Switching to a new hosting provider can be a little bit like moving into a new home. You don’t want to do it too often because of the disruption to your life, and you can’t help but think that you’ve forgotten something at the old place. But with that said, there are ways to make it a whole lot easier. This short overview on moving should help make the process smoother.
Backup, Backup, Backup
This shouldn’t even need to be mentioned, and shouldn’t need to be stressed so much, but you may be surprised at how much drama it can cause. Backup all of your files and databases, and then backup that backup… and then do it again just in case. Test it to make sure you got it right and spread the copies around in multiple places.
You can leave a copy on your hard disk, put one on a USB drive, and email another copy to yourself on a web-mail account such as Gmail. This should be enough to protect you from just about anything short of the apocalypse. You could also use a professional service to handle this, but that should not be necessary for most websites.
Choosing a New Host
There is no simple answer as to what type of hosting, or which provider to choose, and it’s a source of endless debate online. First of all, you need to know what you want the hosting for and what you hope to get out of it. Is it a personal blog for friends and family? Is it a small commercial blog that does not have a lot of traffic yet? Or are you running a larger operation with more intensive needs?
If you are using WordPress – a very common content management system – then you should at least consider buying a hosting package that is optimized for it. These special packages are available from quite a few hosting providers now, and they are definitely worth checking out. They are a little bit more expensive than a shared account or a low-end VPS, but they are fully managed and obviously designed to work well with WordPress straight out of the box. That means you don’t have to mess around with settings – just get down to business.
If you are not using WordPress, or you are but you simply need more power, then it may be time to consider getting a dedicated server. You’re moving to a new host anyway, so why not move into a place that gives you room to grow? Of course, the money may be an issue, but if you really need power and rock-solid hosting, then it’s tough to beat a dedicated server.
Tell People You’re Moving
This will help you in at least two ways. First of all, your customers and visitors won’t panic and think you’re gone forever, which means they would be seeking at your competitors to take your place. Secondly, they may even help you out by letting you know if they witness any bugs or performance issues after the move has been completed.
Free Up Your Schedule
In an ideal situation, you should try to make the final move at the least busy time of day for your website. You can find this out by using Google Analytics or any other statistics. Unfortunately, that slowest period is probably in the middle of the night if most of your viewers live in a similar timezone to you. So, pick a good time and make sure you won’t be interrupted during the process.
Keep Your Old Hosting Account Open For Now
You will need to have access to both your new and your old hosting accounts at the same time in order to avoid downtime as much as possible. Follow the steps below while you have both hosts running.
Create your email addresses and any forwarders on your new host. Use the same address as before so you don’t lose contact with anyone. If you’re only using Gmail or other outside mail services you can skip this.
Upload your backup copy of all files, databases, and so on, making sure to keep the same file paths and structure as before.
Switch over the DNS so that your domain name points to your new host, with the nameservers they provide you. You can find this option at your domain registrar. This can take up to two days to take effect, so don’t wait until the last day on your contract.
Cancel your old hosting package after the DNS has properly updated. When you’re sure you have everything you need, and you have taken one last look around, it’s time to shut down your old account.
As you can see, there is quite a lot to think about, and it can be a stressful process. Sometimes you really do just need to move on, though. Don’t let all of this hold you back from moving to a new host and giving your websites a new place to call home.