I know that many will jump to a quick conclusion that the software that they use is exactly what we are looking for but take pause and read the rest.
We have a need to organize and secure a set of forums in a more complex way than typical. As we are trying to locate software that can do what we want, we find that many "can" do it but none seem to do it in a way that doesn't turn into an admin/upkeep nightmare.
So, I thought I'd post here and see what everyone thought.
We are a software company that has a dozen core products that we need to put individual forums up for. Of course the goal, like everyone, is to give customers a place to do self help and for us to help them and learn from what they are doing with our products. However, we do need to limit the access to the forums to those that actually have licensed our software. Not so hard yet, right, with 12 'private' forums?
Unfortunately, our software runs in different environments, attached to different data processing systems. These environments have to be kept separate from each other and groups using "System A" not mixing with those running "System B". OK. So that means multiplying the forums, by about 10, which gets us to 120 (or so) 'private' forums.
Now, we aren't like Microsoft and our customer base is large companies and so there aren't 1000's of them but still there are quite a few. Lets say 500 active customers with an average of 5 empoyees that participate in the board, all with some mix of our 12 products attached to one or more of the 10 data processing systems. OK, it just got a lot more complicated. Each customer/employee has to have the correct permissions to get into the right forums. Even so, it is possible (if not very ugly). Certainly the maintenance of keeping up with all the permissions as things change is not a lot of fun.
Even with just this part, I can't find any forum software that has flexible enough Permissions/Groups/Catagories/etc... that we can nest all this nicely enough to make it less than a really big headache.
When we add on top of that the desire to have "customer private" forums, it all seems pretty unmanagable. Our forums that are private to each customer are used in a regulated industry and need to have private data in them. No room for things to go wrong and get the wrong person accidentally into the wrong customer space. That just added 500 permission groups (just for customers).
I've kind of hit a brick wall on finding something that can help us with this. If anyone has any suggestions, I'd absolutely love to hear them.
Well, as far as I understand, I think you are looking for a multi-forum software, like Wordpress is in the world of blogs. Unfortunately, I never heard about a software supporting such features, which basically means 1 forum = 1 software installation, which is just a pain to maintain.
About security, starting from the point that each forum has its own installation / DB, I think phpBB can make it quite easily, because it has a really complex complete way of managing security per category, forum, group of users,...
If you don't want to manage such problems, maybe you can also think about hosted forum, like ProBoards or Lefora?
FSR Admin - Vote for 2012.
Thank you for your insight. I'm begining to think that you are right on this point. If only our security needs were not so complex....