Choosing the right hosting company for your website is a crucial decision. Unfortunately, sometimes a web hosting service becomes worse or does no longer meet the needs and requirements of your growing website. In such cases, the best decision you can make is to switch the hosting company.
However, switching from one web hosting company to another has its risks. Usually one of the biggest concerns of webmasters is the downtime issue. How can you possibly change your host without stopping your website's operation? The following steps are recommended to avoid or minimize the possibility of downtime when switching to a new web hosting service provider.
- Purchase a new web hosting plan
- Backup all your files and transfer them to your new web host
- Check your imported database
- Change your domain's name server
- Check for broken links and other issues
- Check your email accounts
- Check everything before finalizing the move
- Wait 48 hours until changes will take effect
- Close your old web hosting account
1. Purchase a new web hosting plan
Before cutting the connection to your old hosting service provider, choose a new web hosting company first. It pays to do a little research in terms of storage space, performance, server configuration, and of course, the cost. It's also important to mention that you should not cancel your old web hosting account until you have completely moved the website over to the new hosting.
2. Backup all your files and transfer them to your new web host
This is definitely the most important part of moving your website to a new hosting company. Perform backups of all your website's files and databases to ensure that you're covered in case something goes wrong while moving your website. In addition, up-to-date backups will ensure that you will transfer the latest version of your website to your new web host.
After carefully making backups of your website, you can start transferring the files and import databases to your new web hosting. For this process it's recommended to use FTP programs such as FileZilla to upload the files to the new host. You can also contact your hosting company and see if they provide website migration services in case you don't feel comfortable with the process.
Quick Tip: While using WordPress, you're really lucky as there are plugins that completely take care of this whole process. For example WordPress plugins like All-in-One WP Migration will copy / transfer all your files and database to the new hosting company with only a few simple clicks. It couldn't be easier!
3. Check your imported database
In rare cases or if something goes wrong while importing your database, the database at your new host may become corrupted. In that case it would make sense to re-upload your database while overwriting the previously uploaded database or try to use phpMyAdmin to manually repair the database. If that doesn't help, it would make sense to contact your new hosting company as they may be able to assist you to configure your MySQL database correctly.
4. Change your domain's name server
Now that you have moved all your important files and databases to your new web hosting company, the next step is to point your domain name to the new servers. This step is crucial and you should not forget it. Otherwise your website will become temporarily unavailable once you close your old hosting account. So, what can you do to prevent this downtime from happening?
Your new hosting provider should have provided you with the name servers. You need to change your domain's name servers to that of your new web hosting company. Doing this will direct your visitors to your new hosting account. You usually will continue to get the same web traffic as before. This step requires you to log in to your domain registrar's dashboard and edit the DNS settings. These settings are often found in a section called DNS Settings or Manage DNS.
5. Check for broken links and other issues
Have you ever experienced 404 errors while visiting a website or opening a new page? This is an excellent example of broken or missing links. These kind of issues most likely happen when you change something in your site's permalink structure. It also happens once you move content to a different location without redirecting to the new location. To avoid this kind of headache, take the time to check existing pages and links on your website to ensure that each of them can be accessed.
6. Check your email accounts
Especially if you're running an online business, it's essential that you receive your emails. Not receiving emails properly can result in frustrating customers or even cost new potential business. So for some people the email accounts are one of the trickiest parts when switching the web hosting company. There are three possible scenarios that apply to transferring email accounts:
Email is hosted by domain registrar
If you used separate providers for your domain name registration (other than your hosting company) and if they also host your email addresses, you may need to switch the A (or @) record and point it to the new host's IP address. Your new hosting company should be able to assist with this.
Email is hosted by a third party
In case of 3rd party hosted email addresses, you have to double check if your email exchange records (MX records) are updated in your domain name system. Another scenario is that you were using an email address that is not related to your domain (Gmail, Yahoo, or else). If that's the case, there is nothing you need to do and you can simply keep using the email address like you're used to.
Email is hosted by old web hosting company
If your email address is hosted by your old hosting company, you have to recreate your email accounts on the new web hosting company and configure the accounts accordingly. After the email address is available at the new hosting company, you'll receive your emails as usual.
7. Check everything before finalizing the move
Once you're done with the necessary changes, double check if everything is working properly. To ensure that everything is functioning well, preview your website using a temporary URL. Some web hosting service providers also offer development platforms or staging environments to their clients. This is great to test and experience your site first-hand before launching it live. This way, you can detect any problems and remedy them immediately.
It's also recommended that you are open to your community and inform your loyal visitors about the upcoming switch beforehand. Inform them about the exact date and time that the switch will be effective. This helps to avoid frustration in case something goes wrong, which could result in a temporary downtime of your website. Usually people will understand the situation and you can prevent complaints in case something goes wrong within your new hosting environment.
8. Wait 48 hours until changes will take effect
It usually takes up to 48 hours until DNS changes are fully processed. During that time, your website will load intermittently from both the old host and the new hosting environment. After the 48 hours are up, your website should load consistently from the servers at your new hosting company. At this point it usually is safe to proceed with the last step on our list.
9. Close your old web hosting account
After doing all the necessary steps to secure your website, you can now safely cancel your old hosting account. If you used your old hosting provider to register the domain name as well, be sure to cancel only the hosting services within your account. Otherwise, you may loose your domain name and all the hard work of transferring your website and avoiding downtime will be for naught.
Conclusion: Switch hosting providers without downtime
Switching hosting providers seems intimidating at the beginning, not to mention stressful. But, with a little preparation and careful planning, you can transfer your website to a new hosting company without anyone even noticing that something is happening behind the scenes. Have you recently transferred your website? Did you have any issues or do you have any other useful tips to transfer WordPress websites without downtime? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.