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Why I Migrated from vBulletin 5 (VB5) to Invision Power Services (IPB)

I recently took over a vBulletin 4.2.2 community that focused on a hobby of mine. The site worked great and the community was happy and thriving. That was until a lapse of better judgment sucked me into the marketing hype of vBulletin 5 Connect. A reminder of how good it is is forced upon you each and every time you visit the vBulletin website. You would be forgiven for thinking that this was a finished and polished product, a great upgrade to previous versions that would usher your online community into the future. In my experience this was far from the truth. But before I get into that, let me briefly outline why I upgraded and how I did it.

Why upgrade?

There are many reasons people upgrade some do it for being on the latest and greatest others do it for different reasons. I had 2 main reasons to upgrade to the latest version. Firstly, I wanted a modern GUI that had a more responsive design that supported multiple platforms without the need for 3rd party applications such as Tapatalk to make the forum more functional. I wanted the user experience to be uncompromised when using a traditional mobile browser. The last reason was financial. I have a number of add-ons in mind to get developed for the forum. With vBulletin 5 Connect well past a point release (at time of writing 5.1.1 had just gone into Release Candidate status), it would not have been prudent to invest money in developing for 4.2.2 when they would need to be redeveloped again to work on 5.x.

Upgrade Process

When I first took over the site, there was only one environment – Production. This meant that all previous changes were done straight into the production environment – or production testing as it’s commonly known. Before I embarked down the upgrade path I commissioned a development\testing environment that was a direct replica of production in software and hardware configuration. I started with the current “stable” release 5.1.0 and ended up on 5.1.1 which was in the final stages of QA. I went with 5.1.1 over 5.1.0 as it resolved a number of issues that I encountered during testing.

Testing involved using users from each of the various usergroups to ensure the appropriate level of content and access was being presented. Full regression testing was performed from admins down to restricted users.

The Disaster

After feeling comfortable with the testing performed by myself and a few other testers, I proceeded with upgrading the site. The actual upgrade process went without issue but when the site came back up, cracks were starting to show:

  • Performance became an issue as soon as some load was put onto the server – with the licensing restrictions, it’s simply not possible to grant everyone access to the test environment to test the load. Similarly, for a hobby forum with < 1,000 members, it’s not economically feasible to look at automated testing tools to simulate loads and to be honest how many public non-profit forums out there even do this?
  • PMs disappeared for a number of users whilst others were not able to use the PM system
  • Widgets were not displaying correctly for some users
  • Dates reverted to US style MM/DD even though they were set to DD/MM
  • Permissions were not working correctly
  • Image system was broken
  • And the list goes on

The user backlash was swift and strong and given the frequency at which updates came from Internet Brands on the vBulletin product, I had no choice but to act.

The Solution

After trawling through the internet, it became apparent that vBulleting customers were leaving in numbers and moving to arguably better platforms such as XenForo and IPB. XenForo was my first choice as it ticked all the boxes from a product point of view and had a fairly active developer community. Unfortunately, they don’t have an migration path from vBulletin 5 Connect. Here is where Invision Power Services’ IPB comes in. As far as I could see, IPB was the only product out there that supported forum migration from vBulleting 5.x.

I took a leap of faith and haven’t looked back. The migration wasn’t without issue as I was one of their first customers migrating from vBulletin 5.1.1, the conversion scripts were built around 5.0. To their credit, IPB support were very responsive and had me up and running in no time. There were some limitations due to 5.1.1 being migrated but these were acceptable given the issues I was having with vBulletin:

  • Migrated PMs were read-only – you had to start a new conversion instead of continuing the old one
  • User passwords could not be migrated – vBulletin changed the way it stored passwords in 5.1.x, given time this probably could have been resolved but I took the position that I would get my users to reset their passwords on first log in instead
  • Attached images in CMS articles do not migrate over – this is by design as the images are reattached to the original thread so get dropped off the article

As I used CMS and paid subscriptions, here are the components of IPB that I needed to purchase:

  • IP.Board – main forum
  • IP.Content – for CMS
  • IP.Nexus – for paid subscriptions

Overall, I have been quite pleased with how IPB has been performing. With a few managable hiccups during the site migration I’ve managed to get my entire community over to the new platform. The users are much happier and I’ve already been able to implement a number of enhancements I had planned for down the track. The reduction in database size from 700MB to 100MB has also contributed to improvements with performance.

A big thumbs up for the IPB support team for helping me stablise my online community.

8 thoughts on “Why I Migrated from vBulletin 5 (VB5) to Invision Power Services (IPB)”

  1. Hi Noeneel,

    I read your interesting story. I have the same problem!
    I own the biggest BMW italian community (www.bmwpassion.com/forum ) with over 7 millions posts and I upgraded it from vb4 to vb5, but I think I made a big mistake.
    After upgrading everything is going wrong. I had problems with the server that crashes continuously and my users are complaining and I am loosing them. They read, but don’t write. I also had a lot of other bugs.

    I think there are no solutions and now I decided, like you, to migrate urgently to a new platform and I think IPB is the right choice.
    But I am not an expert and I need to find someone or a company that help me. Who helped you?
    Did you make the migration yourself?

    How the things are going now? Did the traffic increase?

    Please help me because I am desperate… :O

    1. That’s a shame that they still haven’t sorted out their software. I did the upgrade myself to ipb, you can install to a seperate folder so easy to do without disabling your current forum.

      If you choose to get them to host it, they may even offer a migration deal but you would need to check with their sales.

      A new version IPS4.2 is due in a few weeks and looks a lot better than the current version. Their support forum is based on 4.2.

    1. You probably will but best to check with their pre sales team. Remember, do your test migrations first while your VB site is still running and cutover only when you are sure everything is running ok.

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