This is the second post of the “free forum host” series. You can find the post – “Reasons not to use a forum host” here.
I can honestly say that everybody has seen what a forum is. Most people would have used one and some would have owned one. There was a time when setting up forums was a long process and costly but due to technology, this is no longer the case.
Free forum hosting has been around for a long while now. Personally, the last time I used a free forum host for an actual reason other than to see how well a service is, must have been around 2-4 years now.
Regardless, I know enough to know why to use a free forum host and below, I go into details.
Because it is free
First and most often the common reason is that it costs you nothing for you to host a forum. Free forum hosts don’t charge you for the basic service (might do for add-ons for domains, backups etc). How the free forum host supports itself, is the next heading.
Free forum hosts tend to stay around then if you paid for it
Good free forum hosts tend to make enough money to be able to survive without any other income. These free forum hosts tend to use ads (such as Google Adsense) on all hosted forums that can’t be removed by the users. This brings in money that the host needs.
Unlike if you paid for your hosting and put ads on it unless it is a very massive forum, I highly doubt you will be nearing enough to cover the costs. The reason for this is that the free forum host puts ads on ALL the forums and covers it via that.
Some free forum hosts allow you to remove the ads for a one-time cost, but I wouldn’t use these as it means they no longer have any income for your site. Ones that allow you to remove ads every month or on a per-view basis, tend to know what they are doing.
Updates “tend” to be done quickly
With free forum hosts, you typically don’t have any access to the core files that run your forum. The reason for this is that the script they use is programmed in a certain way so that one set of files can be used to power millions of other forums.
When an update comes out for the forum script that is used by your free forum host (such as phpBB) that the patch is often applied quickly. This is often the case if the backend of the script is programmed by itself. If they use a pre-made script, they often have to wait until the creator of that script releases a patch and depending on the bug or flaw, your forum may be easy to deface etc.
Little / no technical knowledge is needed to setup
Unlike hosting your forum, you need little knowledge on how to do so. On your host, you would need to download the forum script and upload it via FTP, SCP or even HTTP. Once you have done that, you will need to create a database (if it needs it) in SSH, Telnet or a control panel if your host gives you one. Once all that is done, you then need to set up the correct permission on files and folders so such things as uploads will work. Once you have done that, you then need to install the forum.
Now, if you have your server, it is even longer to do so. You will first need to install an operating system, get some IP address on your NIC, and install web server software, and database software (if needed). Then you need to install software that can run your forum (Such as PHP, ASP etc). If you plan to use a domain, you will then need to know how to set up DNS.
On a free forum host, you click a link, fill in the form and it is done. You got a forum setup, in no time at all.
Now, this is a major difference between free forum hosts and paid hosts. On a free forum host, the support tends to come from the community and the support is given because they want to, rarely than they are paid. On paid hosts, the support staff typically don’t help with forum problems so you will then need to go to the creator of the forum scripts which can be a hassle.
On free forum hosts, you will never have to fix anything yourself that is caused due to the script. If it is something that you have done due to deleting half the forum, you tend to need to fix that yourself.
And others …
There are other reasons to use a free forum host that isn’t published here. Also, there are millions of free forum hosts out there and it is simply a matter of searching for the one that is right for you.
I won’t post which one to use as admittedly, I no longer know and each forum host is different. If you have any other reasons, please do post them in the comments but please don’t go posting links to free forum hosts – that is what Google is for.
Need to reference?
Ellis, M. (2009). Reasons to use a free forum host. [online] Snat's Narratives & Tales. Available at: https://snat.co.uk/rants/reasons-to-use-a-free-forum-host.html [Accessed 04 Dec 2023].
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