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  • questions before buying

    hello everyone,

    i'm deciding whether to go with vbulletin or not and i need some questions answered before i decide. first a bit of background: i run a relatively small automotive community forum based on phpbb, there are about 1200 users now and in two years they posted around 70k messages. not quite a lot of traffic. i'm not making any money out of that forum and the only reason for considering vbulletin is that i'm completely tired of phpbb, its maintenance cost (in terms of my time) is huge. i may be ready yet to spend some money on commercially supported software and (hopefully) forget all that headache but i need to resolve some matters first. currently i'm running moderately modded phpbb 2.0.22 with the following essential mods:
    - "official" attachment mod, files are stored on disk and there are about 2000 of them, taking about 2g of space
    - phpbbgarage
    - knowledge base (phpkb)
    - file base (pafiledb)

    these questions are the absolute dealbreakers for me, i.e. if an answer is "no" then it's no-go:
    1. almost all messages are in russian using windows-1251 codepage but stored as latin1 since phpbb2 didn't support unicode. question is, are there any trouble importing that data into vb? i'd prefer having it converted to utf-8 but the same win1251-latin1 scheme could do if i have to. i know there are russian language packs for vb but i need to know if there are any success stories for phpbb-vb conversion for cyrillic-based forums.
    2. how do you deal with attachments? i've read that vb stores attachments in db which i personally find a questionable practice at best. considering the amount of files and space taken by existing attachment base on my forum, do you think it feasible or even possible to import all this into db? does your import script support attachment mod? if there is no other way to store attachments, how do you deal with db backups in a possible hosting move scenario?
    3. is it possible to implement mail throttling using vb tools? i've already had a couple of rows with my hosting provider which blocked the site after it sent more than 300 mail notifications per hour. if it's not possible, are there better ways to avoid this kind of problem? i know no hosting provider who would not limit mails per hour at this or that number so i have to deal with it anyway.
    4. by the way, how is that mail sending feature implemented in vb? i'm not to go into deep technical detail but i had a problem with phpbb, when it couldn't send mail it would either give an error message to user or just give out blank html page. user would go back and press "send" button again, duplicating message all over. how vb deals with that?

    now these are not as crucial but also important for me:
    5. can you recommend something like knowledge base mod? free is preferred. a link to demo site would be invaluable.
    6. same question for file base.
    7. are there any decent cms/portal solutions based off vb? i tried hard but haven't found any for phpbb.

    and finally another very important question: what is your customer support policy for migration projects like that? i'm absolutely sure that in my case there is no chance for "easy as a breeze" migration using automated tools. click-next-click-done is out of question. so what should i expect? if i decide to go on with migration and something goes wrong, am i on my own? or in a need of some guru at $300/hour for the next month? it would be much easier for me to decide after a couple of test runs if there was a trial version available but you people are so paranoid about it that it leaves a real bad taste in my mouth. no trial version, no moneyback, not even a fully-functional demo... not a customer friendly approach for sure.

  • #2
    another question appeared out of the woods: i'm tired of phpbb way of tracking unread messages based on cookies. it's wrong and it does not work properly. now in vb (as well as in phpbb3) there is database tracking. that sure should be good. one consideration, though: i tried to upgrade my forum to phpbb3 and after somewhat successful conversion tried to turn that database tracking on. well, it sucked so hard that i wondered who would use it at all. one second, forum is smooth and fast, next second you turn db tracking on and it suddenly slow as hell. now, it's obvious the problem is in mysql which also sucks, but with phpbb3 it can be solved by moving to any other supported db engine, postgresql for example. did that, it worked faster even than on mysql without db tracking. go figure. well, so the question is: since vb does not support any sql db (mysql ain't being one), how do you guys deal with db tracking? is it as much slow as with phpbb3 or are there any optimizations made for it? 'cause you know, that's really yummy feature, i'd like to have it...

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by nohuhu View Post
      not even a fully-functional demo...
      other then the 24hour time limit, what's not fully-functional about the demo they do give ? (and if you need more time, aldo not in one hit, there's nothing to stop you making new demo boards.. also i think the vb team may at their discretion provide longer lasting demo boards...)

      out of curiosity does phpbb v3.0.4 fail your needs ?? (since i assume all your mods, well most perhaps) would have new version to go with 304....
      (edit: don't worry i guess, i read your 2nd post re one major phpbb 3 item you dislike.)

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Suiram View Post
        other then the 24hour time limit, what's not fully-functional about the demo they do give ? (and if you need more time, aldo not in one hit, there's nothing to stop you making new demo boards.. also i think the vb team may at their discretion provide longer lasting demo boards...)
        this demo is a) outdated b) limited in some very important sections, namely mod management/installation and something else, can't remember offhand and don't want to create another demo just to check. anyway, i do understand technical difficulties with demo sites and why exactly mod management is not available but nevertheless it doesn't make me more willing to buy a cat in a bag. you see, when i choose to use free software i get no support and that's perfectly understandable. no money, my trouble. what concerns me most is what i will get with paid software, it ain't vanilla phpbb i'm running and moving it won't be easy. now don't get me wrong, i expect to do it myself but there ought to be matters i can't resolve myself and i want to be sure there will be someone to help me at least with troubleshooting if not fixing. to pay for the software and then hear "it's not vanilla version, we don't support it" from tech people does not appeal to me at all.

        out of curiosity does phpbb v3.0.4 fail your needs ?? (since i assume all your mods, well most perhaps) would have new version to go with 304....
        (edit: don't worry i guess, i read your 2nd post re one major phpbb 3 item you dislike.)
        it is only one major item i dislike in phpbb3. other major item is that some important mods are not supported in phpbb3 yet and there is no telling whether they will be at all and if so, when. for example, i have waited for phpbbgarage for phpbb3 to come out of beta stage for an year and it's still there. kinda lost with knowledge base and file db too. not to mention that new phpbb3 modding rules which are downright crazy -- i'm currently at 2.0.22 with 2.0.23 available and i don't update it out of fear of breaking something, but with phpbb3 i'm not even afraid, i'm totally sure. you take a look at it, it's a great example of how not to do things. i'm not a php guru but i did enough software design in my time to understand some basics. going with phpbb3 will mean constantly increasing level of headache not even compared to the current one. i don't need that.

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        • #5
          oh and sorry i didn't look at the date, merry christmas everybody!

          Comment


          • #6
            I am not sure on the status of vBGarage or other similar add-ons. The hardest part will be migrating the data. You'll probably have to do this entirely yourself.

            Knowledgebase and File Base, again you'll have to find similar add-ons at vBulletin.org.

            vBulletin is currently version 3.7.x. 3.8.x is coming out in the next weeks/months and builds on 3.7 so no mods should be broken. vBulletin 4 is just on the horizon now and we have no idea what that will do for modifications. 3.8 is a solid codebase and you could potentially run it for years with no ill effects.

            1. Don't know about the language issue. Might do some searching on the ImpEx forum here at vBulletin.com to see if there have been any problems with encoding.

            2. Attachments are built into vBulletin. They can be stored in the database or in the file system.

            3. I don't know what mail throttling is included in vBulletin.

            4. Well if you are having problems with your webhost as far as sending mail, vBulletin supports SMTP which just means you can route e-mail through any server you want including Google Mail.

            Most vBulletin forums do not have a lot of users directly e-mailing each other through the forum. Most of the e-mails generated by vBulletin are notifications that a thread or post has been updated or that a private message has been sent. You might want to turn off users e-mailing each other altogether. If they want to e-mail each other, they can exchange private messages.

            You can turn off e-mails for PM updates, thread updates, etc. and have some control over how much e-mail gets sent from your forum.


            7. CMS and Portal are really two different things. To me a Portal is a front-end for your forum which allows some announcements, calendar, but is mostly displays the popular forum topics. For that, vBAdvanced is a free add-on for vBulletin that does exactly that. For a CMS, which allows you to build a full website with content, articles, and has a looser relationship with your forum, there are things like vBDrupal and others but I don't know too much about them. CMS is really a whole different animal.

            8. Customer Service for importing your forum from phpBB 2 (even with the Russian encoding) to vBulletin should be very good. It is handled in the ImpEx (Import/Export) forum. As for importing data that is buried in your add-ons like the garage, knowledgebase, file base, etc. you will probably be largely on your own.

            9. The database forum "read/unread" tracking is not a huge drain on the database performance that I have seen. I cannot imagine living without it. vBulletin spent a lot of time making sure that it was reasonably efficient so most people can use it. I have had no problems.

            Comment


            • #7
              feldon23,

              thanks for your replies, i see community here is strong. however i'd like to see an answer from someone on staff. frankly, their reaction speed or rather an absence of any reaction whatsoever does not impress me at all. :/ does their technical support work the same way?

              Comment


              • #8
                Please bear in mind this is a Christmas week, many staff will be off until after the new year - obviously a skeleton staff are around, but response time on these forums is likely to be slower.

                I believe you can also email them directly if you have any questions.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Yes if you have any questions you can email [email protected].
                  Although there is no 100% guarantee that they'll answer you quicker this way, you can give it a try.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by nohuhu View Post
                    feldon23,

                    thanks for your replies, i see community here is strong. however i'd like to see an answer from someone on staff. frankly, their reaction speed or rather an absence of any reaction whatsoever does not impress me at all. :/ does their technical support work the same way?
                    This forum is mainly for community driven interaction, if you want replies from the staff I recommend using the email system above. Their support speed and answers has always been brilliant for me.
                    - TomJames

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by nohuhu View Post
                      feldon23,

                      thanks for your replies, i see community here is strong. however i'd like to see an answer from someone on staff. frankly, their reaction speed or rather an absence of any reaction whatsoever does not impress me at all. :/ does their technical support work the same way?
                      If you want a direct, professional response from Jelsoft, e-mail them. I would not assume that such a response will appear here. If they see that someone has answered all the questions reasonably well, they do not always post in these threads.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        thanks everyone for your answers. i didn't intend to offend anyone, i guess it's just this new year rush is hard on me.
                        well, i guess i'll leave it at that for now and will come back nagging jelsoft after holidays.
                        happy new year everyone!

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