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Although my site will be Drupal, I expect that I'll be getting 1000's of visitors/posters.

For easy maintenance in the long term, which one will be better between AF/Drupal Forum and phpBB, or any other forum software?

The main assumption is that there'd be no logins in the main site; only the forum will contain the user's logins, and no integration between two is required.

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Out of 4 forums I've gone with phpbb for 2 and mybb for remaining 3 forums. We should not use Drupal Forums or Advanced one for any full fledged forums. I'm happy with it. You can see my non-profit forum forum.emile-coue.org - the main site is in Drupal. Only theming is some work to do across both installations. These forums provide good flexibility though I've not installed Drupal Forum till now but now I plan to. Rt. now I'm working to install Drupal Forum for my site. –  AgA Nov 26 '12 at 9:18

4 Answers 4

The most important parameter to consider up front, is integration.

  • phpBB is a CMS on its own.
  • Any Drupal based forum solution uses Drupal as CMS.

"CMS" means that it will use its own database, its own log-in system, its own management, and its own moderation environment.

It also means that you are mixing technologies, such as Database abstraction, scaling and deployment. But for you, probably more important: instead of learning one layout/design layer (themeing) you have to learn two. Instead of maintaining security releases for one system, you manage two. Instead of finding one expert to build and maintain your site, you must find one that knows both, or find two.

Small features such as "log me in with the same role (admin) on the forum when I am logged in on the Drupal-environment" are hard. Small features such as "include search results from the forum in main site search" are near impossible.

I advise people to choose external forum software, only if they don't mind the following:

Obviously it is not required to have separate domains for phpBB and Drupal, but in practice that is what you are building: two separate sites. Which may have some interlinked features, but integration is minimal.

Do you mind building two separate sites? Then choose an integrated solution. Do you not mind having to separated environments? Then go for phpBB.

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You can have external authentication pretty easy with Drupal, I did it in 2008. I'm sure its improved, but I used Invision Power board to do it. Anyone logging in was looked for in Drupal users table, not IPB. I don't know if it synced users though. That's about the most you can ask for here, and as he said search integration will be difficult with core search - maybe try Google search. –  Kevin Apr 25 '11 at 18:03
Obviously for each every point I mention there is a solution /possible/, such as what @Kevin mentions for integrating users. Point is, you need to search for solutions that will always be hackish. After all: you are making either one of the CMSes work with none-native data. –  berkes Apr 25 '11 at 18:32
Berkes did you assume that I'd be needing to integrate my site accounts and the forum accounts if forum is on different CMS? My site will not be having any accounts. But for forum yes. What do you say? To save long term maintenance headache should I use say phpBB in a subdomain? –  AgA Apr 26 '11 at 11:30
I did not assume any such thing. I pointed out that /if/ you need integration, Drupal+phpBB is not a good idea. But if you don't need integration, you already have overcome the #1 reason not to use Drupal+phpBB. And should look onto #2: maintainance. –  berkes Apr 26 '11 at 12:11
What do you say for #2: maintainance? If you compare long term maintenance cost of AF vs phpBB? –  AgA Apr 26 '11 at 14:33

Having spent a lot of time integrating a standalone forum (SMF) into a site I would not recommend taking this approach, it can be done but it's not seamless.

I would choose Advanced Forums over any other standalone solution because it integrates, searches work, logins work, permissions and roles, themes, admin is easier, content can be shared, it's easier to configure, maintain and works as part of the site.

It seems easier at first, and there are probably many things that a standalone forum package can do better with forums, but as a whole I'd stick with the Drupal module approach.

Simple rule:

If you want to have forums.domain.com then do it standalone. If you want domain.com/forums then use Drupal modules.

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If you expect to have many visitors on your forum I would highly suggest investing into a commercial grade forum software such as vBulletin (I think this is by far the best forum software, both from Administration side of view and also, which is even more important from the forum user point of view) or perhaps IPB which is supposed to be a quality product aswell, but I have no experience with it to comment on it.

vBulletin also have a CMS solution. It is probably not as good as Drupal, but it may be sufficient for your needs, this will greatly simplify the integration between the forum and the main website. Besides that, if your main website doesn't require logic capabilities this is no concern at all.

Bottom line, I am all for vBulletin as the community software, I believe their support is very good aswell. Everybody I know who is using them are setisfied (and no I don't work for them :))

Good luck.

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You did not talk about Drupal's AF module. You've given single sided judgement. –  AgA May 4 '11 at 4:06
I am not familiar with Drupal's AF module. I have expressed my opinion based on my previous experiences offering an alternative suggestion. Especially for "easy maintenance in the long term", in my opinion commercial and mature software such as the one offered is unbeatable. –  Kostya May 4 '11 at 8:30
I think Kostya has a valid point here. You can build a forum yourself within Drupal, but if it's going to have a lot of users you may have issues with scaling. Mature forum software has already been battle tested, a custom solution you develop won't have been. –  Mark Muhleder Apr 10 '13 at 0:23

PhpBB is a very good forum solution, it offers a lot of forum features out of the box or with help of additional modules. But it is also quite complex, this also means that when you will face the performance, design, update, maintenance and seo issues you should be able to understand both Drupal and PhpBB structure at once or have additional professional person in your team. It is a good idea to use out of the box forum like PhpBB or Simple Machines forum if the sites don't have to be integrated and you are able to maintain both of them, but may be not if you are planning to do this in future.

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