I've looked into all the alternatives. Spruz, socialgo, elgg, jomsocial, dolphin, social engine, buddypress etc etc. We've also helped migrate 2 large sites to social engine (but it was quite costly). As far as cost effectiveness goes (along with owning the site and data yourself) buddypress seems to be the best contender. I would NOT recommend social engine or Joomla. They are too messy. I would not recommend SAAS (software as a service) if you want to own the code, because they are "rentals" and not true ownership.
I helped setup socialcoderz with another developer (separate from sitesuites) to migrate from ning to Social engine. From my observations most people are moving to buddypress... so, we now offer that service at socialcoderz because thats mostly what they want. We havent done any migrations to buddypress yet, but have the systems in place to get member data there so it will be a bit of a trial run to start off with. We're currently corresponding with site owners who have expressed interest.
Some of the sites I see going over there are looking pretty good.
However, you need to pay hosting to host it yourself - recommended (and some hosts dont host social sites!) So, through Socialcoderz you can get hosting for $17 a month for average site. The Transfer to buddypress currently only includes members data, profile questions, profile pic, profile details. It does not include content.
And therein is the problem, in a nutshell. We are not a huge network on Ning...about 3300 members...but we are in a niche market and pretty much own it...we have a huge amount of content both being hosted by sitesuites (joomla bridge...which is really slick...thanks, Vince), and on Nings servers which cannot be transferred at this point. We are still watching and waiting and we will make our decisions on May 4th. But if we had to leave Ning, I am pretty sure we would not go back into a white label social network. I have several wordpress blogs and they are quite a bit of fun. The range of plugins is enormous. But operating a wordpress blog is NOT a social network. You CAN turn it into one, but it is not that practical as companies like typepad, have proven so far. Of course, if Ning WERE to allow transfer of content and provide a way to do so, that would be great for those who are unhappy with their options.
Not being happy with being opinionated about everything under the sun and telling everyone my opinion if they want it ... or not. I now am going to argue with myself!
I just finished setting up an instance of BuddyPress on a single wordpress blog and I can see a lot of potential. Of course, it is not for those that like the ease of Ning. It will take most folks quite a few hours of work to learn what to do...but...if you already have a wordpress blog, it is pretty easy. Caution: It is not Ning...nor even a full featured social network...but if you already are paying for server space and only need to blog a bit and have simple activities...the buddypress widgets are growing in numbers daily. I have a gut feeling that this may be the way to go. So, we will play with it a bit and if I can do it...I am pretty much an average intellect...you can do it also. One thing to note. If you intend to have profile pages/members individual blogs you need Wordpress MU not the automatic wordpress installations that come free with your server. I understand that will change soon when Wordpress 3.0 comes out of beta. AND, I guess Ning is going to provide a way to transfer some content before killing the free networks. If you have installed Dolphin, also, in the past, Wordpress MU installation has pretty much the same steps.
I still will keep my biggest network on Ning, but this looks like an interesting thing to do with some of my non-profit networks.
Hi, a couple of questions if I may....
I'm technically competent (though I'm not about to start converting sites), and could I'm sure setup a BuddyPress site site, but I'm concerned about the time involved (as sometthing that would start as a hobby) compared to something like Spruz.
Spruz=about an hour - Cost: practically nothing
Buddypress=many hours -Cost: around $11-17 a month
But the end result is that you will have your OWN network with wordpress MU/BuddyPress. With Spruz, it will be similar to what you have with Ning, until they decide to go Premium, which they very well might do.