Are you ready to make the switch to a new hosting provider? Some typical reasons to transfer web hosting include improving site performance, cutting down on server downtime, and increasing security.
If you want to transfer your website to a new host, this how-to article outlines the step-by-step process for a smooth migration. From choosing plugins to help manage site files to downloading and exporting your website database, this tutorial has everything you need to make the switch quickly and easily!
Are you Using a Content Management System like WordPress?
If you built your website using a content management system like WordPress, you've made your migration much more manageable. WordPress offers exceptional tools to help in migrating a site. Even without the tools, the process is relatively straightforward.
If you do not have a WordPress site but a CMS such as Joomla, Drupal, or another, you will have a similar approach to the one outlined in this article. However, this article references WordPress and provides steps for transferring WordPress sites.
Have you Purchased New Website Hosting?
A new web host is an integral factor in transferring a website. You'll want to select a new host and set it up before initiating any website transfer or migration from your previous hosting provider. There are many excellent hosting options for WordPress websites, whether you want to invest a little or a lot.
You can choose from multiple plans like shared, managed, cloud, VPS, or dedicated hosting. All come with their benefits and drawbacks. We don't provide specific details on each in this tutorial, but you can find this information in our how to host a website article.
If you're looking for good web hosting companies, we've outlined some of our top picks in each category.
Related Content: Managed WordPress Hosting – Is The Quality Really Better?
Does the Host Offer Free Migration Services?
You've probably heard the saying, “time is money.” Transferring your old hosting account to a new host account can be time-consuming. That's why choosing a host that offers free site migration is important. This will save you a lot of time and hassle. Additionally, read the host's website and FAQ section carefully to know what needs to be done before transferring your site.
Once you have a good understanding of the process, it's time to get started. Follow the host's guidelines carefully to avoid any complications. And last but not least, ensure you have a backup of your website files in case something goes wrong during the migration process.
Steps to Switch Hosting Providers
Website migration can seem daunting, but switching web hosts can be easy and successful with some preparation and instruction. Follow these six simple steps to make the process go smoothly. Reach out to your new host support if you get stuck. They are typically more than willing to pitch in when you buy their services.
Step 1. Backup your website
Before you start any migration process, ensure you have a downloaded copy of your website files and database somewhere locally or in online storage like Google Drive or DropBox. The reason is that if something goes wrong and something happens to your old site during the process, you can always restore from the backed-up copy.
Step 2. Download your website files
Next, you'll want to download your website. This can be done manually, or it can be done using a plugin in just a few clicks. Many great plugins can assist with migrating a WordPress website, including the Premium versions of either plugin mentioned for backing up your website.
Some additional free plugins to consider that are listed below. Keep in mind the free versions will work for smaller websites but run into import/export size restrictions.
If you want to download your website's files manually, your best option is FTP. The file manager within the control panel is suitable for downloading single files or a few files but doesn't allow for downloading entire folders and/or subdirectories. We recommend trying one of the following plugins to obtain your files before going through the FTP process.
Exporting via FTP client. FTP stands for file transfer protocol, and it is the best way to transfer files between your local environment and a remote host.
We typically use FileZilla as our FTP program; it is free and works efficiently to connect to your website and files. Once downloaded and installed, you'll need to connect it to your website via the host's FTP username, password, and related security settings.
- Open FileZilla – Under File in the main navigation, click on Site Manager. You'll see this modal window pop up on your screen.
- You'll next need to create a new website, assuming it is not listed and you've not used FileZilla before. Add the connection details to the fields on the right-side panel and press Connect.
- Next, you'll see FileZilla working to connect to your remote host. You'll see the remote server files in the right-side panel if everything is entered correctly. If nothing shows up, you'll likely receive an error message in the connection panel, #1, and you need to reenter your information and try again.
- Once you've successfully connected, you'll need to navigate where you want to store the downloaded files on your local machine. You'll then navigate to where your website folder and files are in the right-hand panel.
- This folder is typically public_html, but depending on the host, it could be labeled with your domain name or another identifier. You'll want to connect with support to inquire if it is not apparent.
- Drag and drop the unzipped folders and files from the right panel to the left panel. As you do so, you'll see the bottom panel become active, showing the transfer status of the folders and files. It is essential to monitor this as you want to ensure there are no errors upon completion. Errors typically mean some files failed to transfer, and you'll need to try those again. Additionally, two tabs are across the bottom panel to view failed and successful transfers.
Step 3. Export your website database
If you've made it this far and have decided to migrate your website manually, you'll next need to export your MySQL database. This process will grab all your website's tables within the site's database. This is done manually by accessing your control panel and your phpMyAdmin panel.
Once you've accessed your panel, you'll need to navigate to the proper database by name. If you haven't named your database or do not remember the name, you might need to search for one with multiple table entries.
Once you've found your database, you'll click on the Export link at the top of the page, then choose the file type you want to export as and hit the “GO” button. Your files will then be downloaded, and you asked where you want to place the file on your local machine.
Step 4. Upload your website and import your database
Once your new web hosting provider is set up and ready to receive your WordPress website, you'll need to upload your website files and import your database. This process can be taxing if you've never done it before and you choose to do it manually. We highly recommend using the plugins outlined above to make it easier to set up and connect the website without issues.
Upload via File Manager
Uploading your website using a file manager is not a complex process. However, ensure you have all the files ready before uploading anything. You'll open the File Manager from your control panel and navigate to where the files must go, typically labeled as public_html or your website domain name.
You'll click into that folder and then click the Upload button on the main navigation. That will likely open a new screen that you will use to select the files you want to upload and then press the Upload button.
Upload via FTP
If you upload manually, you can upload the files to your new hosting account via FTP, reversing the downloading process outlined in Step 2.
Step 5. Test your website
Testing your website after transferring it to the new web hosting account is vital to ensure everything goes smoothly. If there are any issues, you'll want to fix them before launching on the new web host.
Ensure all content is up-to-date and transferred successfully and there are no issues with broken images, links, redirects, etc. Once you've confirmed that everything looks good and is working as expected, the last step is to repoint your domain to the new host and push the new site live.
Step 6. Pushing the website live
You'll need to correct your DNS settings to point your domain away from your current hosting account to your new hosting provider. This could be easy or difficult, depending on how you've set up your domain.
Easy: You have your nameservers pointed to your domain registrar servers (think GoDaddy, Namecheap, etc.), and you need to point an A record to the new web hosting provider's issued IP address. Or you can use a CNAME record and point that to the IP. This method virtually eliminates website downtime.
Hard: You previously transferred your nameservers to your current website hosting account and will need to transfer them back to your domain registrar. Once that is completed, you'll need to repoint them to your new hosting company. This method typically means there could be downtime of 12-48 hours for your website.
We don't typically advise moving nameservers from your domain registrar as it can cause these types of problems when making a web host switch. It can take time for the nameservers to propagate, which might mean downtime for your website. Using the A or CNAME record is much easier and more efficient.
Important Considerations for WordPress Sites
1. Backup your website
Always back up your website and ensure a local copy is stored safely and securely. We can't emphasize this enough. If you skip this step and something goes wrong, you may lose your website.
Considering free plugins help you accomplish this, there should be no reason not to back up your site as best practice on a regular cadence. Ensure your backup files and any MySQL database are on your current and new hosting providers.
2. Check your DNS settings
Always ensure your DNS settings are appropriately constructed at your domain name registrar to allow an easier transfer. If you ensure your domain DNS settings are set up to make your site transfer easier before you start the migration, you'll eliminate issues and website downtime.
3. Check your SSL certificate
Moving your website typically means getting a new SSL certificate or having to be reissued a new certificate signing request and private keys. SSL certificates issued by hosting providers do not transfer, so you'll want to ensure your new host is ready to support your website with a new SSL certificate.
Suppose you've purchased an SSL from a third-party provider like Comodo or DigiCert. In that case, you'll need to reach out to them to have it reissued so you can place the signing request and private keys into the appropriate area of your control panel or hand it off to the support team at your new hosting company.
4. Make sure you don't have missing or broken images
During your final testing, you should ensure all images are showing and that you don't see any missing or broken images on the website. You'll also want to check this on a mobile device to ensure everything works as expected across different devices. It should, but it's always best to do your due diligence before it becomes an issue on a live website.
If you see missing elements or images, you'll have access to your old hosting provider and site's files, so moving images over to your new site will be easier.
5. Fix any broken links & check redirects
When you transfer web hosting, it can sometimes result in broken links. You can run broken link checker tools like Check My Links and Bad Link Checker, both Chrome extensions that you can add to your browser through the Chrome Web Store.
You can also add a Chrome extension called Redirect Path that will trace your redirects to ensure you don't have any issues. These tools are all free to use to ensure your website is working as expected.
6. Check your site tracking
Sometimes moving a website will result in losing tracking tags or analytics. You want to ensure that your tracking tags are still placed within the site code and actively capturing data. This is rare with just a web host move, but it is better to review and find no errors than not to review and have it not track your site for months before it is caught.
7. Let Google know about the site transfer
Once you've completed the transfer successfully and tested your site, you can let Google know that your site is at a new host. Yes, you can provide Google Search Console with a new XML sitemap so the crawler will recrawl the site pages and let you know what might need to be fixed.
The reason to submit a new sitemap is that it is the best way to tell Google that you want them to re-crawl your WordPress site. Additionally, you want to do this if your website speed has dramatically improved, as this is a ranking factor, and you'll want Google to provide your site as much of a boost as possible after your transfer.
How to Transfer your Website to a New Host Wrap-up
Hopefully, the information provided and the steps outlined make it easy to understand the process of migrating services for your website from one web host to another. The process is easier when you leverage WordPress's inherent technology to help with these types of migrations. The plugin approach will save you time, money, and headaches if something goes wrong.
Remember, your new web hosting provider will be your best source of support if you experience an issue during this process. Many site owners go it alone but don't have the technical knowledge. You're paying money for your new hosting service, so tap into their support if you can't figure something out; that's why they are there, and more than likely, they'll help you figure it out or do it for you.
Have we missed something? Is there another “important consideration?” If so, let us know in the comments.