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Moving a website from one host to another host can be little tricky. Most newbie webmasters make too many mistakes during the entire migration process and end up with broken sites which take hours of fixing and data loss. Given below is step by step instructions you should follow before moving your web hosting to another hosting provider.
Step 1: Do not sign up with a new host just yet
This is one of the common mistakes newbie webmasters make. They decide to switch their hosting provider and without taking care of necessary tech issues, they purchase a plan with the new host and rely on them to do the migration.
This is very risky. A single mistake on the part of your new web host and you may lose your website, files and everything else.
Do not rely entirely on your new web hosting provider to do the migration. It is your website and you should do the migration yourself, relying on a third party is not recommended here.
The first step is not to contact the new web host and take necessary steps to perform the migration yourself.
Step 2: Backup your website
Your existing web host has provided you a cPanel login for your website, you can use this cPanel login to download all the files, databases, settings and everything else.
If you do not have the cPanel login for your existing web host, please contact your web host provider and request them to provide you your cPanel details. Most web hosting providers have Live chat facilities and a support portal which can be used to avail instant support.
Once you have the cPanel details, login to your web hosting cPanel and go to the “Backup” section. There are three things you would need to backup
- FIles – Everything included in the “Home directory”.
- Databases – All the MySQL databases.
- Email forwarders – All email forwarding settings.
To backup all the files in the home directory, search for the “Backup” link within your cpanel and you will see an option to download the entire Home directory as a zipped file.
To backup all the MySQL databases, search for “My SQL database backup wizard” and download each MySQL database as an SQL file in Gzipped format. It is recommended to download each database file individually in .sql.gz format. Do not try to unzip the backup file yet, keep it as it is.
The download may take some time to finish, depending on how many files are being downloaded, their file size, uptime of your hosting provider and your internet connection speed. Some web hosting providers offer the option to email the backup file, so if you see that option, it is recommended to use it.
The same step is applicable for downloading all the email forwarders which you have added to your domain. Download each email forwarder file in ‘Gzipped’ format.
You should save the following three things in a folder of your computer
- Home directory
- My SQL databases
- Email forwarders.
Once you have saved everything in that folder, ZIP it to a single file named “Backup.zip”. You will need this later.
Step 3: Signup with a new hosting provider
Now that you have backed up everything, it is time to sign up with your new web host. Choose a new hosting provider depends entirely on your requirements. Some of the factors to consider are as follows:
- How much traffic my website receives on a monthly or daily basis?
- Do you want a budget heavy dedicated web server and want to manage the hosting on your own? This needs knowledge and expertise of managing a web hosting architecture, so if you are not sure about this, you may want to go with shared hosting or VPS hosting.
- Do you want to host your website on a shared hosting space and let your webhost control everything for you?
- Do you want to go for Windows or Linux virtual server hosting solutions for your online business? Some of the best VPS hosting services come with more powerful features such as dedicated RAM, more CPU power, but there are some technical quirks which you must be aware of. A Linux VPS hosting has technical factors to consider and you should be in a position to manage these technical quirks yourself or get this outsourced by someone who knows how to manage VPS hosting.
Depending on your requirements, you should choose a new hosting provider and a plan which fits your needs.
After choosing the new hosting provider, you should receive the welcome email from your new web host. You are all set for the migration now.
Step 4: Migrate to your new web host
Now that your new web hosting account is setup, raise a support ticket with your hosting provider with the subject line – “Migrate old website to my new host”
Clearly explain that you want to migrate all the files, databases and everything else to your new hosting account. Attach the zipped directory of your website backup, database backup, email forwarders (refer to step 2).
Now you should wait for the technician of your new web host to upload everything in your new web host.
I highly recommend relying on the hosting technician for two reasons. First, these people are more skilled and they do these things every day, so the chances of making an error are at bare minimum. Second, upload a large number of files from your computer to your new web host can result in file upload errors or configuration errors, so it is recommended not to do this on your own rather ask your web hosting technical support to do this on behalf of you.
Once your new web host has uploaded everything to your new hosting account, you should receive an email from them that all uploads have been completed.
Step 5: Point the domain to the name servers of your new web host
You do this by logging into your domain control panel and point the domain to the name servers of your new web host. The name servers of your new hosting provider are provided to you in the welcome email, when you signed up for your new web hosting account.
To change the name servers, login to your domain control panel, find the domain, click on “Edit name servers” and update the new name servers by choosing “I host my domains with another provider”.
Make a note of your old name servers, you will need it if things go wrong from here.
At this point, your website is hosted on two different servers. The moment you update the nameservers, your website will be fetched from your new hosting provider and not your old hosting provider.
A name server update takes around 24-48 hours to complete, so you should wait for some time before the changes propagate across the internet.
After the changes have propagated, visit “whoishostingthis” and do a search for your domain name. You should see that your new domain is being fetched from your new web host and not the old one.
Do a routine check on your website to check to see if everything is in perfect shape. If it is, you may now cancel your old hosting account. If something is not in place, contact the technical support department of your new web host and enquire about the problem, they will assist you further.
If you see that your new host is having issues, simply switch back to your old hosting by reverting back to the old name servers and then your website will be fetched from the old hosting provider and not the new one.
Changing web hosting location plays an important role in the SEO and visibility of a website therefore you should not miss these tech issues while transferring web hosting provider. To summarise the important points, the key steps which you should not miss are:
- Perform a full backup of your website before signing up with a new host
- Choose a reputed hosting provider which provides good technical assistance.
- Upload everything to your new web host and switch the nameservers to your new host
- Check your entire website and see if something is broken.
- If everything looks in order, turn off your old hosting account.