Moving a web site, especially a well established web site with lots of links and good SEO, from one hosting company to another, can be tedious and time-consuming but it does not have to be difficult or nerve-wracking.
Some tasks are probably already part of your everyday maintenance. If you regularly police bad links and other errors, you are already ahead of the game.
Here are 12 steps for painlessly switching web hosts for a traditional web site, without losing visitors or search engine rankings:
TWELVE STEPS FOR A TROUBLE FREE MOVE
- Check your web site’s account with the hosting company. It should list the renewal date. You don’t want to put the move off until the last minute. If at all possible, give yourself anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks to complete the move.
- Choose a new web hosting company and open an account with them while your old account is still active on the host you are leaving.
- Your new web host will send you a welcome letter with a temporary internet address, FTP instructions, email set up instructions, and Name Server addresses. You’ll need all this to get your files up on the new server. Test it and save it.
- Take a good look at the structure of your site. Is there anything you should clean up or change before the move? Fix errors, dead links, etc., that you find before you transfer the files.
- Back up your old web site. If your current web host uses C Panel, you will probably have a back up wizard that will zip your site and download it to your PC. Note that although you will have a choice between a full back up and a partial back up, you may not be able to restore your site on the new servers with the full back up.
- If you cannot use a back up wizad to back up your site, try downloading everything to your computer via FTP. Remember to recreate the directory structure just as it exists on your web site.
- Upload your files to the new web host, using the temporary address they sent you when you opened the account. If both web hosts have C Panel, you may be able to upload your back up and then restore it on the new site. If you can’t use the back up wizard, just FTP the files, taking care to recreate the directory structure exactly.
- Test the links on the new site (using the temporary URL to view it in our web browser).
- When you are confident that everything is working correctly, change your Name Servers to point to your new web host. This is done through your domain registrar (i.e., GoDaddy). If you access the old server’s Admin or Account areas (including C Panel) by typing in your domain name, you will be locked out after changing the name servers – so make sure you have cleaned up everything, including email, on the old web host before completing this step. (Check with your old web host and find out if you can get into your Admin area using an IP address other than your domain name.)
- You may be tempted at this point to delete your old account – but don’t! It can take anywhere from 24 to 72 hours for the new Name Server information to become universally available across the internet. While other gateways are updating your address, you do not want visitors – including Google – to find themselves in a black hole, with nothing to see but an error message saying that your site no longer exists. Protect your visitors and your search engine rankings by keeping your old site alive just a little longer.
- Inform everyone that your site is moving. Put a notice on the site. If you send out newsletters, tell your subscribers. Warn visitors that they may see the occasional glitch and ask for their patience. Set up your email through your new hosting service, if you will use their POP email. Check and double check the links on the new site. Make sure there are no missing files. Ping your new address to test it.
- Carefully monitor traffic that is still going to your old web site. It should drop to almost zero by day 3, while traffic at your new web host should climb to your old levels. Between 4 and 5 days after you changed the Name Servers, cancel your old account.
Congratulations! You have officially moved to your new home, and you haven’t left anything or anyone important behind. In fact, if you hadn’t told them, most visitors probably wouldn’t even have noticed the move.