Moving a Website to a New Web Hosting Provider

Does the thought of moving your website to a different web hosting provider give you a mild panic attack? What would happen to your website while the transfer process is taking place? What if you lose all your lovingly written blog posts?

Sometimes we don’t take the plunge and switch web hosting providers even though we may not be 100% happy with the service received or the costs are too high, just because we fear losing data.

While these concerns are understandable, if you follow all the instructions to the letter and get as much technical support as possible, moving your website to a new web host company is quite straightforward.

Have You Backed Up Your Website?

If you have a WordPress site, it should be backed up automatically, but it’s a good idea to do a backup now and download the files onto your computer.

The most important thing to save on your hard drive is your website’s database: without it, you lose all plug-ins and widgets.

There are several tutorials out there to choose from. What I did for my website was to read as many articles and forum posts plus watch as many videos as I could and then call the technical support at my new web hosting provider to talk me through the step-by-step process. By doing all the groundwork before I familiarised myself with the terminology (I really didn’t want to sound stupid on the phone! Most importantly, I wanted to understand what the technical support people were explaining to me).

If you are keen on a DIY approach, I would recommend these tutorials:

https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2013/04/moving-wordpress-website/

http://www.webhostingsecretrevealed.net/blog/web-hosting-guides/switching-web-host/

http://www.thesitewizard.com/archive/movinghosts.shtml

https://www.zen.co.uk/business/hosting-and-domains/web-hosting/web-hosting-faqs.aspx#ihaveaWebsiteiwish

With these things, once you know how they work, you can repeat them and they will become easier the more you do them. They seem very daunting at first but it’s simply a matter of following the rules to the letter.

From experience, I can say that relying solely on backups may not be sufficient to retrieve all data. In fact, I found out that for some reason the images didn’t get backed up, which meant that the new version of my website did not display any pictures.

Case Study: Moving My Website to a New Web Hosting Provider

 

I moved my website to a different web hosting provider because I wanted to find a more cost/effective web hosting company and, most importantly, because I needed to transfer a .co.uk domain and my existing provider did not support that.

I have a WordPress website with a number of plug-ins and widgets. A couple of domains point to the WordPress site and I wanted to manage them from a single point instead of having them on two different domain name servers.

I kept procrastinating the decision because the thought of the possibility of any downtime and/or losing data prevented me from switching for several years: I simply chose the path of least resistance and continued paying more than I wanted simply for the peace of mind.

I decided to get as much information as possible on how to transfer all files across and how to transfer my two domain names to the new provider. You may not want to transfer your domain names to your web host as a way to minimise risk – it’s up to you to decide what’s best for you.

Key Things to Know When Moving Your Website to a New Web Host

 

After downloading all your WordPress files and database and creating a new interim website with the new web host, it is recommended to keep two copies of the website: one on the old web host and one on the new web host.

Keep both going for a week and check that the links work in the new website. The transfer from the old to the new web host will be taking place in the background with no loss of data. The only change will be that the website traffic will move from the old host to the new host.

Check that the old web host didn’t change their same server details as this will affect the whole transfer process.

Check also that you did update the DNS server, it’s better to make sure otherwise internal links may still be working while they are pointing to the old server, but as soon as you move the DNS they may not work anymore. You may need to manually download files from the old website and upload them on the new website (I used Filezilla).

After a week you can delete all files from the old web host and cancel the contract. Most web hosting companies will delete your files by default but you may want to be one step ahead of them and delete them yourself.

 

Quick Checklist

  • Update the DNS server
  • Retrieve latest WordPress backup and download it on your computer’s hard drive
  • Check in your control panel if any files are missing, specifically image files
  • Go to your WordPress installation and check that you can upload new media files; if not update the file path in settings > media to point to your new web host’s control panel
  • Check that all internal links are working and that they are pointing to the new web host

The Verdict

 

Moving my website wasn’t as stressful as I thought it would be: I still felt apprehensive that something could go wrong, but talking to technical support allayed all my fears and the whole process was seamless.

In case you are interested to know what provider I chose, it’s Zen Internet. While this article is not a review of the company, I must say that so far I am very good with their services.