A forum is an Internet site in which online discussion can take place asynchronously, that is, not in real time. This means that – unlike instant messaging or chat rooms – posts go up after a user “sends” it, and users are present to others only through their completed postings. It has developed from the system that went by the name of the bulletin board in times past. In order to run a forum on the World Wide Web, you need to have a host that meets certain criteria. This article will help you find a forum web hosting provider.
Features of Online Forums
Most online forums are structured like a chat page, but recently, forums have also been constructed based on blogs. Forums usually have some particular features that lead to their specialized hosting requirements:
- Forums usually have different levels of allowed participation, often having one or more moderators and/or administrators with the power to delete or edit posts, enable and rescind users’ abilities to post, and a strong voice to keep the discussion civil and on topic and/or meet whatever requirements the site may have. Other participants who are not moderators may be able to post and edit only their own posts. Who can start a thread is another element of control that is sometimes offered?
- Forums may or may not allow attachments to be posted and may regulate the file types that can be added to posts.
- Forums may require registration and passwords in order for visitors to be able to participate.
- Forums may include interactive elements such as polls.
- Forums may allow guests to visit and read but not post.
- Forums may take various approaches to archiving older threads and posts.
- Forums may include simple to complex search functions so that users can find archived posts.
- Forums may be linked to other pages as part of a larger website.
- Forums may be read online or users may have the option of having posts disseminated to them by email.
- Forums store their data in different types of data storage system, for example, MySQL, Oracle, etc.
How Forums Are Created
Forums are developed with forum software programs or weblog software. Content management systems may include forum capabilities. Programs through which one can create a forum range from free to quite expensive. Sometimes forum software is included as part of a forum web hosting deal.
How to Choose Forum Web Hosting
The things you need to be aware of as you look for forum web hosting are:
- Does the forum web host support the programming language in which the forum is written – such as PHP, ASP, ColdFusion, Ruby, Java, Perl, ASP.NET, Python, etc. – or the server requirements listed for the weblog – such as PHP version 4.3 or higher and MySQL 4.0 or higher for WordPress?
- Is the web host running the version of the language that you need?
- Does the web host continue running older language versions side-by-side with new versions to allow you time to update?
- Does the web host specify that forums are supported in the plan description?
- Does the plan have enough space and data transfer allowance to support a forum?
- If your forum becomes a web sensation, does the web host offer plans that will allow you to grow?
- What happens if you go over the usage allowance in a given month? For example, do you pay a one-time penalty or are you automatically kicked up to a higher usage plan permanently?
- Does the forum software offered with the plan, if any, suit your needs?
- Can you run a forum on the web host using forum software other than the particular types that are offered by the web host?