In the ideal world, there would be no need to change web hosts. Our websites would be conveniently hosted with amazing page load speeds, extremely low cost, and we would always be guaranteed 100% uptime for our websites. Unfortunately, this scenario does not ever play out in the real world because we do not live in an ideal world.
How switching your website works
Changing your website's hosting provider is very much like moving to a new house. Before you move to a new house, you would typically find a new place to move to, sign all the paperwork, pack your belongings in your current house, and then finally move to the new house. If it is a business you are moving, you will finish off by hanging a sign on your door to inform customers of your presence.
Moving your website follows the same process, just that it happens virtually. You will first need to find a new host for your website, buy hosting space on their server depending on the type you want (shared hosting, VPS, or dedicated server), backup your site to be sure that you are moving with everything that is yours, transfer your files to your new hosting account, and then point your domain name to your new hosting account by changing its DNS (Domain Name Servers). This final step is the equivalent of hanging a sign on the door of your new business. While it could be a long process, it is certainly doable.
A step-by-step guide to making the switch
To successfully switch your web host provider, you will be required to complete a series of steps in a particular order. Below we explain these steps to you in the order that you are expected to follow.
1 Buy a new web hosting account
There are numerous web hosting providers in the market each offering a different set of features and configurations you can choose from. Before you buy new hosting, make sure that you evaluate which one is the best for you. Factors to consider to help you find the right hosting are cost, space you need for your website, and the configuration that will offer optimum performance. It is always advisable that you register your domain name with a third party registrar so that when you need to change hosting accounts, you can retain your domain name without much problems or complications arising.
Useful post: Considerations to Choose the Best Web Hosting!2 Backup your website to the new web host
After buying a hosting account, you will need to backup your static files and move them to the new account you purchased. Static files are files that do not change either automatically of through a content editor. Examples of such files are graphics and images. To backup your static website, you just need to copy the files to the new web host account. 3 Do a final check
After you copy your files over to the new account, do a final check to ensure that everything is working as it should on your website. Some web hosts provide you with an IP address or development staging platform that you can use to check if everything is working right on your new account before you make your site live. This allows you to make any changes behind the scenes. 4 Change your Domain Name Servers ()
After you have verified that everything in your new host is working fine, you can now change your DNS records. DNS records are basically a set of instructions that specifies where a user visiting your site is to be sent. Therefore, changing your DNS records to the new hosting provider will make sure that visitors to your site will find your website instead of receiving an error message. This is a very crucial step so make sure that you have the right DNS information from your new web host provider. 5 Wait for the change to Propagate
When you change your DNS records, it typically takes between a few hours and 48 hours for the change to be live. When the site is live, you can now request your old web host to cancel your account.
If you are running a dynamic website that runs on a database such as MySQL, install all web apps on the new web host just as they are on your current website. After this, copy the database to the new web host. In the event your new web host provides an easy transfer functionality like is the case with the WordPress import/export function, you can transfer all your data and files directly from your old host to your new host. If this service is not provided, you may need to manually tweak your PHP and MySQL configuration files accordingly.
Important Things to Watch Out For
Here are some important things you need to watch out for before and after you make the switch.
In the World Wide Web, any moment that your site is offline translates to loss of potential readers and business. The goal, therefore, is to always have no downtime – even when you are switching web hosts.
To ensure that you do not suffer from downtime, make sure that you have checked that everything is working as intended in your new web host before making the switch.
Additionally, you could inform your visitors and customers about the intention to change hosts along with the hours you will be making the change. This way, you can reduce the number of visitors to your site when you are making the change and thus lessen the load on your system. You will also reduce the perks of any customer service issues in the event you experience downtime.
Finally, you should work closely with your new host during the transfer of your website. Do not hesitate to ask when you are in doubt of having any question. Doing this will also give you an insight of the quality of customer service.
Even after you are done making the change, it is recommended that you keep an eye on your site's uptime for a period of time just to be sure that everything is working right.
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One of the most difficult aspects when changing your web host is transferring your email accounts. When it comes to email, there are three possible scenarios that you could encounter:
- Scenario 1: Your email accounts are hosted on a domain registrar such as GoDaddy. This is usually the easiest situation when making changing hosts. All you need to do is change the A or @ record so that it is pointing to the IP address of the new host.
- Scenario 2: You are hosting your email accounts of a third-party provider such as Microsoft 365 or Google Mail. In this situation, you only need to ensure that MX records and all other records that the mail service provider needs are updated.
- Scenario 3: Email accounts are hosted with the web host provider. For this scenario, simply create new email accounts that are same as ones you had with your old web host and configure them. Just make sure that you delete your old email addresses after you have created them.
When you are changing your website's host, it is not uncommon that some assets like images and some files to be left behind. When this happens, visitors will most likely be presented with a 404 error page when using your site. You, therefore, need to keep an eye on the 404 log after you make the change because it is what will alert you of any links that are not working on site assets that you need to restore to make your site fully functional again.
When changing web hosts, there is always a risk that your database could be corrupted in the process. To simplify the discussion, we are going to focus of WordPress.
What to do when your WordPress database if corrupted ?
If you can still log into your dashboard, try disabling all plugins and check if your database issue is solved. Now begin activating one plugin at a time checking your home page every time to make sure your site loads correctly.
In the event that you cannot access your WordPress dashboard, try these steps to see which one works:
- Re-upload your database and overwrite the existing one
- Find out the origin of the corruption error and then re-upload that particular file from you old site to the new one.
- Open the database file and make sure that it is pointing to your new server.
Bottom Line: Do away with your awful host
Even though changing web hosts could be a stressful and tiresome thing to do, it is, however, the best thing you can do when your web host provider fails to meet your expectations. If you are already conversant with running websites, changing hosts isn't a complicated process because it is pretty much the usual backup, download, and upload stuff you are already used to.
Alternatively, if all this sounds too technical for you, you could let your new web host do the work for you. May of them offer the service anyway.