Website Migration: How to Move Your Site to a New Host

No site owner wants to end up with an unreliable hosting service. We usually do extensive research before choosing a hosting service to use, mainly because the success of the site depends highly on how easily accessible the site is to its users.

Unfortunately, there are times when moving to a new host is still necessary; the hosting service can become unreliable for whatever reason or the site simply outgrows the available upgrade options. To move your site to a new host without any downtime, here are the steps you need to complete.

Setting Up the New Hosting Account

The first thing you need to do is have the new hosting account set up properly. Make sure the account is configured to host your site before continuing with other steps in the migration process.

When moving from a shared hosting plan to a cloud VPS, for instance, you may need to configure the virtual server yourself. This means installing an operating system, adding software such as NGINX and MySQL, and configuring server security to better protect your data.

Moving to a managed hosting service is easier since you don’t have to worry about these details. A team of experienced server administrators will handle server setup and configuration for you. They can also help you with the entire migration process.

Move the Files

Now that you have the server properly set up, it is time to continue with the move to a new server by transferring site-related files. Again, there are several ways you can do this. The manual route is by downloading the entire site to your computer, and then re-uploading the files to the new hosting account. With larger sites, however, this could take a lot of time.

Another easier way is by doing a server-to-server file transfer. You can use commands such as WGET or RSync to transfer files from the old server to your new hosting account directly, all without downloading the large files to your computer first.

Server-to-server migration is not only faster, but also more efficient. Most servers have capable internet backbones supporting them, so you will see incredible transfer speed and you’ll complete the migration in no time.

Moving the Database

Most sites today use MySQL or other database frameworks as a way to store content and other data. Now that you have migrated the files related to the site, it is time to migrate your database to the new server.

As you may have guessed, this step begins with exporting the existing database on the old server. You will end up with a .SQL file that you can transfer to the new server. You can use the file transfer methods we discussed earlier to move the .SQL file to the new server.

After the file transfer, you need to import your database and do some reconfiguring if necessary. You can use commands such as PV or MySQL IMPORT to import the site’s database to MySQL; other database frameworks have their own import commands.

To make the database import process easier, you can also use a management app with graphical user interface like PHPMyAdmin. You can export the database and import it on the new hosting server with ease.

Final Checks

The last step to take is changing your domain’s nameserver configuration to point to the new hosting account. Before you do, however, you want to do some final checks first. Using a temporary domain or by accessing the new site by its IP address, you can make sure that the site is working properly.

Check that you can access the site’s administrative panel – /wp-admin in the case of WordPress sites – using your old username and password combination. Make some final tweaks if necessary. When moving to a more capable hosting service, for example, you can choose to reconfigure the site’s process limit and other details for better performance.

Speaking of WordPress sites, you can also move to a new hosting using WordPress’s built-in export and import tools. These tools completely automate moving the uploaded files (i.e. photos you add to blog posts) and database, but you still need to install plugins and themes manually. Keep in mind that processing a bigger exported .XML file, such as when you have hundreds of articles to migrate, isn’t always as easy.

To complete the move, reconfigure your domain name to point to the new server. It takes up to 48 hours for the new nameserver configuration to propagate, but the migration will be seamless and you won’t have to deal with downtime at all. You now have your site running from a more capable hosting service.