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Upgrading from a vb3 forum to a vb5, my experience over all positive

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  • Upgrading from a vb3 forum to a vb5, my experience over all positive

    I've had a vb3 forum since 2009. In 2012 I opened a second unrelated vb4 forum.

    WHY I DECIDED TO UPGRADE FROM VB3 to VB5 - issues that were coming up with the vb3 forum
    Recently I decided to upgrade the vb3 to a vb5 forum. Other than a nagging feeling that the site should be upgraded, there were two main issues with the vb3 forum that were coming up:

    1) Since vb3 doesn't allow direct posting of images in posts, all images were posted via something like imageshack. Over time, imageshack images would disappear (the links would resolve to no image), possibly because the free hosting accounts on which they were hosted were being closed down, and when that happened we'd need to go in, and figure out what exactly the missing images were (which was hard to do because more recent imageshack image URLs have completely random text in them that does not reference the actual name of the uploaded image file), and then re-host them on imageshack, then revise the forum post image URL to re-post the images on vb3.

    Basically, the point was that this old system of being able to post images in posts only via URL was starting to fail us as hosting of old images was falling off. (Not to mention that it is a pain to always have to first host, then post an image.)

    2) For some reason, perhaps due to PHP upgrades on my shared server, certain features in vb3 stopped working. Even reverting to an older version of PHP on the server wasn't solving the issue however. Some of the links in the navigation bar were no longer working, such as the Quick Links and even the link to Advanced Search under the Search link. As well, at the top under "Your notifications" people had "Unread Private Messages" but the link was not bold and not working.

    And then even clicking on a member's username in a post opened the links underneath to send a private message, but the links did not work.

    Basically it got so the only way to access private messages was via User CP. And I was starting to get emails from forum members saying that they could not send PMs at all.

    (All this was happening even though nothing had been updated or modified in the forum for some time. Tech Support from vbulletin and my hosting company did not solve the problem.)

    A third reason for me to upgrade is that vb3 is not at all mobile friendly, and even the mobile styles/themes I tried out were just too minimalistic to be of great use.

    DECIDED TO GO WITH VB5 not VB4 for the upgrade
    Anyway, I decided to go all the way to vb5 on the vb3 forum, and not the interim step to vb4. I figured, why bother with half measures, and as well, 5.1.6 had just come out and seemed stable enough from the tests I did on it with the online demo vbulletin created for me.

    CREATED PASSWORD PROTECTED VB4 and VB5 TESTFORUMS BEFORE DOING THE ACTUAL UPGRADE
    Once I purchased and downloaded the vb5 software, I created a password protected test forum folder. Actually, I went ahead and created both a password protected vb4 testforum and vb5 testforum2 directory. I used SSH to backup the original vb3 database, and created two new databases, one for the vb4 testforum and the second for the vb5 testforum2 that were restored with the old data.

    I upgraded both of the test forums such that I ended up with a test vb4 and a test vb5 forum. I strongly suggest that when upgrading from a completely different version of vb that you create a test forum directory.

    There were some inevitable issues that arose even getting the new test forums to function, such as disabling mods in the vb4 testforum, and updating the .htaccess code in the vb5 testforum2, but I got them to work with help from vbulletin support, which has been extremely helpful during this process.

    WHY I PREFERRED VB5 to VB4
    I quickly determined that vb5 was a better software for my needs. It just has more features, and more modern features, such as the way private messages work - with each message appearing in its own window above the old one in a thread. The vb4 private message system isn't all that different from the vb3 one. Also, vb5 allows for modular editing of pages, by sliding in modules and then editing them. I also like the fact that vb5 is responsive and changes sizes to adapt to web and mobile platforms. Facebook is fully integrated with vb5, which is important to any forum, while it is not, as I understand it, working correctly with vb4 at this time.

    Of course, on the down side, some of the mods I liked in vb3 - such as itrader, moods, post thank you hacks, anonymizer, etc. either are not yet available or do not work in 5.1.6 while some of these mods are available for vb4. Another mod that doesn't work in vb5 is the vbSEO acronym expander which allows any word in a post to be automatically made into a hyperlink - there is no such mod or feature for vbulletin yet.

    But over all I decided to go with vb5.

    UPGRADE PROCESS - TESTING EVERYTHING FIRST IN THE TEST FORUM
    I spent several days going back and forth with vbulletin support as I worked on the vb5 testforum2 to implement the changes I wanted and to make it look exactly the way I wanted it to appear, with all the Google ads in the right place, logos, etc. Inevitable issues arose such as what to do with Miserable Users, how to integrate Facebook, as well as adjusting settings in the vb5 to mirror the settings in vb3, which some settings do not carry over automatically and their placement/access in admin control panel has changed. All of these issues now seem in the distant past although they were in fact resolved just days ago, and were headaches as they came up.

    CREATING A PUNCH To-Do LIST FOR THE UPGRADE
    As I went along with testing and changing, I wrote up a Punch List of what needed to be done step by step as soon as I upgraded the real site from vb3 to vb5. That way my forum would be down the minimum amount of time possible, and I would know EXACTLY what to do immediately upon uploading and upgrading.

    UPGRADE ITSELF WENT PRETTY SMOOTHLY
    To do the upgrade, I closed the vb3 forum, renamed the old vb3 directory to something else and created a new empty directory the same name as the old vb3 directory. This was the recommended upgrade procedure from vb3 to vb5, to install in a clean directory. When done, I was supposed to copy certain files over to the new vb5 directory, such as custom avatars, but I haven't done this and for whatever reason the avatars are still there, so maybe there will be no need to copy anything over.

    Of course before upgrading I also did a new backup of the vb3 database again using SSH, and a full backup of the entire vb3 site via my hosting cpanel. Actually, the first time I started the upgrade process I ran out of time because I had to leave for an appointment and since I didn't want to leave my forums closed for the day, I had my hosting company restore the vb3 site from backup, which worked fine and was free since I had my own full backup right there available. (My hosting company charges to restore via backup unless one provides one's own copy of the backup.)

    After that false start, later that night I did the upgrade, all the way, and quickly went through my Punch List. Luckily no major issues occurred as I was ready and primed, having tested the site for long enough at the testforum2.

    OVER ALL HAPPY WITH VB5 AND GLAD DID THE UPGRADE
    Over all, I am glad we did the upgrade. The one perhaps major issue that remains unresolved - and may never be resolved - is that since my old vb3 site had URLs created by vbseo, these old links are not resolving to the new ones created by vb5. I am considering hiring someone to write the .htaccess code to make this happen, but not sure that it may be done as the rewriting/redirecting may interfere with whatever redirecting code is already in the vb5 .htaccess that redirects standard vb3 and vb4 URLs to vb5.

    There are many forums out there with hyperlinks posted that refer to specific threads in my vb3 forum, that now resolve nowhere. To address this for now, I updated my "invalid URL" message pages to include a notice that the forums were recently updated and that whatever content brought the user to this page still exists, and to just search via titles only for the updated URL. (lol, I worded it better in my message, but that is the gist of it - to advise people that the CONTENT still exists just the URL has been changed, and to search for it on the forum.)

    However, notwithstanding these now "broken" URLs, for whatever reason, my forum traffic jumped upon doing the upgrade. Whether it be real people or Google robots, I don't know, but while I had an average of thirty people logged on at a time before, now I have over two hundred at a time, and this sort of traffic is remaining steady. That kind of jump must be real people not just 'bots. Mine was a somewhat popular forum anyway (over a thousand unique visitors / page views per day average), but at this rate forum traffic will go up following vb5 upgrade, not down. And anyway, the primary Google links to my site were not deprecated because those involved just the website name + the /forums so those major URLs that refer to the primary forum URL remained the same. In other words, most of the backlinks for my site remain intact - it's just the hyperlinks created within and without my forum that go to specific threads or posts at my forum that no longer resolve correctly.

    I am hoping that as time goes on the mods I loved for vb3/vb4 will become available for vb5. I don't really see a reason to remain on vb3 - it's like the dark ages compared to vb5, and over all, after testing, as noted I decided to go with vb5 rather than vb4, and comparing the two forums side by side, I prefer vb5. Sometimes you just have to let go of the past and move on.

    By the way, I recommend maintaining the password protected test forum to try out any changes or mods in the future before implementing on the real site.
    Last edited by MDawg; Fri 3rd Apr '15, 6:01pm.

  • #2
    Thank you for your feedback.
    Translations provided by Google.

    Wayne Luke
    The Rabid Badger - a vBulletin Cloud demonstration site.
    vBulletin 5 API - Full / Mobile
    Vote for your favorite feature requests and the bugs you want to see fixed.

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    • #3
      vb 5.1.7 seems to run faster than 5.1.6

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      • #4
        I take it back - it was apparently just that my shared server was running faster the night I installed 5.1.7 Right now I notice not much difference between 5.1.6 and 5.1.7 speed wise.

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        • #5
          I'm at 5.1.9 patch 3 now, there are still some bugs I would like addressed but over all vb5 working for me.

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          • #6
            Now a year in, running vb 5.2.1 on one forum, and vb 4.2.3 on the other.

            Advantages to vb4, include:

            -More hacks
            -More template modifications
            -Less bugs, since it has been around longer

            What else? I can't really think of much else.

            Advantages to vb5, include:

            -Superior PM - really much better - all linear, and none of this archaic "quote" business.
            -Runs faster (especially now in PHP 7)
            -Facebook and other social media integration superior
            -Site Builder modularity
            -A little easier to modify or set up (within the confines of site builder and other tools) "quick setup" etc.
            -Avatars appear right on the front page
            -Simpler integration of Google Adsense and Analytics
            -DIRECT posting of images and videos (none of this, first "hosting" it via tinypic, etc., then posting it). ***
            *** PLUS over time you needn't worry about your disappearing images on your site posts as the hosting services delete the hosted pics!

            Vb5 mobile friendly / responsive, plus the availability of the iOS and Google Android apps.

            The real disadvantage is just in the switchover IF your URLs end up different on the new site (which was the case for me, because I was updating from a vb3 site using VBSEO and the URLs created by VBSEO are different from vb5). That can be a killer for backlinks, but I survived and my vb5 site rank is steadily rising.

            I don't see why SEO rank would change whatsoever in a switch from vb whatever to vb5 if the URLs remained the same.


            And of course the biggest advantage to vb5 is that vbulletin is devoted to updating vb5 not vb4. And as time goes on, the advantages to vb4 should fade.
            Last edited by MDawg; Thu 19th May '16, 1:34pm.

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            • #8
              My vb3 forum ran vbseo, and any URLs in that old vbseo format did not redirect to their new vb5 equivalent. When I first did this upgrade to vb5, I went through and one by one changed some of the internal URLs in posts to the new format. (At my forum, a lot of posts refer to other posts, via URL.)

              I finally got around just recently to going painstakingly through Every Single Thread in my forum and I do mean every single one, there are maybe a couple thousand threads in my forum not overwhelming but not insignificant either, and scrolling through each thread - then as I noticed any Blueline hyperlink I would click on it:

              1) Some of these hyperlink URLs I had already converted to the vb5 format a year ago, and these were fine, landed where they were supposed to land.

              2) Some of these were URLs going to outside links. For inexplicable reasons, some of these old URLs were fine and some (dating from 2009-2010) were going nowhere, corrupted to some weird format via some php file called redirector.php
              For these URLs I had to somehow figure out where they were supposed to go or Google the words in the URL to find the correct link and replace the old dead link with the correct one.

              In some cases the content had gone dead so I went ahead and supplanted it with a new URL to a new content source (news article, etc.) that was still alive.

              3) Most of the links in question, hundreds of them, were internal links in posts referring to a different post at my forum, and where these were in the old vbseo format, they were landing on a 404 redirect page, and I figured out where they were supposed to go and replaced each one with the new correct URL.

              As I went along I created a MSFT Word file with all of these new format URLs in it, because many tended to be repeated, and then I could just search for these new URLs with one word in this .doc to find them quickly as they recurred.

              Also as I did all this I sometimes had to edit/delete/paste the URL link and save the post more than once, until the mod I use Title Tag Grabber AND Video Embedding by BOP5 for VB5 would engage, because this mod sometimes takes more than one pass to "capture" the external title link if the server is very busy (such as when too many hundreds of people are on my site) and it takes too long for the post to save.


              If you're thinking, wow, a lot of work, yes! it was because it takes some effort to explain what I did let alone to have done it, but now I'm done and every single internal link in my forum directs to where it is supposed to - none to the old vbseo format which had landed them on a dead page.

              4) While I was at it, I uploaded direct .jpg images to all of my posts over the years where I had posted hosted imageshack images. Imageshack went dead on me last year because I had multiple free accounts that I let all go dead. Anyone who has used imageshack knows that starting a couple of years ago they stopped referring to the actual name of the image file (such as for example mdawg_pic.jpg) rather it all became a jumble of words and letters, so the only way I was able to locate the original images I had posted up there on my posts was by content and by date the post was made - I would look for an image on my computer that was created on that date the post was made.

              Seriously, a lot of detail work, but it's all done now! and forum looks beautiful as it should no more dead links or dead images.

              5) There are some backlinks out there that point to these old dead vbseo style links. Most of my backlinks are simple ones to my forum in general, e.g.:
              http://www.myforum.com/forums

              but some are not and refer to a specific post or thread on my forum. Any former dead link goes to a special Invalid Page URL message I wrote, for example anyone going to:

              http://www.myforum.com/forums/jhgdagj
              goes to a message on the forum 404 page that informs people of the upgrade in links/ change in URL format, and advises them that the content remains but that due to an upgrade in the forum URL formats have changed and they should just SEARCH for the content now via a title only search to find it. That way anyone who ends up on a dead (back)link gets a heads up to that this is happening because of an upgrade, and not because my forum has gone downhill or lost content.

              I believe that taking care of all of the above - making sure no internal dead links - should boost SEO.


              By the way, it's interesting, my usual traffic (lately) at the my forums is about - fifty users logged on at a time, but during the times I was on there and updating threads and maybe adding a new post here and there traffic exploded to nearly 200 users logged on at the same time, to the point that I was getting occasional Error 500 Server Errors because too many operations at once. Obviously a lot of robots as well scouring the new or changed content, but real people too.
              Last edited by MDawg; Thu 28th Apr '16, 7:30pm.

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