Once your website has been running satisfactorily with your web hosting company, it’s often difficult (and stressful) to make a decision to switch to another provider. However, some business owners do have to face up to that eventuality so here are some pointers on how to get it done without it impacting on your business.
Hosting service providers going bankrupt, slow page load speeds, poor support, frequent server downtime, unsatisfactory after sales service, or the inability to upgrade or maintain their web servers to your satisfaction might compel you to move your website to another hosting service provider. However many website owners hesitate about making a decision to move hosting as they fear the potential impact it may have on their website and business.
Here’s how you can affect an almost flawless website move – without associated downtime or too much stress:
Follow The Process:
A website move is similar to moving house, changing your company branding or changing your business address. It’s all about following a well defined process and a long todo list. Here’s how to avoid potential website downtime when embarking on the “big hosting move”:
1) Find a New Host: While cost is important, before signing up look for other ‘must haves’ such as amount of hosting space, technical support, data bandwidth and CPU usage limits etc. Speak to 5+ comparable hosting providers and schedule a meeting to discuss your website and what you need. Ask them how they are going to guarantee you a premium service. You don't want to move hosting now and then move again in a few months. Choose your new hosting company wisely.
2) Migrate Your Files: Download your files from the OLD host, using FTP (or appropriate tools/services); then upload them to the web servers at the NEW host. You may have settings, cron jobs, permissions, SSL certs etc that need to be updated and installed by hand, but gather all this information at the start from your current hoster. Check your old emails for an install guide from the web design company that built your website. Alternatively, ask a web design company to oversee your website move and step in for those few technical areas that you can't do on your own.
3) Move Your Databases: Use FTP (or appropriate tools/services) to backup any databases that you may have on the OLD host, and then (using services/tools such as SSH and/or PHPMyAdmin) restore them to the NEW host. Make sure you 'connect' the new code to the new database. Again, this can be a tricky area for website owners so speak to your hosters and to a web developer that can help for these database connection parts of the website move.
4) Deal With Old Emails: Often, old emails do not get ported. You should therefore archive all your old emails from the OLD host, and store them locally on your computer/or local external storage device. To ensure all new emails use your NEW host, you'll need to make POP3/IMAP connections for each email address directing them to the NEW host. All new emails will now directly come to the NEW host. Inside in Cpanel you can access your emails for the first day or so until you get your PC and smart phone connected to the new email server settings.
5) Test Your NEW Site: Make sure you test all intra-site features as well as external links. Use various devices (smart phones, tablets, desk top computers, laptops), different operating systems (iOS, Android, Windows etc.), as well as different browsers (Chrome, FireFox, IE, Microsoft Edge etc.) for the test. If your site is a shop, create a '1 cent' product and use your credit card to buy it and make sure the transaction went through as normal. You need to test all parts of the site to make sure that everything is still working. Initially you will have to 'test' the site on a temporary web address as you may still have your website name pointing at the old hosting.
6) Change Domains: It’s now time to actually ‘pull the plug’ on the old hosting. Do this by changing your DNS Nameserver settings from the OLD web hosting service to the NEW one. The site admin for the NEW site should provide you with these details. You then need to contact your domain name provider with these details, and they will change the DNS settings for the new web servers or you can do this yourself in the control panel associated with your website name.
7) Wait: Your new host is now ready to go live, but it’ll take anything from a few hour to 48 hours (sometimes a bit more) for the new site to be fully functional across the entire internet. Until then, both old and new hosts will be intermittently used. It is a good idea to switch hosting on a Saturday night so as to have your website in front of as few customers as possible. Your hosting company or website design team often schedule work like this over weekends so discuss the switch over with them.
A word of advice: Even after you’ve thoroughly tested the site on your new host – check it out again on multiple browsers, different operating systems and various devices - to your complete satisfaction. DO NOT SEVER TIES with the OLD hosting provider until you are 100% confident that is working perfectly on the new hosting – or you delete your option of switching back if there was a problem on the new hosting server. Do that approx 2 weeks after you’ve gone live with the new host, and are confident that all ‘issues’ with the move have been ironed out.
Additionally, if your OLD web hosting service is also the provider through whom you acquired your domain name, you may need to maintain an ongoing relationship with them. It’s best therefore that you initiate and conclude this entire process professionally.
It’s Your Move Now
When you decide to undertake a website move, just think of it as though you are about to move into a new home:
- • You find and buy the perfect home at a new location (new web host) – speak to as many hosters as you can. You want to hear from their customers and read real testimonials.
- • You move all your 'belongings' to the new address (files and databases)
- • You collect any piled up mail from your old mail box (archived your old emails)
- • You notify your local post office to divert your mail to your new address (POP3/IMAP/SMTP)
- • You notify all your friends and neighbours of your new address (aka hosting)
There can be issues that stump you when moving a website so it's not for the novices. If you have done some website work in the past then can can do a 'test move' by getting your entire website to work perfectly at a new temporary web address.
However, working with an experienced web design company could help you with all potential issues you may encounter along the way; and will prevent you from having any website downtime. It's a price well worth paying. Let us know if you are having any website issues and are contemplating a website hosting move – we'd be happy to advise.