They say, the best of any product is yet to be made available’, but what constitutes the best is customized to every individual. What is acceptable to one person might not be acceptable to the other person. Unfortunately, this is the same case with forum software. The free ones available in the market are phpBB, myBB, ProBoards, ZetaBoards, SMF and on and on. This time, we will dissect ZetaBoards and see how well it is serving webmasters and administrators around the world.
Before we begin, we need to understand a little bit of history of ZetaBoards. This forum software began its footstep into the online world under the banner of Zathyus Networks 14 years before, allegedly before sitemaps for social media existed. Under their software engineers and staff, this community software had undergone a lot of changes and today, they continue to support around one hundred thousand online communities. The history is quite impressive, but we will see what they have achieved over this span of fourteen years.
Lets make a really quick note that the ‘About Us’ page informs us that ZetaBoards underwent 8 years’ worth development but the staff page says that the community began 2002. I really don’t understand the mathematics, but I am assuming that they simply forgot to update the ‘About Us’ page.
Hosting: Today, one crucial point about selecting a particular free host is the amount of uptime the host is able to provide. ZetaBoards is hosted on fifteen super strong servers, providing you with unlimited space to host any number of members and posts, and at the point of writing this review, all fifteen are online and working. Yet, in the support forum, we could find numerous topics relating to server downtime and most importantly, these are not regular server update notices. Compared to other forum hosts, we are forced to believe that the uptime is a little less. The live/realtime status of each of their servers could be found here: http://tachyondecay.net/php/bin/serverstatus.php (Link picked up from official support forum index, but not officially maintained by Zathyus Networks and pointing towards an external source. Cant make any sense out it!)
Domains: Unlike other free forum software, ZetaBoards re-affirms its commitment to the user experience by allowing you to purchase a domain from any domain registrars as long as they provide you with of the facility updating your server and CNames. ZetaBoards, however recommends that you buy your domains from Namecheap as the staff are fully accustomed to provide support with this system. This, in a nutshell, means that you have full authority of your domain name which is definitely a plus point to consider when you are looking forward to beginning a new community.
Styles and designs: ZetaBoards is notable for its hard curved forum index structure. Communities running other free forum software have been able to modify the themes and designs to such an extent that it would take even the most experienced hand to search in the footer to determine what software the board is running. But ZetaBoards will have a different story to tell. Even after all these years of surfing through ZetaBoards forums, we have never come across a community that has changed the forum index to such an extent so as to dismantle the default theme. In a real sense, the most important elements of the default theme has stood the test of time and is a testimony to how popular the original theme was. The Support forum has a very handy guide regarding creating new themes and installing them. By default, ZetaBoard is not adapted to mobile devices, so its always good to install a mobile friendly theme if you are looking out for that feature. In this department, the lack of a mobile friendly default theme is definitely something no webmasters or administrators could accept. Looking through the forum, it seems like a mobile app is in the consideration for a long a long time, but nothing has materialized. Hopefully, they will make it up fast.
Advertisements: Each free forum owned and hosted by ZetaBoards has a banner advertisement that keeps the project running – one placed at the top and the other at the bottom of the forum index. But for those users who would like to have these advertisement removed, the cost is calculated on a ‘per pageview’ criteria and is a very sensible criteria to use as far as the administrators are concerned. By purchasing ad removal, you can use your own content targeted advertising and pop up advertising on a forum (in other cases, you are not!). Additionally, you have the option of transferring add removal credits to other forums if you wish to do so. To shorten it, as far as the advertisement section is concerned, ZetaBoards do have a green signal.
Database: Unlike other free forum software, ZetaBoards is perfectly fine with giving you your database should you choose to move from ZetaBoards to a new host or a new forum software. However, you will have to pay to receive the ‘copy’ of your database (which means that the original community will still exist). There are no clear pricing range for this, but the support request to the sales team will enlighten you. Nevertheless, we believe that this is another step that makes ZetaBoards very user friendly. However, do remember that the database is transferred in a pre-set format (IPB, for now) and that you will have to convert it to you preferred forum software – a process that is not officially supported by ZetaBoards support community.
Premium features: The following are the features that are offered in extra, to premium users:
Administrator accessible private message logs
Moderator accessible edited post log
Unrestricted use of bulk email frequency
Removal of advertisements placed in the bottom of the index
Exclusive resource database
Increased upload limit upto 7MB
To become a premium user, you need to pay around 80$ a year. Going by the list of features, I hardly think that anyone would really require to update their forum from a free to premium community. The fact that ZetaBoards has managed to keep a lot of original features for free are definitely a plus towards the user experience. So kudos to that!
Support system: One of the most beautiful part of a ZetaBoard support network is its dual support system. You can open a ticket that pertains to any of the four categories – Support, Theme, Sales and Personal request (related to lost administrator password, transfer of ownership etc) and a staff member will immediately get to resolve your issue. Additionally, you are also extended full support through the support forum staffed with really friendly people and some amazing members. Both these mechanisms ensure that you receive prompt support – another user friendly initiative by the Zathyus management. Despite these best efforts, if you are a mediocre ZetaBoards user, you will find it hard to locate help document because the documentation is neither complete nor professional. At many instances, you will have to use the ‘search’ function in the support forums to find what you are looking for – something that will turn away potential yet budding administrator and/or webmasters.
Finally, lets take a look at the pros and cons again.
Pros: Easy domain management, possibility of retrieving your forum database, dual support system.
Cons: Downtime in hosting, Exclusive resource database only open to premium members, unprofessional documentation.