Not all web hosting providers are the same when it comes to hardware or technology. While some use up-to-date software and hard drives for efficiency, others try to keep costs low by using older systems. Even the energy the company uses to power the servers for websites can be different. You see, not all hosting providers consume most of their power from the grid.
There are web hosting companies that are more environmentally sound. It’s this idea that inspires people to transfer a website to such companies. After all, it can be quite a bonus to show a graphic on the site that it’s being powered by renewable energies.
So, what is entailed when it comes time to move the site to a new host? Below are five steps to take to shift from one host to another.
Step 1: Backing Up the Files
One of the primary tasks any developer should do before making any changes to the website is backing up the files. This is a vastly important aspect as it can prevent permanent data loss and give a method for restoring a site should something bad happen. It’s also a good practice to get into in the event of an emergency.
One method a lot of website developers use for creating backups is through file transfer protocol, or FTP. Applications like FileZilla allow users to connect to the website remotely and download all of the files for the site. The best part is the software is free to use and is compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux computer systems.
To make redundant copies of the site, it’s a good idea to use platforms like Dropbox. When installing the application on the computer, users have access to a folder which will store anything placed in it on the Cloud. So, downloading the website from the host and letting FileZilla save it to the Dropbox folder creates a double backup.
Don’t forget to make copies of any databases the website uses. For example, WordPress and Joomla management systems store files in the MySQL system of the web host. These can be downloaded by exporting or using plugins and modules to create instant backups.
Step 2: Uploading the Website
Once an environmentally-friendly web host has been found and an account has been activated, it’s time to upload some files. Using FileZilla, this can be as simple as uploading all of those files onto the new host.
When it comes to the database, that’s when things get a little more tricky. The database needs to be set up as it was before, and importing the data can be done with a few clicks of the mouse. However, all information has to match so the website can still find the correct database name. A new password may have to be used, which isn’t a bad idea to protect the site.
Step 3: Verifying the Site
Once the files have been placed and the database uploaded, verify that all site resources are accounted for. The last thing any developer wants is to access an important page and notice images are missing. This can cause problems ranging from losing traffic to poor performance in search engines.
Verifying the site will require close examination of any software custom settings in place or cron-jobs that are required. While this can be a tedious process, it’s better than letting the site go live and become less productive or even crash altogether.
Have all of the email addresses been added to the new host? If not, those accounts will no longer be active when the old host is cancelled. This can be an exceptionally long process if there are many email addresses available. Each one will have to be transferred, and in many instances, have new passwords generated.
Step 4: Changing the Name Servers
Changing the name servers should be one of the last tasks to transfer a website. Although this process can take up to 48 hours to propagate on the Internet, this also gives time to make sure any final adjustments are made before going live. This way, visitors don’t even notice the site has moved.
If the name servers are changed prior to verifying the site, it puts the reputation of the brand at risk. What if something happened when transferring the files? Perhaps the name server activated seconds after being changed before the files have been uploaded. Visitors and search engines will see a corrupt site that will perform poorly. This has potential to hurt SEO as well as lose traffic permanently from those human guests.
The name servers can easily be changed by placing the address from your new host into the domain registrar.
Step 5: Cancelling the Old Hosting Account
Don’t cancel the old hosting account until the website has been thoroughly inspected and tested. Should something go wrong, it’s not difficult to change the name server back to the old account in order to keep the site live. This gives developers a redundant copy of the website should changes need to be made to the new hosting account.
Think of it this way. If someone was to move into a new house, do they immediately sell the property before making sure all of their stuff is out of it? Every closet, cupboard and crawl space is examined several times to make sure all possessions are accounted for. The same needs to be done when transferring a website.
It may be better to simply allow the old hosting account to expire on its own. Although some providers will refund unused subscription lengths, it gives the developer time to ensure the entire website is copied over. Once that old hosting account has been deactivated, many providers will simply delete the data in its entirety.
Transferring a website isn’t all that difficult in the grand scheme of things. If anything, it’s time consuming. Of course, this all depends on the size of the site and how many specific software custom settings are in place. Whether it’s because of better features or the fact of being powered by an eco-friendly company, moves like this happen all the time. Web hosting is not as permanent as many might think.