How to Switch Web Site Host

A good deal on hosting taken out many years ago is not necessarily a good deal today. Packages offered by hosting companies are becoming more competitive and offering a lot more for a lot less. When your needs change, it may make financial or business sense to move to a different hosting provider. This post tells you how to move your website including your blog from one hosting provider to another.

Your needs regarding your website can change over time and different hosting companies offer different packages to fulfill these different aspirations. Some hosts offer more space and bandwidth whereas others offer different technologies such as ASP.Net and MySQL.

I have recently switched moved my website from one host to another and in this post I tell you how you can do the same.

Before you start, there are some things you should check that might save you some time and trouble:

  • See if the host you are with has a different package at a more competitive price that fulfills your needs. You may not need to move if your current host can provide what you require and it may not make financial sense to move if you are just switching to save a few pence.
  • Do not be afraid to bargain with the Hosting provider. Smaller hosts will sometimes give you more space and bandwidth if you ask them and are thinking of leaving them.

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If the host will not or can not change you to a more appropriate package or is charging too much to do so, then you can follow through with the rest of this post and make the switch.

Here’s how:

  • Make a backup of your entire existing website including Logs and Databases.
  • Find a new hosting provider by searching the internet, reading online reviews, reading magazine reviews etc. It is important to spend time and choose the provider that will more than satisfy your needs as you could be out financially if you miss something that you need. Test out how quickly they respond to your questions before you sign up. Find out if you can try them out for a period and get your money back if you are not happy. There should be a cooling off period for anything ordered over the Internet. Ensure the package you are thinking of purchasing contains all the technologies that you will need.
  • Get everything up and running on your new host.
    • Your host should be able to provide you with a temporary FTP account and a temporary website URL so that you can upload your old website and test everything out to see if it works on the new host. For example, your website domain might be www.example.com on your old domain. Your new host might provide you with a temporary such as https://secure.abcdef.net.
    • If you have a WordPress blog and you want to test it on your new host using the temporary URL, you will need to follow the instructions in the “Moving WordPress to a New Server” section of this article: http://codex.wordpress.org/Moving_WordPress. Note: As you only want to test your WordPress blog on your new web server at this point and still want your old blog to keep working on your old server using your proper domain name, use the instructions in the “If You Want Your Old Blog To Still Work” section of this article. Basically, this article walks you through backing up your blog and then modifying both Site Address (URL) and WordPress Address (URL) in your blog Admin Area (Settings->General) so that you can export the database and copy the blog files from your old server to your new server. It then walks your through restoring your backups to your old server so that it will work again.
    • Download all other files on the old host and upload the same files to the root directory of your new host.
  • TEST EVERYTHING. Watch out for:
    • Absolute links in your code that point back to your old domain name. If you are going to keep the same domain name when you move hosts this will should not be a problem when you flick the DNS switch and your newly hosted website goes live. Otherwise these links will need to be modified to be relative instead of absolute. Locate them quickly using an editor with good search facilities to find all occurrences. It is easier if you do this on a copy of the website downloaded to your local hard drive.
    • If you move from a Windows platform to a UNIX platform then file names which are a different case will no longer work. You will need to change all web page URL instances to exactly match the hyperlink case.
    • Ensure all dynamic parts of your site work. For example, test Forms and JavaScript thoroughly.
  • Set up your email mailboxes on the new host. Usually these will be the exact same email addresses that you have on your old host.
  • Insert a very slight change into the home page of the website on your new server so that you can easily tell when your website has switched over to the new host (see next step).
  • When you are happy that your website works as it should do on the new host using the temporary domain name, flick the DNS switch by modifying the pair of Name Servers that are associated with your Domain Name. It can take 24 to 48 hours for the DNS records to get updated and the switchover to fully take place. Browse to your proper domain name and watch for the tell-tale text you inserted on your home page in the previous step to appear. You may need to clear the cache on your browser to ensure you are not looking at an old version of the website.
  • Once the DNS switch takes place, TEST EVERYTHING again. Some things that were working when you were using the temporary URL may no longer work.
  • Don’t forget to test your email.
  • Wait a few days before cancelling your old host in case you need to switch the DNS back for some reason.

If everything is working then Congratulations! You have successfully switched hosts.

If you are a Northern Ireland based company and need help with switching host, please contact us and we can help you perform the move.

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