So you have a website and your web hosting company is doing the trick for you anymore. This can be due to tech support wait times, issues with script interrogation, pricing or any other number of issues that may arise. No matter what the situation or the issue the task of switching to a new web host can be a scary task. Especially if you have a huge database, lots of traffic and other SEO concerns.
So if for some reason you need to transfer to a new web host what is the best way to do it to avoid downtime? Well it is pretty simple if you just take a strategic approach. The first thing you will want to do is look at your hosting records. You will want to see on what day and what time you get the least amount of traffic. If you don’t get a lot of traffic at two am on the twenty third of the month then you will want to plan your transfer to the dedicated server at that time.
The next thing that you will want to consider is acquiring a new domain name on the new server. This can be an easy solution. This is the process you will want to undertake.
Register a new domain – example “yourdomain2.com”
Have “yourdomain2.com” pointing to the new server
On the new server have a copy of your existing website installed and yourdomain2.com pointing to that site so if anyone typed in that domain it would come up with your current existing site. Once the new domain is pointing to a copy of your site on your new server you will want to go into your domain web panel and do a redirect of your existing domain to the new domain.
To make this simple yourdomain1.com will go to yourdoain2.com when someone types in yourdomain1.com. Once this is accomplished your visitors will not notice any downtime in their service. From here you can install a fresh copy of your website on the new hosting company, perform your updates and upgrades to your site and once your new site is totally working the way you want it on the new host you can go back and remove the redirect and your site will function as if you never changed web hosts to begin with.
Now this is a little complicated for some non techie people but the process isn’t really that complicated. When you have small websites the above processes are the best to get the job done. But if you have a huge website and a lot of changes you may have no choice but to shut down for a period of time to get things done. This is why you need to know when you are getting traffic and when you are not.
If you are not a techie person and you don’t know how to do all of this you will want to contact the new host and see what their transfer times are. For some hosts it will be 24 hours but you will want to allow up to 72 hours to get everything transferred over.
Now depending on your type of site you will have a lot of people updating the database and doing queries and uploads to accounts and much more. A curious thing that you can do is send a mass message one week before the expected transfer is to occur. Put a notice on the main page of the website saying that site will be down for maintenance from TIME A to TIME B on DATE. Again the best time to accomplish this will be according to your access logs but if you can’t read access logs or just don’t understand them the best time to do this is later at night such as 1 or 2 am. You will never want to start transferring your site at 8 am on a Monday for example.
When transferring files to a new host you will want to start with the most insignificant files. These are the files that don’t affect the overall performance of your site or user interaction. Another thing you will want to do download the site to a local machine. If you have a copy of the site on your local machine you have a copy of your site on a local machine you can use apache and other web applications to perform any updates before transferring your files.
Unforeseen situations are very likely when dealing with data and new equipment. Before deciding to transfer your files to a new host you will want to test the new hosting company to see that they will actually meet your needs. You don’t want to go through the entire process of transferring your entire site to the new host and have some unforeseen bug in a configuration file pop up. So before making your site live you will want to have a full working version of your site on the new server and have time to test every possible situation that may occur.
So to recap the process. I know it can be a little confusing to people and a little scary. So to break it down in a step by step process.
Step one – Find the new web hosting company.
Step two – Download the entire site to your local machine so you have a backup in case anything goes wrong in the transfer and you can take time to make any updates and test them before launch.
Step three – Install the site to the new web host so you can test and make sure everything is going to work correctly. You don’t want any surprises.
Step four – Put a notification on your website that you will be down for maintenance from time a to time b. This will notify any users of downtime and lessen angry clients and visitors.
Step five – Setup a new domain that will direct visitors that didn’t get the message to a copy of a working site on the server. So if they type in yourdomain1.com they will be directed to yourdomain2.com.
Step six – Talk to your new web host about the time and process it will take for them to transfer your site to their server.
Transferring your site to a new web host isn’t really a hard process it is just a process that needs to be structured and planned before implemented. Zero downtime is possibility not a reality in real world examples but using the hints and tips above you can make it an as easy processes as possible.
Good luck in your endeavors and I hope you enjoy the services of your new web hosting company.