to a New Hosting Provider
There are many good reasons to switch hosting providers. This article is going to assume you have one already, but we wanted to note early on that such a move shouldn’t be taken lightly. Yes, if you procure the help of professional service in handling the entire migration (we equate the process to moving fine china), then you shouldn’t have any problems. In fact, the whole process start to finish (including moving databases and DNS propagation) should take more than 2 to 5 hours depending on the size of your website. So having said that, let’s move on…
BEFORE the Migration Begins
First, you want to make sure you have gone over your website and all its content, plugins, iframes, forms, functionality with a fine tooth comb. Changing the location (the server your website sits on) of your website can and will affect things that are (generally) affected by DNS/Cpanel settings. Here’s a quick definition of both.
The DNS is what matches your DOMAIN (CoolExample.com) with the ip address of your site files. IP address is the digital address that reveals among other things the location of your server (and so not to belabor the point, I’ll leave it at that.) The CPANEL is the service (usually hosted in the same account as your website hosting account) which allows for you to change your DNS records, @ records, MX records, nameservers…all kinds of things. So beyond pointing your domain to your ip address (where your website files are), it also “traffic controls” the direction of data packets in regards to your email address(es) (for that domain if they exist), where that mail service resides, how to treat subdomains, etc. Phew.
The most common things that are overlooked from the beginning when changing web hosting providers are the following:
1) Compatibility. The compatibility of your site build and the server environment. You can’t run iOS on a PC. Think of this issue like that. Most of the time (flying blind) you should run into this problem. But if you are utilizing a particular Content Management System, you have to make sure your web hosting provider accommodates that platform and database. Also, for example, some coding structures, like ColdFusion for example, require a special hosting environment (which may cost more than your “regular” hosting service).
2) Emails. If you have company branded emails (i.e. joe@CoolExample.com), you will need to make sure your service provider adjusts (or does NOT adjust depending on your viewpoint) the MX and/or @ records. I say “service provider” because if you have company branded emails I do not suggest you try a web migration on your own unless your company has the internal staff for it. Just my two cents.
3) Linux versus Windows. You’ll get these two options when choosing your web hosting “environment”. What they are literally asking you is what server operating system would you like. This really is an extension of #1. It would take a novel to explain the differences. Again, most of the time, you can choose one or other other with little affect. If you are flying blind and have a basic small to medium size website with standard functionality, Linux is a safe bet. If you don’t fall in that range, call in that service provider and get someone to help you with the migration.
4) SSL. Does your website require or utilize a SSL? No, then you are fine in a standard shared hosting environment with an assigned ip address. If you DO use or utilize an SSL you’ll need a dedicated ip. And the SSL certificate is a different transfer fee. And the SSL is considered an “add on” by all web hosting providers. So factor in an additional cost. If you don’t know what an SSL certification is, than you don’t have one. We’ll write another article on defining that, but for brevity’s sake, we’ll move on.
5) Bandwidth. In my humble opinion, bandwidth (how much data is transferred from your site files to user browser) is a concern of the past. Unless you are in the top 10,000 websites on Alex, you generally don’t have to worry about bandwidth. Data storage and data transfer is cheap and fast nowadays. If however you do have a website that services a lot of high rez or large file content (pictures and video for example) and those files are hosted along with your website, than you may need to consider getting an additional server just for those assets. If anything, you should know how much bandwidth (and limits) your website has under its current web hosting provider. You can give those average monthly totals to your NEW hosting provider and have them check it against the account limits. If you are having bandwidth problems, either you have a really really bad hosting provider, or you have a really good problem to have.
6) Moving the Data. When migration your website, its not necessarily like cutting and pasting everything from one location to a new location. If your website is utilizing a sizable database, you are going to want to discuss getting that spun out of the OLD hosting provider and into the NEW hosting provider with professional team managing the whole process.
7) Initiating the Move. Things can go wrong when migrating your website. The DNS can take up to 24 hours to propagate (but usually it takes a mere 20 minutes). And propagation is NOT universal. Meaning, you might be able to pull the website up in your office location, but someone in the next state over will still get a “404 error” message. Emails inboxes always seem to go squirrely after a move. Sometimes forms won’t format correctly, or hell…sometimes the decide to stop working at all. A lot of these things are minor to a professional web maintenance team, who can see the issue and fix it immediately. But…never, ever, ever try to migrate a website during your peak hours of your business day. Period. For you Monday to Friday businesses, do it Friday at closing time and let your team work over the weekend on it. That way by Monday, everything will be as fresh as a daisy.
Pulling the Trigger
Once you are comfortable with planning stage of moving your website to a new hosting provider or location, then your next step is to simply pull the trigger. The stages are
1) Copy down your site files and database over to new hosting location
2) Your professional web hosting team should be able to test it in a private beta to see if anything looks like its gone awry.
3) Once the site clears beta you have to change your DNS setting to point to the new hosting location
4) Check those EMAIL SETTINGS if you have company branded domains
5) Be patient and wait for propagation
6) Don’t cancel your current hosting provider just yet. Leave the “old copy” of your website in that location for a week or two just in case. That way if something goes horrible wrong, all you have to do is simply repoint the DNS back to the old location and your up and running.
7) After your tolerable grace period with testing the new hosting location, you should call your old web hosting provider and cancel your web hosting service. If you have other services with them, don’t cancel them unless you’ve moved them too! Remember, services like email hosting and SSL certificates are additional services that don’t automatically migrate with web hosting.
Looking to Transfer your Website to a New Hosting Provider?
Southern Tide Media would be more than happy to simply consult with your company on web migration services or web hosting services. When choosing a web hosting provider, always consider customer support, security, and client access as factors. Contact us today to discuss more about our web hosting services.