBulletin hosts
Most hosts can run vBulletin forums without any problem, so it's really about finding the forum host that does it best for you and your budget.
SiteGround is a great all around host and offers specific vBulletin hosting plans. While you can run vBulletin on any plan, these vBulletin-specific plans are on cheap, shared hosting.
They're great for starting out with a small forum. On top of the latest PHP version, these servers also come with optimized MySQL to help lower loading time for users. Finally, you have full access to your "mod_rewrite" and ".htaccess" files so that you can configure your forum to be both user and search engine friendly.
InMotion Hosting is another solid vBulletin host. All plans are affordable and come with a free copy of cPanel.
You also get free backups to ensure that user posts are never lost, and free SSD drives to improve site speed. InMotion Hosting has great support documentation on a huge variety of topics, including guides specific to vBulletin.
Finally, if you're running a high traffic forum, Liquid Web might be the best vBulletin hosting option for you. There's no shared hosting, and all the plans are relatively expensive, but they offer top performance.
All hosting packages are managed, which means that Liquid Web takes care of backups and making sure your hosting server is secure. They are built to handle high traffic with ease and handle user requests incredibly quickly.
Finally, they have an amazing 24/7 support team that will help you with just about any problems you run into.
vBulletin Hosting Frequently Asked Questions
What is the primary purpose of vBulletin?
Those who are interested in installing vBulletin are looking for a way to build an online community, powered by a forum or bulletin board management system.
The vBulletin software application has been one of the top providers in this space for many years.
What is the history of vBulletin?
vBulletin has been serving customers for more than 15 years, dating back to the first version that was released in early 2000.
Over the years, many versions of the software application have been released, ensuring that users always have access to the top features and most advanced safety and security measures.
Who is responsible for the current development and management of vBulletin?
This internet forum software application is developed and maintained by vBulletin Solutions, Inc., currently a division of Internet Brands.
Do any of the most popular online forums rely on vBulletin?
vBulletin has thousands upon thousands of customers, including some of the biggest names spanning a variety of industries and categories.
Some of the most popular online forums powered by vBulletin include Offtopic.com, PBNation, Bodybuilding.com, Fan Forum, and Two Plus Two.
Although the overall look and feel of these forums may not be identical, each one is powered by vBulletin software.
Can vBulletin be used for more than building a website with a forum?
It is a common myth that vBulletin can only be used as forum management software. However, it has many other uses.
For example, it can also be used as a content management system (CMS). As a CMS, vBulletin gives people the ability to build a site with a forum while also using the same system for posting blog content and publishing pages.
Using vBulletin makes for a more efficient and effective experience, as two systems are not required.
Is vBulletin free to use?
While some forum software applications are Open Source, this is not the case with vBulletin. There is a licensing fee required to use the software. Furthermore, users are restricted in terms of what they can and cannot do in terms of modifications.
How much does it cost to use vBulletin?
This depends on the version of vBulletin you are interested in. The most popular is vBulletin 5 Connect. This can be purchased for $249.
What are the different types of vBulletin?
There are two types of vBulletin software.
vBulletin Connect is for those who are interested in the self-hosted version. With this, you are required to purchase a license and then install it on your own hosting plan.
The other option is vBulletin Cloud. This is a software as a service solution, providing you with the ability to have the company host it for you for a regular subscription fee.
What do you get for your money?
In addition to a professionally designed and regularly updated and maintained product, vBulletin comes with full support and a customer service team.
Full support makes it easier for some people to spend the money on the software, as they know they are getting a lot of bang for their buck.
They also have the opportunity to seek help from the company should they run into an issue, such as a bug or problem with installation.
What are the best hosting companies for vBulletin?
If you opt for vBulletin Connect, you will need to purchase you own hosting plan. At that point, you are in a position to install the software and begin using it to build your online community.
Although most hosting companies provide support for vBulletin installation, it is important to check on this before making a purchase.
Some of the top vBulletin hosting companies include Siteground, A2 Hosting, IX Web Hosting, Web Hosting UK, and Daily Razor.
Is vBulletin worth the money?
There are Open Source software programs that provide similar features and functionality as vBulletin.
WordPress, for instance, has some of the same features in terms of publishing content and media. There are also forum plugins available. vBulletin costs money, but it is also the leader in this space.
For those who don’t mind parting with the licensing fee, the end result is a stable software application that is updated on a regular basis and maintained by skilled development professionals.
What are the top features of vBulletin?
vBulletin continues to add new features with each version. Some of the top features at this time include: built-in search engine optimization (SEO), world-class security, easy customization, social functionality, and support for many types of media.
What are vBulletin add-ons?
There are several vBulletin add-ons available for an additional fee, including Mobile Suite, Branding Free, Premium Customer Support, and Professional Installation and Upgrade.
These add-ons offer an added benefit to the user. With Mobile Suite, for example, you will receive native Android and iOS mobile apps customized to match your forum.