Differences open-source vs. cloud solution? Will the open-source solution fulfill our requirements?

Hi there…

we are interested in an open-source solution for a forum to use it as a partner-forum and later also implement a customer-forum. As we offer two different products with two different user groups (stakeholders) those forums may be set up in a different way.

The differences will be the…

  • sign-up process (we sign-up and permit our partners; self sign-up)
  • accessibility (protected; public)

We have our requirements-list, although not everything is totally clear at the moment. Basically we are evaluating and comparing Discourse and Vanilla Forum right now.

However, I realized that there may be differences between the cloud and open source solution which makes a comparison difficult.

Simple requirements list: (! = important)

  • ! Open source
  • ! Preferred on-premise
  • ! Mobile support
  • ! Theming (CSS)
  • Analytics
  • Multiple languages (for customers)
  • ! Single Sign On (SSO with SAML or oAuth)
  • ! User groups or permissions if we run our “forums” (customer product A, customer product B, partner) on a single instance) -> this is not clear yet at all how we want to set it up
  • ! Allow private community
  • ! Allow self-signup
  • ! Allow confirmation / activation by us after self-signup (manual or semi-automatic by email-domain)
  • ! Roles (reader, contributor, moderator, admin)
  • ! Categorization or tags, flags, channels, sub-forums to structure content
  • ! Formatting of text (HTML Editor)
  • ! Attachments in forum posts (simple drag & drop and inline images)
  • Allow editing after forum post was sent
  • Spam control (only relevant for public forum, not important at the beginning but essential to be ready for the future)
  • Ready to use Elasticsearch for future improvement
  • Ready to integrate Salesforce for future improvement
  • ! Access to API
  • ! Notification emails + notification menu + notification settings for user
  • ! Watch or subscribe discussions
  • ! Mention other users
  • ! Quote other users
  • Vote up/down of answer posts
  • Gamification elements

Maybe you can help out with that to support the decision making.

They are exactly the same. Only difference is that the hosting and application maintenance is done by the friendly folks of Discourse.


Everyone here will tell you that Discourse is better than Vanilla. As far as Discourse hosting vs self-hosting, you get the same software with the same capabilities. The question is whether you want a team of professionals in a dozen time zones managing your site, or do you want it handle that yourself?

I attempt to explain the differences between self-hosting and paid hosting in the FAQ section of my $99 Install offering: $99 Discourse Install – Literate Computing, LLC


Thanks a lot - I was expecting the same at Vanilla Forum until I heard that there are differences between open source + cloud solution.

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I just started doing my research and very quickly reduced the available software to this last two. Thanks for your input and link.


Asking the Discourse community if they prefer Discourse vs XZY forum will always result in the same answer. Same if you were to go ask the Vanilla community if they prefer Vanilla vs XYZ forum.

For a less-biased opinion, you may want to visit Feverbee, specifically their Community Software comparison and their community.

I did not actually ask this question as I am aware about that. However, fact is that I do compare those two mentioned systems, thus there was no reason for me to hide that information.

However, thanks for the links I’ll check them out as well as I try to get input from many different sources anyway.

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Apologies, you are correct. I did not re-read your first post after reading the replies.

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