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How To Handle A Website Migration From One Web Host To Another
Website migration is the process of moving a website’s files from one hosting company to another. A migration can happen for many reasons:
1. You have expanded your website and need more web space;
2. You need more features (eg a database, shopping cart or multimedia file storage);
3. You’ve found a better deal on web hosting;
4. Or a relative/friend/colleague has server space and has offered to host your website for little or nothing.
Regardless of the situation, making a web migration is inevitable. It’s like moving from one house to another. In this article, I’ll give you some tips to make the big move as smooth as possible.
Tip 1: Schedule the migration.
It is better to plan the migration when there are not so many internet users visiting your website. Check your website traffic (or get your online marketing department) to see when traffic levels are low, which in some cases could be the evening or the weekend, depending on the website. For a corporate website, it might be the weekend, but for a gaming website, it might be midweek.
Tip 2: Notify all stakeholders.
Inform anyone and everyone who has an interest in the site, not only internally (employees, shareholders) but also externally (suppliers, customers and website visitors). A simple link redirecting the date and time of the migration, as well as the estimated completion date, should suffice.
Tip 3: Set a deadline for edits.
Set a deadline for all content updates to be delivered. Postpone any major additions to the website (eg new sections, new features) until after the migration. A good measure has been 3 working days before the migration. Any changes submitted after the deadline date will have to wait until after the move.
Tip 4: BACKUP the website.
One day after the content expiration date, back up the website. This means all files, images, scripts, multimedia and other files. One can copy the website to a CD-RW (CD-Rewritable Disc), Zip Drive, or an external hard drive. It’s important to back up a website not just for a migration, but every week or every two weeks if possible. The bonus is that you have an archive of the website.
Tip 5: Make sure you have up-to-date hosting information.
1. FTP (File Transfer Protocol Information):
a. The host name. This can be the Internet Protocol (IP) address. This is a numeric address of the physical server (large computer that is almost always on) where the website will reside.
b. Account username
c. Account password
2. Control Panel login information.
This is the operations manual for the web host to be found. This may or may not be the same information as the FTP login. You will need this information to enable features for your website, such as web submission forms, databases, shopping carts and other interactive features.
3. Domain Name Servers.
These are the addresses of the servers where the new website will reside. Most web hosts have 2 to 3 domain name server addresses reserved. You will need this information to transfer the domain name (www.yourcompany.com) to the new web host server(s) after all website files have been transferred.
Tip 6: Test the “new” page.
Test the new website by typing either the dedicated IP address or the shared hosting address. Check that all links work and do not go to error pages. This is the time to correct them.
Tip 7: Fix the forms
If you have any forms on your website, be sure to also go to your account control panel for instructions on how to customize the form to work with the new server. Most web hosts have plug and play web forms that are easy to implement. If you’re not sure how to implement a form, contact a web developer and/or the support department of your new web hosting company.
Tip 8: Test the form(s)
Make sure all forms are working by doing some tests. This may mean sending (e-mail) the form to the right people and/or making sure the information is entered into the database.
Tip 9: Leave the website for a while and try again.
It’s good to go away and look at the website again. If possible, have someone who is not an interested party look at the website to make sure nothing is out of place. Something is almost always found at this stage.
Tip 10: Once everything checks out, you can go to your domain registrar and change the domain name servers (DNS) to your new web host. Log in to your domain registrar account and replace the old DNS addresses with the new ones. Web server changes usually take 2 to 3 days to take effect online. Therefore, it is recommended that this be done during a low-traffic period, such as the weekend, so as not to interfere with business operations.
1. Wait a day or two to see if the migration worked by typing the domain name to view the website on the new server. Test the website again to make sure all links work and all forms are functional.
2. Continue testing the site for at least 2 to 3 weeks before notifying the old web hosting company to cancel the account. It’s not uncommon to forget to move something. The transition time will help to ensure that everything went smoothly.
3. Also continue to actively test the website and pay attention to usage patterns. It is not unusual to see changes in the way visitors access information on the website.
4. Archive the old website from the previous web host. You never know when you will need to refer it again, especially if the decision comes to go back to the original web host.
A website migration doesn’t have to be stressful if the process is broken down and planned in steps. When a website migration is handled accordingly and done well, your website visitors will not even notice that a website migration took place.
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