If you are looking to build your own social network with features similar to Facebook or Friendster, then PHPFox is your best bet. There are other social networking apps, sure. But PHPFox is packed with features that you can use out of the box without having to hire developers to develop extensions or hacks to achieve what you want.
With PHPFox, the interface is already pretty much what you can expect from a social network. Sure, you can change the default layout. It is not a piece of cake but theming is not overly complicated with PHPFox.
Unlike many of the apps that are discussed here at BestHosting.org, PHPFox is a commercial product. It is sold in three versions that range in price from $99 for the “Lite” version to $299 for the “Community” version. As a result, you cannot find it in an automated installer like Softaculous. You need to purchase a version, upload the files and do the installation yourself. Most likely, you’ll need an FTP or WebDAV client to upload the files and a way to set the permissions of the relevant files.
Like many content management systems, PHPFox uses a database as its back end. Thus, the installation process involves creating a database and linking it to an instance of PHPFox.
You’ll create a database for PHPFox and run the PHPFox install script to get things going.
After you purchase PHPFox, you will get access to their complete documentation.
PHPFox does not require any unusual or exotic hardware or software. It is compatible with the standard LAMP stack that powers the vast majority of the web today (“LAMP” stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP. That’s your stack!). Thus, it is technically possible to install and run PHPFox on a huge number of hosts. But to make a provider a good host, it should be fast and responsive, be online 24/7, and do automatic backups for you.
If you are a developer, you can develop additional functions for your PHPFox site using the set of APIs PHPFox provide you with. Nothing is too out of reach.
PHPFox also comes with a set of very useful features. Polling, private messaging, chatting, profile, and a lot more features you can expect to see from a social networking site.
So if you are building a social network for your own local community or a particular industry, PHPFox is definitely a good choice.
Choosing a Provider
Since a social network is a sophisticated form of content management that uses a back-end database, it is going to be more demanding than a less transaction-oriented app. We think that this pushes the minimum up to either a deluxe Shared host or a VPS. That’s the best way to avoid the performance problems that turn users off. So, we only recommend providers that are above that minimum level.
The Best 5
- VPS.net : The leading cloud VPS specialist with 18 datacenters around the world,
- Digital Ocean : A developer-oriented cloud VPS provider at ordinary Shared hosting prices,
- A Small Orange : A line of affordable managed VPS plans,
- Arvixe : A line of premium Shared hosting and VPS plans,
- SiteGround : Premium Shared hosting and fully managed VPS plans.
Read more about them after the break!
Winner – VPS.NET – From $20/month
While some may prefer Rackspace or Amazon AWS, we prefer VPS.NET when it comes to cloud VPS hosting. They offer a line of elastic cloud VPS plans at affordable prices and backed by a network of 18 datacenters around the world.
A cloud VPS just like this is an ideal host for a medium- to large-size social network like PHPFox. If this fits your profile, then a mid-priced cloud VPS from the VPS.net line should be just right.
As the name suggests, VPS.net offers only VPS hosting and they specialize in Cloud VPS hosting. Cloud VPS servers can re-size on demand without reboot while remaining online.
The extra care they give in providing only high performance services can be felt throughout your time with them. Since you can spin up a VPS server in as short as 55 seconds, you can easily set up a cluster of servers for a high availability setup. They also have an automatic scaling service called Elastic Cloud Hosting which essentially allows you to scale your system resources up and down quite easily.
This ability is often advertised as “auto-scaling”, “auto-healing”, “elastic service”, and so forth. Capacity expands to meet heavy demands and cloud servers can take over if your main server goes down. They claim 99.99% uptime, which ought to be realistic for a Cloud VPS host.
VPS.net has a very impressive network of datacenters all over the world. In combination with their cloud technology, it makes VPS.net a fantastic choice. Here is the complete list of their datacenters. You choose your server’s location at the time of your signup.
- Asia: Tokyo, Singapore, New Delhi
- Australia: Sydney
- UK: London, Manchester
- Europe: Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfurt
- South America: Sao Paulo
- Canada: Montreal
- US: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, San Jose, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Washington, D. C.
Unmanaged Cloud VPS Plans
Here are their plans in the $100/mo and below range:
1. Full management is $69/mo.
2. cPanel is $10/mo.
VPS.net describes these plans as “semi-managed”. That means:
We make sure we are here for you. We provide 24×7 support via live chat, email and phone. Should you have any problems with the software that comes with your server then we can help you out with the basic free of charge. More complex issue may require our paid for Fully Managed support.
It seems that “semi-managed” means that they are there to assist but you are the primary system administrator, not them. For many people, this is a good balance since a VPS customer is often an experienced webmaster and can handle all the routine tasks themselves. Unmanaged and semi-managed plans are cheaper than a fully-managed plan, so semi-managed or unmanaged is smart if you are ready for the responsibility.
The VPS.net plans are upgradable in units that they call “nodes”. You can add additional VPS nodes to scale up if you want. The additional system resources will be multiples of the basic node. You can scale up or down without any downtime.
VPS.net also has a strong line of managed VPS solutions, but its likely that an unmanaged cloud VPS is all you need. Check out their managed plans if you wish to indulge.
2. Digital Ocean – Unmanaged VPS – From $5/mo + $0.02/GB
Digital Ocean is a relatively young hosting company. It is unabashedly “by developers and for developers”. It offers only self-managed Cloud VPS (a.k.a., unmanaged) and nothing else. They don’t even offer any shared hosting plans and they don’t have a Managed VPS upgrade either. They use only SSD storage and emphasize speed and performance in other ways as well. It’s a simple “bare-to-the-metal” brand of VPS.
They boast 99.99% uptime — and that should be true since it is a cloud VPS hosting company. If your site goes down somehow, they will credit your account for the amount of time that it was not available.
They are based in New York and have servers in New York, San Francisco, Singapore, and Amsterdam. You choose the location of your server when you set up your VPS.
Since they are very developer-oriented, you have full control over what is installed on your VPS. By default, nothing at all is installed until you do it!!
Your first step, then, is to install the stack of your choice and populate it with the tools and apps that you want to run. In the process, you can customize every detail of your VPS.
Their library of tech notes and tutorials covers both common and not-so-common apps and Digital Oceans’s own idiosyncrasies.
Speaking of idiosyncrasies, they offer none of the familiar installers or panels. They do have a panel of their own that you use to create a new VPS and do some configuration. In their lingo, a VPS is called a “droplet”. You begin by creating a droplet that installs the core components of your site. Then you install PHPFox according to the instructions at their site.
You’ve got root access here, so you can configure your little droplet any way you want!
Digital Ocean Pricing Table
Since Digital Ocean does not need to bear the costs of managed hosting, they run mean and lean. The excellent support is in the form of email to the staff, the library of tech notes and tutorials, and the community of developer/users.
At their prices, you can run PHPFox at a high performance Cloud VPS at Shared hosting prices!
If you exceed the bandwidth of your plan, you are charged $0.02 per GB.
If you want the chance to be the sysadmin yourself, you will love it. But if you don’t want to be down there where the rubber meets the road, check out some of the fully-managed VPS solutions that we recommend.
3. A Small Orange – Managed VPS – From $20/mo
Founded in 2003 in Atlanta, their mission statement is to provide the best quality service at an affordable cost. Unlike a large percentage of shared hosting companies, their site and marketing deliberately rank low on the bullshit scale. You can pretty much read their site and learn about what they charge and the services they provide. What a concept!
They claim 99.9% uptime and offer an unusually generous 90 day money-back guarantee. They recently upgraded all their plans to SSD storage at no extra cost.
Although their advertising doesn’t boast about themselves or feature celebrity spokesmodels, they’re quietly on the cutting edge of hosting technology. Their well-known commitment to not overbooking their shared servers and their 24/7 tech support has won them lots of fans.
Daily backups are also included, as is 24/7 technical support and online live chat.
Cloud Business Hosting
They have outstanding Shared hosting and Managed VPS plans, but their line of Business Hosting plans is also of interest. These are Cloud Shared hosting solutions. They feature fully redundant servers with automatic failover. They provide “near 100% uptime and availability.” That really ought to be true of this architecture. These plans come with a dedicated IP address and private SSL certificate, so they are configured for business use.
They have three Business plans (everyone has three plans these days), Startup, Small Business, and Enterprise. Here they are:
|Plan||Storage||Bandwidth||SSL Cert.||PCI Comp.||Price|
Cloud VPS Plans
Recently ASO added a dual server configuration to their lineup of virtual and dedicated servers. Both Apache and Nginx are used, with Nginx as a reverse-proxy. It is marketed under the name “Nginx Acceleration Stack” and is available at no charge to their fully managed Cloud VPS and Dedicated Server customers.
We like this term; it captures the notion that it isn’t either a standard LAMP or a LEMP stack, but combines both servers to enhance stack performance. In their words, it:
…serves static content in a transparent reverse proxy…This reduces the load request on the Apache web server, allowing it to handle only dynamic content requests. The setup is entirely transparent to cPanel, Apache, and the underlying user subsystem…
Moreover, they also support several command line tools that enable or disable the caching globally or tweak the caching for particular users and particular situations. This is the state-of-the-art in moderately priced web service.
ASO’s prices don’t necessarily stand out — until you learn that this is fully-managed VPS hosting. If you shop around half as much as we have, you’ll see that full management can easily cost an extra $50/mo to the base charge. This is especially true after you throw in the cPanel and Softaculous installer. Both are included in ASO’s VPS plans.
They have a premium “Managed SEO Services” plan as a high cost option. It is only for business and promises to hand tune your site for maximum SEO.
ASO’s VPS plans are right in their personality of offering a premium level of service at a good price without upselling.
4. – Arvixe – From $22/month
Arvixe is a mature hosting provider with a plethora of packages, options, and types of hosting services. They offer different grades of shared hosting as well as VPS, Reseller, and Dedicated hosting.
Arvixe has two categories of Shared hosting, with two plans to pick from in each. Personal Class plans are for smaller websites, while Business Class plans allocate more server resources. The Business Class Linux plan costs $22/mo and Business Class Pro is $35/mo. They differ in that Business Class supports 6 sites, while Business Class Pro supports an unlimited number. Given the nature of a social networking platform like PHPFox, Business Class is our recommendation.
Arvixe has a good technical note that walks you through the installation process. They also have a forum page that’s devoted to PHPFox Q & A. It’s nice to see good support for a package that can’t even be installed via Softaculous.
VPS Class Plans
If Business Class doesn’t have the horsepower to drive your PHPFox site, then a real VPS is the answer. The VPS Class and VPS Class Pro are priced at $40/mo and $70/mo. Even the lower priced plan gives you 4 cores and 1.5GB RAM. It’s a good value at its price point.
|VPS Class Pro||8||3GB||100GB||Unlimited||$70/mo|
1. Both plans provide root access.
2. A dedicated IP address is $2/mo.
3. SSD storage is $10/mo.
4. 1GB RAM is $20/mo.
5. These plans come with a dedicated IP and an SSL certificate, so you can conduct business from these sits.
These two plans are fully managed VPS that come with the cPanel/WHM and Softaculous installer and the Cloudflare CDN.
5. SiteGround – From $14.95/mo
Founded in 2004 by a few university friends, SiteGround gradually but steadily grew into a leading web hosting service provider. Today the company has about 90 employees and is constantly growing.
The company now has datacenters in Chicago, Amsterdam, and Singapore. The company provides top-notch customer support and high performance hosting services while sticking to the policy of not overselling their resources. Their place in the market is to compete on the basis of quality and service rather than cutthroat prices. You will get premium support and service — and pay for it.
Their costs and feature sets are competitive. They offer the following types of plans:
- Shared Hosting: Pricing from $3.95 to $14.95
- Managed Cloud VPS: Pricing from $68.95 to $138.95
- Managed Dedicated Server: Pricing from $229 to $429
Siteground offers three categories of shared hosting plans that correspond to small, medium, and high cost. Their shared hosting plans limit storage and bandwidth so as to not overbook their shared servers.
|Name||# Sites||Storage||Bandwidth||SSL Cert||PCI Comp.||Price|
Only the highest-priced plan, GoGeek, is advertised as having “less accounts on server”; it may or may not work for an app as demanding as PHPFox. It depends on your traffic. If it doesn’t, then surely their VPS plans will.
Fully Managed VPS
Curiously, Siteground offers only fully-managed VPS plans. They have no entries in the cheaper “Unmanaged VPS” category. Their style is to only offer complete, full-featured support — but at a price. Unlike most providers, they don’t even make the panel and installer optional! If you want VPS from Siteground, you get everything!!
Also, they are not stingy about allocating computer resources. Even their entry-level VPS plan has two 2GHz cores and 2GB RAM. They don’t try to cut corners on resources in order to advertise a super-low price on a VPS that can hardly do anything.
The drawback of this is that they do not offer any VPS with root access. “Full management” and “root access” often conflict with each other. Thus, the cheapest SiteGround plan with root access is north of $200 because root is only offered on SiteGround’s dedicated servers. Ouch!!
Here is their managed VPS price table.
1. cPanel/WHM/Softaculous are all included.
2. An SSL certificate and two dedicated IP addresses are included.
3. The git version control software is included.
4. A CDN is included.
5. The plans do not include root access but they do support SSH.
We would prefer to see a line of unmanaged VPS plans with root access that fills the gap in their price sheet between Shared hosting and their cheapest managed VPS plan. There’s a $50/mo gap there! Such a plan would meet needs of the intermediate to advanced customer who needs the power of VPS and doesn’t mind (or even enjoys) being sysadmin. If that’s you, check out the unmanaged plans we’ve recommended from VPS.net and Digital Ocean.
Starting a social networking site is not an easy job. But PHPFox will make things easier for you. All you have to do is to make sure you host it on a good hosting environment. Otherwise you will be experiencing sluggish performance and other issues whenever your host goes down. The five companies listed here are really good but they are not the only ones for you. If you want to find out other companies, then use hosting services comparison tool to find them and evaluate them yourself.