Changing your web hosting provider can seem like a daunting task, but with some preparation and planning, it doesn’t have to be. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the entire process of changing web hosts step-by-step. We’ll cover researching new providers, backing up your site, transferring your files and database, updating DNS records, testing the new setup, and going live. Follow along with these tips and you’ll have your site moved to a new host with minimal downtime.
Why You Might Want to Switch Web Hosts
There are several reasons why you may want to change your website’s hosting provider:
- Your current provider has frequent downtime or technical issues that affect your site. This results in lost traffic and sales.
- You need more resources like bandwidth, storage space, or RAM than your current plan provides. Your site may be growing and exceeding the hosting limits.
- You want to upgrade to a managed WordPress hosting account that can auto-update WordPress and plugins for better performance and security.
- Your host doesn’t have quick, responsive customer support and it takes too long to get answers or help.
- You can get a better price or plan from another top-rated web host.
- Your current host forces auto-renewals and makes it difficult to cancel your plan.
- You outgrow your shared hosting account and need a dedicated server or VPS (virtual private server).
- You need hosting features that your current provider lacks like built-in CDN, server caching, orgit integration.
If you’re experiencing any of these issues, it may be time to research other options and make a switch.
Choosing a New Web Host
The first step when changing web hosting providers is selecting a new host. You want to make sure your new host meets your feature needs and provides excellent reliability. Here are some tips for choosing a new host:
- Compare prices, features, and reputations of top hosts. Look for unlimited bandwidth and storage if needed.
- Make sure they have robust uptime of 99% or more guaranteed. Check reviews to confirm this.
- Look for fast page load speeds and server response times. Speed tests are available.
- See if they offer 24/7 customer support via live chat, phone, and tickets. Test response times.
- Check that they have easy account management and billing systems. Money-back guarantees are a good sign.
- See if they offer auto WordPress installations or managed WordPress plans if needed.
- Do they have server locations that are geographically close to your visitors? This optimizes speeds.
- Review their terms of service and policies. Make sure they align with your needs.
- Check if they offer SSH access,git repositories, CDN, caching, backups and other advanced features.
- Do a whois lookup to verify the host owns its own data centers and hardware.
- Ask about migrating your site and if they offer free transfers or do it for you.
Take your time and do thorough research before choosing your new web hosting provider.
Backing Up Your Existing Website
Before you start moving your site to a new host, it’s absolutely critical that you fully back up your entire site. Backups give you a safety net in case anything goes wrong with the migration. Here are some tips for backing up your site:
- Back up your files/folders via SFTP or your host’s file manager. Download a copy to your local computer.
- Use a plugin like UpdraftPlus to backup your WordPress database. Save a copy locally.
- Manual back up your MySQL database via phpMyAdmin. Use the export tab and save SQL file.
- Do a full website backup with a service like BackupBuddy. This backs up files and databases.
- Make a backup of any email accounts or inboxes associated with your site.
- Save copies of custom config files like .htaccess files, PHP configs, etc.
- Check all backups completed fully without errors or missing files/databases.
- Keep backup copies in at least two different safe locations in case you need to restore.
Taking complete backups ahead of time ensures you have everything you need to restore your site if the migration causes any issues. Don’t skip this step!
Preparing Your Site for the Transfer
In order to make the transition go smoothly, you need to prepare your site by cleaning files, optimizing databases, and configuring settings. Here are some tips:
- Delete any unused files and media assets that aren’t needed. This cuts down on transfer size.
- Optimize images and photos to reduce file sizes. Use tools like Smush or ImageOptim.
- Run WP-Optimize plugin to clean up bloated database tables and compact MySQL.
- Change all file permissions to 644 and folders to 755 for security.
- Update all web software like WordPress, themes, plugins and PHP to latest versions.
- Turn off caching and other performance plugins to avoid migrated site issues.
- Adjust WordPress and PHP settings for optimal performance on new host.
- Remove any custom vhosts or Apache configs that may conflict with new host.
- Change the WordPress URL and Site URL in the wp-config.php and database to the new domain.
Taking time to optimize and prepare your site will get it ready for the hosting switch and avoid potential problems.
Transferring Your Site Files
Once you’ve signed up with your new web host and backed up your site, it’s time to transfer the files. This is a critical part of the switch. Here are some tips for transferring your files safely:
- Use an FTP client like FileZilla to connect to both your old and new host.
- Transfer files in small batches of a few folders or files at a time. Don’t rush it.
- Next transfer PHP files, HTML pages, plugins and themes. Keep WordPress core files for last.
- Use binary/passive mode and enable compression in FileZilla for faster transfers.
- Verify all files transferred correctly on new host and check for errors.
- Set all file permissions to 644 and folders to 755 after transfer is complete.
- Notify your new host when done so they can inspect files and resolve any issues.
- Delete the files from old host only after confirming they transferred correctly.
Taking it slow with file transfers prevents potential permission issues or failed uploads. Be patient and careful!
Migrating Your Database
Moving your database from your old host to your new host involves exporting it and importing it properly:
- Export SQL database via phpMyAdmin on old host. Select all tables and click Go.
- Save the full database .SQL file to your local computer for backup as well.
- Import your database .SQL file into the new MySQL server using phpMyAdmin.
- Update wp-config.php file on new host with new database connection details.
- Log into your WordPress admin and run any database updates needed.
- Install and run the Search & Replace or Velvet Blues plugins to update URLs.
- Confirm all posts, pages, links and assets are displaying properly after migrating.
- Clear any cached data and test the new site thoroughly before going live.
Migrating your database properly ensures all your site content and data remain intact after moving hosts. Take it slow and verify everything imported correctly.
Updating DNS Nameservers
A key technical step when moving to a new host is changing your DNS nameservers to point to the new host. This allows traffic to flow to the new server:
- Locate your domain registrar account that manages your domain name.
- Login and find the page to edit your domain nameservers.
- Change the nameservers to the new ones provided by your hosting provider.
- Enter at least 2 nameserver IPs to set up redundancy.
- It takes up to 48 hours for the changes to fully propagate worldwide.
- Use a DNS propagation checker to verify the changes are live worldwide.
- Do not disable or delete old host account until DNS has fully updated worldwide.
Updating your domain nameservers ensures visitors are directed to your new web hosting provider. Give the DNS changes plenty of time to deploy globally.
Testing Your New Host
Before going live on the new host, it’s crucial that you thoroughly test your migrated site to check for issues. Here are some tips for testing:
- Verify your site loads properly and all assets like images, CSS and JS load correctly.
- Click through key site pages and forms to check they work properly.
- Test site performance using GTmetrix or Pingdom to check for speed issues.
- Confirm any backend systems like admin UIs or APIs are working.
- Check that email accounts, databases and FTP work properly.
- Have friends/colleagues visit the staging site to test real-world functionality.
- Fix any CSS, database or performance issues that come up during testing.
- Clear all caches between testing to view real performance results.
Testing thoroughly safeguards against problems impacting visitors once you go live. Take time to confirm everything is working properly.
Launching Your Site on the New Host
The final step is going live on your new hosting provider. Follow these tips for a smooth launch:
- Ensure nameservers have fully propagated worldwide first.
- Backup your site one final time before the switch.
- Enable caching plugins and optimize performance for the launch.
- Plan a maintenance window and alert visitors if needed.
- Point your domain to the new host’s servers using their DNS tools.
- Monitor closely when going live to check for issues like downtime or CSS problems.
- Disable and remove your old hosting account once the new site is stable.
With careful planning, you can implement the new host with little to no downtime. Congratulations, you’ve now changed web hosting providers!
Switching web hosting providers involves careful preparation, backups, transfers, testing, and launch steps. Follow this guide and take your time during each phase. With patience and planning, you can transition hosts seamlessly. Your site will benefit from the improved hosting performance, features, and reliability of your new provider.