How to Change Your Web Hosting Provider


Guide to Moving Your Website from One Host to Another

by and FirstSiteGuide team (Last updated: October 16, 2017)

Introduction


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The world’s first web host company was Concentric, later renamed as XO Communications


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The first web server was launched on August 6th, 1991

In order for your website to be accessible online, you need to select a server where it will be located. Servers are provided by web hosting companies and, if you started to take interest in this area recently, then the following guide will be of use to you.

It will be helpful to you if you first understand what web hosting actually is, why it’s important and what you need to look for in your hosting provider. If you didn’t bother with these details, then there’s a chance you’ll not get the best deal, nor the best package.

Luckily, this isn’t the end of the world; people change their web hosts all the time, for various reasons. Some are simply dissatisfied with the speed or quality of the content network distribution systems. Others find the same quality of service at a lower price or with more convenient payment terms.

If you find yourself in this situation, then it’s a good time to look for a better web hosting provider. However, transferring your website can seem like a complicated task. This guide will explain the terminology, issues and procedures, with step-by-step instructions, so you can move forward confidently.


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Transferring your website to a different server can be done in five steps.

Step 1. Find a new web host

Take time to research web hosts before selecting a new service. Go through online reviews and customer feedback, see what kind of deals other hosting providers offer, their pricing systems, server configurations, CDN, etc.

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Once you find a suitable new provider, consider that, at some point in the future, you might decide to switch from that hosting service as well. For this reason, it’s recommended that you register your domain to a third-party provider, since this way, whenever you are switching web hosts, your domain will be unaffected.

Step 2. Locate and download your website

The next step is to find where your previous host has stored your website. Moreover, your site might be using more databases, so you should see if it is possible to obtain backup folders of them, as well.

Once you find the files, download them onto your desktop so that you’ll be ready to give them to your next hosting provider. Here you can find a section that explains how to use FTP to download your website.

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Top ten hosting companies 40.2% of the world's websites are hosted by USA- based provider

Step 3. Export your website database

As mentioned previously, if your website uses additional databases for purposes such as storing visitor data or managing forms, you’ll need to obtain them and export them. The process can vary, depending on the database, so it’s best to work out those details with your previous hosting provider. Hosts commonly offer phpMyAdmin as a tool for handling both exporting and importing website databases.


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Step 4. Upload your website and import your database

Much as with the export, you’ll have to work out the details with your host. In the event you’ve exported your database to an SQL, then through phpMyAdmin, you can use MySQL to import your website to your new hosting account. It’s really not that complicated, regardless of the tools that are used, and it’s usually something hosting providers do on their own.

Step 5. Test your website

Once the transfer is complete and the databases are imported, you can test your website. The best way to do this is to use a temporary URL. This allows you to access your website even when your domain name is not pointing to the new server.

In order to find your temporary URL, log in to your account management panel. Next, click on “Account Technical Details.” Once you are in, there should be a section called Temp. URL, with your temporary URL displayed next to it. All you need to do is simply visit that URL and check out your website.

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The top ten hosting companies dominate 24% of the market

If your site looks and works as expected, then great! However, be prepared to make some minor tweaks and changes if something is wrong.

Important things to remember

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Hosting Companies Market Share by CountryUnited StatesGermanyChinaJapanSouth KoreaUnited KingdomFranceNetherlandsCanadaRussiaother40,20%19,12%7,33%3,43%3,41%3.40%2,68%2,62%1,55%1,40%14,86%12345678910


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Once the whole transfer process is complete and you’ve tested the website, there are a number of things you must do to finish the transition. Keep in mind that these are necessary steps to ensure that your old visitors keep visiting your website, as well as to be certain that your site is performing as planned. So, let us begin.

Inform users that you’ll be moving your website

When you’re moving your website, the downtime should be as short as possible. It’s ideal if users barely notice that the site was not functioning. However, you should give some sort of notice a few days ahead of time, both on your website and on your social network profiles. You should also see that the message is visible during the downtime, so your users will know that the site will be back up in a timely manner.

Change the DNS

This is a minor detail that can be easily overlooked. Once you transfer your website, you must switch your DNS record to the new server where your site is registered. The reason why this is important is because a DNS record is like a map or an instruction guide that ensures your visitors arrive on the right page. Should you neglect to change this, users will be misdirected to an error page. You need to get a new DNS from your new hosting provider, and replace your old one.

After you make the request to move your DNS records, it should take a few hours, or in some cases a whole day, for the switch to be complete. In other words, if your visitors are complaining that they can’t find your website, make sure you’ve updated to your new DNS.

Monitor the site’s uptime

When a new DNS is assigned, your transfer is basically complete. You’ll want to monitor your server’s uptime diligently over the next couple of days to make sure everything is working properly.

It’s critical to not drop your guard and that you notice if there are any issues as soon as possible. Of course, monitoring your website’s uptime does not imply that you need to visit your website every 5 minutes; it means that you’ll need to use tools and apps to help with the task.

Some useful tools you can rely on are Pingdom, Uptime Robot and Monitor Us. Regardless of the tool you choose, you need to calibrate them to monitor the following elements: Ping, HTTP, DNS Server and TCP port.

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Be on the lookout for missing links and different site structures

One thing you should really be aware of when switching servers is the possible loss or misplacement of assets like graphics. The change of the hosting environment can cause this to happen, and it’s not unlikely that you’ll see some 404 (not found) errors. So, simply be on the lookout and monitor your 404 log so you can see if there are any broken links or non-working assets. When you find them, a quick repair or replacement might be required and you’ll be good to go.

Another way to deal with this problem is to redirect from a 404 page to another page that already works. This is not a solution for the problem of course, it is simply an alternative to displaying a 404 page.

This works for both pages and directories, so your users will always have content to look at, rather than a 404 error. Lastly, you can use this to your advantage and create a customized 404 error page, which can be amusing or entertaining, perhaps by displaying a funny picture or a quote. This way, your visitors won’t be as likely to object to landing on the page.

Switching your email

Again, switching email is something people often overlook. Once migration to the new web host is complete, there are three different ways to transfer your e-mail.

  • If your email is hosted on a domain registrar, you can easily move it. All you need to do is change the (@) record, and assign it to the new host’s IP address, which is commonly located in your new host’s customer portal.
  • If your email accounts are hosted with a third party, you must do the following. Make sure your MX records, as well as other relevant records requested by your email service provider, are updated in the new DNS. Considering that you’re moving your DNS to a new provider, it’s essential that you move these files as well. Of course, if you aren’t moving the DNS, then all you need to do is follow step 1.
  • Lastly, if your email accounts are hosted with the previous hosting provider, you can recreate the existing email account once you make the switch to the new provider. You’ll also have to configure your new email agent.
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Most web hosting providers promise 99.99% uptime, but 99.90% uptime is already 10 minutes of downtime per week

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Many web hosting plans come with “hidden costs.” Although they lure customers with “money back guarantee” schemes, but in case you were not satisfied, web hosting companies can avoid refunding back your money or simply prolong it

web-server

The promise of unlimited web space and bandwidth is a hoax. Web hosting companies oversell their servers, especially shared web hosting, which results in poor performance, longer server downtime, and regular setbacks

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The most reliable method we use to determine reliable hosting provider

The facts don't lie. If a distinguished web site has been hosted by a specific provider for years and it's owner is completely satisfied with the hosting services actual host provides that is the clear proof that the host we're talking about is the right one.

If you need a more detailed explanation on how to complete this step, check out this guide.

Chance of a corrupted database

Last, it may happen that your data becomes corrupted in the transfer. There is no reason to panic, and there are numerous solutions to this problem, but they all depend on the platform itself. Since the most common platform is WordPress, we’ll discuss some possible solutions for this platform’s database.

If your WordPress database is corrupted, you can re-try the transfer, but you first need to disable all the plugins. If this works, just turn on the plug-ins again when the whole website is imported. Unfortunately, this won’t be a viable solution if you cannot access the dashboard, so you might have to try some of the following options:

  • Re-upload the database, and write it over the old one.
  • Try to identify the exact location of the corruption error, and just re-upload that specific file from your old site.
  • Open the file to ensure that it’s pointing to the new server.

In the event that none of these approaches work, you’ll have to find someone who is skilled at coding to initiate the WordPress auto database repair process.

Conclusion

Switching a web hosting provider is not a huge hassle. There are a few potential problems, but nothing that can’t be resolved in a timely manner.

If you’re not satisfied with your web hosting service, don’t be hesitant to find another provider. This guide will help you through the process with minimal downtime and inconvenience.