Changing Web Hosts
Changing Web Hosts? Know-How With This Step-By-Step
Every webmaster cringes at the thought of moving hosts.
Like moving your home it can be messy and sometimes
problems arise. But if you follow these simple steps,
your move will be less painful.
Backup Backup Backup
If you've been diligent with your backups, you've got a
lot of insurance to fall back on yet always make the
latest backup. If you haven't, before you do anything
else, do a backup now. Backup anything and everything
you can and don't forget your database if your site
relies on it. Save at least 2 copies and store them
separately. One for you to work with, and the other as
an archive. Do not underestimate how easy it is to copy
over these files as you make changes or simply mess it
If you're moving to a host who has as different control
panel, make a manual backup by downloading all your
files because different control panels may not be able
to restore the backups made by your old host. They also
have different directory structures so your file trees
will be in a mess. If you need to, make a small note
file with notepad with memos for you to remember the old
server configurations. This will help you as you make
changes on your new host server and save the confusion
moving back and forth between hosts. Remember to make
the correct transfer type (ASCII or Binary) as you
download. If your download is not right chances are
you'll have a tough time getting your site to work on
the new host server.
If server logs are especially important, remember to
backup those too. There is no good way of moving logs
yet because different hosts may log statistics
differently. So the best thing to do is to download it
and use a log analyzer on your computer to make
references to later on.
Gather Odds & Ends
1. A Good FTP program which you should have by now
2. Get your new host server's DNS
3. It's also helpful to have a script that tells you the
server environments installed on your new host server
for quick references.
4. Get the temporary URL on your new host so you can
check your site before you make a DNS change.
5. If you have your host control the domain inform them
not to change your DNS until you tell them to.
6. If you run scripts:
- Get a copy of the original installation guide and the
script. Sometimes after moving the scripts just do not
work right so you might need to install the script from
- Get a list of all the server paths such as Perl,
Sendmail and home directory on your new server.
- If your script needs special server modules or
programs ensure they are installed and where. Even
though these might be covered before you ordered the
account with the host but sometimes your host has
removed it or haven't installed it yet.
Inform Your Visitors
It is common and good practice to inform your visitors
and customers of the server move. If you run a e-store,
this helps assure your customers you have not fled with
their money if there is any downtime. Also give an
alternate email so you won't lose emails in the
transfer. You might also want to give periodic updates
prior, during (if there is downtime) and after. If your
site is large, doing this is helpful because your
visitors can alert you whenever there is a part of the
site not working.
Try to schedule the move at a time where there's least
traffic. Backup again just before you do the move so
you'll have the latest data. Start by first copying or
creating your custom error pages onto the new host
server. Put a small note in there about the move. You
can always remove it later. Then upload the most visible
parts of the site first i.e the main pages then move on
to the less critical parts of the site. If you have a
large site with many divisions you might want to split
them across different days and instead move the least
critical first. Just ensure you always do a backup
before you do any moving. Use the temporary URL to check
your site, visiting as many pages as you can.
Once you're satisfied, change your DNS over. This
typically takes about 24-48 hours so you have time to
make some minor changes if need be. You might want to
also take this time to modify your old site's error
pages to inform your visitors of the move and give a new
URL if there are URL changes. To help you determine if
the DNS has resolved, make a small change on the new
pages to differentiate between the old and the new.
After you've moved and the DNS resolved, do not release
the old account yet. Keep it as long as two weeks
running concurrently. Go back and check the old servers
for activity. Check your old email account and if you
have a web based contact method on the old server check
to see if any communication is left there. Once you're
comfortable all email and traffic is correctly directed
to the new host server, you can cancel that account.
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