PHPBB3 Hosting: Things to Look For

phpBB is one of the best free bulletin board software solution you can use for a discussion forum or can power your entire website. While building with PHPBB is fun; server restrictions on its resource usage is definitely not.

FREE Hosting for PHPBB?

Now that you’re here, you probably have got a forum of some sort or contemplating to build one. If you’ve already tried free web hosts, you might have noticed some hosts start complaining the moment your forums get a bit active. Some (read all) tend to disable certain features such as installing MODs, exporting data etc. and even make it difficult to move away from by charging you to get a backup of your own data.
That said, a shared hosting package is the very minimum you should consider buying for your PHPHBB powered website. A couple of dollars well spent will save you a lot of headache down the road.

Resource Usage Policy is the Secret

Most shared hosting packages comply to the basic needs of a standard PHPBB install. However, where they differ is in the resource usage limits. More often than not a good sized PHPBB forum (or any similar bulletin board system) would experience some sort of “excessive resource usage” issues and in worse cases, a suspension by the host. Some hosts are notorious with overselling and you get a meagre portion of server resources for your sites. Expect the “resources” errors.
Having handled more than 200 PHPBB forums in past 10 years, I could share with you a good rule of thumb! The shared hosting you’re buying should be able to run smoothly with about 40 concurrent users on your site at any given time. That’s just an approximation based on the types of issues we have noticed on busier sites. 40 concurrent users are not a small number though. If your board has more than that, you can probably monetize the traffic well and invest in a dedicated server.
Over the years, PHPBB systems has evolved to be a highly scalable one, with highly optimized database queries and built-in caching system. There’s not really a lot to optimize in your PHPBB installation. These queries make a large chunk of resource usage on your website and keep in mind the following while selecting a web host:

  • How many CPU seconds you are allowed to use in a minute (e.g. 40 seconds in a minute)
  • How many simultaneous processes you can run
  • What the limits are for database size and query processing

Once you’ve compared this across hosts, do search on the web for entries related to PHPBB errors, resource, database etc. and that should give you a fair idea of what to expect from the respective hosts.

To conclude, here’s the stats from one of our new PHPBB forums hosted on mid-level shared hosting package of a well-known host:

Number of posts 39220
Posts per day 97.35
Number of topics 988
Topics per day 8.77
Number of users 765
Users per day 1.23

And the board is thriving without any issues until now. It’s relatively small; but we’re ready to move hosts if we encounter a problem on the shared hosting.

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