Once the planning began to merge this five year old forum into our three month old forum a few milestones were quickly identified.
- We needed to get to get a backup of the old site onto our server. The server that the site was on was five years old as well. It was on an outdated VM that could not be updated or have additional resources added to it.
- The old site was running vBulletin 3.8 so we would need to get the site over on our server and then perform the vBulletin upgrade to the latest version which was 4.2 so that both sites and database tables would match.
- URL rewrite via htaccess so that we did not break five years of Google indexed search results.
- Merge the users and posts using the vBulletin Impex software.
Once we successfully got our backup of the old site, we then made another copy for testing. We successfully ran the vBulletin upgrade and then began the Impex process.
Impex is available for download from the vBulletin member center. The directions are straightforward and personally I had no issue at all setting it up. The bigger challenge is that support from vBulletin for Impex is minimal. The guy who wrote Impex is no longer working with vBulletin and I am not sure of the full understanding by the other staff members. I had several questions which I posted that went unanswered, we just had to figure it out through our own trial and error.
I will say that the main goals of the import were successful. Here are the positives as we imported vBulletin 4.2 into our vBulletin 4.2:
- Member accounts merged successfully – Had no issues of members being able to log in after the merger.
- All posts came over with no issues.
- The ability to merge the same user based on same user name and matching email address – Had no issues.
The issues we had:
- If a member existed in both forums, the Join Date and Post Counts did not update. What we discovered was that the member who was in our new forum kept their join date of when they joined the new forum. While all of their posts successfully came over and attached to that user, the post counts would not reflect their total post count because the Join date was after all their previous posts. We had to script this update within our database to update the Join Date and Post Counts from the backup database.
- Image storage. We offer an upgraded membership that gives members unlimited image hosting. All other members are allowed up to 1 gig of photo storage. After the import users who had exceeded the 1 gig of photo space can not post any new images nor can they delete their old ones as they were archived. So a moderator has to manually remove the photos for the member to free up space or the member has to upgrade their account for our unlimited storage option.
- Admin and moderator groups did not import merged users. We ended up having to put all the moderators and addition administrators from the old site in the Registered Users group, import them, and then manually move them into the proper usergroup after the merge.
Outside of these few issues, everything went very well. Keep in mind that we imported nearly 12,000 members and 700,000 posts! At the end of a long weekend… we were very happy with the results.