Transferring a Website to a New Host
When the time comes to move a website to a host with a better service plan, more bandwidth or better reliability, there are a few key steps to follow. With a little bit of attention to detail, most of the process is no more complicated than copying files.
Step 1: Downloading the Current Website
The first step to moving a website is to download all of the files that the site is made of. After all, a website is mostly a collection of text based .html files, images and database files. There may also be files with other formats, such as .css or .js, but these are all easily transferred to a local computer. Databases must be backed up on the old site, and the backup file is what will be transferred. This process varies from host to host and database system so please refer to the host specific documentation for your particular database to learn how to download a backup of it.
There are two main methods for moving these files. First, you can log into your website through the control panel on your current host. Depending on your host, there may be a file transfer or file manager tool that allows you to download files. The better method is to use a stand-alone FTP program. This will allow you to see the file tree on the web host side by side with the destination file tree on your computer. No matter which method is used, be sure to:
- A. Copy all files and folders from your root directory.
- B. Preserve the file tree structure.
If you keep all files in folders with the same names and in the same places, all of the code and links will work once uploaded to the new site. After all of this is downloaded to your computer, create a backup. Do not rely on the old host as your backup. You need an additional, clean copy in the event anything goes wrong. This can be a USB drive or external hard drive.
Step 2: Upload the Website Files to the New Host
This is basically the same function as step 1, except this time the files are being sent to the new server. Again, you can either use a file manager tool from the new host’s control panel or a local FTP program. Copy all of the files and folders to the new host making sure they are all still in the same relative order. Be sure to also copy over the database backup, and follow instructions from your new host for building a new database on the destination server by restoring it from the backup.
At this point, you will also want to make sure any special third party services or plugins, if you are using WordPress, you had installed on the old host are installed on the account on the new host.
Step 3: Change the DNS to Point to the New Host
The new host will provide you with DNS name servers that will point to your website. You will need to log into your domain name registar account – i.e. on the website the domain was purchased from – and change your DNS entries to point to those servers. After this is complete, your site will load from the new host in about 48 hours.
The last step is to simply test out your website on the new server, and ensure everything is working properly. If the site checks out on the new server, you can go ahead and delete your files on your old hosting account and then cancel your old service.