Learn how to change web hosting providers while avoiding downtime and maintaining visitors.
Changing web hosts can be very stressful for webmasters, so some avoid it altogether. Sometimes webmasters allow themselves to tolerate poor service from their hosting provider simply because it can be a real pain to move a website site, a domain name and all email accounts without creating major downtime for site visitors. Moving to a different web host and avoiding downtime is actually a simple process but requires precise planning. You can make a smooth transition with the following tips.
You should frequently download backups of your website from your web hosting provider even if you don't plan on moving your site to another server. The website files that you keep on your computer should always be keep, however backups from your hosting provider will ensure that you will be able to restore your website to its original state in the event of a server malfunction or website move.
Backups can be obtained from your website's control panel. Be sure to download all backup files, including all databases, e-mail aliases, and e-mail filters. For extra insurance, copy the downloaded backup files to two different locations of your choice, such as your computer's hard drive and on an external hard drive or CD-RW.
If you are moving to a web host with a different control panel, you will need to make a manual backup of all files because different control panels may not be able to restore the backups from your old host. To manually backup all your files you will need to download them using an FTP program. Remember to make the correct transfer type, ASCII or Binary, as you download.
Once you have signed up with a new hosting provider, you should get your new host's DNS, a temporary url on your new host so you can check your site before you make a DNS change, and if you run scripts you should get a list of all the server paths such as Perl, Sendmail, and the home directory on your new server. You should also re-obtain the script(s) and its installations files because you may end up having to reinstall the script after the move.
It is courteous to inform your site's visitors of any upcoming site move. This will help ease your customers knowing why they may be unable to visit your site.
At this point you can upload all of your site's files to your new host. During design changes it is best to upload the most critical files first since visitors will be able to see the affects of the visitors immediately. However since the DNS has not yet been changed, you may upload the files in any order. Once all of the files have been transferred, you should visit a majority of your site's pages and files to look for any errors or evidence that a file was left out in the uploading process. At this point you should reinstall scripts as necessary.
Once you have checked that all files, pages, and scripts are up and running, you may change your DNS by going to your domain registrar. Once changed, it will take 24-48 hours or more for your domain to propagate. It takes time for all of the networks throughout the world to recognize the DNS change that you have made. To help determine if the DNS has resolved make a minor but noticeable change to the site on your new host.
Once the domain has fully propagated for yourself, continue monitoring the traffic to your site at the older server before canceling your old hosting account. Also check your old e-mail account to see if you are still getting e-mails. Once you're confident that all traffic has been directed to the new server, you may then cancel your old hosting account.