How to migrate your website and avoid downtime

Over the years it has become exceedingly easy to migrate a website from one host to another.

However, no matter how fast and easy the migrate goes, the average customer may experience some downtime during the process.

Migrate your website and avoid downtime

Migrate DNS servers between old and new web hosts can cause a website to go dark for 12 or 24 hours after a request is sent to the new registrar.

With the need to migrate website files and databases and configure your new hosting, it can take up to a day of inactivity before your site is fully functional again.

There are however some top tips to avoid disaster when you migrate a website to a new host.

These tricks are relatively easy to do as long as the administrator has a good understanding of cPanel, IP addresses and an advanced knowledge of FTP routines.

The mission is successful if your visitors are completely unaware of changes occurring behind the scenes.

Check out our Free Website Migration service if you want to ensure that your website transfers without interruption.

1. Move first, cancel later

Do not cancel any existing web hosting plan before the move is complete.

The most common mistake is that they almost immediately contact their old host to inform them of their decision to move their services to a new company’s servers.

While it’s certainly a good idea to inform the old web host promptly about future changes, doing so before the transition has been executed can result in downtime and a complete loss of files and database information from when a cancellation is requested.

Hold off just a little longer.

Web hosting companies usually cancel a plan almost immediately without waiting for the expiry of the current month’s service. This is seen as serving the consumer’s best interest, as they get an immediate, prorated refund of any remaining fees.

However, it also means that every shred of data that has been uploaded is removed. In many cases, there is no opportunity to retrieve files and move them to the new web host.

It is extremely hard to recover from this kind of downtime and it potentially means a loss of all content and data.

Migrate before cancelling

Once a new hosting plan has been secured, migrate all files before cancelling the existing hosting plan held by the old company. It might be a good idea to allow the website to run on the new company’s servers for a few days to ensure that nothing was overlooked during the move.

When everything is verified as properly transitioned, only then should the old hosting plan be cancelled.

2. Download a copy of your website

Login to your current hosting provider and obtain a copy of your website files and databases.

Moving to a new web host should ensure that both the new and old hosting companies operate the same admin panel. Typically, this will be a choice between cPanel and Plesk. Here at Weave Hosting, we favour cPanel.

Aligning hosts is the easiest way to ensure that data can be quickly backed up and restored.

Locate the Backup Page

After logging into your cPanel interface, locate “Backup.” This contains tools to backup your site’s main “public_html” folder as well as any subdomains. Additionally, here tools are available to backup MySQL databases for restoration to the new hosting provider.

Find the “Download Backups” option within this grouping, and click through to the relevant cPanel administration page.

Downloading Backups

cPanel will breaks down the available backup by types. A full-site backup and backup files specific to every subdomain within the website. The subdomain backups are generally optional since the full website backup will contain all of that information.

Customers can also secure a compressed backup of every MySQL database individually. Each database should be downloaded in its compressed format. These will be uploaded to the new server to create matching database names at a later time.

Do not Decompress!

During the download process, be sure not to decompress any of the downloaded backup files. This will be completed by the new server when the file is uploaded to the new host.

For Mac OS X users, ensure that Safari is not set to automatically open so-called “safe” file extensions after download. Doing so will ensure that the file remains uncompressed and ready for quick restoration. When all of the compressed backup files are secured, log out of the old host cPanel installation and head over to the new host’s version of the popular website administration software.

3. Making the switch

Now you can begin uploading the compressed backup files to the new hosting server.

Once you have purchased your new hosting services you will receive an email containing information such as the domain name servers, IP address and FTP account and cPanel details.

Logging In

Find the details in your email and look for the relevant IP address. If a cPanel link has not been specifically included, assume that either “/cpanel” or the “:2082” port suffix can be added to that IP address in order to access the login.

Upon logging in, locate the backup tools mentioned in Step 2 then navigate to the Backup Downloads page. Locate the file-upload box associated with the full-site backup. This will often be labeled as a “Backup Restore” feature. Select the full-site backup file that was downloaded from the old web hosting company to begin the upload process.

Once the file has been uploaded, return to the previous page and begin the database restoration process which is an almost identical process. When all of the data is uploaded, it’s time to begin the transition process behind the scenes.

4. Ensure the database is working

The database backup files do not contain information about the usernames, passwords, and permissions associated with each MySQL database. This information is entered within the MySQL Databases interface within cPanel.

Database Prefix

You’ll need to make a note of the prefix assigned to each database within cPanel. You will need to update the database name, username and password in the configuration files of each software application which connects to that database.

All that remains is updating the settings, which tell the domain where to look to fetch your website.

5. Switching nameservers

Switching your domain nameservers may seem to be some far-fetched science-fiction to many people. Essentially, the nameservers tell your domain registrar where to look for your website.

The nameservers are changed by logging into the domain registrar’s control panel (services like GoDaddy or 123Reg, for example). You may need to contact your registrar directly to find out how to update the nameservers for your domain.

Changes to the DNS records can sometimes take 12 to 24 hours, though sometimes this can be as little as six hours. During this time, both the new and old websites will function properly, and customers will see identical content no matter which hosted files are presented.

Wait for propagation

While downtime shouldn’t be an issue, you should refrain from making changes to a website’s design, or content, until you’re completely sure that the process is complete and you’re accessing the new host server.

Once the website displayed is coming from your new host’s server, seamlessly transferring a website to a new web hosting provider is complete.

Migrate Summary

Make sure you test your website and ensure that all features are working properly; when everything is working just like it used to, then you can cancel the old hosting plan. That’s all there is to it!

Of course, if that sounds too much hassle, at Weave Studios, we offer a free website migration service. We will migrate your website and make the necessary changes to your domain to ensure smooth and successful migrate.

We will even ensure your website is running at its optimum speed and make changes if it isn’t or provide suggestions on what you can do to improve your website’s performance.

Get in touch today to talk to us about migrating your website to Weave.