How To Move Your Website To A New Hosting Provider

How To Move Your Website To A New Hosting Provider

There are various reasons why you might want to move your website. Your website might get so much traffic that your current hosting provider cannot meet your needs any more. We can all but hope for this reason, instead of the more shared one, which is basically that your hosting provider, well… sucks. You might be tired of unscheduled downtime, plagued by missing emails and fed up with unanswered sustain ticket requests.

Keep these points in mind when you move your website:

Just by the way, we are assuming here that you have chosen your new hosting provider. Just selecting a hosting provider can be a major exercise in elimination, but this article is mainly about the technicalities of making the switch, not looking for a new provider.

1. Backup, backup, backup
Your website is a precious possession and you do not want to lose it. In rule you need to make a copy of your site as it is and then move it across to your new great number. There are various ways of achieving this.

You can either

a) Use your favourite FTP program and copy the files from your ‘old’ great number to a safe place on your local PC. Copy all the files and folders in the web root of your server to your local machine. This will ensure that all your files and pictures are located in the right folders. Make two copies in different places on your local machine – just to be safe.

b) You can use the built-in backup facilities of your control panel. In CPanel it is easy. For other types of control panels you will have to read the documentation or find out from your hosting provider how to do it. In CPanel, just select the Backups icon and choose the ‘Download a home directory backup’ link. This will create a ZIP file of all the files on your server. Just to be on the safe side, make a copy of all the unzipped files in addition with an FTP utility.

If your site consists of straightforward HTML pages, a file backup is all that is required, however, if your site has dynamic content and is built on a database engine, you must backup your SQL database in addition. This can also be done in two ways.

a) By selecting Download a MySQL Database Backup in the Backups option in your CPAnel, or

b) By going directly into your MySQL database and running a complete SQL export.

If you are not sure whether your site makes use of a database or not, you should definitely consult your webmaster or web hosting expert to do this for you.

2. Make the move
Making the move consists of

a) creating an account with the new hosting providers and

b) changing the nameserver entries for your website.

You do this by logging into your domain registrar provider (like namecheap or GoDaddy) and selecting their ‘Nameserver Setup’ option. When you produced the new account with the new provider, you should have received an email with the nameservers that you should use. These are typically in the form or… You should have received two new nameservers – go into these into the Nameserver fields and save.

Your domain has now been set to point to the new nameservers, but it takes anything between 8 and 48 hours for the actual change to take place (this is called DNS propagation).

Your account has been produced, the domain is going to point to the new servers, but your files have not been uploaded.

In your welcome email from your new great number, you should have received information about your FTP account, in addition as how to access your Control Panel account temporarily until the DNS propagation has taken place properly. You can now either upload your files by FTP, or log into your control panel (hopefully CPanel again), and go to the ‘Backups’ option again. You can now restore the file backup that you made before, and restore the MySQL backup that you’ve made.

Your website now basically exists in two places, on the old server in addition as the new server. While the DNS propagation takes place, some visitors will see the old site, and some the new. As soon as the propagation is complete, all your visitors will see the new site.

Some points to consider:

1. If you are running a dynamic site with lots of visitor interaction (e.g. a forum) it might be wise to switch off the old site completely while the propagation takes place (with a message, for example to explain that the site is being moved and is down temporarily). You might lose some visitors to the old site, but if you don’t do this you will find that visitors will nevertheless interact and post messages on the old site and these will never end up on the new one. (Remember, your backup is a snapshot in time. Anything that is posted to the old site after you have taken the backup will NOT appear on the new site)

2. Emails must also be set up on the new site. For a while you ARE going to have an interruption in the email service. It helps to change your mail server settings in your Outlook or Outlook express to point directly to the IP address of the mail server instead of the more usual ‘’ (for example) settings.

3. You will lost all your logs, including all traffic logs and visitor statistics, when you move. There is no way currently to move your traffic logs! If you are interested in retaining your log files you might or might not be able to download them to your PC and use an offline analyzer.

4. Make sure that you plan the move to take place during a low-traffic period. you should be able to see from your website statistics which periods during the week have low traffic. Remember that the move is going to take 48 hours to complete, at the minimum.

5. Inform your customers and/or visitors and/or web hosting company of the move – where appropriate.

6. Keep your old web hosting account going for at the minimum another week or two to ensure that all the gremlins are ironed out and that the DNS propagation has taken place properly.

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