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Nov
03

6 Easy Steps to Making a Web Hosting Switch

By Char

After much discussion with other bloggers and web site owners, I have decided that the time is right for this post. So many people stay in a relationship with their web hosting company, even when they are unhappy, because they are unsure of the process and afraid of long periods of down time. The truth is, when you do a hosting switch, there doesn’t need to be ANY down time of your site at all.

I have had hosting accounts at a variety of hosting companies over the years and they have all served their purpose well at the time. Now the bulk of my hosting is done at HostGator and Jumpline.com Web Hosting (they have yet to let me down in 8 years!). The following is the recipe I follow whether moving one of my accounts or a client account.

  1. Back up all of your files from your existing Web hosting server to your hard drive.
  2. Create a hosting account at your new hosting service.
  3. Transfer all your web site’s files to the new server. Set up email accounts at this time, too.
  4. You may need to go to the service you registered your Domain name with at this point and point the name servers to your new service. (Registrars are typically Network Solutions , GoDaddy and others) Some hosting services will do this part for you. Your new site should resolve in 15 minutes to 48 hours. By doing things in this order, you will not have any down time. One moment the DNS will be pointing to the old server and the next moment it will point to the new one.
  5. Test out your site at its new home. Set up all the extra features and let it run for a few days.
  6. Delete your files at the old hosting account and cancel your hosting with them. Be sure to go onto the remote site and delete your files off their server.

Moving your personal or business web site and/or blog is not as daunting as it sounds. Take your time and follow these guidelines and you will be feeling at home before you know it.

54 Comments

1

Thanks for the tips! I’m getting to like the idea of HostGator more and more.

I have a site that’s due to expire in early December on iPowerweb. I’m likely going to be making the move at that time.

I’d love to be able to save some money by moving all of my sites under one account. *sighs*

I’m such a tightwad.

2

Remember that client I told you about who was resistant to the idea of moving from her Doteasy account? She decided to make the move today when she realized that her host did not offer the BB service she wanted and that HostGator did. I walked her through the sign up process and we were done in less than 5 minutes. All I have to do now is transfer her files to Host Gator and set up PHPbb for her and she is set.

3

[...] 6 Easy Steps to making a Web Hosting Switch [...]

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[...] 6 Easy Steps to making a Web Hosting Switch by Char [...]

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[...] – for whatever reason – please share in the comments what made the process go more easily for you. 6 Easy Steps to Making a Web Hosting Switch [Essential [...]

7

When your website uses any kind of insert data in a database (register users, add coments or anything else) it’s better to create a holder page while moving and testing everything on the new host, avoiding forgoten data on your DB. I always do that putting a holder on the old host and, on the new, keep everything working fine, because when changing DNS servers it may take a while replicating the changes to the “world”.

8

Something that very new website owners may not think about is your databases. My very first host switch, i downloaded all my files and ran. I reallly didn’t like my host. =) But without the database my wordpress files were useless! This was 4 years ago now, when I was very new, but DON’T FORGET YOUR DATABASES! =)

9

Problems arise when people buy domains from the same webhost, because transferring domains is much, much more complex (if even possible) so I would also recommend that you never buy your domain from the same company that hosts your site, even though it seems more convenient.

10

If you have access to your machine’s hosts file, do this before changing the DNS servers with your registrar:

Add entries domain name pointing to your new hosting companies IP in your hosts file (Linux, /etc/hosts; Windows, should be %SystemRoot%\System32\Drivers\etc\hosts). Then, when you go to your site in your web browser, you’ll be seeing it from your new site. You may have to restart your browser or even your computer (or just manually clear the DNS cache).

For example, if the new IP address is 1.1.1.1 and your domain is yourdomain.com, add this to your hosts file:

1.1.1.1 yourdomain.com http://www.yourdomain.com

This way you can test before every committing to changing DNS servers. If all looks good THEN change your DNS over.

11

[...] suerte, vía LifeHacker, encuentro un artículo que indica cómo mudar de hosting en 6 pasos muy simples. Creo que se olvidó de un par de pasos importantes (o los resumió demasiado) así que acá está [...]

12

I use HostGator to, i think it’s a great service.

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[...] 6 Easy Steps to Making a Web Hosting Switch (tags: howto web hosting) [...]

14

Check out a Slicehost VPS. Switched from multiple shared hosting providers to a VPS and the performance has been orders of magnitude better that a shared host. It’s for the technically inclined, but if you get a VPS or dedicated server, it’s trivial to move between hosts.

15

your list is not perfect. when you sign up for new hosting, you can have the new hosting company provide you with your IP address so you can actually see your files on the web before you change the name servers. You will also need to update your scripts as the name of your database may change depending on some hosts.

also, some hosts (such as for .nr domains) are very picky about name server changes.. it can really be hard when some lousy companies don’t even have an online control panel for you to manage this stuff.

16

It is more easy to copy from/to WHM (web host manager).

17

I would not recommend having your hosting provider register your domain for you in order not to have problems later when moving to a new host.

18

Thanks to all of the visitors who have come here today from Lifehacker.I appreciate everyone adding to the conversation and sharing additional tips.

19

I agree with a couple earlier posts–for database driven sites, the database is the most important part. Here’s a good tip if you know how to configure your databases.

First copy the files to the new host, and then also copy the database to the new host.

Then change the permissions on the new host’s database so that the OLD host has permission to access the database, and then go to the old site and edit the config files to point to the database on the new host instead of localhost.

Now if you edit the DB content (posts, comments, etc.) the changes will all be on the new host, and the database on the old host isn’t needed anymore.

Then whan that all works, switch the DNS to point to the new host….and editing your local hosts file to test the new host first is a good idea.

20

[...] This article provides exactly what the title describes. The truth is, when you do a hosting switch, there doesn’t need to be ANY down time of your site at all. 0 Comments posted on “6 Easy Steps to Making a Web Hosting Switch” Post a comment [...]

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[...] 6 Easy Steps to Making a Web Hosting Switch (tags: hosting howto switch web webdesign webhost business technology) [...]

22

easier way – if your host is cPanel; just tell your new host to do the transfer for you – they can do it immediately within a couple moments ; all your files + emails and settings will be instantly transfered.

23

your post made my day!
i was worried abt the downtime while changing DNS settings for my domains

24

Thanks For the Tips. This will really helpul for me, coz very soon am going to move one of mu blog to other host

25

One of the reason I prefer CPanel control Panel over other control panel is because switching between Cpanel host is much eaiser.
WHM has a feature that can helps in downloading the entire site from one server to another and thus making moving host very easy (Hostgator is using Cpanel).

http://www.top10webhosting.com

26

I’m an expert at this field ;)

I have moved 5 providers in the past 2 years. The guideline above is good for static websites. I have encountered difficulties not discussed in the post. Among are:

1. While DNS update is propagating, some users see the old server, to which they register and add new content. While others see the new server and add new content to that. Within 48 hours, nobody will be using the old server, but how do you sync the old with the new?

2. Apache/PHP versions matter! PHP of one version returns warning which is an error on the other. Different versions of shutils behave differently. And last but not least, sendmail never survives the move! Remember this! :)

3. Always make sure your new server can handle at least the same load as the old server. If possible, make an .htaccess to force 301 redirect to the new server (by ip address of course.)

4. Use Amazon S3 for user uploaded media!

5. Another trick I haven’t tried yet, is to set two A record on your DNS, with priority for the old server. Then let it propagate for 48 hours before simply shutting down the old server and removing it from DNS. That way, clients are supposed to try both IPs, so for the first 48 hours, they will always fail on the first IP before moving to the second. Haven’t tried it yet, but time will come to move again ;)

That’s it.
Hope it helps somebody.. :o )

Signing off

27

I had a similar post some time ago.. This one is specific for wordpress blogs. If anyone is interested, it is at: http://blog.gadodia.net/steps-to-move-your-blog/

28

[...] spotted, in a post somewhere, that Hostgator are recommended by the author. Their price seems to be equivalent to Dreamhost, [...]

29

[...] EssentialKeystrokes.com has a great article that runs you through the steps you need to take to successfully transfer your blog from one provider to another.  Having been through a recent change of providers, I wish this article had come out sooner.  It would have saved me some heart and headaches. [...]

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[...] 6 Easy Steps to Making a Web Hosting Switch (tags: hosting howto web webhost webdesign technology switch business **) [...]

31

These steps work great if you have just HTML content. Things get a bit more complicated when you have MySQL databases involved. This will help:
http://www.webdevelopment2.com/moving-wordpress-to-a-different-domain/

32

[...] when Essential Keystrokes posted this article, it got me thinking. Is it really that easy to [...]

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[...] November 2006 I wrote a post called 6 Easy Step to Making a Web Hosting Switch. The steps I spelled out were the basics – for moving a basic site. This past weekend the post made [...]

35

My current webhost also hosts the emails for my domain. If I transfer the domain to a new host – what do I need to do about my emails?

If I transfer the Naming Servers to the new host – what will happen to the emails?

36

EMail is the hardest piece to deal with. There is no easy way to transfer all the mail from all the accounts or easily recreate the multitude of accounts/aliases/etc.

I usually create a GMail account, transfer all the mail to it, recreate all those mailboxes, then transfer it all back.

37

You forgot two important steps!

7. Wait three days (for full DNS propagation), then cancel your hosting account with the old provider. Legally, in my state at least, providers are allowed to charge you for monthly hosting fees unless you comply with their cancellation policy.

8. Leave feedback with a Manager of the outgoing hosting company, about why they are losing your business. If it’s a pricing issue, many companies will cut you a fabulous deal, just to keep your business!

38

Best way to handle the email situation is to sign up for Google Apps (http://google.com/a/). It does require that your DNS records be updated to point email to Google, but most hosting providers *should* allow for that.

39

[...] Six Easy Steps to Making a Web Hosting Switch (tags: hosting howto web webhost webdesign business technology homepage blogging blog internet resources website tips) [...]

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[...] Keystrokes has created a post detailing 6 Easy Steps to Making a Web Hosting Switch. Switching hosts can be a big pain for many, so hopefully many will find this post very useful. [...]

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[...] 6 Easy Steps to Making a Web Hosting Switch [...]

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[...] Essential Keystokes via LifeHacker (j’ai adapté cet article intéressant mais légèrement incomplet, avec un [...]

44

Good info and straight forward steps for migrating from one web host to another. Just one extra point to be added for dynamically updated sites like forums, blogs etc. During the DNS change, visitors are being directed to either the old web host or new web host depending on their ISP update schedule, in order to maintain only new data is only captured in new web hosting account, you should turn off the site at old web host to ensure no new data is being captured there.

45

looks easy with those 6 steps.
but its really hard when we are moving some script/database. lol :D

46

Even if you arent switching hosts, it is a good idea to backup your files continuously even if your host says they backup server data automatically. Sometimes these backups can fail or you might delete some files by accident(If they are using RAID backup you are out of luck)

47

This is the first time I have to change my hosting service, and this little tutorial really came in handy, thanks!

48

One thing I would add, especially if you work with a lot of scripts, is that you may need to change the directory root, php locations etc. So keep that in mind when switching and it’ll save some hassle.

49

Last time when I switched the host my site had to be down for like 9 hours. It was some DNS update issue with hostgator.

~Sahil

50

This article was very informtive. I thought it provided a lot of info that even the average user could even move their stuff to a new host.

51

[...] for my former host to get back on-line, I decided to make the switch. Armed with information from Essential Keystrokes, I began the process. My fears were unfounded. Changing domain name servers could not have been [...]

52

I own a small firm called Altec Design. We actually just recently switched all of our sites over to new servers. The best advice I can give someone is to BACKUP YOU SITES! We have done this before and therefore backed them up this time, but as experience has taught us, there is always little “kinks” to be worked out when transfering servers.

53
Joseph Verzino
May 1st, 2010 at 5:05 am

It is a good idea to copy down the old DNS values before you change them. Then you can reset them if you have to get access to your files to copy them to your hard disk.

54

[...] Essential Keystrokes – 6 Easy Steps to Making a Web Hosting Switch [...]

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