Not everyone manages to find a good web hosting server in the first instance. When you start your first website, it is likely that you start with a web hosting provider which is not up to the mark, or downright unreliable. After acquiring a fair knowledge of managing websites, you get to know about better web hosting providers.
Though moving your website from one web hosting server to another web server requires some additional effort, continuing to host your website on a unreliable web server is never an option as it means poor experience for your visitors and also penalty from Google for slow loading website.
Most people will tell you that switching from one server to another means downtime for your website. How do you transfer your website from server to another without keeping your website down even for a minute?
I recently switched my website from one web hosting provider to Hostgator. (Hostgator is highly recommended by a large number of website owners and Internet marketers.) The transition from one web server to another was so seamless for my website that I had to check in the back-end to ascertain if my website had actually been transferred to the new server. Before you go ahead with the following procedure to transfer your website to a new server, make sure that you initiate the process at least a day before your existing hosting space expires.
- Download all files and folders of your website from the webserver using FileZilla or other FTP client application.
- Export the database and save it on your local disk. You can do it using PhpMyAdmin. When you browse to the database of your website, you will find a tab which says “Export”. Click on this to download a SQL copy of your database. If your website is powered by WordPress, you can use a database backup plug-in such as “WordPress Database Backup”.
- Go to your domain registrar website and check all the settings such as MX (mail server) entries for email, sub-domains and DNS records. Make sure that you jot them down somewhere.
- Buy web hosting space from a reliable web hosting provider (Hostgator is good.) You will get an email with all necessary details including the IP address of your webserver and FTP details.
- Log in to your new webhosting account Cpanel or any other management area provided using the IP address. If you already have space on a reliable hosting provider, log in to its Cpanel.
- Create a MySQL database for the website to be transferred. Jot down the database name, database username and password.
- Import the SQL database of your website to this database. You will find the “Import” menu when you go to the new database page.
- Now transfer all backed-up files and folders of your website to the new server destination. If the website is your primary domain for the webhosting space, transfer all of it to the home folder. Else, link an add-on domain. This will automatically create a subdomain and link a folder to it. Redirect the subdomain to the subdomain to your website domain to avoid duplicate content issue. Transfer all files and folder to the relevant folder.
- If your old website had custom mail server (MX) settings, add them to the mail server of your new hosting server. If you had any additional sub-domain or CNAME entries or A records set up, create those with necessary settings. Now you are all set to start using the new server.
- Go to the domain control panel of your domain registrar and change the name server (NS) entries to point it to your new hosting server. If you have issues with your domain registrar as well, make sure to get it transferred to a reliable registrar such as Godaddy or Hostgator. If you need to get your domain name transferred to a new registrar, start the process at least a week before the planned shift to a new server. Your job is done. Now, just wait for the changes to get reflected.
The new name server entries will take some time to get reflected across the Internet. You just need to wait. Once the new name server becomes active, your website will start being served from the new hosting server. You can check whether the new name servers have become active by looking into WHOIS data. It offers information about name servers under the registration sub-head. Once your transition is successful, delete files and database from the old hosting server.
Though your website will not be down for even a minute, you will not be able to update it during the transition period while you wait for the new name servers to get reflected and website starts showing up from the new hosting server.