Moving websites between hosts is a big challenge for all site owners. With a WordPress site, we have to move all our plugins, themes, and the database. Once they are relocated, they may not even work with our new host because critical server systems may have different paths. I’ve been through many host-to-host moves with the sites I manage, and I’ve figured out a few ways to make migration easy and safe. Here, I’ll pass along some of that knowledge to all.
1. Find a Host That Suits Your Needs with Hands-on Migration Support
We simply can’t expect to start up with one hosting provider, run a website for years, and never have to move to a new host. Web hosting companies compete vigorously with one another, and feature sets and pricing schemes are in a constant state of flux. In some cases, these changes can inspire users to jump ship. In other instances, our website may simply outgrow its current hosting environment. The more popular a website becomes, the more server resources it requires, and not every hosting provider can offer all the resources our site might need. We may also find that more features from a hosting provider than current host offers. We want more mailboxes without paying extra? How about a free SSL certificate or stronger DDoS protection? Or maybe a host has just gone to the dogs.
Whatever the reason for wanting to make a move, one huge way we can make that easier is to find a new hosting provider that offers free migration and after-move support.
2. Save Your Site’s Files, Transfer Databases, and Setup Applications
If hosting provider doesn’t offer a free migration, to accomplish the migration yourself without much difficulty.
To move WordPress-powered website we will need to do the following:
· Transfer the WordPress engine files. This is optional if host has a WordPress installer
· Transfer site files (i.e. uploads, themes, and plugins)
· Migrate the database containing blog posts, pages, comments, and WordPress settings
· Update the WordPress configuration
The easiest way to accomplish the migration, short of having our hosting provider do it for us, is to use a plugin like All-in-One WP Migration. We install it on our existing site. It then exports all files and even database to a portable package.
Install a clean, new version of WordPress on new server and add the All-in-One WP Migration plugin to that installation. Then, within the plugin’s configuration page, choose Import Site. Then drag the site package previously exported right into the plugin, whereupon it will restore old site right over the new installation.
Both the WordPress engine and all the other files that make up our website can be transferred via FTP from old server and then to our new server. We will need an FTP application like my favorite, the cross-platform and free FileZilla. Both hosting providers will provide instructions for accessing site via FTP, including how to configure an FTP program like FileZilla. If we can’t find that information in host’s tech support documentation or in welcome letters, simply open an online chat or call to provider. Usually, technicians will gladly walk through setting up our FTP program. You can also hire a wordpress expert from here.
Once it’s set up, just download our entire site from old host, everything in the directory or folder contains the wp-admin folder including all the files and subfolders to computer. It may take a while.
When the download is finished, disconnect from old server, connect to new server, and upload all those files. This, too, may take some time.
Migrating our database, all the actual content of blog or website is trickier and can’t be done through FTP. Fortunately, it’s nowhere near as tricky as it used to be. Follow the instruction from the official WordPress Codex to export database from MySQL and download it to computer. Then, follow the directions within that document to update the paths between the servers and update the WordPress configuration and variables for the new server’s environment.
3. Change Nameservers to Point to New Hosting Provider
When we go to sign up for a new hosting account we’ll usually receive a welcome letter email, and within that email is often the new nameservers we should use. If we didn’t receive that information, a quick phone call or online chat to our hosting provider’s tech support department will gladly give us the proper nameservers. They often look something like the below:
Go to domain name registrar and update domain’s nameservers. This process is different for every registrar — GoDaddy’s process is very different from that of Dotster’s and from the process at Google Domains and so on.
Typically, we log into our domain registrar’s account, click on the domain name in the list of owned domain names, and look for an option to mentioning “Name Servers,” “Nameservers,” or “Host Address.” Replace whatever nameservers are listed with the ones we obtained from new host. We will always have at least two nameservers to enter, but may be given third and fourth options, too. Save the changes, and then, within 12 to 72 hours, all requests for domain name will begin forwarding to new hosting provider. Until then, old host account may be served to some visitors, which is why it’s important to ensure both old and new servers run concurrently for three days.