VBulletin is a popular forum software that you find used by many large websites on the Internet. It is not free, unlike others such as phpBB, PHPWind, or Vanilla, with licenses starting at $249 for vBulletin 5.0 Connect, the latest version of the forum software.
If you purchase vBulletin, you need to install it on a compatible web server. In addition to that, all the customizing and updating falls also on your shoulder, which means that you will spend some time doing so.
The company behind the forum software just announced vBulletin Cloud, a cloud-hosted version of vBulletin that does away with several of these requirements.
Appealing to some users is the fact that the forum will be hosted by vBulletin, which means that you do not need a web server, or install it by yourself.
According to the official page, the remotely hosted forum will be fully customizable just like standalone installations of vBulletin are.
Another benefit here is that the software will get updated automatically, so that you do not have to monitor security updates anymore to protect your forum from exploits targeting those vulnerabilities.
All forums come with 100 Gigabyte of data storage. Here is the current overview of plans available.
- Bronze: 25 Gigabyte of bandwidth, for $14.99 per month if paid annually.
- Silver: 75 Gigabyte of bandwidth, for $29.99 per month if paid annually.
- Gold: 200 Gigabyte of bandwidth, for $59.99 per month if paid annually.
As you can see, vBulletin Cloud is a subscription-based service. While there is no long-time commitment, the operating costs may be higher than purchasing a forum license and installing it on your own system.
The bottleneck in my opinion is the bandwidth that is made available. 25 Gigabyte may seem like a lot, but it is not really that much. If a single forum page has a size of 100 Kilobyte for example, you can deliver approximately 250,000 requests before the bandwidth runs out. And that is not taking into account your own visits to the admin interface or bots that crawl the forum.
The solution is scalable according to the cloud page, which means that you may be required to update the bandwidth, or even jump to a more expensive plan, if your forum reaches the bandwidth barrier of the plan that you have selected.
vBulletin Cloud Pros
- You do not need your own web server to run a forum.
- Maintenance and upgrades are handled by vBulletin.
- Servers optimized for running forum software.
- No need to upgrade the license when a new major version comes out.
- No long term commitment if you pay monthly.
vBulletin Cloud Cons
- Monthly subscription fee.
- Low bandwidth plans.
The initial version of vBulletin Cloud is only for new websites. The makers plan to introduce an import option though that enables existing forum owners to migrate their forum to the cloud hosted forum.
The homepage leaves several questions unanswered. For instance, it is possible to host the forum on your own domain, or do you need to host it on a domain vBulletin assigns to you. I have contacted vBulletin for clarification and will update the review once I have an answer.
Update: vBulletin Cloud supports custom domains. The service is somewhat restricted though in comparison to the regular version of the forum software. It is for example not possible to use third party addons, modifications or styles, and some features, such as use of the PHP module, have been restricted for security reasons.