A message board (or bulletin board) allows a community of users to have discussions via a web-based interactive forum. From the 1970s to the mid-1990s, electronic bulletin board systems (or "BBSes") existed before the rise of the World Wide Web. They were typically run by hobbyists who allowed users to connect via a modem to their system. After the mid-1990s, web-based message boards began to replace old-fashioned BBSes, although sometimes these new message boards and forums are still referred to as bulletin boards.

Hosting Requirements

When you choose a webhosting service to host your board, you will often need to pick between Linux and Windows hosting. We strongly recommend that you go with a Linux-based server, as that operating system tends to be far more reliable, secure and less expensive than Windows-based servers. They are the de facto standard in hosting these days, and it will be easier for you to move between one host and another if you start off right, with Linux-based hosting.

Shared Hosting

If you're just starting off with a small message board, a shared hosting account might be sufficient. Shared hosting literally shares the resources of a larger server amongst many customers, and is a great way to start off without spending a lot of money. You can typically expect to pay between $10 and $50 per month for a shared hosting service, depending on the features. Here are a few that you might wish to consider:

Dedicated Hosting

If you plan to have a medium to large message board, we'd recommend that you go with a dedicated server. You control the entire resources of a server, and thus your "big board" will have improved performance and responsiveness compared with a shared hosting account. Furthermore, if your board is very successful, it would hamper the performance of your "neighbours" on a shared host, and thus you might received a warning from the company to reduce the resource usage of your account or to migrate it to a dedicated hosting account. You can expect to pay between $100 and $300 per month for a dedicated hosting account, depending on the features.

The most important aspect of choosing a dedicated server is the support you get, and there's one host that we'd recommend beyond all others, namely HostGator. We had a bad experience with a different dedicated server company, but HostGator staff really stepped up, quickly migrating one of our sites to them, and really saved the day for us. We'd give them 10 out of 10 for service.

Software Requirements

When you choose the actual software that runs the message board system, you have a choice between commercial (non-free) software, and open source (free) software. If you're on a tight budget, open source software might be a good choice. Most commercial software allows you to migrate all the data from open source message boards into their own software.

Commercial Message Board Software

The leading commercial message board software is vBulletin. Many of the largest message boards rely on this software, and we'd highly recommend it.

Open Source Board Software

The top open source message board software is phpBB. You can't go wrong with this software, which has a large community of developers and supporters.

Promoting Your Big Board

Word of mouth is the single best way to promote your big board. Happy users will link to topics on your website, and your website will automatically get indexed by the major search engines. However, it doesn't hurt your site to manually submit it to various search engines and directories. The top ones include:

You might also want to promote your site via paid links on search engines, when related topics come up. For example, if you are running a board about Seattle restaurants, you can buy paid links that will show up on Google, Bing and other search engines for those topics on a pay-per-click (PPC) basis. To explore these options, visit:

Other Resources

Here are some other resources that will help you in running your big board: