Web Hosting Walkthrough: Switching to a New Web Host
Sep 14, 2020
Websites need web hosting before it becomes accessible online. People outside the web development industry often find themselves surprised once they get to this part. Website builders like WordPress and Wix created a misconception that all you need to do to have a website is to signup and add content to their templates. This option only works if you plan on using the website for a personal project or portfolio, but not for business.
Understanding web hosting before deciding which service provider or plan to proceed with is a fundamental step if you want to avoid problems in the long run. Wrong decisions may include choosing a shared hosting plan for your graphics-heavy website or choosing a plan that has features you don't need. Keeping a web hosting term or two in your word bank can save you from a lot of trouble in the future. Oh, but wait-- you're here because you've already made a bad decision on your hosting plan or you're stressing about wanting to switch to a new provider. Fret not; we’ll get to that.
How to Transfer Your Website to a New Web Hosting Provider
So, you've made a wrong hosting plan decision-- what should you do? Wipe those tears away! You are not losing your website, and it is not the end of the world. You are not alone; people change their hosting provider all the time! Maybe for a different reason like website expansion or better speed, but you know, it happens.
Here is what you need to do:
First, find a new and better web host service provider.
Before switching service providers, take time to research trustworthy web hosts and their plans. Check their plan inclusions and make sure that they can provide what your website needs. Also, check if their pricing is right and if you can afford the plan that you are interested in.
One of the things you need to consider when looking for a new web host is the flexibility of their service. Now, you're already going through all the trouble of moving your website to a new host right now-- you want to make sure that they can handle your long term. Ask yourself, If I decide to expand or convert into an e-commerce website, can they handle it?
Download your website.
Yes, you can download your website. But first, you need to locate where your soon-to-be-ex host stored it. Aside from downloading your website, you should check if your website is using databases so that you can obtain their backup folders as well. Keep these files on your desktop so you can hand them over to your next hosting provider.
Obtain your website database.
As mentioned above, you should get a copy of your databases as well. What are databases for? Your website uses them to store visitor data and for managing forms.
Coordinate with your new web host in uploading your website and database.
Once you are set with your new web hosting service provider, coordinate with them regarding uploading your website to the new server. You can opt to do this yourself if you're confident enough, but most hosting providers can do this for you.
For static websites, this process is as simple as uploading files. What is a static website? Simple landing pages fall under this category.
For dynamic websites, there are some extra steps for your website to run normally. Dynamic websites use databases to store information necessary for operation. If your website uses CMS like WordPress then it means that you do have databases. Make sure that you transfer them along with your other website files.
Test if your website is working as it should.
Okay, so you have uploaded your website files and imported databases. Now what? Does this mean it's all done? Not quite. You need to test if your website is functioning as it should.
You can do this by using a temporary URL that will allow you to access your website. The temporary URL lets you view your website even if your domain name is not connected to your new server yet.
Tips for Transferring Web Hosting
The five steps of transferring web host providers sound simple enough, but there are some extra steps to ensure that your old visitors can find you and to make sure that your website is fully functional. Moving a website from one server to another is a heavy task, these tips will help you with the transition.
Notify users that you are moving your website.
When you transfer from one web host to another, expect that your website will experience some downtime. The shorter the downtime, the better. The best duration of downtime is one that users will barely notice. It's for the best if you inform users ahead of time regarding your plans of moving your website. This notice should be both on your website and social media accounts. Apart from that, there should also be a message on your website DURING your downtime so that users who missed your social media posts understand that you'll be back.
Don't forget your DNS.
The DNS record is a guide that makes sure that users arrive on the right page. After transferring to a new web host, you must switch your DNS record to the new server as well. Since this is a small detail, people tend to forget. But be warned, forgetting this step will lead users to an error page when they try to reach your website.
This step should be done as soon as possible since the request takes a while to process. After requesting to move your DNS records to a new server, it will take a few hours or even a whole day before the switch is completed.
If you have recently switched to a new web hosting service provider and people are complaining about an error page, you will want to check if you have updated your DNS record.
Observe your website uptime.
You need to monitor whether your server's uptime is doing okay after your transfer is completed. You need to make sure that you notice if there are any issues. But monitoring your uptime doesn't mean you need to be on your website every 3 minutes, you just need to use the right tools to help you with this task. You can try Pingdom or other similar tools.
Observe and lookout for missing links or misplaced elements.
There are times when the transfer doesn't go as smoothly as you would like. Sometimes, switching web hosts leads to possible loss or misplacement of assets. Some assets include graphics or sometimes a whole page. If this does happen to you, don't panic, it's a big change-- things like this happen sometimes.
If you move from one server to another, it is possible that you will see some 404 errors throughout the page. You need to be on the lookout for these so the issue can be addressed as soon as possible with either a replacement asset or a quick fix. You can monitor your 404 logs to help you locate any broken links or non-working assets.
For broken links, you can opt to redirect the 404 pages to another page that does work. Of course, this solution is temporary. You still need to work on that missing page.
Switch your email.
Much like updating DNS records, switching email is one of those things that people overlook when moving from one web host to another. Once you have completed your transfer to the new server, you should work on transferring your email as well. You might end up missing A LOT of important messages if you neglect this step of the migration.
How to Handle a Corrupted Database After Switching Web Hosting Providers
As mentioned previously, transferring from one server to another is a heavy task. It will not always come up perfect. Some of your data may get corrupted during the transfer. But there is no reason to panic, there are ways to fix this. However, it all depends on the platform and sometimes how good your web host support is in handling this kind of situation.
For instance, with WordPress, when your database is corrupted, you can redo the transfer process after disabling the plugins. If this method works, you can turn on the plugins when the whole website is up and running.
However, this method is not possible if you cannot access your dashboard. Other solutions for corrupted WordPress databases are:
- Re-uploading the database and replacing the previous upload.
- Locating the exact area of the corruption area then reuploading the specific file from the old website.
- Making sure that the transferred files are pointing to the new server.
Your web hosting provider and plan plays a big part in a successful website. So you need to make sure that you choose the right one whether you want to expand or if you want to switch to a better service provider. You must work with reliable web hosts to make sure that you avoid major problems in the long run. Hey, you know who offers web hosting services? MJWebs! That's us. Shoot us a message and we'd love to discuss all the possibilities with you.
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