When you transfer a website to a new hosting company, for any reason, it can seem a little scary. There are things that could go wrong, like extensive site downtime that you want to avoid. You want to minimize any challenges for both yourself and users of your website. It is entirely possible to make a smooth transition from one hosting company to another with very minimal downtime and without any other potential problems. The key is careful planning, and remembering to follow all of the proper steps in the proper order. Here are 4 things to avoid if you want your hosting transfer to go smoothly. Following these steps in order will ensure your success.
1. Don’t forget to back everything up and make copies of your backups.
Regularly backing up all of your website data is just a good idea. Whether you’ve been backing up regularly or not, it’s absolutely vital that you back everything up before initiating your transfer. You need to create a backup of all files as well as any databases. You can do this with an FTP program like Filezilla or you can simply download everything from your host. Save all of the data in a compressed format because your new host will be able to decompress it. If you have email accounts set up with your current host, it’s important to remember to back up all of your emails as well. After backing everything up, you should copy everything. Have a copy on your dark drive, but also make additional backup copies on a USB or the cloud. Not backing up and copying everything could lead to disaster, or at least to plenty of extra work and more challenges. Skip this step at your peril.
2. Don’t cancel your old host too soon.
It might seem obvious, but it’s very important not to cancel your current host too soon. You may think you have your new host set up and ready to go, but if you’re not positive that it’s ready, don’t pull the plug on the current host. Pulling the plug too soon means you could have some serious site downtime, at the very least. Only cancel your current host when the site is fully ready to go on the new host. It’s also a good idea not to alert your old host that you will be leaving until you are absolutely ready to do so, as it’s not unheard of for hosts to prematurely terminate your site before you are ready.
3. Don’t forget to update your DNS records.
DNS settings are what send users to the right place when they type in or click on your URL. Make sure your DNS settings are changed, or you’ll risk users not being able to land on your new site. If you haven’t updated your DNS settings, users will either see your old site or worse, nothing at all. Depending on the server, DNS settings can take a few days to fully transfer. For a few days, users will be sent to either your old site or your new site. When the change is complete, users will only be sent to your new site. This is another reason why it’s important not to cancel your old host too soon. You need the old site to still be working during these few days while the DNS settings are changing. After this step is complete and the settings have had a few days to fully propagate, you can finally officially cancel your old host.
4. Don’t forget to fully test the functionality of the new site.
It can be a little tedious, but it’s very important to fully test the functionality of the new website several times. Check to make sure all the links are working correctly. There’s a fair likelihood that some links will get messed up with the hosting transfer. If you don’t want your site users to see lots of 404 errors (and trust us, you don’t), then take the time to check all links and then check them again. It’s also helpful to pay attention to your site analytics. If you see a big drop in traffic following your change of hosts, that might be a clue to a problem that needs addressing. Continue to monitor your new site over the first several weeks. Sometimes things will seem to be working fine at first, but you might notice new little problems with periodic testing.
There are many good reasons to transfer a website to a new hosting company, and things will likely be better once you’ve made the change. If you make sure to take some time to carefully plan the entire process and then follow the steps in their proper order, your transfer should be smooth and painless. Be sure to remember to:
- Create a backup of everything and copies of the backup
- Hold on to your old host until the end of the process
- Update your DNS records
- Fully test the functionality of the new site
Just avoid these common mistakes and the transition to your new host should be seamless, without downtime or any problems for you or your users.