Why are community owners switching from Ning to SocialEngine PHP

4 May 2013

Why are community owners switching from Ning to SocialEngine PHP

Recently three major communities – Bikers Post, bougex.com (Alex) and virtualacademy.com (Barry John) ) have migrated to SocialEngine PHP from Ning. We had asked each community owners  about their experience with Ning and SE PHP and what factors drove them towards SE PHP. Here are the responses from community owners:

Third party plugins

There are plethora of third party plugins for socialengine Php and you can find many features off the selves for SE Php. How was your experience with third party plugins for Ning and What’s your experience with SE third party plugins ?

Barry John: The problem with Ning is the lack of customization, except for superficial visual features.  The availability of plugins for Social Engine and the ability to modify the interface to better suit your users’ needs is the main reason I switched from Ning to Social Engine.
I have been working with an SE plugin vendor called SE Addons and a have been using iPragmatech to customize the product.  I can highly recommend both companies.
iPragmatech has been extremely responsive in answering my pre-sales questions and helping us get started. They have answered all our questions promptly and so far have been a delight to work with. Both companies are highly recommended.

With SE addons, I found some bugs and feature limitations with their plugins, and they were extremely responsive to my suggestions. In fact the bugs were fixed almost immediately, and within a few days, many of the feature changes I asked for were implemented. They are by far the best plugin vendor I have found as far as responsiveness is concerned. I am very happy with them.

With Ning, problems I raised two years ago have still not been resolved.

Bougex.com : Third party plugins for SE are very well integrated. Very easy to install and very stable. I mostly use plugins from http://www.socialengineaddons.com/ and http://socialengine.younetco.com/ . These companies offer a great service if you face any bugs or questions. They are quite fast to answer to any of your questions.

My Ning experience with plugins was only apps.­io… very good…. but not flexible, once again.

Custom Changes

Since you have the access to the source code for SE php, you can eventually change anything in the SE Php platform. How was it working with Ning and what are you experience with customizations for SE Php

Barry John: Social Engine Php is much better in this respect, since it is possible to modify the code. With Ning you cannot do anything to the underlying code.

Bougex.com : I found some very good developer to optimize source code for SE. It’s very useful  For example, I wanted to link events to groups and destinations… customization helped me a lot to develop the exact web site I wanted. The only problem with customization is that now, it’s harder to update SE core and plugins… You have to take into consideration previous customization you’ve done… and because of that…. bugs are appearing !!! :-(

Speed and Scalability

You community website is flying like a rocket now :-), You must have been enjoying the speed up and scalability of the community. What challenges did you face in Ning related to website speed?  How is your initial experience with SE Php ?

Barry John: At times we have had problems with speed in Social Engine. At the moment it seems to be working at an acceptable speed.

Bougex.com : Ning was very fast and reliable. I’ve never faced major problem with Ning.But, when you install SE in your own dedicated server…. you need to configure your server the good way for SE to be fast…. and honestly, because I’m not a programmer, configure a server is a headeach !!!! (MySQL, DNS, APC Cache, Zend, DKIM, SPF, CDN… and other stuff I don’t even remember the name.)

If you are not a minimum familiar with server configuration, you will face a SocialEngine slow and not effective with managing large amount of datas…

Hopefully…. iPragmatech was there to help me. They spent a week playing with my server installing stuffs, optimizing the code, and making it very smooth and fast. :-)

Customer Support

Do you find better customer support from SE than Ning ?  How is your experience with third party vendors like us ?

Barry John: Ning would not, or could not, fix a couple of annoying problems we were having for our network, and this eventually became a major problem.
Social Engine support is sometimes responsive, but they have still not addressed some serious core problems, which is a problem for us.
However, Social Engine has a good network of third party vendors who can customize the software for you. We have found both iPragmatech and SE addons to be highly responsive and they have provided excellent support for the product. I can highly recommend both companies. This has made a big difference to our project.

Bougex.com : On Ning, the customer support is mostly a cut and past answering system. And most of the time frustrating… :-(
Hopefully, Ning Creators help each others with tricks ons other things to get answers.
A say it again, Ning is a great product to begin your community with, but when you get a little bit serious about it… Ning is not the answer anymore.
iPragmatech, socialengineaddons, YouNet  gave me a great support in the last 3 months. I’m very satisfied with their quality of work quick responses. Most of the time, the answers were to the point and I don’t feel it’s a cut & past answer.

Costs

How much did you pay for Ning for an year and How much have you paid for SE Php so far ?
Barry John: I have paid more for SE Php because we have had to do so much customization. But that is because we have very specific requirements for our application, so it is not a fair comparison. I simply could not do with Ning what I am doing in Social Engine php.

Bougex.com : SE is much more expensive that Ning !!!! That’s for sure.

Ning 1188$  + Apps.io 110$ + Cometchat 100$ = 1400$ / year

For now with SE… I sent about 6000$ for plugins and ciustomization. Dedicated server, maxCDN.com, Mandrill, Codeguard and other stuff cost me 250$ / month.

Data Ownership

SE Php allows you to have ful control over the community users data, how its different in Ning ? Were you able to export all of your data from Ning to SE ?

Barry John: SE Php is much better in terms of access to your data. You have your own MySQL database and so can do almost anything you want with the data. With Ning you do not have access to your data, except in very limited form.

Bougex.com : I was able to import most of my network… but having access to php mysql is much more better for next migrations now ! If one day, I decide to leave SE, it will be much easier !!! :-)

Limitation

What limitations do you find in Ning community ? Do you find any limitation in SE Php ?

Barry John: The biggest limitation with SE Php, and a very serious one, is the abysmally poor support for community discussions and images. Until the vendor of SE Php fixes this problem, I really cannot recommend switching from Ning. Another related limitation with SE Php is that it does not handle giving members a summary of what discussions are taking place nearly as well as Ning does.

Bougex.com : Ning is limited in term of customizations… But it’s cheap and easy to manage.
SE is unilimited in term of custimzations… But it’s expensive and a major headeach to manage if you want to do it well !!!

Hosting

What hosting did you used for Ning? What hosting are you using for your SE Php now ?

Barry John: I am using the Lunarpages cloud service for hosting of SE Php, and can highly recommend them.

Bougex.com : Hosting with Ning was included !!!
In SE you have to host on a dedicated server. Mine is hosted with iweb.com. 125$ / month for a smart server, Intel E7500, 8Go Ram, WMH, CPanel, RAID 1 Software 2x1000Go, Linux Entreprise – CentOS 6

How is your experience with iPragmatech

We have been working on your community and have helped you to speed it up ? How much performance have improved for  your community site after performance optimizations ?

Barry John: We did originally have big speed problems with SE Php, but iPragramatich has fixed the problems and at the moment the network is running very smoothly, and I am happy with its performance.
Bougex.com : Following the benchmarks we’ve done… Bougex.com is 200% faster that before thanks to iPragmatech

Conclusion

It is true that building a social network is not trivial and require extra effort to keep community active & rolling. One need to be very careful while deciding the platform for the social network. Ning can be used if you have small to medium size community and doesn’t want customisation out of the box while SocialEngine PHP can be used when you want to build up a small to large community with lot of customisations & wanted support from third party vendors.  Also one need to retain the ownership for the community data as it helps to get the funding for the community.

  • http://netdost.com/ NetDost Social Network

    i dont think its thats easy to switch the platform

  • http://www.ipragmatech.com/ Kapil Jain

    It depends on your social networking website requirements. Bougex was able to migrate most of its data to SE 4.6 while bikersposts/VAA scraped their previous ning site data.