Easiest decision of starting a forum is choosing the software to run it. In my opinion there is no better software to use for a forum than vBulletin. Having personally used several forum software alternatives and gone through the pains of transitioning from one to the other due to lack of support for extensibility I strongly feel vBulletin by far is the best forum software.
What makes any software great is its ability to grow with the changing needs of its users, the ability for its users to extend the product in the form of plug-ins and the support customers receive from the company who creates the software. Jelsoft the company who makes vBulletin knocks all three of these out of the park and makes running a forum not only easy but fun.
Security Comes First
Many moons ago when I started using forum software there where few choices available on the market. In fact most forum software that I used are not available anymore or are so exploited due to the lack of support that it makes it almost impossible to use without it becoming a haven for spammers.
Jelsoft the makers of the bulletin started off on the right foot by treating their forum software as a business. Bieng able to support vBulletin via security updates and enhancements with the advent of new technologies on the Internet.
When it comes to security vBulletin in my experience has been the quickest to detect and provide a fix for its users to avoid exploits. The secret behind Jelsoft's ability to react so quickly to security exploits is its large dedicated user base who continually report in bugs and security issues. This makes using vBulletin more efficient as it allows me to focus on the quality of the forum versus having to hunt down and patch security exploits.
Early on few software developers had the foresight to develop software with a plug-in framework in place to extend their software. vBulletin has the ability for you to develop your own custom plug-ins to extend and provide a custom user experience. Although not the easiest plug-ins to develop as compared to something like WordPress with a bit of work you can develop a very custom forum.
But what if I'm not a developer asked? The large customer base of vBulletin has generated and continues to generate an enormous amount of plug-ins that are available for download and most being free.
Another great feature of vBulletin has been its ability to change over time to adapt itself to new technologies like social media, blogging and marketing. New features are constantly roled out to provide a great user experience to the communities the vBulletin customers are building.
Where Can I Get vBulletin?
vBulletin currently sells for $180 and can be http://www.vbulletin.com. Another great resource is http://www.vbulletin.org where you can read about new enhancements and download plug-ins that users have created for free.
For some $180 is a lot of money to spend especially when so many free open source forums are available. In the end though $180 will seem very small if you ever become the victim of an unpatched security exploit that destroys your forum and you lose all your data. Building your forum is similar to building a house make sure that it has a rock solid foundation and you will enjoy it and reap from its benefits for years to come.