You’ve made it big and your site has attracted more visitors than your current host can handle. Or perhaps you have found a better price to host your WordPress site somewhere else. You might even be having trouble with service outages on your current host. Whatever the reason, you’re looking to transfer a website to another hosting service. This can be an intimidating process, especially if you have never done it before. Fortunately, there are many ways to accomplish this. We’ll explore some of them here.
The first thing to do is to make a backup of your site. You never want to make changes to a WordPress site without ensuring that you have an up-to-date backup of your files and your database. How you make this backup depends on both your level of technical knowledge and the hosting service that you use. Many shared hosting services offer a one-click backup option, where you are sent a compressed file containing your files and a copy of your database. If you don’t see an option like this, you may also be able to contact your current host to ask for a backup.
If you are comfortable doing things yourself, you can also take your own backup, using a WordPress plugin. There are many plugins out there, but one that we’ve used to great success is BackupWordPress. This plugin creates a zipped file containing your files and your database, which you can then download manually.
Configuring Your Domain Name
Once you have created a backup, it’s time to point your domain towards your new host. Your domain is controlled by your DNS settings. To find out the exact configuration needed, contact your new host. Often, just changing the name servers to those of your new host is sufficient. How you change this will depend on your current domain registrar. If your domain is registered with your old host, you may wish to transfer it to your new host. Each host will have a procedure to do this. Oftentimes, the easiest method is to have your new host request the transfer from your original host, and then confirm the transfer with the original host. Changing your name servers may take up to 48 hours, while a domain transfer may take up to one week, so plan accordingly. Until these take effect, your old site will still be accessible, so you should be able to minimize downtime.
Now that you’ve made a backup and have set up your DNS settings, you can begin to transfer your site. Several methods are available, so choose the one that works best for your situation.
One option for moving your WordPress site to another hosting service is via the use of plugins. One benefit to these is that they are inexpensive or free, in addition to being self-guided. Here are a couple of our favorites:
Duplicator is a plugin for moving a WordPress site from one host to another. To use Duplicator, you first must install the plugin. When you run it, you can fill in the information for your hostname, database, and password for your new site if you know it, or leave the fields blank. After you finish running Duplicator, it will create two files: a zip file and an installer.
On your new web host, you must first create a database. You can do this by looking for a link in your control panel for the phrase “PhpMyAdmin”. Once you have this open, choose “User Accounts”, and then “Add User Account”. On the next page, type in a user name of your choice. Do not change the host setting, but you should type in the same password twice in the password fields. Make sure you remember this! Before you finish, head down to the subsection titled “Database for User Account”. In this section, check both boxes, before scrolling to the bottom, and clicking “Go”. Your database and user are now created, and you’re done in PhpMyAdmin, so you can close this.
Finally, just upload the zip file and the installer file to your new host, and navigate to the installer file in your web browser. Follow the prompts, remembering that the user and database name are the same, with the password you chose.
Another popular option to transfer a website using WordPress is BackupBuddy. Much of the process for using BackupBuddy is similar to Duplicator above, including creating the database. However, BackupBuddy automates some of the process, making it a little simpler to use. The team over at iThemes has put together a great tutorial on using BackupBuddy, which can be found here.
Host Migration Assistance
If taking backups, creating databases, changing DNS settings, and manually backing up files and uploading them sounds a little overwhelming, then fear not. Many web hosts offer migration services when you sign up. Once you provide your information, they will transfer a site to the new host for you. Some hosts offer this as a free service, while others charge a small fee. If you would like assistance in moving your site, then you will want to be sure that it is a service your new host offers. This is a no-hassle option, especially if you want to ensure minimal downtime.
Your new site is up and running, and everything looks great. Let’s just tie up a few loose ends. First, take the time to look through your new site. Make sure that everything looks good, and that all of your articles and posts are acting as you expect. Keep a copy of the backup you made earlier, just in case you discover an issue a little further down the road. Once you’re happy with your new hosting, don’t forget to cancel your old service; otherwise, you may be racking up charges for a service you no longer need. Now, it’s time to enjoy your new site!