With a little planning, moving your WordPress website to a new host can be a fairly easy task. Moving your site includes the migration of your actual site files, pointing your domain to their new location, and reconfiguring your site contact email. Read on to discover the steps you need to take so that you have the least down time and incur the least expenses.
Get New Hosting
Purchasing the new hosting is the first step in the process of moving your site. You generally do not have to wait until your contract period is up to move to a new host. Most hosts will prorate a refund for your unused time. More on that in a moment.
Remember that your site is simply a collection of files on a server. That server is like a house with an address, called the IP (Internet Protocol) address. It will look something like this: 22.214.171.124.
When you move files to another server, it’s like moving to another house. All of your content is the same, it’s just at a new address.
Hosts with live support will stay on the phone with you through the process of acquiring a new hosting account. Don’t hesitate to call them to walk you through all of the screens and choices.
The new host will provide you with two new DNS addresses. DNS stands for Domain Name Service (or Server) and is a service that translates a domain name into an IP address. So, when someone types www.mysite.com into their browser, the DNS points it to the correct IP address where the files are located.
The two DNS addresses will look something like this:
Primary DNS Host: NS1: ns1948.hostgator.com
Secondary DNS Host: NS2: ns1949.hostgator.com
Point the Domain
You will need to contact your domain registrar and make a request to have your domain point to the two new DNS addresses.
Domains and hosting are separate things. You can purchase your domain from any registrar and have it point to any hosting address. For instance, your domain registrar could be GoDaddy and your host could be HostGator.
Pointing is not transferring. Pointing is just that. It tells the domain where to find the files on some server in the world. It points to the files. Transferring is changing domain registrars, meaning that you begin paying someone else to handle your domain.
All domain registrars have a different method for making the request, but most all require you to fill out an online form. Those that have live support will walk you through it, but for security reasons, they will not do it for you.
It generally takes 12-24 hours for a domain to propagate to the new files once the point request has been made. But it could take as much as 72 hours.
You do not have to wait on the domain to finish propagating to migrate a copy of your site files to the new hosting. (Keep in mind this is not true for setting up a new site with a new domain. In that case, you must wait for the domain to propagate before installing WordPress.)
If you migrate a copy of your site files before the domain finishes propagating, you will have the least down time. In fact, it may be a relatively seamless transition to your site viewers. Files will be present on both hosts, meaning that no matter where the domain is pointing, there are files to see.
There are several ways to migrate a site.
- Since you’re purchasing new hosting, find a deal with geek to get a fully secure site setup and migration for free. (Visit the BlogAid Services page to get this deal.)
- Purchase a plugin like BackupBuddy and migrate it yourself. (You’ll need to set up the database on the new host first.)
- Have the new host migrate your site for you. It’s fast and free, but they will take no extra measures to make your site more secure.
- Get an FTP program, your FTP login info, your database info, and a good backup program and migrate it yourself.
Obviously, the fourth option is the most technically involved and the majority of site owners don’t feel comfortable dealing with information and programs they don’t fully understand. And, not all hosts work well with the some backup and migration plugins. (All good hosts do.)
Also keep in mind that a manual migration offers the opportunity to make your site more secure at the root by doing things like changing your database security and the default table for your files.
The Best Time to Move a Site
Check your site analytics to see when you have the least visitors to your site. For most U.S. site owners that starts on Friday afternoon. If you place your DNS point request on Friday morning, it’s likely the move will start happening by that afternoon. And, by Saturday afternoon or evening, your site could be live again. In most cases, your site will be live no later than Sunday evening.
Moving Your Site Email
How the domain propagation affects your primary site contact email will depend entirely on how you have it set up in the first place.
If your site contact email uses your domain extension, (firstname.lastname@example.org) and is set up as a forward through the host email service, your email will be dead during the propagation period. Keep in mind that the email address follows the domain. So, it is not likely you will lose any emails during the dead time, it’s just that you won’t be able to send or receive them during that time. They will find their way to their new home, but may not be active until you set up the new forward on your new host.
If you have a Gmail account and you set up your “reply from” address to be your domain extension (instead of @gmail.com), then you may or may not have email service on that account during the propagation. It depends entirely on how you set up your contact form forward and when you migrate the site files in relation to placing the DNS point request.
Get Your Money Back
If there was any time left on the term with your old host, you can request a prorated refund. Be sure to check everything on your new site first before you request the refund and terminate your old hosting account.
Ready to Move?
If you are considering going to a new host, move to a reputable one. It doesn’t really matter how much money you save if your site is always running slow, or the control panel is difficult to work with, or there is no live tech support when you need it.
My two hosting vendors of choice are HostGator and BlueHost. They are both reliable, run fast, and offer the cPanel brand control panel, which is a breeze to work with. In fact, I charge extra to work with hosts that don’t have cPanel and refuse to work on some hosts altogether because they are a nightmare to deal with on the backend. So, keep in mind that you won’t save anything with a cheap host if you have to pay a premium to get decent support.