For years, EZBoard was a community that offered relatively cheap and easy to maintain forums for managers. Virtually anyone could register, design, and layout a site and invite their friends to participate. Indeed, some of the largest forums on the internet are built upon EZBoard. Unfortunately, a recent system-wide hacking attack has destroyed the company’s reputation and sent many managers packing. Let’s look at the venerable community and the fatal flaw that has toppled the company from its perch.
At one time EZBoard boasted over 14,000 web communities. Many were started by individuals seeking a discussion forum for their favorite topics, while others were started by business people such as myself. The reasons businesses were attracted to EZBoard were two-fold:
1. We were not knowledgeable enough about PHP to create and manage a site for ourselves, and
2. We did not want to go through the expense of hosting our site on a dedicated server and, instead, used EZBoard’s vast bank of computers to house our communities.
Admittedly, reason #1 was a huge part of why I stuck with EZBoard. Sure, I knew about vBulletin and related forums but purchasing a license from them and managing the site on a dedicated server was a pricey option, especially since at one time I was managing more than a dozen forums! I could handle the variable charges incurred from being with EZBoard by paying my subscription charges on either a quarterly, semi-annually or even yearly basis. I doubt that I dished out more than $500-600 in any given year, so it was cost effective for my business.
I should have known that EZBoard was not quite up to the task when their system shut down for several days in Spring 2004 after what was supposed to be a simple system-wide update of the forums. A few hours of down time was extended to several days and forum administrators were left in the dark for all of that time. More importantly, many forum members assumed the worst and peppered many an administrator’s inbox with queries. Those days were not fun; EZBoard did recover and gave managers credits exceeding the number of days they were down. Still, if you relied on AdSense revenue — like I do — you lost big time.
History was to repeat itself on May 30, 2005, when a reported outside attack by hackers brought down EZBoard altogether. Yes, the boards were still working, but the majority of messages were gone and any new ones also began to disappear. EZBoard admitted almost immediately they were hacked and were working diligently to restore the 9000 boards affected. Soon, however, the news came out that much of their backup files were hacked as well. Forum managers wondered if EZBoard kept all their files on vulnerable servers or if the attack was done internally. Messages from EZBoard management were vague “in the interest of security” so nobody knew for sure.
As the days passed and forum managers realized that the restoral process would only be partial and take weeks to accomplish, a steady stream of managers began to hit the php sites to see about moving their boards. With trepidation I visited the PHPBB2 site knowing that my skillsets were limited in this area. However, I soon learned that this particular program was open source — in effect, free — and the Flash tutorials explained everything clearly and effectively. So, in one evening I set up the new site, transferred some files, and gave it a launch.
The best part? In the two years since I was with EZBoard my hosting company for web pages had upgraded their site enough to be able to house my message boards. So, instead of having web pages on one server and my forums on another, I could house them collectively. Most importantly, I would no longer have to rely on EZBoard’s flawed backup plans and could backup all the files myself.
I still have one EZBoard community and I may keep it, for now. It is a small, but very well established where it is “sitting” and I lost only 4 or 5 files under the attack. Two of my sites I transferred to PHP and two others I decided to delete as they were slower performers. Fortunately, I had gotten rid of several smaller, no performing sites earlier. Still, I felt the pain of EZBoard’s hacking incident and decided the time to move was now.
So, what is the future of EZBoard? That is hard to tell. They are promising a major upgrade which would include the ability allowing managers to back up their own sites. That would be a very good move. However, the administrative costs with EZBoard now exceed what managers pay with many standard web hosting companies. Few sites are large enough to require a dedicated server, therefore many managers will likely consider making the move away.
I was twice bitten from EZBoard and did not relish a third hit, thus my two largest sites are now with PHPBB2. The move was time consuming, but the new board has many more advanced features compared to EZBoard. Sure, I have more administrative things to do — like help AOL users who have difficulty signing up — but I no longer am subject to the whims of EZBoard. I am glad that a major risk factor has been removed even with the increased administrative responsibilities. You will be too if you decide to make the move.