To everyone who wishes to start a forum community, there is always the first question. How do I start one ? What are the technical requirements to start a forum ? I would say the most important answer they need to find is which forum software they are planning to use on their forum community. There are quite a lot of them, free, open source, scripts with proprietary license, paid forum software and a lot of other classifications to confuse your choice.
Whom shall we aim ?
Before deciding anything, you should first give yourselves an idea on whom you are aiming. Ie, which part of the vast internet users do you foresee will become part of your community. Here also choices comes from a vast list like demography, language, interest and at time even religion and time zone.
How much you can invest ?
Leaving apart areas like buying content, giving freebies, getting themes etc there is a very important technical aspect you have to deal with. That is, which type of web hosting you can afford ? There is a no. of ways you can set up your forum community. As in shared hosting, managed VPS or even a server. The choice of your web host needs two factors addressed.
1. How much traffic do you expect ?
2. Which forum software are you planning to use
Unless you are serving a very large community, you can always take refuge in cheap shared hosting plans. But here again your choice of forum software will play a big role in selecting your web hosting plan. Most shared hosting packages gives you only the luxury of php forum scripts. If you wish to choose others like NodeJS or Ruby on Rails you will have opt for a costly web hosting package like a managed or unmanaged Virtual Private Server ( VPS ). VPS s also have different classifications like OpenVZ, KVM and so on. But for you to start with an OpenVZ VPS ( which is comparitively less costly ) will serve the purpose.
Choosing the forum software
Anyone who do not wish to try will suggest you to take refuge in conventional PHP forum software like vBulletin, Xenforo or MyBB and their likes. But if you choose to walk a different path and like to give your users a different community experience, you may be tempted with what we call alternative forum software. Most popular example of it is Discourse which needs Ruby on Rails to be installed on the server to set up Discourse. There are a few other options like NodeBB which works on NodeJS and Flarum. Unlike NodeBB, Flarum is written in PHP using a PHP framework known as Laravel. But at the time of writing this article, it need SSH access to your web hosting plan to set it up. Flarum developers are planning to release it as a script with conventional installation capabilities like in vBulletin or phpBB. But that is something only time can tell.