Creating a Forum (AKA Message Board)
1) You can outsource a pre-created board that is hosted on a 3rd party site (remotely hosted), or
2) You can create a message board from scratch on your own server
Video on How to Create a Forum
If you decide to choose option #1 and remotely host (outsource) the message board, then that means another site builds and hosts the board on their servers and they give you certain administrative rights (add your logo, and update colors, etc.)
You do not have complete control over your message board in this instance and you're at the mercy of the company who is hosting it. So if they go out of business, so does your message board.
Not to mention, the address will be something like forumprovider.com/members/abc instead of yourforum.com.
Not an ideal scenario. I'd hate for you to risk losing all your content if the provider ever shut down or changed their terms. Nevertheless, if you choose this route there are a couple of companies I recommend at the bottom of the page.
I Recommend Hosting Your Forum on Your Own Domain
When your forum sits on your own domain, you have complete control over the design and don't have to worry about ever losing your content. Plus, it looks much more professional when you host it yourself.
Can you imagine telling someone to go to forumprovider.com/members/abc every time you want to verbally promote your forum? Who is going to remember that long address?
What You Need to Host Your Own Message Board
The first thing you need to do is reserve your domain name (yoursite.com) and select a web host. You can't host your own forum without these two things.
As far as web hosting goes, you need to choose a regular linux or Windows plan like the ones here.
All of the plans at Website Palace provide one-click forum installations. That means all you have to do is login to your hosting account and select the forum software you want to install. Within seconds, the forum is up and running on yoursite.com.
Other Message Board / Forum Solutions?
If you don't like the forum software options offered at your web host, you aren't limited to those. You can use any forum software that is compatible with your hosting environment.
For my webmaster forum, Website Babble, I use vBulletin. If you watched the video above you probably saw how powerful the software is. I will never use anything other than vBulletin for my forums and it's well worth the price.
I found it quite simple to install the forum once I understood how to upload files to my web host. You can read all about uploading files in my FTP tutorial.
Trust me, you do not have to become a programmer to install vBulletin. I am hardly the technical guru and I picked up on it pretty quickly.
I started by purchasing a license from vBulletin and they provided me with the files that I need to save to my web host.
I had to configure 3 or 4 different files per their instructions, then I uploaded everything to my site, customized my colors/design through their Admin panel and my forum was ready to go.
To be honest, the interface is not the most user friendly at first, but you can go on YouTube to find video tutorials if you need help learning how to use the forum admin area.
The other benefit of using vBulletin is there are a lot of free plugins you can install to make your forum do different things. For example, you can install one that totals up and displays the number of posts for each member in a given month/year. You could use this to run a contest.
You'll find the plugins on the vBulletin.org site.
Here's another option. If you use WordPress, there are plugins you can install that will add a forum right to your blog. For example, bbPress is a free plugin that easily installs like any other WordPress plugin and you'll have an instant forum.
Now, the features aren't as robust as a stand-alone forum like vBulletin. However, if you don't want to save on costs and you already use WordPress, this may be a great solution.
Remotely Hosted Message Board Solutions
If you've decided to outsource a message board provider rather than host it on your own, then you'll need to find a "Remotely Hosted" message board provider.
I don't recommend this method because of the reasons I mentioned above, but I understand not everyone can afford to pay for their website. So here are two options below you can try...
(Free Message Board)
This site offers lots of customizable options and claims you can have an unlimited amount of messages on your board. As an administrator you can edit and delete posts, create and edit categories, and even ban members if necessary.
This is one of the popular message board scripts around. EzBoard has many features of ProBoards (above) along with such features as: a profanity filter, ability to rate users (members), ability to screen posts before they go live, and much more.
More Tips on Launching a Message Board / (Forum)
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