Seeking Advice! Hoping to obtain same PB Forum software & use on PRIVATE server & "clone" the PB's Modus Operndi!

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Stillwaters

Puritan Board Freshman
Greeting PB Administrators,

I'm hoping to MIGRATE an online private Church research group to a private server for private Church theology research.

Can you spare a few minutes to help to envision the scope of this endeavor and what financial costs to expect?

I'm retired from a Computer Science field, though I confess to being old & computer "learning curves" are more formidable in my old age!

LOL

I've determined this MUST be on a Private Server (and not be publicly visible) because we can't afford to be "De-Platformed" in our current political climate like Parler was de-platformed by AWS.

I've been praying long and hard for this to be accomplished if it be our Lord's Will.

Thank you & have a blessed Lord's Day!
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
I don't know much about PB software look-a-likes, but the PB uses XenForo which is pretty pricy for this kind of software. It just happens to be (in the opinion of many) the best platform in the world for this type of interaction. I can only assume that there are loads of free and inexpensive software that do similar things.
 

Stillwaters

Puritan Board Freshman
I don't know much about PB software look-a-likes, but the PB uses XenForo which is pretty pricy for this kind of software. It just happens to be (in the opinion of many) the best platform in the world for this type of interaction. I can only assume that there are loads of free and inexpensive software that do similar things.
Thank you for the information.

We need a sophisticated Forum like PB.

If it is the Lord's Will then hoping for financial ability to manage it.

Any advice is welcome.
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
There are plenty of free and opensource projects similar to XenForo which should be sufficient. phpBB is the most well known, but because it is well known extra attention must be paid to security. I can give more advice tomorrow if wanted as I've set something up similar.
 

Stillwaters

Puritan Board Freshman
There are plenty of free and opensource projects similar to XenForo which should be sufficient. phpBB is the most well known, but because it is well known extra attention must be paid to security. I can give more advice tomorrow if wanted as I've set something up similar.
Yes,
you are correct to wait until tomorrow as it is our blessed Lord's Day!

Thank you in advance.
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
You first need to decide what software you want for your message board. There are a lot of software packages that function generally like what the PuritanBoard uses, which is XenForo. It is paid, and there are also plenty of free and open source options. phpBB is the most common free option. VBulletin is another piece of software that is paid. I believe the PuritanBoard used to use it before XenForo. You can start here to explore some options: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Internet_forum_software

There's a few options you have for how to host your website. Roughly from easiest and cheapest to most difficult and expensive:
  1. Account on a discussion website. This would allow you to create an account with a site that gives you control over your forum, but is running on someone else's system. proboards.com is an example of this. Some you can pay for to get more features, some are not. It sounds like you don't want go this route.
  2. Setting up software on a shared hosting service. There are lots of hosting services which give access to web hosting space and the server software you need to install forum software yourself. You do not have a dedicated server, but it feels sort of like one. You can install hosting software. Examples would be godaddy.com and ionos.com. There are lots of smaller companies too.
  3. VPS (Virtual Private Server) -- getting a dedicated server that another company runs for you. This is one step more advanced and more control than #2 and more expensive. A lot of companies that offer #2 offer #3 as a premium option. Dreamhost is an example of a company that does.
  4. Hosting in a public cloud provider like AWS (Amazon) or GCP (Google). This gives you a great degree of control of your environment but requires more technical know how. From a privacy perspective, #3 and #4 are similar, but you can judge how much you trust the hosting company involved. There are less options for #4.
  5. Have your own physical server. You can run a server in your house, or you can rent space in a data server to run your server(s). This requires a lot of configuration, and you have to decide how much you will do yourself (load balancing, back-ups, UPS, etc.). Some internet service providers do not allow or strongly discourage this option as well.
The further down the list you go, the more security is a concern for how your software and server is configured as well. Unfortunately, many popular software programs used for hosting web sites are frequent sources of cyber-attacks (like Wordpress and phpBB).

If you are really worried about the risk of being shut down, you need to think about all the providers involved in getting your site to the public:
  1. DNS. Who owns the domain name. Any time you hit a .com or a .org or any similar named site you are going through DNS. There is a provider for this service and you have to purchase a domain name.
  2. SSL certificate. If your site has HTTPS (and it should if you care about the sensitivity of the information shared) you will need to purchase an SSL certificate from someone.
  3. Load balancing. PuritanBoard uses CloudFare. This helps to keep the site up when it is receiving large amounts of traffic and can mitigate against attacks like DoS.
  4. Hosting provider, discussed above.
  5. ISP. Who provides the Internet connection for the hosting provider.
Services like CloudFare have shut down sites just like AWS has. Also you have to think about any other services you might use (e.g., if you take payments, who is your payment processor).
 

Stillwaters

Puritan Board Freshman
You first need to decide what software you want for your message board. There are a lot of software packages that function generally like what the PuritanBoard uses, which is XenForo. It is paid, and there are also plenty of free and open source options. phpBB is the most common free option. VBulletin is another piece of software that is paid. I believe the PuritanBoard used to use it before XenForo. You can start here to explore some options: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Internet_forum_software

There's a few options you have for how to host your website. Roughly from easiest and cheapest to most difficult and expensive:
  1. Account on a discussion website. This would allow you to create an account with a site that gives you control over your forum, but is running on someone else's system. proboards.com is an example of this. Some you can pay for to get more features, some are not. It sounds like you don't want go this route.
  2. Setting up software on a shared hosting service. There are lots of hosting services which give access to web hosting space and the server software you need to install forum software yourself. You do not have a dedicated server, but it feels sort of like one. You can install hosting software. Examples would be godaddy.com and ionos.com. There are lots of smaller companies too.
  3. VPS (Virtual Private Server) -- getting a dedicated server that another company runs for you. This is one step more advanced and more control than #2 and more expensive. A lot of companies that offer #2 offer #3 as a premium option. Dreamhost is an example of a company that does.
  4. Hosting in a public cloud provider like AWS (Amazon) or GCP (Google). This gives you a great degree of control of your environment but requires more technical know how. From a privacy perspective, #3 and #4 are similar, but you can judge how much you trust the hosting company involved. There are less options for #4.
  5. Have your own physical server. You can run a server in your house, or you can rent space in a data server to run your server(s). This requires a lot of configuration, and you have to decide how much you will do yourself (load balancing, back-ups, UPS, etc.). Some internet service providers do not allow or strongly discourage this option as well.
The further down the list you go, the more security is a concern for how your software and server is configured as well. Unfortunately, many popular software programs used for hosting web sites are frequent sources of cyber-attacks (like Wordpress and phpBB).

If you are really worried about the risk of being shut down, you need to think about all the providers involved in getting your site to the public:
  1. DNS. Who owns the domain name. Any time you hit a .com or a .org or any similar named site you are going through DNS. There is a provider for this service and you have to purchase a domain name.
  2. SSL certificate. If your site has HTTPS (and it should if you care about the sensitivity of the information shared) you will need to purchase an SSL certificate from someone.
  3. Load balancing. PuritanBoard uses CloudFare. This helps to keep the site up when it is receiving large amounts of traffic and can mitigate against attacks like DoS.
  4. Hosting provider, discussed above.
  5. ISP. Who provides the Internet connection for the hosting provider.
Services like CloudFare have shut down sites just like AWS has. Also you have to think about any other services you might use (e.g., if you take payments, who is your payment processor).
Wow!
It is so kind of you to take this time to help me!

After considering all of the information you provided I have decided to use XenForo. I spoke with them via Chat & email and they are very nice. It comes with 12 months of support too.

Also, my goal is to have our own personal server.

But in the meantime I may have to use a dedicated server and that is pricey each month. But I distrust any other situations because of the political climate.

Back in the 90's I knew how to build a small server and even how to be my own ISP.

But now I'm old and have forgotten most of that.

It is going to be a painful learning curve.

THANKS for the "Load Sharing" tip too! I'd forgotten all about that too.

May I please contact you privately in a few weeks when this progresses further? This is because there are some other issues involved.
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
You can contact me, but I'm probably not the best person. We can see if someone else shows up who knows more than me. :) I'm a CS guy that does DevOps, so I've hit some of this stuff, but have not fully built on what you're looking for. My company runs stuff mostly on AWS so that is where my current expertise is, but at my last job I did setup a server on site. I also have a small personal Raspberry Pi server and have done stuff similarly in the past.

Make sure you figure out what options your ISP has if you are going to host locally. Many "personal" accounts do not allow hosting a web server or make it difficult. At my last job we had a business account with a local fiber optic company (EPB) and we still had to request for the ability to allow incoming traffic to our site. I can't remember for sure, but we may have had to pay for that privilege as well.
 
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