Migrating or upgrading web hosting services is an important process for any website owner. As your site grows and your needs change, you may find your current hosting plan is no longer sufficient. Migrating to a new host or upgrading your existing plan allows you to get the features, resources and support you need. However, the process involves careful planning and execution to avoid downtime or loss of data. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the key steps for migrating or upgrading web hosting successfully.
Reasons to Migrate or Upgrade Web Hosting
There are several common reasons to consider migrating your website to a new host or upgrading your current hosting plan:
- Outgrowing shared hosting plans – If your site traffic, storage needs or resource usage exceeds the limits of a shared hosting account, it may be time to migrate to a VPS (Virtual Private Server) or dedicated server plan. These provide more power, resources and flexibility.
- Poor performance – Slow page load speeds, downtime and other performance issues may indicate your current host is overburdened. Migrating can provide improved speed and uptime. Check if it’s an issue with your host before migrating.
- Need for more features – Your site may have outgrown the features of your current hosting plan. Migrating lets you gain access to features like dedicated IPs, SSD storage, special caching tools and more.
- Security concerns – Shared hosts are vulnerable to attacks on other sites on the same server. A dedicated or managed plan gives you greater security.
- Better support options – Larger or specialized hosts may offer 24/7 live chat, quicker response times and more knowledgeable support.
- Cheaper pricing – Comparing hosting costs may reveal less expensive plans with equal or greater resources from other providers.
If your needs have changed and your current host can’t provide the features, resources or support you need, it’s a sign it’s time to migrate.
Choosing a New Web Host
Selecting the right web host to migrate to is key. Take the time to thoroughly research and compare hosts to find one that best fits your needs now and in the future.
Some key things to evaluate:
- Reliability and uptime – Check reviews and company track records for downtime. Look for guarantees of 99% or greater uptime.
- Speed and performance – Test website speed on demo accounts. Faster, optimized hosts improve site performance.
- Technical support – Review support options like phone, tickets, live chat and knowledgebases. Prioritize responsive, knowledgeable support.
- Security – Look for proactive security protections like firewalls, monitoring and DDoS mitigation. Regular patching and updates are vital too.
- Features needed – Carefully match features provided to those you need like scripts, databases, emails, CDN and backups.
- Room to grow – Consider future needs when choosing hosting plans and providers. More resources are easier to secure.
- Budget – Weigh monthly costs against value delivered. More expensive hosts provide greater levels of service and support.
Take time to thoroughly compare top contenders before choosing a new web host. Key factors like performance, reliability and support will impact your site and visitors’ experience.
Selecting a New Hosting Plan
Once you’ve selected a new web host, you’ll need to determine the right hosting plan. Avoid choosing a plan with too few resources which can cripple your site’s performance. But you also want to avoid overspending on more resources than you currently need.
Follow this process when selecting a new hosting plan:
- Determine needs – Carefully estimate your website traffic, storage, RAM, processing and bandwidth needs. Review historical stats if migrating an existing site.
- Factor in growth – Don’t base your plan solely on current needs. Predict expected growth in traffic and storage over the next 12-24 months and add headroom.
- Compare plans – Use the new host’s tools to compare plans. Most provide basic shared plans up to high-end dedicated servers.
- Optimize costs – Try to maximize value without overspending. Chat with sales to find the optimal balance of resources for your budget.
- Test performance – Set up a demo account to load test potential plans with your actual site data. Ensure performance meets needs.
- Allow upgrades – Pick a plan that allows seamless upgrades as your site grows. Switching plans should be easy within the same host.
- Consider addons – Determine if addons like dedicated IPs, SSL certificates or special caching tools are needed.
Selecting the right hosting plan ensures your site has room to easily grow in the future. Overplanning is better than underplanning when it comes to web hosting resources.
Downtime and DNS Changes When Migrating Hosts
A common concern when switching web hosts is the potential for downtime during the migration process. This is especially true if you have a live revenue-generating website.
Some key things to understand about downtime:
- DNS changes – A DNS change is required to point your domain to the new host. This can take up to 48 hours to propagate globally.
- Lowest with same IP – If your new host provides the same IP address, there should be zero downtime in the migration.
- Short downtime possible – With a new IP, some downtime or intermittent access is likely for up to 48 hours during DNS spread.
- Schedule late nights – If downtime is unavoidable, minimize impact by scheduling migrations during lowest traffic periods like late night.
- Use caching – Leverage caching features to serve static pages during migrations to avoid disruptions.
- Get help migrating – Hiring a pro webmaster to assist can help minimize errors and speed up migrations.
With planning, you can migrate web hosts with minimal impact on website visitors. Schedule smartly, utilize caching, get help and alert users to avoid problems.
Comparing Current and New Hosting Plans
It’s important to thoroughly compare your current hosting plan features to the proposed new plan. This ensures you are getting equal or better capabilities with the new provider.
Some key things to compare:
- Hosting type – Is your new plan the same type? i.e. shared, VPS, dedicated, cloud.
- Disk space – How does the storage space compare between old and new plans?
- Monthly bandwidth – Is incoming and outgoing bandwidth sufficient on new plan?
- RAM allocation – Does the new plan provide the same or greater RAM?
- CPU cores – For VPS and dedicated plans, compare CPU cores.
- Database support – Does the new plan support the same databases like MySQL, PostgreSQL etc?
- Email accounts – Are the number of included email accounts the same or greater?
- SSH and SFTP access – Ensure you still get command line and file transfer access.
- Managed or unmanaged – Is the management type the same for old and new plan?
- Backups – Compare automated backup features included in both plans.
- CDN inclusion – Will you still get Content Delivery Network access?
Carefully going through each service and resource provided ensures your new hosting plan is equal or superior to your previous one. Never downgrade capabilities when migrating.
Choosing Timing of Migration Carefully
An important decision when migrating websites to a new host is choosing the right date and timing. This impacts downtime experienced by site visitors.
Some tips for timing your migration properly:
- Schedule during off-peak – Perform the migration when traffic is lowest like weekends or overnight hours.
- Avoid holidays – Holidays or busy retail seasons bring spikes in site traffic. Avoid migrating during high volume periods.
- Check calendars – Avoid overlapping with major events, launches or campaigns relevant to your site.
- Monitor analytics – Study your traffic patterns to determine the specific days and hours that are lowest traffic.
- Allow time buffers – Build in extra time before and after the migration to allow for unexpected delays or issues.
- Have backup date – Have a contingency date approved in case something forces postponing the main one.
- Notify customers – Alert users, customers and newsletter subscribers of expected downtime or access issues.
With care taken on scheduling, you can migrate with minimal disruption to website operation and visitors. Just be sure to monitor closely afterwards.
Preparing Current Site for Migration
Preparing your existing website for a hosting migration is key for a smooth transition. This involves both technical and content preparation.
Some tips for preparing your current site:
- Audit content – Review all site content and clean out outdated pages, posts and media assets you don’t need.
- Compress images – Use tools to compress and optimize all images to reduce storage space needed.
- Confirm backups – Double check your host has a current complete backup of all site files and databases.
- Domain expiration – Ensure your domain isn’t going to expire soon. Renew it if needed.
- SSL certificate – Make sure your SSL certificate will remain valid after the migration or get a new one.
- Test performance – Use online tools to test site performance for any issues needing correction pre-migration.
- Update CMS – Login to your CMS or platform like WordPress and install the newest updates and patches.
- Review redirects – Check that any existing 301 redirects or rewrites are working properly before migrating.
Taking time to prepare your site ensures no unnecessary content or problems carry over into the new hosting environment. Test thoroughly after completing preparation steps.
Moving DNS to the New Provider
A key technical step when changing web hosts is updating your domain’s DNS records to point to the new provider. This tells the world’s web servers your site has moved.
Some tips when changing DNS:
- Know your TTL – Check the current time-to-live (TTL) setting on your DNS records before making changes. This controls the propagation time.
- Lower your TTL first – Temporarily lower your domain’s TTL to 3600 seconds a few days before migration. This allows faster propagation.
- Copy existing records – Login to your new host and copy all the same DNS records from your previous provider.
- Double check values – Carefully verify you entered all DNS record details like IPs and nameservers accurately.
- Make the switch – Change your registrar’s nameservers to point to your new host’s servers. This begins the propagation.
- Test propagation – Use online DNS propagation checker tools to confirm the changes are spreading globally.
- Reset TTL – Once migration is complete, reset your domain’s TTL back to a higher value like 3600 (1 hour) or higher.
With care taken when modifying DNS, website access can continue smoothly throughout the migration to your new web hosting provider.
Moving Site Files to the New Host
Your web host will provide instructions on the preferred process for actually transferring your site’s files. This often involves downloading from the old host and uploading to the new one.
Some tips for migrating site files:
- Backup everything – Download a full site backup from your previous host before touching anything else.
- Test accessing – Confirm you can access your new hosting account via SFTP, FTP or cPanel before proceeding.
- Follow directions – Carefully follow your new host’s instructions for uploading files without errors.
- Start with files – Upload all raw HTML files, images, CSS, JS and other assets first.
- Import databases – Use phpMyAdmin or your new host’s tools to import the MySQL databases.
- Update config – Update the config files for your CMS or platforms to point to the new database info.
- Login admin – Test logging into your CMS admin dashboard to confirm the database is connected properly.
- Test thoroughly – Test site pages and perform key actions to ensure everything is functioning.
Take it slow and double check each step when actually moving your files. This minimizes the chances of mistakes that cause problems accessing or using your site.
Moving Email Service to the New Host
In addition to moving your web files, migrating email service to your new hosting provider is also an important step. This transitions your inbox without losing any emails.
Some tips for switching email service:
- Know number of accounts – Document all staff email accounts hosted on your current provider before moving.
- Create new accounts – Set up matching email accounts on the new host before migrating mail.
- Forward existing accounts – Set forwarding rules on old accounts to send all mail to new ones.
- Update MX records – Change your domain’s MX records to point to new host’s mail servers.
- Adjust DKIM/SPF – Update domain DKIM & SPF records in DNS to match new host.
- Enable security – Make sure to enable SMTP authentication on the new email accounts.
- Test thoroughly – Send test messages between old and new accounts to confirm smooth forwarding.
- Set end dates – Set an end date for forwarding on old accounts a few weeks after cutover.
With care taken, you can transition email service to a new host without your customers or team missing any communications. Just be diligent about testing first.
Handling SEO and Analytics During a Migration
Migrating web hosting presents some SEO and analytics considerations to ensure continuity for your rankings and metrics.
- 301 redirect old host – Set up 301 redirects on your old host pointed at the appropriate new URLs.
- Redirect individual pages – For link equity, redirect old pages to matching new ones when possible.
- Update XML sitemap – Generate a fresh XML sitemap on the new host and resubmit to search engines.
- Revise robots.txt – Adjust your robots.txt on new host if needed.
- Google Search Console – Verify ownership of your site in Google Search Console with the new host.
- Google Analytics – Swap the tracking code on site to use your existing Google Analytics account.
- AMP pages – Republish any Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) on new host and test.
- Subdomain vs subdomain – Beware that moving between subdomains causes more SEO disruption than migrating domains.
- Give search time – It may take a few weeks to months for search rank recovery after a hosting migration.
With planning, you can avoid major disruptions to your SEO or analytics from a web host transfer. Pay close attention to redirects and search engine verification.
Testing and Post-Migration Cleanup
After completing the migration process, thorough testing and cleanup steps are important to ensure smooth sailing ahead. Don’t cut corners on these final actions.
Some key tasks:
- Test all pages – Click through 100% of your site pages to test for any display or functional problems.
- Check forms – Submit all web forms, like contact and registration, to confirm they are working.
- Review speed – Use online tools to check if your site speed improved, stayed same or slowed down after migration.
- Monitor traffic – Keep a close eye on analytics for traffic changes in the weeks following the switch.
- Enable tracking – Use analytics alerts to notify if traffic, bounce rates or conversions spike negatively.
- Tweak caches – Tune your caching mechanisms and levels to maximize performance on the new host.
- Remove files – Delete all old site files from your previous web host to free up space.
- Cancel old plan – Cancel your hosting account with the previous provider once migration is complete.
- Ongoing review – Periodically review site performance, security and costs for optimization needs.
Meticulous testing and review after migration helps you maximize gains in performance, security and savings from your new web hosting plan.
Migrating or upgrading your web hosting provider involves careful planning and execution. But with attention to factors like timing, performance, features and costs, you can enjoy an improved hosting experience. Just be sure to follow best practices, like thorough comparisons, testing and cleanup. With some patience and diligence throughout the process, you can switch hosts smoothly and successfully. Your site will reap performance and reliability gains.