Whether you are considering hosting your forum with your traditional web host or if you’ve migrated to a service that provides forum hosting in the cloud, it’s critical to understand what to look for in a forum hosting service before you get started.
This checklist will help you determine if the provider you’re considering for your forum community is trustworthy and reliable.
1. Tech Support
What level of tech support does the service provide? Most forums run smoothly but every once in a while, the s*** hits the fan and an immediate resolution is required! Get a sense for the level of support available to you by speaking with the provider to determine their availability and ability to help you solve unexpected problems.
2. Content Delivery Network (CDN)
In this day and age, rich media support has never been a bigger part of the forum experience. When a user uploads a photo, that photo should automatically be ported to a content delivery network (CDN). This approach keeps pages loading fast which keeps users happy and compels participation. Ask your prospective service provider how they handle rich media like images and videos.
3. Automatic Software Updates
There is nothing more tedious than downloading, unzipping, and installing software updates manually. Many people don’t even bother… until there’s an emergency and by then it’s usually too late. We advise you to ask your service provider how software updates to your forum are deployed.
4. Uptime Guarantee and Service Level Agreement (SLA)
Find out how your forum host monitors and guarantees performance. If your potential forum host is unwilling to provide historical reports that demonstrate the company’s uptime history or enter into a specific guarantee regarding their service, this could be a red flag.
5. Statistics and Analytics
Understanding how users behave on your forum and what topics generate the most interest helps you create new content that appeals to your audience. Does your forum host provide sophisticated statistics and analytics that show trending content? Find out before you sign on the dotted line.
6. Performance and Scalability
Over time, forums grow like wildflowers. But wildflowers eventually wilt and wither and return to dust. On the other hand, forum content never dies. This means that forums become more complex when they grow: more users, more posts, more rich media, etc. You need a service provider capable of handling such complexity; one that will allow your community to flourish while protecting and preserving your content.
7. Automatic Backups
Right behind manually running your own software updates, backing up your forum data is one of the most critical-but-still-overlooked tasks. Make sure your forum host does this automatically. We advise backing up data on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
8. Mobile and Tablet Support
Find out what the mobile and tablet experience is like on the platform you’re testing. Is the default site design responsive to different devices? Is there a mobile app for the forum? Answers to these questions will reveal if the company understands the importance of catering to mobile users.
9. Platform Lock-In And Data Ownership
There is nothing more insidious than data lock-in. Ask about the forum host’s policy with regards exporting data should you decide to migrate later on. If you wait until after launching your community to learn about this policy, it might be too late.
10. Advertising policies
If you’re considering a “free” forum hosting service beware that your forum might be covered in ads that you have no control over and generate no revenue from. You deserve the right to include ads at your own discretion. Think twice about working with a forum host that does not give you this control!
Whew! So there you have it: 10 steps to take to ensure you find the best host for your forum community. Some of these questions may be difficult to ask. But don’t be bashful. It’s better to ask the hard questions now so you don’t get burned later. Hopefully, Ninja Post’s answers to the above questions are already obvious. But if you ask us or elaborate, we certainly won’t be offended! We want to make sure we’re on the same page before we proceed.