Need to know how to build a support forum (like Experts Exchange but much smaller)

My company wants to create a small support forum on our website for our clients.  I need to know the best way to do this or if there are any good/favorite programs that would help accomplish this.  All our clients would remain anonymous to each other and would be able to start topics for our developers to look into.  Also, what kind of hardware/software is required?  We don't have a large client base, it shouldn't need many resources, hardware, etc. but it will need to perform on Microsoft platforms, we are entirely unfamiliar with Unix.

This may or may not be a difficult question, punctual answers are greatly appreciated


Some bonuses would be:

Having the abiltity to control access to certain areas based on Active Directory credentials
Having the moderators be informed by email when new topics arrive
Who is Participating?
I get the impression that you already have a website.  Am I right?

Before you get into programming, etc., I would suggest you take a look at phpBB ( - full list of features and a demo there, if you want to see it in action, go to - that is their phpBB commuity forum using, suitably, phpBB).  As the website says, "phpBB is a high powered, fully scalable, and highly customizable Open Source bulletin board package. phpBB has a user-friendly interface, simple and straightforward administration panel, and helpful FAQ."  It's free, easy to install, set up and use, and you can make it as large or as small as you want.  I use it on three different sites and it saves me a lot of time and effort.

It uses PHP (very easy to set up on an IIS server) and one of your choice of the following databases: MySQL, PostgreSQL, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Access.  The only shortcoming I can think of in terms of what you're looking for is that I don't think you can integrate it with Active Directory.  It has its own built-in membership signup & administration, so the usernames could certainly be anonymous.

I hope this helps.
The best way to do this, in my opinion, would be to use ASP and some database to create this.  Another option is to look into many of the different PERL forums out there.  Either one of these requires the IIS server and the PERL one requires the PERL libs.

An option also worth consideration is to install Red Hat Linux 9 (it's insanely easy).  It comes with a SMTP server, Apache, MySQL, and PHP preinstalled and ready to go.  Plus, with its windows-like interface, the learning curve would e minimal. *It also has a firewall (a good firewall).
Popeyediceclay -

Quite a few of our clients have had similar requirements and the solution of choice, after every product review in the last theee years, has been ASPPlayground.NET SQL Forum Software

We like it because it is rock solid, easy to set up, modify and integrate.  Clients like it because it is a professional looking product and not expensive.

Here are some sample users for you:

- duz
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PopeyediceclayAuthor Commented:
Looks like I asked the right people!  I'm going to look into these in depth and maybe I'll have a few questions when I'm learned a little about them.  Thanks

BTW, yes I already have a site running on IIS 5 and also has some PHP pages.
A FREE solution might be

For clarification: is also free.
PopeyediceclayAuthor Commented:
I like phpBB alot, seems to be very customizable.  It's exactly what I wanted.

humeniuk - Have you made it work with MSSQL 2000?  I tried a few things in my PHP.ini, I keep getting this:

Warning: odbc_connect() [function.odbc-connect]: SQL error: [Microsoft][ODBC Driver Manager] Data source name not found and no default driver specified, SQL state IM002 in SQLConnect in D:\phpBB2\db\mssql-odbc.php on line 54

Warning: odbc_error(): supplied argument is not a valid ODBC-Link resource in D:\phpBB2\db\mssql-odbc.php on line 377

Warning: odbc_errormsg(): supplied argument is not a valid ODBC-Link resource in D:\phpBB2\db\mssql-odbc.php on line 378
phpBB : Critical Error

Could not connect to the database

or when I try it without the ODBC:

"The PHP configuration on your server doesn't support the database type that you chose"
If you go to a PHP solution I don't recommend PHPbb. My choice would definitely by InvisionBoard 2 ( ) which I beleive outclasses IBB greatly these days, the version 2 is in Release Candidate 4, rock solid and works well. vBulletin ( ) is a paid forum with an excellent reputation which has a number of add-ons which might help you in your aims, it's very professional and a site which has implemented it exceedingly well is Sitepoint ( ). A similiar ASP.NET solution which is also one of the few to support RSS is called InstantForum.NET ( ). An example of it's implementation is at Topstyle / Feeddemon's support forums at - perhaps RSS feeds could be parsed using ASP.NET and placed into an alternate interface for your clients to view the responses, like a control panel of some sort?
As for your last Comment, I have used PHP on windows also - you will need to install the MSSQL Windows Extension for PHP to work properly with MS SQL.

Quote: "The MSSQL extension is enabled by adding extension=php_mssql.dll to php.ini." ( - also see:
Sorry, Popeye, didn't see your followup question until today.

I haven't used MS SQL with PHP, though it can be done with a little tweaking like orbital said.
PopeyediceclayAuthor Commented:
Thanks guys!  I need to check out Orbital's recommendations possibly for a more professional look but I definitley have what I was looking for.
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