Sensible Strategies for Changing Web Hosts with Little or No Downtime

Transferring a website from one host service to another is simpler today than it used to be. Nevertheless, it does involve some complexity. It’s important to go in prepared to ensure a seamless experience. Ideally, your move should come with no more than a couple of minutes of downtime for your website, and your ranking with the search engines should remain unharmed. Here are tips.

Move first, cancel later

While it might seem like a money-saving idea to inform your current web hosting service in advance about your plan to switch so that you don’t find yourself paying for two services at the same time, you should hold off. You can’t tell your existing hosting service, until you’ve finish moving. Many businesses have found that offering information ahead of time only gets their hosting service mixed up, resulting in premature termination of service and loss of database information. These services don’t usually wait until the current plan ends, or even until migration has completed. To offer their clients as large a refund as possible, they terminate immediately. This can result in website outages, however.

Check for compatibility issues

There’s another reason why you shouldn’t cancel until after you move; there could be compatibility issues involved. Not every hosting service is equipped for technologies such as Perl, PHP or ASP. You may come across issues with specific server operating systems on offer (AS400 server, UNIX, Windows and others), and you may also see challenges with simple service issues such as poor technical support or plan flexibility. It’s important to do your homework well in time.

Get organized

While different hosting services have different requirements for the information that they ask for to successfully migrate clients coming in from other services, it’s important to gather a basic information set before you even try to move. It’s also a good idea to do a little research on the host that you plan to migrate to, to make sure of any special requirements. At the very least, you should gather the following: the name of the current hosting service and their operating system, your login credentials, some information on data usage statistics, the URL of the control panel and the FTP hostname, the names of every scripting language and software program that you use to manage your database, and a breakdown of the costs that you pay.

Back up thoroughly

It’s important to be deliberate and thorough with obtaining files for your website . You need to log on to your cPanel or other interface, find the compressed file backups for the website and database, and download them in compressed form. It’s important to not expand the files once you get them. They need to be re-uploaded to the new hosting service in compressed form.

Make sure you avoid 404 errors

Your website needs to let Google, Bing and the other search engines know that your move to your new hosting service is permanent, and not temporary. It’s a good idea to make the move in phases – a single subdomain at a time – and thoroughly test each when it’s done. You should redirect pages from the site to the new one with a 301 redirect if necessary. This lets the search engines know about the move.

Make thorough checks

A hosting service migration is hardly automatic. You cannot expect that every feature and function will work well, right away. You need to make sure to note down database usernames, passwords and other information to do with each MySQL database (this information isn’t contained in the database backup files). You must also look closely at the kind of prefixes required by cPanel. You’ll need to change the prefixes in each software application that uses the database.

Unless you have expert IT professionals in charge of your migration, it’s important to choose a hosting service that offers meaningful handholding. Moving a website requires expert oversight at all times.

Jade Harvey has been running her own e-commerce site for years. Completelly self taught she is happy to help out others who aren’t so tech-savvy in her how-to articles.

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