Migrating a Website to a New Web Hosting Provider

       January 1, 0000    1425

 

Migrating a website is the process of moving a from one web hosting provider to another. There are several reasons why you would need to perform a website migration, below are some reasons you might need to do this;

1. You have found a better hosting deal and are looking to save money

2. Your current host does not offer a feature your website will require and you need to move to a host that does provide the feature

3. Your website has outgrown your current provider and your website requires more space and/or more bandwitdth

4. Your current web hosting provider is found to provide an unreliable service

Regardless of the reason for the migration, in this article I will provide some tips in the hope that when you do perform a website migration the transition from one host to another will occur as smooth as possible.

Tip No.1: Plan The Migration. It is best to plan for the migration to occur during the slowest part of the day, check your sites traffic statistics to see when there is the least amount of visitors per hour for each day, and then plan to do the migration during the period with the least visitors. In most cases this will be late at night on weekend, but depending on the sites content, a computer gaming site for example could have its quietist time in the middle of the week.

Tip No.2: Notify all Site Users. Inform all users of the website, both internal and external users of the impending website downtime. This could be as simple as a link to a page explaining the downtime, placed on the websites home page. This page should contain details of when the downtime will take place, and the anticipated duration of the downtime.

Tip No.3: Set a Deadline for Site Edits. Set a cut-off time and date for any page edits or additions on the website, and notify users that any edits or additions after this deadline will need to be postponed until after the migration has completed.

Tip No.4: Backup the Entire Website. After the deadline for site edits and addtions has passed, it is time to backup the entire websites content, this includes all files, images, scripts, and databases. It is imperitave that you have a backup of the site incase there are any problems encountered during the site migration. While on the topic of backups, it is a good idea to get into the habit of performing weekly backups if possible. This way you will have the ability to recover from any issues that arise in the future, not just during the website migration.

Tip No.5: Retrieve All Information From New Web Host. This includes the following;

  • 1. FTP (File Transfer Protocol) Information. FTP information includes, the hostname required to connect to the FTP server, the FTP account username, and the FTP account password.
  • 2. Control Panel Login Information. You will require the control panel address, the username and password details. The control panel is where you will need to activate features on the new host, find help on working with their servers, installing any required software.
  • 3. DNS (Domain Name Servers). You will require the domain name server addresses of your new hosting provider, these addresses will need to be set where your domain name is registered, this will allow your site to be accessed by its domain name at the new web host. Only change the domain name server addresses after you have verified your site is operational on the new host.

Tip No.6: Thoroughly test the new website. To test the new website you can access it by it's dedicated IP address if it has one, or if it is on shared hosting you may be able to use a subdomain provided by your new web host. If you are unsure how to do this, contact your new hosts helpdesk.

Tip No.7: Forms. This is part of Tip No.6 but it is worth mentioning separately. Check all forms on your website, and if need be change code to work with your new web host. Login to your control panel to locate information on how to setup the forms to work with your new host. Once you have made modifications to the forms, test them thoroughly, be sure that they perform the function they are required to do correctly, be it email information to the correct person, or store information in a database.

Tip No.8: Take leave from website testing. It may be seem a strange thing to do, almost always a problem is found after a break in testing that had been missed previously. If possible ask someone who is not involved in site development to look through the website to check if anything is out of place.

Tip No .9: After testing is complete and any problems have been resolved, you can go to your domain registrar and configure the domain name to use the new web hosts domain name servers. Login to your domain name registrar account and change the old DNS address entries to the new hosts domain name server addresses. A change in DNS information in general can take up to 72 hours to take affect, therefore it is advisable to make the change during the sites low traffic periods, for example over a weekend so as to not interrupt normal site operation for your visitors.

Final Words: Wait a day or two to check if the site migration was successful. Test out the website again to be sure all links work and any forms are operating as they should. It is advisable to continue testing the site for a few weeks before cancelling your old hosting account. This is a safeguard that can be used if for some reason something does not work as expected, you can change the DNS back to the old host. It is wise to monitor website statistics for any changes in usage patterns of the site after a website move, this can be a useful tool to track down problems with site links and other problems. If there is a problem with the website most visitors will just leave rather than contacting the webmaster about a problem. It is advisable to archive the website on the previous web host, you will never know when you may need to reference the archived site in the future.

Migrating a website from one host to another does not need to be a stressful process if it is broken down into simple steps. The planning of your website migration is crucial to success. If the migration is planned well and executed well, your website visitors should never know a site migration has occured.


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