Thanks Jeff, that’s really where it started. We have absolutely no desire to host a forum, but we do want to offer a forum. It was easy to find hosted forums in the $100+/month range, and that is so outside of what we can afford… and also outside of the value to our user community when we compare it to the cost of our other services. As we know, $10/mo buys a server that works 100% well, 24/7. $20/mo runs our entire high-end website with no bandwidth limits. $10 or $20 per month is something we can consider for any service we would think to add. But nothing can justify (to us) +$100 month that doesn’t actually pay for itself.
So let’s look at our stats. We’re not big (2 million page views per year), we’re not for profit. We have a health-related site, with a community that is primarily about recovery. We don’t have advertising (partly because it’s difficult to control the content sufficiently). Our existing forum typically has about 200 active users at any one time, we’ve had about 3,000 forum users over the last 5 years. Visitors are about 50% mobile now.
So if we paid $10/mo for a server (which we don’t), and if we pay $20/mo for site hosting, what should we pay to host a forum? Not what’s available, but what should we pay? I think we should pay $10 or $20/mo for a forum. It’s not my fault that good forum software isn’t available for $10 or $20 month … it’s not your fault that you’ve got to pay the bills.
If we were MSN Cars, we should pay huge money to host our forums, but since we’re just us, we should pay next to no money to host forums. I’m sure there’s a huge market for good forum software in a price-range for groups like us that are tiny but chatty (but not if you also provide hand-holding support levels… I’m not saying that’s affordable for you). So if you’re able to find a metered pricing model, we’re in.
In the meantime, it’s still fair for us to point out that these email hosting companies are too SPAM focussed, we don’t send much and none of it is SPAM, and all of our other services (for $10 and $20 a month) are able to provide us with (essentially) 100% uptime, 100% deliverability, it should be easy to host us small-fry with the same kind of performance guarantee in the email hosting realm. It should be affordable to send 50,000 emails for $10/mo with 100% deliverability, and automatic roll-over/retry if they bounce due to a SPAM block being slapped on one of their IP’s outside of my control. I think they’re just being overly whiney, lazy, greedy to charge closer to $50 for that kind of service.
This whole thread started with our very first email thrown back in our face due to the hosts SPAM-blocked IP… maybe we just got off on the wrong foot. So we’ll carry on for now with rolling our own discourse on our own (awesome) Digital Ocean server; we’re lucky because we can, but it’s still not our business model and we don’t want to be here.