Changing Web Hosts – Moving Your Website

If you need or want to move your website from one server to another, or from one hosting company to another, here are a few things you will need to consider.

You will probably want to be sure to get the same type of server that your existing hosting plan is on, unless you have a very basic website. The reason for this is that different operating systems have different scripting languages and different databases. If your website uses a database, finding the same server type is really not optional unless you have a very good reason. To migrate from MySQL to SQL Server is possible but can be time consuming, expensive ,and hard to troubleshoot. You will also likely have to re-code your web pages. Though Apache has .asp (Active Server Page) emulators and Windows Server has PHP emulators, it is probably not worth the trouble that you are certain to run into.

PHP consideration. If your current server is running PHP version 4.x and your new host uses PHP version 5.x, you may have difficulties. You may want to check to see if your code is upwardly compatible.

In a nutshell, if your website is on an Apache/ Unix server (the most common web server), you will want to find a company who hosts Apache/ Unix servers. If your site is on a Windows Server machine, you will most certainly want to get your new site hosted on a Windows Server.

Most servers have the ability to migrate your files from one server to another all at once for you. If you are able to get this to work, it is the most dependable and fastest way to move your files. To do this, you will need to know the server type and Operating System (OS) version. You will probably need to ask your existing web host for this information.

After all that, however, unless you have access to the “root” login for your old server, there is a very good chance that the automatic migration will not work.

If your new server has the same Operating System as the old server (If your old server and new server are both “cpanel” machines, for instance) you may be able to run a “full backup” on your old server, then FTP the backup file to the new site. Your new server administrator will then be able to “restore” the data for you.

If all else fails, you will most likely have to migrate it by FTP file by file. Get a good FTP program and download the entire site from the old server on to your local hard drive. Then log in to the new server via FTP and upload all the files to the new server. If you have to move your site by hand and there are databases, you can usually “export” the tables and their “structure” into a text file and then on the new server, then “import’ the data from the text file. It is actually easier than it may sound. If you choose this option, the easiest way to “export” is to export using the SQL option if available. This way you will not have to re-create the tables’ structure.

For most domains, you will need to get the nameservers for the new server (sometimes spelled “name servers”) from your new host. Your host will know exactly what you are asking for. Once you have the new nameserver designations and your files are moved to the new server, you will need to log in to your registrar’s website and update the nameservers for your domain. There may be as many as eight, or as few as two for your domain. Note that you will need to have the files moved before changing the nameservers so people do not get an empty web site or error when they type in your URL (domain name).

If you have your own “custom” nameservers, you will need to update the IP addresses with the IP addresses of your new server. Your new host will be able to tell you your new IP addresses.

Nameservers typically take from 2-48 hours to propagate (change over) depending upon several factors. Within 48 hours of changing the nameservers, your website will be fully operational on the new server, and you can cancel the hosting at your old host at that time. One Note: Email will generally be routed to the new server much sooner than 48 hours.