What Kind Of VPS Do I Need For A vBulletin Forum?

I’m asked this question pretty regularly, because vBulletin forums are often setup with shared hosting and fly under the shared hosting radar until traffic, robots and memory consumption bring the forum to the hosting provider’s attention which usually end up with the vBulletin forum being asked to leave.

When that happens, the vBulletin forum owner is in a state of panic fearful of the downtime and reputation of the forum being associated with downtime and scrambling for so many hosting options.

First, we need to find a VPS based on your forum’s needs.

If you are a small or brand new forum, this is good. I would recommend an OpenVZ VPS with probably 1gb RAM minimum, 2gb of burstable RAM, 30gb of disk space and 500gb – 1000gb of network transfer on a 100Mbps connection or better (such as shared Gigabit). You would need 2 CPU cores minimum, but I would recommend anywhere between 4 – 8 CPU cores total with a high clock speed. 8 AMD processors running at 1Ghz would work also.

This setup can run you anywhere from $10 – $30.

The reason I recommend OpenVZ for this situation is if you need more RAM, such as you doubled your forum membership or more active users are online at once, you can submit a support ticket to your hosting company and purchase another 1gb of RAM and more burstable RAM without rebooting your vBulletin forum.

If you chose Xen, which I recommend and see my point below, you would have to reboot your Xen VPS on each downgrade and upgrade so it could take anywhere from less than 15 seconds of downtime to 5 minutes depending on the node.

If you are a medium sized forum or expecting large amounts of growth through advertising, link exchanges with other forums, or are just a successful forum operator you should really look into Xen VPS hosting.

The difference between the OpenVZ example above and a similar Xen configuration is only about $5 more per month with the same resources but the advantages are tremendous. KVM is very similar to Xen and if your provider does not offer Xen but KVM, KVM is perfectly acceptable and highly recommended.

  • You do not share resources with other clients, like with OpenVZ.
  • If you are guaranteed 1gb of RAM, nobody else can take that RAM.
  • If you are guaranteed 2 or 4 CPUs, it’s yours for the taking.
  • Xen allows you to install kernel modules, such as PPTP.
  • Xen HVM allows you to recompile your own kernels*

*Note: most “Xen VPS” providers are Xen PV. Ask if they are Xen HVM. A good rule of thumb is if the provider offers Windows, which is not supported on Xen PV but with Xen HVM, that they can probably set you up with a Xen HVM account.

Second, we need to determine what hosting location will work for your vBulletin forum

If your forum has a majority of US members, why would you move your forum overseas to somewhere like Turkey or Romania? With the way the Internet works, a connection goes to another piece of networking equipment and is routed to another piece of equipment to eventually be transferred to your hosting provider’s data center and servers. In networking speak, this is called “hops”.

A good example of how hops work is a public transit bus. This bus goes all over town but needs to make stops at various points on it’s route. Each stop could be thought of as a “hop”, after that stop the bus goes to it’s next “hop” on it’s route until it goes to your destination where you get off the bus. This is not a perfect example but it gives you an example because most people do not understand how the Internet works.

If you host your vBulletin forum overseas, such as in the UK or Germany which I would recommend if you wanted to host your vBulletin VPS in an EU location, it takes on average an additional 75 – 150ms to leave the United States, go through an underwater fiber optic cable in the Atlantic Ocean and show up in a UK data center. If you move your location to somewhere like Turkey or Romania, this could take additional “hops” (or stops like in our bus example), which could increase the lag of your forum.

Your forum could be hosted on a $10,000 piece of server hardware with access to 128gb of RAM but if you’re hosted in a bad location, your forum performance will always be slow to visitors trying to access it.

Germany is a well connected country, with bandwidth everywhere, so I feel that its a good choice for vBulletin forum hosting. However, the UK does not have the same capacity in my experience as Germany. I’ve noticed that bandwidth is more expensive and not as plentiful with VPS hosting packages as German VPS servers. There is an extra 20-50ms delay between UK and Germany, so please consider this to the 75 – 150ms delay from the US across the Atlantic and into the EU.

In conclusion, vBulletin hosting on a VPS has great rewards over shared web hosting. You have dedicated resources, your own SQL server and can install requirements on your server to meet vBulletin or a plugin’s needs whereas if you were with a shared web hosting provider, they may or may not enable such a PHP requirement for a plugin as it would cause some downtime with their webserver.

However, since you’re running the VPS you are now technically the system administrator and the responsibility is with you, the forum owner, to maintain and operate your VPS server unless you hire a server management company or arrange for managed support for your vBulletin forum. If you Google “vBulletin consultant”, there are numerous companies willing to assist you with migrating from shared web hosting to virtual private server hosting, setting up a vBulletin forum on virtual private servers and even maintaining your forum. The advantage of a vBulletin consultant over a server management company or with your hosting provider is that the consultant has more experience with vBulletin as the management company or hosting company support staff only have limited experience with operating, upgrading and maintaining vBulletin which can be tricky sometimes.

Note: Please keep checking in as I will create a tutorial about how to setup a basic vBulletin forum on a virtual private server. Thank you