As anyone with a hobby knows, forums are some of the most useful places on the internet, full of ideas, advice, and information. Whether you're looking for advice on the where to find a rare 18th-century stamp or how to change your car's transmission, the chances are you'll find the answer in a forum.
But, before a forum can become a treasure trove of information, someone has to create it. And to do that, you need a great forum hosting service.
Because I know most forum admins operate on a strict budget, I've been careful to include the best free forum hosting choices.
However, there are some big advantages to using a paid forum hosting service. For that reason, while some of the services I've included are entirely free, others are premium web hosts that offer free forum software.
Here are the best cheap and free forum hosting services:
- Forumotion: Create totally free forums
- A2 Hosting: Unlimited space and bandwidth
- ProBoards: Quick forum setup
- 000webhost: Offers lots of server control
- 1&1 IONOS: Forum hosting with free domain
All plans are free
Recommended for: Easy to customize forums.
Forumotion is a web host that's dedicated to letting users create free forums. It's one of the easiest services to create a forum with. All you need to do is click 'Create a Forum' and select your forum software of choice.
Four different forum design packages are included. These are phpBB3, ModernBB, Invision, and PunBB. For a classic forum look, I recommend you go with phpBB3, but first-time forum creators may prefer PunBB.
Your forum will appear on a Forumotion subdomain, such as www.forum.forumotion.com. If you own one, you can also connect a custom domain.
There are some significant advantages to using a specialist forum-only host, like Forumotion. For example, you get access to a custom forum admin panel that lets you manage advanced settings.
Forumotion also offers a wide selection of different forum themes and a litigation tool to allow forum members to contact the forum founder directly and resolve conflicts. Remember, it's important to keep your forum well-moderated.
However, the most impressive thing about Forumotion is that it manages to offer all of these functions for free! There is one major downside to using a free forum hosting service like this though, which is that you get a lot less control over your server environment than you would with a traditional host.
- Totally free forum hosting
- Multiple forum design packages
- Add your custom domain
- Less control over your server environment
- Limited support options
2. A2 Hosting
Prices begin at $3.92/month
Recommended for: Large range of forum creation packages.
Unlike Forumotion, A2 Hosting is a regular web host that offers some excellent support for forum websites. Unfortunately, it isn't completely free. Plans are still affordable though, beginning at $3.92/month.
Every hosting package comes with unlimited storage and bandwidth, which is excellent if you want to create a large forum that can support thousands of members.
All A2 Hosting's storage is based on rapid SSD drives, so your forum will load quickly for members and visitors alike. In my A2 Hosting review, I found response times to be as low as 23ms.
The main limitation of A2's bottom tier $3.92 'Lite' plan is that it only allows you to create a single website. If you want to host multiple forums at once, I suggest you consider the $4.90/month 'Swift' package.
However, no matter which option you go for, you'll get access to A2 Hosting's comprehensive library of different forum creation packages. By my count, A2 Hosting offers access to at least 35 different forum creation toolkits. Whatever your forum design suite of choice is, you'll find support for it here.
- Unlimited storage and bandwidth
- Access to lots of forum toolkits
- Rapid site speeds
- 24/7 phone and live chat customer support
- Starter plan limited to a single website
- More expensive than other options
Free plans are available
Recommended for: Rapid Forum Setup.
Like Forumotion, ProBoards is a web hosting service that is entirely focused on forum hosting. ProBoards is actually one of the largest forum services with over 22 million active users and 3 million hosted forums.
It offers totally free hosting for forums and doesn't place any restrictions on bandwidth, page numbers or storage. Basically, you don't need to worry about outgrowing ProBoards, even if you have thousands of active members.
A major advantage that ProBoards has over other free forum hosting services is that it offers 24/7 customer support. So, if you run into technical trouble, you won't have to solve it alone.
So, if you thought it was easy to set up a forum with Forumotion, ProBoards takes things to another level. It only takes a half a minute to create a forum, as all you need to do is enter a name and select which subdomain address to use.
The free ProBoards package doesn't include some important features such as SSL certificates or phone support. To get those, business users should consider its sister service, Forums.net, which is available from $49.99/month.
- No page, bandwidth or storage limits
- Free plan available
- Redundant backups included
- Quick forum creator
- 24/7 customer support
- The free version doesn't include SSL certificates
- Business version is expensive
Free to use
Recommended for: Free forum servers that you can manage.
To create a forum using 000webhost, you'll need to upload a forum management package using 000webhost's file transfer protocol (FTP) service. This requires a little more technical knowledge than other forum hosts in this list, so this isn't an option I'd recommend if you're not tech savvy.
By default, 000webhost accounts come with a free subdomain such as www.forum.000webhost.com. And the best part is, if you already have a domain registered elsewhere, you can connect it for free.
One advantage that 000webhost has over other best free forum hosting providers listed here is that it offers more control over your hosting environment. You can manage your server using cPanel and support for MySQL software means you can install whatever forum toolkit you like.
If you do use 000webhost, you'll benefit from an extremely reliable hosting experience. 000webhost servers come with a 99.9% uptime guarantee, which I personally verified in my 000webhost review. In short, your members won't have any trouble connecting to your forum.
000webhost's free package comes with 1GB of storage and 10GB bandwidth. Unfortunately, that means it isn't suitable for hosting large forums. However, for smaller scale discussion boards this service will work well. If you want extra space, I advise you to consider the forum hosting plans offered by 000webhost's parent company, Hostinger.
- Completely free to use
- More server control than competitors
- Supports custom domains
- 24/7 customer support
- Limited storage and bandwidth space
- Not very easy to use
5. 1&1 IONOS
Pricing starts at $1/month
Recommended for: Personalized customer support.
1&1 IONOS's plans begin at just $1/month and include 100GB of SSD storage. That's enough room to host large forums that contain data-heavy multimedia content. Sadly, after the first year of your contract, prices do increase.
By default, 1&1 IONOS supports eight different forum development software kits. If your favorite forum software tool isn't among them, you can add it by uploading installation files over FTP.
A key advantage of using 1&1 IONOS is that its hosting packages come with everything you need to create a successful forum. For example, every plan comes with one year's worth of domain registration and a pre-installed SSL certificate.
Reliable support is another key selling point of 1&1 IONOS's forum hosting service. For starters, you get access to service agents 24/7 by live chat and over the phone. On top of that, you'll also be assigned a 'personal consultant' who will tailor technical assistance to the needs of your particular forum.
- Free domain registration and SSL certificates
- Support for numerous forum toolkits
- Personalized customer support
- No free packages
- Prices increase after the first year
Deciding on the Best Free Forum Hosting Option
Each of these forum hosting sites has different advantages and disadvantages. I recommend you consider your personal needs when deciding which to use:
- Forumotion offers a large selection of Forum software packages
- A2 Hosting's forums have no bandwidth or storage limits
- ProBoards is ideal for a fast forum setup
- 000webhost is free and gives you a lot of server control
- 1&1 IONOS comes with included domain registration
Remember, these are just guidelines and you don't have to follow my recommendations to the letter.
The best forum hosting services in my list can be divided into two options. There are regular web hosts like A2 Hosting, 000webhost and 1&1 IONOS who support forum hosting, and then there are forum-only hosts like Forumotion and ProBoards. If you want more server control, make sure you pick a standard web host.
But what do you think? Please add your own forum hosting service recommendations below!