I know this is long, but it is important and you should read it all DD
Well here we are in 2010. 2009 was not the greatest year for us, the country and you our members and advertisers and sponsors. We made it though and now that we are in the new year it is time to let you all know where we are, what we are doing and did and most importantly -where we want to go.
This is a detailed report and I want all of you to understand what, why and how but if you wish to skip the specifics and would like to go directly to our fund drive page then here is the link on how to contribute and how to be a patron member. Thank you from all of us at Gunboards for your support!
As we all know we had a rather ugly episode with the forum software this past December. It was supposed to be a simple upgrade and turned out to be a tornado that nearly did us in. If not for the excellent and tireless work that our IT team put in along with our outstanding webmaster and the host company of our ISP that put up when we were bloodied and beaten down on one knee, we simply would not be here. Many would say it did ruin us. I say it damn near did. Those issues did in fact put some other websites out of business. But we put our heads down and busted our rumps to get it done and we did and we got back up on our feet. We are back! It was not easy. Make no mistake. We used every resource we had to weather the storm. Our technical issues are now dwindling each day and our support tickets are at a trickle now. We can say we have over 98% compliance and resolution on nearly all of the many issues that were causing us problems. I am now and will be addressing and solving those that remain on an individual basis. I will personally manually gain corrections for each and every member we have remaining if need be. It is important to us that we are able to provide the product that you have come to expect from Gunboards.com. It’s that simple-you matter and we have to do better every day. I think we are.
Some long winded history for you the membership that has been with us for all of our time to review and new info for those of you that are new to us-which is a whole lot of you! Thank you for that.
Nearly four years ago we undertook an overhaul and upgrade of our system. Everything from the software that we were using to the way we stored and operated with hardware was looked at and upgraded. Our previous system was a modified and tweaked version of some software that served us well for years until we began to simply outgrow it. When that time came we made a decision to go with some commercial software and a dedicated host and equipment. We had grown to the point where Tuco and I simply could not run the site, fund it and maintain it 24/7 without some help.
We made a move to the software and to a privately owned server to manage us more efficiently and to provide complete safety to our members-and it failed. The software was simply not fast enough or able to handle the amount of traffic we asked it to do. In addition to that the load caused hard drive failures on our new server. We were kaput.
Tuco and I scavenged what we could and with our ISP host and the IT team, we made an investment in the future. We decided to go with the gold standard of the forum software (Vb)and upgrade the server, its capabilities and its operating systems as well as purchase more band width to allow the flow of info in and out to be more efficient and faster for our users. This came with a price tag and it was not cheap. The IT load alone was pretty nasty.
So we came to you as our members and proposed a raffle. Together with our sponsors and many generous members we came up with a raffle that would allow each member to support Gunboards in some way. We felt that it was important that if you took part in the raffle that it would be worth your time. By the end of the raffle we had over 7 prize tiers.
The support was strong and we got badly needed support and more importantly Gunboards and its sponsors was able to give a whole lot back! It also allowed us to have the resources at hand to make the decisions we felt were in the best interest of Gunboards at that time.
We upgraded software. We upgraded hardware. We added hardware and we had a plan that would carry us out into the next 5-6 years with a cushion. The support of the membership also allowed us the most important thing of all. An operating capital “cushion”.
Gunboards remains free to all of the members here. There is no fee to join. There is no fee to use our trader-one of the busiest and most successful on the net, there is no fee for the information gained and traded each day. We try to live up to our motto each and every day-to be “for collectors by collectors” with no cost.
So that brings us forward 3.75 years to today. Times are tough no doubt. The issues that nearly killed us took a toll. In order to simply survive we had to prop up Gunboards on our own. We took operating credit from our host to gain us some time to get the house in order and to get things right. We are there-almost 100%. We still have minor issues and remain committed to working on them but many are behind the scenes and not public problems.
The chief concern I have is the restoration of each member that has operating system issues and the resurrection of some of the lost research topics that contain vitally important pictures. That is my personal commitment to you that we will continue to work on this and try to get it back as close to 100% as we can. It won’t be easy but that’s not the issue. The issue is we are and will continue to work for you to make Gunboards better.
3 years ago we were growing nicely… The growth we had shown was within our foreseen manageable levels that we planned our 5 year schedule for.
Fast forward to today and we became the victim of our own success. We have increased our membership in excess of 50% in 3 years to over 72,000. We have grown nearly 30 percent in the past 18 months alone. From exposure in national publications and from simple word of mouth we have grown far larger or faster then we planned. The system we had plotted out was designed to run efficiently with up to 350 users online at any one time and be able to handle the data transfer smoothly and efficiently. We did that quite nicely thank you.
As you all know we offer some services that others do not and are a system drain. For example we allow direct picture upload and have many features that create a storage and resource draw for no other reason than it’s a convenience for the membership. This needs “space” both in and out and space means cost. This past year we regularly have seen users go over 400 online at any one time.
As I write this we have over 573 users on line right now. Nearly double our projection. We have set peak users records this past 4 months. We have obtained new hit records for users globally and in the US. We have had peak page views and membership request in the past 4 months as well. All of this after we upgraded the system again and during some dark and difficult times. We have also set peak bandwidth records as well.
The fact is we have taken a step to the next level earlier then we planned. That step was caused by the unfortunate issue that the V Bulletin upgrade we partook in on December 20rd 2009 caused us. The massive system issues that nearly did us in also caused us to look at what we were doing, how we were doing it and how and what we would need to do to not only correct it but come out stronger with a solid plan for the future. This was what we did.
We undertook massive database correction and reorganization. At the time of the change we moved over 1.25 million posts to a completely new system (not our choice mind you!) Along with that we moved over 1.4 million pictures and images. The transfer of images alone took over 18 hours with 3 CPU’s handling the work. We had to do it 3 times.
With an eye to the future we also at that time decided to abandon the software and operating systems of our servers because we had simply reached the end of the line with what we could do and how we could upgrade. There was no more memory or capacity left in our old windows based systems. We decided that we needed to be able to build on the system when we needed to -and not reconstruct or patch it. So we purchased and implemented a system that was APACHE based and utilized a stackable infrastructure.
In the past we had raffles so that we were able to give back to you the membership. To do that we had the overwhelming support of the membership and the sponsorship who put up the prizes at no cost. In these times we simply cannot go that route. Our industry is on hard times. Sponsors are thread bare and operating costs are thin. I cannot ask our sponsors to do that this time when they are laying off employees . They are already pulled thin and donating product is not an option this time. Plus the enormous nature of organizing and implementing the raffle falls to me alone with Tuco on sabbatical these past two years and I cannot do it with all that is on the plate now.
So it comes to this-you-member support. Our sponsorship will cover approximately 75%-80% of our costs as we stand now. That leaves us with a 20-30% operating deficit which will be realized at the close of the summer. This is IF and only IF we retain 100% of our current sponsorship. If we have strong member support then we will not only cover our deficit but create the operating cushion that will sustain us in the future if need be.
So it comes to this. We are asking that each member if willing and able support us by a donation of .07 a day. That breaks down to a couple of bucks a month or 25.00 a year. This is a suggested amount and not mandatory in any sense. What it would do is rebuild our capital fund and allow us to ride the rough seas if they come for the next couple of years.
Many of you from time to time support your site by your own volition. We are deeply appreciative of that. In this economy we are appreciative of any support to be honest. Running this forum and the system is actually a full time job. Without the tremendous help of our moderators it would be impossible to do it alone. It is a thankless job. It is also a job that I treasure as it is also my hobby that I love. We will persevere and succeed I’m sure and I am asking for your help-will you give it?? For less than a dime a day your support would guarantee our future and all of us would be deeply appreciative. We can do it as a team. Think about it. Ponder it over. If you’re willing then see the contribution links on the collectors page for info of "how to and where" to be a Gunboards patron. As recognition of your support a custom user title will be attached to your name on the forum.
Thank you for your time and thank you for being a Gunboards member. I know I am and I know I speak for Tuco, the moderators and for everybody who helps bring us to you each day! We are deeply appreciative of your gracious and generous support if you should choose to give it. :thumbsup: