Due to things, I can no longer maintain an interactive forum with user-generated content unless I move to a different state. I can’t move any time soon, so the forums need a new home. @Nabiki has expressed interest, and that’s great, and so I wanted to present all the details here, in one infodump. If you’re looking to take over hosting and run the forums, this is what you need to know:
We run Discourse. It’s distributed as a Docker package, so it can run on any hosting service that lets you install docker packages.
Discourse needs some resources, not gonna lie. The specs list 1GB of RAM and at least 10GB of disk space. In my experience, after running Discourse for almost ten years, I wouldn’t want to try it on anything with less than 4GB of RAM. (Also, Discourse requires a 64-bit Linux-based OS, compatible with Docker. Windows need not apply.)
Oh, and the host needs to be able to send email, or you need an email service you can use.
The forums are currently running on AWS, on a t3a.medium EC2 instance. This works pretty well.
For email, I currently use Mailgun with the forums, and we’re well under the limit for Mailgun’s free tier so it’s a zero-cost thing. (The forums generate 100-200 emails a month, and as long as you keep it under 1000, Mailgun doesn’t bill.)
Taking advantage of reserved instance pricing—i.e., pre-paying for the server for 1- or 3-year terms—means the cost is pretty not-awful. Specifically, a t3a.med instance costs $193 per year, or $372 for a three-year reservation. The current year reservation is up in November 2022.
Additionally, I pay a few bucks per month for bandwidth costs and for the cost of the EBS storage volume hooked up to the server acting as local disk, and a few more bucks to keep a couple weeks’ worth of backup snapshots on hand. All together, the disk and network costs work out to about $8 a month.
Therefore, the total all-in AWS bill for a 1-year RI is about $289 (with $193 due up front), and the all-in cost for a 3-year RI is about $660 (with $372 due up front). The 3-year pricing has a better ROI, but is obviously more money.
Pretty much any VPS provider that gives you a linux box that can run Docker will work. Vultr has nice quick servers; I have heard great things about Digital Ocean, too. (Discourse itself offers official hosting, though it’s not cheap.)
Sure—I self-hosted the forums out of my closet for several years when we first migrated to Discourse back in 2013-ish. The requirements are the same—a linux box, 4GB of RAM, and at least 10GB of disk space free.
If you’re self-hosting at home, make sure your upload bandwidth is at least 10Mbps—otherwise, your connection could get quickly overwhelmed if there are more than a couple of folks visiting (especially if you’re also using your home connection for other stuff at the same time).
Discourse is pretty portable—the migration process is basically A) Take a backup of your current Discourse forum; B) Set up a new host and install Discourse; C) Import the backup to the new host’s Discourse install. The backup is complete and brings everything with it—user accounts, groups, post, settings, themes, metadata, and all settings.
As much as I can, sure. If you’re having trouble, we can zoom and screenshare and hopefully power through any problems.
The forums’ current 1-year prepaid instance expires on Nov 16, after which I start paying hourly pricing for this EC2 instance (which is about a ~3x increase in cost over prepaid). The clock is already ticking.
If we’re still here after the new year and we can’t make alternate hosting work, the forums will go offline.
If we have to go offline, I’ll make sure everybody has time to back up the things they want to back up.
I am a Texas resident and I don’t have the money to defend a lawsuit against me or the site under Texas’ social media law, even if the lawsuit is frivolously filed. The fact that we’re waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay under the law’s limits and it doesn’t apply to us won’t stop an angry malicious dickbag from SLAPPing the forums because they’re pissed off about moderation. The risk, however small, is too high.
The monthly cost is not the problem, unfortunately. The problem is having the forums operated by (or funded by) me as a Texas resident. If it’s run by me or paid for by me, it’s potentially in scope for the Texas social media law. The only solution I can see is to make sure I am neither paying for nor admin’ing the forums.