Switching hosting providers can be a daunting proposition. If you felt a bit of panic right there just from the thought, you’re not alone. There isn’t anyone on the planet who looks forward to migrating a website — but planning will make everything flow smoother.
The Process for Switching Hosting Providers
While planning your move, examine your domain portfolio and confirm all the domains needed for operating your website.
The complexity of your website and server architecture will largely determine your process for moving. Simple WordPress websites can often be copied manually or with plugins. The process is simple and can be seamless. Other simple websites can be moved by utilizing your backups — you have backups, right? — downloading them and uploading to your new host. Then you just point to the domain name servers, and voila! Instant website move.
Bigger migrations will involve many more steps and considerations, so cautious planning is your friend. Depending on your other upstream providers, you may have to reroute or change IP addresses, set up internal proxies and peering, and adjust CDN settings. Every transfer is unique, and there isn’t a single comprehensive guide — but let’s review several things that are often forgotten.
Most Forgotten Steps When Moving
You’ll want to ensure that your website has SSL encryption installed before switching over. Remember to review your DNS records. This is a good way of spotting things you may have missed, like email accounts associated with your domain. If you are transferring your domains between registrars, always save your DNS settings. Often, DNS settings will not transfer automatically, because they are stored behind the registrar’s nameservers. Eventually they will become inaccessible at your old registrar, and your website may go offline, costing you precious time as you try to figure out why. While planning your move, examine your domain portfolio and confirm all the domains needed for operating your website.
After successfully navigating those hurdles, you can move deeper. Remember to set file permissions, scheduled cron jobs and any third-party integrations or APIs. Double- and triple-check that you have a backup service running on your new shiny hosting configuration. Confirm that it cycles correctly.
Finally, be sure to cancel your old hosting account. If you’re on a contract, you’ll want to plan your transfer with time to spare, and confirm your contract end date, autorenewal date and cancellation dates. The last thing you want is two hosting bills.
Consider Asking for Help From Your New Host
Let me blow your mind for a minute. One simpler way to transfer your website is by choosing a hosting company that offers a migration service. Sort of like calling a moving company for your house: you point, and they work. However, not all hosting providers do this. The service is rarely free, and when it is, there may be a contract involved.
Most large platform owners don’t have the knowledge to execute a website move on their own. If you intend to stay online and functional during the move, without downtime, that may raise the risks and stakes of your migration. I recommend contacting your new host and asking if they can help. Instead of spending all that time, energy and stress planning and executing something you’ll only do once, let your new hosting team do it for you. They should have all the experience you need to get it done without you lifting a finger.
Once everything is done, the most critical step remains: testing and reviewing your website both before and after it goes live. Depending on your architecture, the process could take hours, days or weeks. Above all else, don’t panic. Even if something goes wrong, it can be fixed with minimal downtime or, worst case, rolled back. The world will not end, and you will not die. Probably.
Does Moving Hosts Affect Search Engine Optimization?
Sometimes fear of the unknown makes us freeze when we need to make decisions, so let’s break down one more roadblock for you. Search engines don’t care which hosting company you use. However, their secret algorithms do factor in website speed, reliability and uptime, so your choice of hosting provider can dramatically impact your search engine rankings, and thus your livelihood.
Yes, that means picking the right hosting company can improve your search results. You could rank better by selecting a web host that is faster than your current one, with better network routing. Further, considering a host with data centers near your primary target audience’s geographic location may benefit you. Additionally, superior uptime will ensure that when search engines are checking your website, they find it.
It is vital that you find problems before your customers do, so make sure to test your website for weeks following the move, to catch anything that may have been missed. Or rather, delegate someone to do it, since by this point you will hopefully be kicking back in your hammock with your choice of beverage.
Remember the words of Kennedy: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Moving your website might use more technology than they used to send a rocket to the moon, but doing it doesn’t have to be as difficult.
Brad Mitchell is the founder of MojoHost, which has served the industry for nearly two decades and has been named XBIZ Web Host of the Year several times. He regularly shares insights as a panelist at trade shows. Contact email@example.com to learn more about the suite of services his company offers.