Some of us are experts at moving sites from one web host or server to another. For those of us who are not in that category, it’s often a task that makes us procrastinate.
For a good reason, too. Once everything gets set up and is functioning correctly on our site, it’s natural to be concerned that switching over to a different hosting service could cause downtime, glitches, and other headaches. The advice on WordPress itself, furthermore, is comprehensive but complicated.
Like all other aspects of the CMS (content management system), WordPress migration has come a long way over the years. Various software makes the task so easy that we will soon wonder what we were worried about in the first place… until it takes as much as three days for your DNS servers to update with your domain registrar. Then you will be pulling your hair out.
Here is a set of instructions for WordPress migration divided into five basic steps, primarily using advice from the design and blogging site Hongkiat.com. The focus of these tactics is preparation so that you will not experience any downtime or any outwardly facing indication that the site is replanting its roots.
Migrate to a new WordPress host – 5 steps
Performing the transfer correctly and without any hitches will require a basic comprehension of three basic technologies/protocols. If you don’t feel comfortable in these areas, it might be time to sweet-talk the computer science kid who lives next door:
- IP (Internet protocol) addresses
- FTP (file transfer protocol).
The steps are as follows:
1. Hold your horses.
Whatever you do, don’t cancel with the old hosting service until everything is completely solid with the new one. Canceling ahead of time won’t only mean downtime. It could also mean you lose your site’s files. Then you won’t have anything to migrate anyway.
The reason the hosting company could quickly get rid of all of your site’s “stuff” isn’t spiteful. Rather, it’s typically an indication that they’ve stopped charging on that day and will return any unused portion of your subscription fee for the remaining days of the month. Hence, your data goes in the trash.
Obviously, if you have it all backed up, you’re fine … So copy it all over to the other hosting service. Ideally, though, you want to ensure that everything is working perfectly before cancellation – maybe 72 hours.
2. Grab those files.
You can see a lot of safe migration is about preparation. Before moving to a new host, make sure that they have the same website admin panel, usually either cPanel or Parallels Plesk.
It is possible to migrate to another control panel (cPanel to Plesk; Plesk to cPanel), but one thing at a time: focus on switching hosts for now. Remember that your core concern is getting your files able to run on a new host seamlessly.
If using cPanel, go to your domain, tying it to port 2082 yourfabulouswebsite.com:2082; if that doesn’t work, try yourfabulouswebsite.com/cpanel.
Look for the Backup section; within that, look for Download Backups. Go ahead and download everything. You want the compressed version. If you are using a Mac, make sure that it won’t automatically decompress and open the files in the Safari options.
[Migration instructions for Plesk. CPanel is assumed moving forward.]
3. Switch accounts.
Now jump over to your new administrative account (new hosting company). You should have the IP addresses from the host (from the email when you signed up for your account); if not, get them. Use the IP address with the same types of endings used above, either 2082 or /cPanel. One of those two should work.
Go into the backup area again. Now find where you can back up your entire site. Typically it’s labeled Backup Restore. Restore the file that contains your complete website. The upload is finished when you see a list of all your site files on a new page.
Then go back to the general backups page, and do the same thing with your databases. Now all your basic site information is in place.
4. Is your data in order?
Using cPanel, you will need to reenter all login details for your MySQL databases: those details do not transfer. Within cPanel, go to the MySQL Databases section to reestablish those parameters.
Look at the prefixes for each of the databases (what comes before the underscore in the filename). Every software that accesses those databases will need to be reconfigured to look for the correct prefixes. To do that, go through the IP address again, and get into FTP. Using FTP, you can reconfigure system files as needed.
Though this may sound complex to some, don’t let it stress you out too much. All traffic is still seeing your “old” site. It’s just laying the groundwork.
5. Diving in.
Now it’s time to flip the switch: changing your DNS (domain name system) servers. At the registrar (where you purchased the domain), go to the domain registration section of your account to do so.
You should see information entered in this format for your domain name servers:
In the same email that contained your IP information, you should also see your DNS servers. Those servers need to be changed. If not, retrieve them through support. It may take a day or two for everything to switch over properly, which is fine – you are essentially serving the same content through the two different sites.
Try not to change anything on your website during this period.
Test everything, ensuring everything is looking all right with your site on the new web host over a couple of days. Finally, cancel with the old hosting company.
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