I have a pretty active SMF 2.0.X Forum (150-200 concurrent users). It’s been pretty good to me, but they don’t really seem to have a truly responsive mobile solution and I have found a few things buggy and troublesome. So I have a few questions about Discourse:
a) Does it have a genuinely responsive theme? (I just noticed that it comes with a mobile app, so I guess I will ask what happens if they don’t use the app and they are on a mobile device?)
b) How easily can SMF be converted to Discourse and do you have a tool/wizard for that or how does that work? I have very few attachments; I do have POLLS (but am not terribly worried about them); and I do need PMs (Private Messages) converted if at all possible.
c) Is Discourse strictly cloud-based? Is that what the $100/month is all about? I have a dedicated, pretty beefy Windows server, but I guess I won’t need to use that for my Discourse forum if I go with a paid solution.
Answering a) and c), because I have no experience for b).
a) Yes, Discourse is very responsive. The apps are relatively new, and blocked for 100% new users. Users need to be active enough (I think it is read three topics or similiarly simple) to not be “trust level 0” to use the app. Before that, they can use a browser on a phone quite easily.
b) There are several SMF import topics, you should search and look at those.
c) Discourse can be self-hosted on Linux cloud instances in the $10/month range. (It could be self-hosted on a physical Linux box just as easily.) It needs to be an system that supports Docker, which rules out some VPS providers. There are also options to have someone else manage it for you, like the Discourse.org hosting and some other providers. I believe Windows is only supported as a development environment not a production one. I’ve never even tried dev on Windows.
a) Discourse works without issue on mobile/smaller screens. I’d highly encourage you to check out meta, or the testing site https://try.discourse.org/ to see how it looks. While there is an app, the only benefit is push notifications, and you have to be hosted (or customize the app) to make that work. When you “open a forum” via the app, all you’re doing is loading the the mobile site in your phone browser.
That is great - so much better than what I currently have as far as the responsiveness. And noted about the app. I am comforted by what you said, actually, because not everyone wants an app for every forum and site they visit.
Well, I would actually like to go to Linux, so that is a possibility. My site currently is currently composed of aspx pages and uses a small amount of the .net functionality. But I could probably port it fairly easily to Flask/Linux and self host. That’s something I’ve wanted to do anyway. I get around 210k page views per month so that would put me in the $300/month category and I’m really not making that much off of the site.
So one last question: you said it could be self-hosted for $10/month? What is that $10/month for out of curiosity? You just mean to pay a hosting provider or what? If so, I already have my own dedicated server with one of the bigger hosting companies, so I’m good to go there.
There is an importer for SMF2. It appears to import avatars and attachments, but not polls or PMs. It has not been updated since the move to the new Markdown engine, but that probably does not matter. Most people run importers by first installing a development environment.
To provide a quote for the import, one would need to know more about how many total posts and users you have.
What about hosting?
$100/month is about paying a team of professionals around the globe to keep your site up and have the features that you desire be on the short list of features to be added to Discourse.
Then you are a good candidate for self hosting. See install-cloud for more information. My $99 install page also has a FAQ section.
It’s likely your database is big enough that you’ll need to go with a 2GB ($20/month) server (or Digital Ocean “droplet”). The price on other hosting companies will vary, of course.
It’s easier to run Discourse on a server by itself, so I’d recommend that you start with Discourse on some other server and then deal with moving off your Windows server and then to your Discourse server as a separate task.