There are three main ways you can migrate your site to another web host; manually, using automation tools, or by asking the new web host to perform the migration. Each way has its merits and drawbacks.
These processes mainly cover shared hosting but may also be applicable if you’re running VPS plans. There isn’t much technical difference in the migration process for VPS compared to shared hosting, unless you’re migrating from one type of plan to the other.
Manual website migrations also fall into two broad categories. The easiest websites to migrate are static websites. Migration of these sites involves a simple backup and file transfer process.
The steps involved in migrating dynamic websites are;
Step 1: Sign up for a new web hosting plan.
Step 2: Download your existing website files.
Step 3: Export your existing site database.
Step 4: Import your website files.
Step 5: Import your website database.
Step 6: Edit the new website’s configuration files.
Step 7: Change your DNS settings.
Choosing a new web host can be as simple or complex as you make it. The most important criterion is that the new web host should fit your needs. However, following a basic checklist is always advisable to ensure you sign up with a good service provider (more on that below).
Sign in to the web hosting control panel of your existing web host and launch the File Manager. Select the entire directory that holds your website files and Zip up the files. Compressing them into a single downloadable file makes the transfer process more convenient. Next, download the file to your device.
From your web hosting control panel, launch the database manager. WordPress and other web applications typically use MySQL. Select the database that belongs to your website, tick the checkbox labeled “Quick,” then click the “Go” button. You can then save the database file to your device.
Log in to your new hosting account’s web hosting control panel and launch the File Manager. Use the File Manager to upload the Zip file you downloaded earlier. Remember that the file should go into your web directory (usually public_html). Once there, use the File Manager to Unzip the files.
Importing your database is similar to the export process earlier, except in reverse. Load the MySQL manager from your web hosting control panel. Create a new database and add a new associated user. Next, select the “Import” tab and upload the database file you downloaded earlier.
Let’s do WordPress as an example;
Using the file manager, select the “wp-config.php” file and open it for editing. Change the following lines to fit your new database settings;
Once you’re done, save the file and close it.
We’re now at the final touch to complete the site migration.
Everything is in place, and you must now point your domain name toward the new web hosting server. Load your DNS manager from where you bought your domain name.
Most of the time, all that’s needed is to change the CNAME and A records in your DNS. The records you need to modify may depend on your domain registrar, and you should refer to their knowledge base on what to modify.
The DNS change may take some time, so don’t cancel your existing web hosting plan before you’re sure the changes have kicked in! To check if the changes are in effect, check the domain name with a tool like ICAAN’s Lookup.
You won’t have to change your SSL certificate when migrating your site to a new host. The SSL certificate applies to the domain name only. However, better SSL certificates are always good, and you can quickly check SSL certificate prices with your new host.
Most web applications allow easy site migrations using automation tools. Some web hosts will also provide tools you can use to migrate your website to their servers. Access to these tools largely depends on your web application and your new web host.
DreamHost, for example, offers a dedicated WordPress plugin that automates the entire process. All you need to do is install it on your existing WordPress website and fill in the details of your hosting plan.
Regardless of the automation tools you choose, always remember to back up your files before you start any migration process. This way, if anything goes wrong while migrating to another server, you’ll have a safe version of your site that you can restore.
Another option of moving your web host lies in the support team at your new web host. Almost all web hosting service providers are willing to help new customers migrate a single website. This service is usually free, although some web hosts will try to charge a fee.
The table below showcases some differences between several web hosts that offer site migration services.
|Cost of Migration(WP & Other)||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free|
|What’s included||All websites||WordPress sites||Everything||WordPress sites||Everything|
|What’s not included /special notes||Fast migration ofbetween 6 to 24hrs||Non-WordPress sitemigrations cost $99 each||HostPapa can even
migrate cPanel servers
|Non-WordPress site migrationscost $149.99 for five sites||More complex migrationsmay cost extra|
|How to initiate it||Submit request||via WordPress Plugin||Open support ticket||via WordPress Plugin||Submit request|
|See full features|
There are many reasons you may decide to migrate to a new host. I’ve personally undergone site migration multiple times, using a combination of all the methods listed earlier. After a while, you get used to the process.
Good web hosting service providers should meet specific requirements. If you find that yours isn’t up to snuff, it may be time for you to follow in my footsteps. The most typical reasons for changing to a new host are;
The most common reason for moving a website is because the current host isn’t delivering fast enough performance. If you aren’t sure about your hosting server speed, try the Bitcatcha speed test tool for a quick measurement of the response time of your host’s servers, from 10 locations around the world.
Bitcatcha independently reviews most of the top web hosting brands in the business to ensure that we only recommend the best. If you’re hunting for a good host – check our write-up on the best web hosts on the market, all tried and tested.
You’ll also want to consider the kind of web hosting you use. Most new websites run on shared hosting, which is cheaper, but often slower than better plans like VPS or Cloud hosting.
You may find that some hosts have more reliable hosting uptime than others. If your site goes down constantly, or you’re getting frequent warnings about being offline from site monitoring tools, it might be time to move on.
If you’ve ever been hacked and had your data stolen or defaced, moving to another host may remove any vulnerability caused by the previous web server configuration. Secure web hosts always prioritize defenses against web threats and often have great server and network security.
While some web hosts occasionally increase prices, some brands may go overboard. If you find your web host frequently increases its pricing but doesn’t improve the quality of service, it’s time to consider a move.
Customer service is one aspect of a web host that’s challenging to gauge beforehand. If you’ve signed up with a host that can’t (or isn’t willing) to help when necessary, move on. Web hosting customers always need customer service, and an unhelpful host is useless.
Not all web hosts provide a comprehensive range of hosting services. If you need more than they can offer, choosing a new host is your only recourse. Running a website on a plan you’ve outgrown will be painful for yourself and your visitors.
It’s understandable for new website owners to get jittery about site migrations. However, you’ll find that the process is pretty structured, and most standard websites won’t give significant problems. Even if there’s an issue with manual migration, the new web host will usually be willing to walk you through the process.
Hundreds of hosts are out there, and many offer excellent services. With some research, you can find the right new hosting partner and make your site migration process as pain-free as possible.
Timothy Shim is a former tech journalist who has turned his experience towards his business as a writer, editor and content strategist. Today, he helps businesses craft compelling messages and advises on SEO, content marketing, and social media strategy.