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Joel R

10 Tips For Converting from vBulletin to Invision Community

Conversion strategies and tips from vBulletin to Invision Community.  Learn how 6 IPS clients migrated from vBulletin.

Are you a vBulletin admin looking to stay on the leading edge of online communities? 

As an IPS client who frequents the Invision Community support forums on a daily basis, I often run across existing or former vBulletin admins looking to migrate to IPS.  In fact, based on my not-so-scientific survey, vBulletin is one of the most popular platforms from where admins migrate. Many of the vBulletin users are professional administrators looking for a stable company, rapid development, and a trusted platform to power their communities into the future. 

I interviewed 6 former vBulletin admins who are now Invision Community clients.  Most of these vBulletin admins have 10+ years of experience running successful forums, so their input was especially insightful.   

“I love the design of the admin and moderation back-end, a real treat after living with the antiquated and confusing vBulletin back-end.” -- @cfish

“I like the well-thought concept, the details, and abundance of features and functions.” --@Ramsesx

I’ve compiled the top 10 questions and answers from their interviews and the forums specifically for vBulletin admins for an insider’s perspective on how to convert from vBulletin to Invision Community.  You can also read their full interviews in my Community Guide attached at the bottom.

10. What is the typical lifecycle of Invision Community and what new features come out?

Invision Community is currently on 4.4.  It’s a great time to be migrating as both the software and converter are very mature.  You’ll be able to take advantage of all the new features from Invision Community 4.x such as Social Clubs, Subscriptions, SEO updates, and GDPR updates

In general, IPS publishes one major update like 4.4 once a year, with several bug fixes, security updates, and enhancements throughout the year.  The best place to read about Product Updates is the official IPS Blog in Product Updates.

9. What are the pricing options and how do they compare to vBulletin?

IPS is comparable in pricing when compared to vBulletin depending on your choice of apps.  The self-hosted option is cheaper when considering support and upgrades.    

The pricing for an active license is simple, easy, and comprehensive.  A new license includes professional ticket support, forum support, access to new upgrades, and managed spam service for 6 months.  Renew again in six months to continue those benefits.  If you choose not to renew, your software will continue to work.

8.  Is the software mobile ready like vBulletin?

Yes, the software is responsive by design.  This means the community naturally fits and beautifully displays in any device size, giving you a consistent look-and-feel across all devices.  Try it now by resizing your window! 

It also means you don’t need to pay for any extra “mobile bundles.”  This approach to mobile design was one of the reasons why @cfish chose IPS: “I didn’t like vBulletin’s approach to mobile. The IPS approach to responsive web design was inline with my own thinking.

7.  What are the official Invision Community apps and how do they compare to vBulletin? 

@Steve Bullman converted to IPS because “IPS seemed to offer a better all-round package for what I needed.”  One of the biggest reasons for considering IPS is a broader approach to community.  Whereas vBulletin focuses only on Forums and Blogs, IPS empowers you to build a suite of applications customized to your needs.  Mix and match apps like Gallery, Blogs, Downloads, Pages, and Commerce to build a modern community with resource directories, databases, paid subscriptions, albums and more that go beyond forums.   

You can read more about the apps in Features. Calendar and Clubs are included for free! 

6.  What will be migrated from vBulletin? 

The free converter app will migrate all of your member and content items from vBulletin 3.8.x, 4.x, and 5.x.  This includes members, private messages, member groups, ranks, forums, topics, posts, and attachments.  You can view the full list on Migrate and choose your vBulletin version from the list of choices.

Obviously, you will not be able to migrate any custom themes or custom modifications.  @ChristForums adds, “I wish I had known that the converter was so easy to use and migrate from Vbulletin 5.

5.  What are the channels for support? 

Every active license comes with professional ticket support, which should always be your first source of contact.  @Markus Jung highlights “fast support” as the item he appreciates the most about his license.  You can also obtain help from the community forums, help guides, release notes, and other public resources. 

If you’re not an IPS client yet, you can post in Pre-Sales forum or email sales@invisionpower.com

4.  How do I prepare my community?

The six admins that I interviewed offered several tips for new Invision Community owners.  Prior to the conversion, you should read through the converter package to see what will convert and redirect.  You should purchase other Invision Community apps in advance to fully convert vBulletin items as needed; not delete any old content since Invision Community includes an archive function; and not make drastic changes to allow members a chance to become accustomed to the new forum. 

3.  What will happen to my traffic and URL redirects? 

The free converter app will redirect your existing URLs.  This includes forums, topics, posts, member profiles, print view pages, archived content, attachments, and tags.  You need to leave your converter installed after migration to ensure the redirects will work.   

AlexWebsites wrote, “the converter came with built-in redirects and I was able to redirect most of my traffic. Traffic recovered within a few months.

2. What are the server configuration and database requirements?    

If you choose cloud, then Invision Community will manage the hosting. 

If you choose on-premise, you can use the free ‘Get Ready’ compatibility file to check your server.  The latest version of Invision Community 4.4 requires:

  • PHP 7.1.0 or higher (7.3.x is supported)
  • MySQL 5.5.3 or higher (5.6.2 recommended). 

1. How stable is the company? 

Other companies lost their development talent. Other companies were bought and sold by multi-media conglomerates. Other companies have a history of lawsuits.

Through it all, Charles, Lindy and Matt have been here since the beginning providing steady leadership to Invision Communities everywhere.  If you’re looking for stability, it’s nice to know you can rely on the same people who started the company.  For serious and professional vBulletin admins looking to transition, you know you’re not just buying into the software, but investing in the development team, staff, and platform for years to come. Ramsesx shared his personal story: “I always prefer the best for my community from where I earn my income.  An important aspect was the longtime outlook.  Invision Community gave me the feeling of being trustworthy, they are more than 17 years in the forum software market.” 

It’s no wonder that so many successful vBulletin admins feel the same after moving to Invision Community.  You get stability, years of experience, a deep understanding of online communities, and a dedication to development that continues to innovate.  It’s time to bring your vBulletin community over to Invision Community! 

Bookmark this page for future reference and download the Community Guide for experiences from real clients who converted from vBulletin.  Much appreciation to @AlexWebsites @cfish @Christforums @Markus Jung @Ramsesx @Steve Bullman for participating in the interviews.  

- Joel R

Community Guide vBulletin Migration to Invision Community.pdf



Recommended Comments


Obviously, you will not be able to migrate any custom themes or custom modifications

If you do not mind @Joel R I wanted to slightly expand on this.

Those looking to move from VB to the IPS Suite should not see the quoted text as any form of barrier at all.  On the contrary:

It is highly likely that a suitable replacement Theme (VB owners may be more familiar with the term 'style') will be available for their newly converted IPS Suite that either closely matches their original design or is something highly suitable.

A look at the quality themes on offer in the IPS Marketplace by third parties should I think satisfy the majority of those converting over from their VB based community to IPS in that they will be able to find something their community approves of.

Speaking very briefly of modifications, it is quite possible the functionality they required a third party addition on their VB site is possibly built into the IPS Suite, negating the need to look for a replacement. Again a cursory glance at the Marketplace may well reveal something suitable to use in the cases where its something specific in mind, or alternatively a post perhaps in the Peer to Peer support forums where other IPS Suite clients would perhaps be able to point the newly converted Client to a suitable file in the Marketplace to suit their needs.


My closing remarks to those considering the move 'over' if you're in any doubt then why not just try out the free 5 day demo to get a feeling of the IPS Suite 'under the hood' so to speak, and I think you'll be very happy with what you see here. 🙂

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2 decades as vbulletin big board admin/programmer

A few things to be aware of...

With every major conversion there will be a loss in traffic. If done correctly, you should see traffic levels close to normal in a few months. Prepare for the worse and you will come out on top. This will happen regardless of platform you select.

Create a test site and run conversion. I recommend you do this a few times. This will give you an idea of how long the process will take. You will end up making mistakes so I recommend duplicating your test database first. eg, on one you can prune all private messages and see if that will speed up conversion ... if you have millions and millions of posts you definitely need to have a plan of action

Start changing your old site so that it starts looking like the new. This decreases the shock in change. For example, I changed posts style on old site so that it looks similar to the new theme that I will be using. I also changed main page and directories so that it looks the same.

If you haven't done so switch to HTTPS.

Attachments (images) is a big generator of traffic for many sites - especially if you've been around for years. Although attachments are converted over without issues they are not redirected (old to new url). On a personal note, I literally lost thousands and thousands of Google image placements because of this oversight. This hurts backlinks. SEO.

If you use vbseo/dbseo, if forum friendly urls include forum id then no issues redirecting old urls to new. If in the form of /forum-name/ then these will not be redirected properly. Topic urls will redirect regardless of type.

Learn everything you can on how to use IPS Pages app. It's a very powerful system. You can create any type of directory or custom page with it.

For search, use IPS built in elasticsearch feature if possible. You won't regret it. 

For cache method, use Redis for everything if possible.

Finally, be smart with number of plugins you install. IPS is fast but when you start adding a lot of plugins you could hurt performance.

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I absolutely confirm that it is worthwhile doing a number of test conversions and having a test site where plug-ins and applications can be installed in order to understand how they work and whether they cause any problems.

The idea of modifying your existing site to look like your forthcoming Invision site is brilliant – and I don't know why I hadn't thought about it myself. Unfortunately, we carried out our conversion about a week or so before the above article was written.

Our old vBulletin site was pretty heavily modified after 13 years of use and so it's taken a lot of work to find plug-ins to replicate their functionality. I agree that too many plug-ins probably slow down the site – and we probably have too many plug-ins! But I shall be looking to rationalise them over the forthcoming weeks/months.

It's certainly true that traffic seems to reduce a lot after the conversion and I hope it is also true that it will pick up again.

There are various things which are confusing – including the huge number of notification possibilities. It is worth understanding how they work.

Also, the business of configuring administrators and "super admins" took a bit of getting used to – although it is starting to come together.

Finally I have to say that the support here is excellent. I felt rather embarrassed with the amount of questions I was bombarding the Invision team with that even if they got fed up, they never let it show.


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23 hours ago, BankFodder said:

Finally I have to say that the support here is excellent. I felt rather embarrassed with the amount of questions I was bombarding the Invision team with that even if they got fed up, they never let it show.


We never get fed up 🙂 

And if you ever have questions about how the software works, you are always welcome to submit a ticket and one of our technicians will be happy to explain it. Just wanted to put that out there in case you or anyone else was unsure.

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On 3/7/2019 at 2:36 PM, BankFodder said:

Finally I have to say that the support here is excellent. I felt rather embarrassed with the amount of questions I was bombarding the Invision team with that even if they got fed up, they never let it show.

No don't worry about that at all. 🙂 If you have a question/concern/enquiry feel free at any point to simply ask in a support ticket.

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