Your website is becoming quite successful. Traffic continually increases, and you’ve decided it’s time to switch web hosting companies to keep up with it all.
Maybe you are unsatisfied with your web host, whether or not you have a popular site. Just how difficult is it to switch hosting providers?
In just ten easy steps, you can be on your way to switching from one host to another with ease, without your disrupting site traffic. Your regular site visitors won’t even notice the difference!
1. Choose Your New Web Host
With tens of thousands of hosting companies to choose from, it can be a tough choice. Since you’ve been through this process once before and dealt with a cheap hosting company, you probably have a good idea of what you are looking for, and what you don’t want.
2. Locate Registrar Info For Your Current Site
This is important: if you are not listed as the administrative contact for your website, switching hosts is going to be a very complicated process. Legally, you should be listed as the administrative contact, so chances are this will be the case. Just use a whois service to locate this information.
While you’re viewing the whois data, you should double check when your domain name expires. If you are getting close to that expiration date, you should extend the term of ownership at this time, or even switch registrars prior to switching web hosts.
Your current web hosting provider should be listed as the technical contact. As such, they’ll eventually find out that you’ve moved. It is up to you whether or not you tell your hosting provider about your plans to switch, but it’s a good idea to keep it under wraps until you’ve made the switch.
Most hosts probably won’t care, but you’ll find some that take it quite personally. As a result, your site could see a reduction in traffic allowed to visit your site, registrar information tampered with, and you could even see a total site shutdown. You’ll also be spared the speech from the offended company as to why it’s best to stay put if you’ve already moved when you break the news.
3. Back Up Your Data!
This is probably the most vital of all the steps involved in the switch. Best practice: save a copy to your hard drive, and then back up onto CD or external storage drive. Whether or not your host backs up your site on a regular basis, you should still hold your own copies.
To do this, use an ftp program in order to download all of the data. You can also use software to publish your data right to your computer. You could use the “file > save as html” directly in your browser, but you’d have to assure you saved it under the right name, and download all of the images. If you are currently with a free or cheap web hosting provider, you might have pop ups hard coded directly into your files, so just saving this as html would transfer these ads to your new host, something you DON’T want to do.
Don’t forget to save those log files, especially if you plan on relying on some form of statistical program. Also, if you had scripts running or special folders protected by passwords, you’ll want to review exactly how you set those folders up so that you can do the same on your new server.
4. Sign On With The New Hosting Provider
So you’ve backed everything up, and found a host that works for you. Go ahead and sign up! Choose the plan that best suits your needs, assure their credit card form is secure and that their SSL certificate is up to date, and complete your transaction.
It should be noted that you should verify the hosting provider you’ve chosen is a real hosting company. To do this, ask for some information on sites they are currently hosting, and contact the companies directly to verify they exist.
Once you’ve been given your IP address, go ahead and connect to your site via your web editing software or ftp program. Upload a temp index.html page, type the IP address into your browser, and make sure it appears. If it does, great! Now you can begin the task of uploading your files. Be sure not to delete or overwrite any existing files that your new hosting provider gave you. Otherwise, you might find yourself calling on tech support to reinstall them!
5. Test It
Prior to making your site live to customers, you’ll want to test it carefully so you can assure there are no bugs. A good idea: have someone else test it out. They might notice something you hadn’t.
6. Email Account Setup
This is important: you don’t want to miss any emails during this transition. Assure you can access your old email account during the first week of the switchover, as you might find both accounts receiving emails for 2-4 days.
If you relied on a mailing list with your old host, export all of those contacts and transfer them to your site or mailing list software prior to the switch.
7. Switch Hosts!
Locate the name server information for your new web host, which will give a primary and secondary server, which will typically look like:
Your registrar will explain the process for switching DNS information, which could be as simple as submitting an online form, or email confirmation, sent to both the administrative and technical contact. Follow their directions to the letter. It should take approximately 24-72 hours before your change is accepted by all servers around the world, although the more remote a server, the higher the chances it will take up to a week.
Another important thing to remember: place a link on your old site pointing traffic to the new site until you shut down the old site altogether.
8. Sever Ties With Your Old Host
Once the move is confirmed successful, go ahead and cancel your account with your old hosting provider. It is recommended you cancel no sooner than one week following the DNS change.
If you run into trouble, don’t be afraid to threaten to report them to the Better Business Bureau, or take legal action.
9. Check Scripts
Assure that the scripts work once the old site is inactive. Sometimes, the scripts only worked on the new host because they pointed to the old site.
10. Check Links
Not only should you verify that all of your links work after the switch is official, you’ll want to check links that point to your site on other sites. Head to Google or alltheweb to perform a reverse link check, and contact any sites that might have to change the link.
That’s it! Hopefully, the switch was simple and painless, and you can rest easy knowing that your switch to a different hosting provider was the right choice.
Have you ever switched hosting providers? How was your experience? Share it with us!