Moving your website to a new host is a lot like moving to a new home. It takes some time to get it right and preparation is vital to do so. The actual work can then be either very easy or difficult, depending on how well you’ve prepared.
There are plenty of ways to migrate a website, but we can systemize them in three main categories: using an integrated service, doing it yourself, or paying someone to do it. Let’s check them out in a bit more detail.
Using an integrated service
Plenty of hosts and platforms have built-in tools that help with moving your site. WordPress, for example, is so popular that it would be difficult to find a website host that doesn’t support migration of such sites. Usually all you have to do is create a backup archive and then transfer it to the new host. Some tools, though, require a connection to the site and they copy it automatically.
Such tools can have difficulties with the database migration and/or the DNS configuration. You’d either have to use another tool for that, or setup the DNS manually. Good hosting providers usually have detailed tutorials on how to do that with ease, if for whatever reason the automated tool won’t do the job.
If you’re a novice, or you simply don’t have time, you can pay someone else to do it for you. Most hosting providers offer such a service. And some can do the entire thing for you. You simply give them the details of the old host and they take care of the rest.
Some hosts even have a guided migration service. This means a specialist from the provider will guide you through the steps you have to complete. And they make sure nothing is messed up during the transfer and configuration.
The fees for such services can vary greatly. They can depend on the type of site, the configuration, size and more. They can also be free if you chose a more expensive hosting plan, which is probably what you’re going to do anyway. So, it’s best to research these options with the hosting provider you’ve chosen.
Doing it yourself
If you’re going to use your own dedicated server, for example, or if you simply want to learn and save a few bucks, you’d have to do everything yourself. If you plan on migrating your website yourself, you have to take care of several things:
Research and purchase new hosting
This one is pretty self-explanatory. It’s up to you to research the hosting providers and choose the services that meet your requirements.
Moving the site
This is where things get real. Usually the best way to do so is via FTP. You have to use an FTP client to connect to your old hosting provider and download the entire site. Usually it’s in a directory called public_html. Other popular names for these directories are www, httpdocs or something similar.
Then you have to upload the files (keep the same structure without changing anything) to your new hosting. This should again be done via FTP. You can get the details for the FTP connection in your providers’ cpanel.
The next step is the database movement. Usually this is a bit trickier and it depends a lot on the type of database. In most cases it’s an SQL file. Based on the type, you can usually use phpMyadmin and export the database from the old host and then import it into the new one. Make sure the name of the database is the same.
Your main goal is to copy and replicate the structure in your new host exactly the same as it is in the old one. Make sure you have full backups on everything before you start.
This is where you have to make sure everything works. Everything has to be updated, connected and working well. Depending on the type of site you’re moving, you might have to set up other reconfigurations.
It’s also best to check out everything with a temporary url and see if it all works. Depending on the type of site and its size, it may take a couple of days for you to make sure everything works properly and iron out possible errors. Through this process, obviously, you have to keep the site working on the old host so that you won’t lose visitors. Avoid making changes or adding new content to it, of course.
When you’re confident that the migrated site is working well, it’s time to finalize the process. This means switching over the DNS to the new host.
This process can also vary, depending on how you got your domain. If it was part of your old host, it may have the configuration details in the cpanel. But if it was purchased via another Registrar, you’d have to log in its website and perform the switch there.
For that, you have to get the DNS records of your new host (usually easily available in the cpanel) and enter them accordingly in the Registrar’s site. It can take up to 24 hours for the DNS switch to be completed, although it usually takes much less than that.