Guide: How to Switch Web Hosting

by Saad Irfan

The downtime and slow response time of the site always lead the web site owners into enormous troubles including financial hammering and brand repute also get disturbed because of it. Choosing a reliable and uptime promising service is what you need for your business. In case you are sick of the site downtime causing by your hosting provider, you always have the option to move to some other service provider without losing your online identity. The server migration is bit tricky and requires time to get done. In this article I have mentioned few steps to help you understand the migration procedure.

First thing First, Make a Backup

Having an updated backup with you is a sensible step, but sometimes your hosting provider’s automated systems do it on your behalf. By and large hosting providers do create backup copy in every 48 hours, and this duration may vary with different hosts. For premium users they keep an updated backup which get updates every day, so in case something goes erroneous on their side or by you, all they have to do is to run backup files and your site will be back on track. However, in case you are moving to new host; you have to make a backup of all the files from FTP server and Database server. Most of the hosting providers don’t provide the remote access to the Database servers, so if you want to download database files, its little tough job. But if you are using any open source software like WordPress or Joomla running at backend of your site, you can help yourself with the plug-ins or built-in function. In case you are using WordPress for your site, you can have your backup within minutes, depending on the size of database. Just go to tools>export section and download the file for reference and this file will help you on fresh copy of WordPress installed on new server.

Notify your Audience

Notifying your audience is the best thing which you can do preserve your site respect. Place a sticky post or drop an email to the subscribers to notify them about possible downtime or bouncing back. You can utilize your social media accounts as well to notify your audience about server migration.

Purchase the Hosting Account from New Host

Now purchase a hosting account on new host. While purchasing, you will have 2 options, one is to buy new domain and other is to transfer existing domain. In my experience, you might face more downtime in buying hosting domain with existing domain. The reason is, domain transferring is a long procedure which need verifications from many departments and during that transferring procedure you might face little mean attitude from your old hosting provider. In this procedure first you have to request your existing service provider to unlock your domain as you want to migrate to new provider, and request them for AUTH CODE. During domain unlocking, service provider might take long time to convince you to not leave but can’t stop you with any force as you are the primary owner of domain. But of course during this your time will be wasted. Once you get the Auth Code, you will have to forward it to your new hosting provider and they will complete the procedure including whois record modification on your behalf, which obviously takes time. That is why I don’t really like that procedure but still many people prefer it.

In other option, you can purchase an account with some extra domain in case purchasing domain is essential by new hosting provider. When you are done with the purchasing step, you will receive FTP and Hosting Account access information of your new server.

Files & Database uploading procedure

The majority of the superior service providers can help you with that. All you have to do is to request them for migration. Just tell them you are coming from another service provider and have left it because of the downtime etc. in reply they will welcome you and will ask for the FTP and Hosting Account user name and passwords. Its okay, you can trust them now as these companies do keep a dedicated team for hosting migration cases, and they will upload all the files and database on their own. In case your new hosting provider turns out to be mean or don’t provider migration assistance in your purchased package, help yourself with the backup which you made from old account.

When should you migrate?

Deciding a right time for making the final step is pretty harsh. The best thing is, you go through your recent traffic log and highlight the days and timings in which you had lesser traffic. Remember, the more your site stays down, the more and more traffic you lose from spiders and social networks. Take a DNS changing step during highlighted time period.

Change the DNS and let the bouncing start

DNS alteration step is bit tricky but customer support of your new hosting provider can be really helpful. All you have to do is to go DOMAIN WHOIS Settings section from your old hosting account and have to replace NameServer 1 and NameServer 2 with the new parameters which your new hosting provider gave to you. Now the bouncing game has begun. It will take 24-48 hours to propagate the new DNS worldwide on every channel. During that period, people from Asia might be redirecting to your old server address in case the region channel record is not updated and people from Europe might be redirecting to your new Server address if the channel DB has been updated.

So what about the users which are still being redirect to your old server in that period? Well in case you still having relations with old hosting provider and didn’t move to new server with same domain, your site will be still up there. And a sticky note placed by you on your site will let them know about server migration.

Domain Transferring Procedure

In case you didn’t transfer to new service provider with the existing domain, you might want to transfer your domain as well so you don’t have to make site payments on two different providers. Now request your old service provider to unlock the domain and request for Auth Code and forward it to your new hosting provider and request them to affiliate it with newly existed account. After a standard procedure you will receive an email from Online NIC dept on your primary email address and will ask you to confirm the request.  Once done, you are good to go and your domain will be transferred and get locked on new service provider within 1 or 2 working days.

:: As Published on CIETRO by Saad Irfan (Cietro’s blog has been closed and few of posts are getting re-published on TechCline)