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  • Internal company forum

    Our application is not for a general public forum, but for an internal company forum where all users / passwords are assigned by the forum owner.

    The goal is that only employees are registered and can view the forum and content. Example forum information would be sales / customer interaction reports along with links to photos, documents, pdf, png, etc. We will need a way to organize the attachments data structurally (as in organized customer files with sub folders) as well as links to posts.

    It would be helpful for the forum to be searchable by employees but certainly not by outsiders. Links to adv such as google / amazon are a definite no-go.

    I don't care if there is a vBulletin logo on the pages, but links to google, amazon, etc are problematic.

    While I prefer to have full control of the forum, at least initially it probably makes more sense to have it hosted by people who know what they are doing. Long term we would want to bring this data and forum on internal servers, so the data and forum needs to be portable.

    Privacy and reliability of the forum and data are obviously first on the list. Part of accomplishing the data privacy is to make the forum login information page not obvious.

    The reason for this approach is to reduce email traffic and allow internal responses to the information as appropriate.

    I am open to suggestions on ways that this could be accomplished.

    Thanks

    HarryN

  • #2
    A large number of customers run vBulletin on their intranet. All you need is a web server running PHP and MySQL. This can be a Windows server with IIS or a Linux server with Apache. The providers of your OS should have instructions on how to install the web server on their platform.

    The software doesn't provide links to Facebook, Twitter, Google or Amazon without you allowing it. If your employees add such links to their content, tell them not to do so.
    Translations provided by Google.

    Wayne Luke
    The Rabid Badger - a vBulletin Cloud customization and demonstration site.
    vBulletin 5 Documentation - Updated every Friday. Report issues here.
    vBulletin 5 API - Full / Mobile
    I am not currently available for vB Messenger Chats.

    Comment


    • #3
      Thank you for the insight.

      Since at least 30% of the users will be in the field, they will need to be able to access it with a login page of some kind from various locations around North America. Is there a viable way to accomplish this and still ensure that the information is not publicly viewable?

      Sorry for the novice questions - I participate in a number of hobby forums that use your software, but have no experience with setting one up or limiting access.

      Comment


      • #4
        Yes. You can decide who sees what using the standard permissions system.
        Translations provided by Google.

        Wayne Luke
        The Rabid Badger - a vBulletin Cloud customization and demonstration site.
        vBulletin 5 Documentation - Updated every Friday. Report issues here.
        vBulletin 5 API - Full / Mobile
        I am not currently available for vB Messenger Chats.

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks. Are there any issues if we would like to start with your hosted version, and then later move to a self operated server setup? In other words, will we face any restrictions on moving data from the hosted to our own server, or vice versa?

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by HarryN View Post
            Thanks. Are there any issues if we would like to start with your hosted version, and then later move to a self operated server setup? In other words, will we face any restrictions on moving data from the hosted to our own server, or vice versa?
            We can provide a complete database export at any time. We then have a guide covering to how to move to self hosted.
            MARK.B | vBULLETIN SUPPORT

            TalkNewsUK - My vBulletin 5.4.2 Demo - FEATURING "ROUTE BY NODE"!
            AdminAmmo - My Cloud Demo

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            • #7
              It sounds like a very well thought out setup - thanks.

              Digging a little deeper into the file / document management side - Here is an example of what we are doing now, a little too much on individual computers:

              Sales information is organized first by region:
              - More or less by state - we there is a folder for this
              - Then by customer - so a sub folder
              - Then by year - so a sub folder under "customer" for that
              - Then by project a, b, c for each customer, so a sub folder for this information

              We have similar things for purchasing, etc.

              It is slightly more work to organize the data this way, but it lets us fairly quickly find all contracts, proposals, etc related to each job, so we can pretty quickly know what is going on and look back at prior projects.

              In a perfect world, we would continue to use this "folder and sub folder" approach for organizing and storing information, and then use the forum for summaries, discussions, and links to the documents in the folders as needed.

              I am assuming that this folder / sub folder data would need to reside on your server in order to be readily accessible to the forum software links?

              Initially it would be around 20 gig so not that much, but I can imagine it hitting 100-200 gig at some point.

              The actual "bandwidth" used isn't going to be that high, because we are a pretty small group and mostly people will focus on their area / sub forum section.

              So in summary:
              - It seems like if we are going to use a hosted plan, then we would want to have all of the data stored there.
              - The typical hosted plans are 100 gig of storage. Is this something we can purchase more capacity as we grow if needed?
              - Is there a way to deal with using our preferred file structure for the "data" and have our employees easily and routinely upload this onto your server? If not, any suggestions?

              Thanks for helping me out.

              Harry


              Comment


              • #8
                There wouldn't be any means to upload non-forum data into a custom folder structure. You can upload files as attachments to posts in the forum and there is a tool in the back end for uploading custom files (mostly to be used in custom styling.) The service is just a VB5 site much like this forum, there would be no FTP or interface for accessing files not uploaded as attachments to forum posts.

                (The FTP interface is temporary and only for downloading your copy of a site backup.)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Thank you Joe.

                  If we instead hosted our own forum, can the links be made to organized folder locations, or or is it always just randomly stored?

                  For example, suppose there is a purchase order from a customer for a project. It would be handy to have the PO document stored in an organized file system structure but also have the sale person post something like "PO came in today" and either link to that location or do an attachment. It is better of course if it is stored in one location but I guess we could duplicate this if we had to since storage is relatively cheap now.

                  It would not work for us that the data / attachments are just randomly stored with no file structure to keep them organized and easily reviewed in the future. We aren't that organized to begin with and that would just be inviting chaos.

                  Sorry for not knowing exactly how your software works - even though many forum sites use it, some are running older versions and most do not allow uploading of documents or photos - really just links to other sites - example how photo bucket used to work.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The system isn't really a file management tool but you can configure it to work like it. Instead of folders, you would have "Channels". So you create a channel for each state. In each of those channels, you create one for the specific customer. Then you can create topics for each year, report, invoice, etc... however you want to do it. You can also create additional sub-channels for each customer to hold specific information. Each topic could have a synopsis in addition to the files. If something is missing, it can be commented right there on the topic and added either as a reply or to the first post through editing.

                    Translations provided by Google.

                    Wayne Luke
                    The Rabid Badger - a vBulletin Cloud customization and demonstration site.
                    vBulletin 5 Documentation - Updated every Friday. Report issues here.
                    vBulletin 5 API - Full / Mobile
                    I am not currently available for vB Messenger Chats.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Thanks Wayne - yes, that is exactly what I am planning to do.

                      Create a section (I guess you call them channels) and then sub sections / topics, etc.

                      This aspect will work for organizing the "conversational" aspects, so instead of using email about topics, we will use the forum approach to keep conversations in one location and reduce email cluttter. For the forum conversations, I am assuming that the database will handle this organizational aspect.

                      The portion that I still need to clarify is how to organize the actual documents that go along with the conversation. For example: Quotes, drawings, photos, purchase orders, etc.

                      These documents still need to reside in an organized file structural way that can be found both by the forum and by simply drilling down into a conventional file structure.

                      Perhaps I am missing key concepts of how forums / databases organize the data. Are you suggesting that we upload the documents into the forum as part of conventional postings as attachments (stored in the forum server), and just let the forum database keep it all randomly stored / accessible only via finding the correct thread in the forum?

                      Can a hosted service account (or self hosted server) deal with 100 - 300 Gig of documents that are stored as attachments / photos, etc? I had the impression that it can't but maybe I am wrong.

                      Depending on the forum software to be the only way to ever find a document seems risky given that the hobby forums that I use have periods of unavailability, sometimes long periods. Do your hosted forums have a way to stay operational when maintenance is being done on the primary server hosting the forum?

                      Thanks for the help.

                      Harry


                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I hope that I am not being a pain here, I am really hopeful that this can be implemented as it would be much easier than some other approaches.

                        BTW - I don't mind hiring someone to help me through setting up a test case if it can really test what we need to make it work.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          vBulletin stores all attachments in a structure like this /attachments/u/s/e/r/i/d/attachmentid.attach. It doesn't maintain a normal file structure. Ideally these files are not accessible outside the permission structure of the vBulletin system and its wrappers which will turn the files back into their functional file types when they are downloaded. Having a separate file archive that you want isn't possible on our cloud system. If you host the software on your own server, you can provide this with SFTP either through a client or a web interface but it would be outside of vBulletin.

                          In regards to downtime, all servers will have downtime. Maintenance, hardware issues, and software issues all cause this. We strive to limit the downtime as much as possible.
                          Translations provided by Google.

                          Wayne Luke
                          The Rabid Badger - a vBulletin Cloud customization and demonstration site.
                          vBulletin 5 Documentation - Updated every Friday. Report issues here.
                          vBulletin 5 API - Full / Mobile
                          I am not currently available for vB Messenger Chats.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I believe there may also be a misunderstand- the vast majority of a vBulletin forum- the channels, the post text, the forums and their "structure" are all stored in the MySQL database. As Wayne mentioned attached files are really the only thing stored as files, and that isn't even by default. By default attached files are also stored in the database though moving them to the file system is encouraged for better performance.

                            Comment


                            • Wayne Luke
                              Wayne Luke commented
                              Editing a comment
                              All vBulletin Cloud sites are configured to store attachments in the file system.

                          • #15
                            Thanks for the insights. I am still mentally pulling the picture together of how to implement. I need to pay attention to exactly how the files attach (or are linked to if that works out to be better) because it would be complicated if there are two slightly different copies of a document created due to our not being careful enough with file management.

                            It might make sense to do a test implementation and see exactly how it all works.

                            We don't sell to the grocery industry, but just as an example, suppose we sold to Kroger, Safeway and Walmart.

                            We would need to track ongoing business to each company, region, each store, and down to the departments (toys, meat, produce, dairy, beer,) , sales, etc. That could be easily hundreds if not 1000s of sub forums / channels.

                            We aren't that large but I am attempting to see what challenges we will face with scaling so we can deal with them early on rather than incorrectly setting things up now. If we need to buy multiple copies of the software to run on multiple servers, it isn't ideal but it isn't deal breaker either.


                            From a computer hardware viewpoint, for a fairly high content forum with a lot of threads and channels, I can have a server set up with anything from an AMD ryzen 4 core to a full blown Threadripper 16 core processor with 32 threads. Assuming I run the forum software under a 64 bit linux os:

                            a) Roughly how many threads can the software support ? 1, 4, 16 , 32 ?

                            b) Is the database loaded into RAM when running, or resident in the HD, making the SSD drive response time the primary consideration for performance? I ask because it is possible to get some very fast access SSDs that mount right to the motherboard slots vs going through the conventional HD interface in needed.

                            c) I am assuming that there isn't any significant vector processing (video card based processing) going on, but of course that can be added fairly easily.

                            Thanks

                            Harry

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