Moving your website from a host to another can turn into a real pain. Not only can it completely ruin your website if it done improperly, it can also turn into downtime and loss of revenue. Migrating your website does not have to become a hassle.
If transfer your website properly, you can keep the downtime to a minimum. You can also have your full site up and operational on your new house with no problems whatsoever. Here are five steps to get you from one host to another with no issues.
- Do Not Immediately Cut Your Service with Your Current Host
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to cancel your subscription with your current host. Understand that once you cancel with your current host, the host has no obligation to you anymore. You may lose your site files completely.
Even if you are unhappy with your current host, keep your service turned on. Keep it turned on while searching for a new host. Keep it on after you find a new host. Do not cancel your original service until the very end of this process.
You may feel like you are throwing money away if you have to pay for another month of service. However, it can cost you more in the end if you cancel prematurely and lose either your files, or your ability to transfer your website.
Just as importantly, do not tell your current host you plan to cancel your service until you are completely ready to cancel it.
- Make Sure You Backup and Make Local Copies of Everything
Backup everything you can possibly back up. Make copies of every single file and keep the file structure intact. You can do this with an FTP client. Your host may even have a software solution for doing this as well. You want to backup all files, all databases, and all emails as well if they are business critical.
Verify your backups. Your FTP client should tell you exactly how many files and folders transferred and how many failed. Do not feel shy about making multiple backups as well. If you want a seamless transfer, then you have to make doubly sure everything is there for you to upload to the new host.
- You’re Ready to Pick a New Host
Choosing a host has everything to do with your particular needs. Some offer features that are ideal for a particular type of industry, or a particular service size. This is not about weighing everything a host can offer you, although those are important considerations. This is about making sure you migrate to the new host with no issues, and little to no downtime.
To that end, speak to the new host about your transfer. It is possible they can handle some or all of it for you. They can also guide you through the process. Even if they are a hands-off kind of host, you should at least have a copy of your website and all its auxiliary information and services ready to go.
- Bring Your Files Over to the New Host
It is time to take all of those files you saved, and upload them to your new host’s server. Your new host will likely have a site uploader, but you should definitely do it through FTP. Make sure to get your new FTP login information immediately specifically for this purpose.
You will also need to add in your database information. You may need help with this if your new host does not support a particular type of database. In most cases, you probably have a MySQL database backup. That is the standard you will come across the majority of the time when dealing with webhosts.
If you used a cPanel account with your old host, it is possible for you to migrate that entire account to the new host. This can help you bring over your email accounts, your IP block lists, and your third-party software tools.
- Get Your Website Relisted
Now that you have everything in place, it is time to make it all official. At this point, you need to update your name servers to the ones provided by the new host. If you use a third party name server, such as Google’s public DNS, you should still use the new host’s NS until you know everything works properly.
You will also need to transfer your domain name. This process can vary between hosts, as you may need a transfer key from your old host.
A transfer key is the authorization code you need to transfer the domain name from the old registrar to the new. It is not always required, but it is best to make sure. Otherwise, you can have everything ready to go with the new host, but your old host may still hold onto your domain name.
During the transfer process, you also have to make sure you take your email addresses with you.
- Set up your email accounts on the new host with the same settings
- To stay safe, forward emails from the old host to an unrelated email account for the time being
- Make sure MX records at the new host are correct
Emails can become a little tricky. If you are unsure, pore over all the documentation for transferring email accounts on both your old and new hosts. If in doubt, ask a rep at your new host how you should handle it. Do this before you update the name servers.
You’re Done, But Always Verify
As everything propagates over to the new hosting platform, you will have a lot of opportunity to make sure everything works as it should. Once you know there are no issues, it is safe to cancel service with your old host. Running a WHOIS command online should confirm that your domain is active, who your registrar is, and what nameservers your domain points to.