Changing your web host is like moving to a new house. You have the planning, packing, the actual move, then unpacking and finally settling into the new place. It’s a little scary for a lot of people. That’s why web hosting companies are willing to offer really sweet introductory offers. They know that once they have you, the likelihood of you moving to the competition is very low. But sometimes whether because of low price or better service, you want to move to a new web host company.
Check Out the New Provider
Before you do it, you have to inspect carefully to make sure you know what you’re getting into. Go to the new web host, create an account (you would have to pay for it, but you’ll get a refund within the first month or so if you decide to cancel), check out their user interface, contact their support team to find out how helpful and responsive they are. You really want to test it out before you make the decision to take the leap.
A good tip is to sign up for the new web host within about two weeks of your current web hosting contract expiring. This way, if anything goes awry, you have immediate backup right there and can correct any errors far more easily than if you jumped to the new host after your previous contract had expired. Not only that, but you have time to renew your current contract if you decide that the web host you have actually isn’t so bad compared to most of the others out there.
Backup All of Your Data
Before you do the transfer, make sure you have backup properly. The last thing you want is to have misplaced certain files that put your blog to a grinding halt. Download everything to your hard drive so that you can restore everything just in case.
It may also be a good idea to backup everything to CD and/or USB. Backup all of your images, files, databases and directory structures, and then store the CD or USB in a safe location.
Your current web host should have a backup option in their Cpanel. Ask customer service to walk you through the steps if you’re still uncertain. You can also do the backup within WordPress where you can go to Tools and then Export to download all of your content, but this doesn’t include any images, audios or videos. Ideally, those files should be on a separate cloud storage company such as Dropbox, Microsoft Live Skydrive, Amazon S3, or even Google Docs. Of course you should make copies of them too. Basically you should get a copy of everything that makes up your website.
Tell People you’re Moving
Visitors hate being inconvenienced by laggy, slow pages, or web pages that no longer exist. Make sure that you give your visitors a fair warning about the transition and that you will be coming back soon. If you can give them warning weeks in advance through a blog entry, or an email for email subscribers, that would be best. Add a note on the homepage of your website advising of the date that the website will be moved, and for how long they can expect to be inconvenienced. Things on the Internet come and go at a fast pace, so if they for just one day cannot locate your website and receive some “404 error” code, they may assume that you’ve packed up and shipped off, and are never to return again.
Making the Big Move
Ok now here’s the big move. It can be scary. There are a lot of things that you might be thinking about such as transferring data to the new web host, notifying the domain registrar if it’s not your old web host provider. Update your DNS. These are things that might make your head explode. This is complicated. You could really screw up your blog if not done correctly. This is why we like Hostgator so much. They will actually bring all of your stuff over for you.
Now once you have everything migrate over, or you have the new web hosting company do it for you, test, test, and test! One thing that you need to take advantage of is the “preview” function that most of the hosting services offer these days. You can see how your website looks on whatever browser or browsers of your choosing, ensure that the functionality is still working as they should, and that everything is all intact. If anything looks wrong, check the coding, and don’t be afraid to contact the hosting’s customer service for help (they can almost always troubleshoot any problem that you may be experiencing).
Only close your old account after you’ve thoroughly checked to make sure that you website works on the new web host. As mentioned above, “don’t burn that bridge” until you’re sure.
Additional Tips on Changing Web Hosting Services
Once everything looks good and is working right, it’s time to configure your email accounts (you really shouldn’t, but just in case you do) on the new web server. Take note of the new SMTP and POP3 account that you will be using once the transition is complete. Once the website has completely transitioned over to the new web hosting service, you will then be able to update your email client so that it does match the new SMTP and POP3 settings on your account.
While you’re in the process of moving, it’s also a good idea to put some sort of a mark on any page on your new web server, just so that you can differentiate the page on your new webserver from the old one. This will make it incredibly easy for you to tell when ever any DNS information of yours is updated.
It may take the DNS information 72 hours or so to propagate across all of the DNS servers, to make sure that you tell your visitors that you may be gone for that long. Though your entire website may be all (or mostly) switched over in as little as two, it’s always a good idea to give your devoted visitors a fair warning.