How to Move Your Website to a New Host (Without Downtime)
When you’re moving from one web host to another, the last thing you want is a break in service.
Moving doesn’t have to result in downtime.
Here’s a checklist for moving day.
1. New Account Setup
Open your new hosting account and make sure you have all the passwords you need.
Normally you’ll get the details within 24 hours of making your first payment.
2. Transfer Data
If your host offers any kind of free migration service, now’s the time to open the support ticket and get the wheels in motion. It’s much easier than taking the DIY route.
If your host can’t help, the best way to move is to create a backup and restore it on your new hosting account. That’s fairly easy to do in cPanel.
If all else fails, you’ll have to do a manual transfer. Remember to grab files and databases: one won’t work without the other.
This part isn’t generally tricky, but depending on the methods and options open to you, it could be slow.
When your content is moved, you’ll need to test it all out on your new site.
Your DNS won’t have been changed, you’ll have to tell your computer to go to the new site in place of the old one. That means editing your hosts file. Obtain the IP address of your new server, edit the hosts file and your computer will be redirected to the new site in place of the old one.
Your email won’t work yet, but it’s good enough to try out the site and make sure nothing major has gone wrong.
4. Theme Change
Here’s a handy trick for a successful move.
Make a tiny change to your site on its new server. This will help you to figure out which site you’re looking at: the old one, or the brand new copy.
Once you’ve done this, edit your hosts file to remove the changes that you made.
5. DNS Changes
Log in to your domain registrar. Point the DNS servers to your new nameservers.
Copy them from the welcome email you got from your new host.
We normally allow up to a day for this change, although you may see the switchover within the hour.
Refresh your site regularly and check for that subtle change you made in step 4.
6. Close Your Old Hosting Account
Leave your old account running for a few days for safety.
Once you’re satisfied the move is done, close your old account.
As you can see, moving hosts isn’t difficult, but you do need to plan ahead.
Just do everything in order and don’t skip a step. Once the move is done, you’ll be really glad you switched.
Should Your Host Migrate Your Website?
Moving from host to host can be time-consuming and problematic, even if you’re relatively comfortable with hosting.
At the same time, relying on migration services feels risky.
After all, your data is valuable, and you can’t oversee the process once it’s started: you’re putting your trust in a new company that you haven’t much experience of yet.
Is it wise to allow your host to migrate your website for you?
How Site Migration Works
Most major website control panels, including both Plesk and cPanel, have backup and migration tools built in. This makes it easier to transfer the data from host to host, providing you’re using the same brand of control panel on both hosts.
During a typical hosting migration, your new host connects to your old server directly, effectively creating a backup. They grab everything at once; you don’t have to lift a finger.
Hosting Migration Worries
Security is an issue when handing over passwords, and some people feel uncomfortable entrusting a third party with their data.
- The new site will not be live until you change the nameservers. Nothing will go wrong if you check thoroughly before you do this. Edit your hosts file to see the new site.
- Everything’s still there on your old server until you decide to cancel.
- Hosts do this kind of migration daily; they’re used to ironing out problems.
- It’s really safe; both control panels have the process pinned down pretty well.
First, choose a host with a money-back guarantee. That way, if the migration’s problematic, you can cancel and choose someone else without having lost any money.
Also, make sure your new host’s migration services are free.
Finally, triple check that you’re migrating like-for-like; your new host will tell you what brand of control panel you’ll be given.
Free migration is efficient, reliable and – generally – makes perfect sense.
Last update: March 2015