By Emele Maisey
Changing Web hosts can be a daunting task for any small business owner, but it's often not as hard to do as one might imagine. Follow these step-by-step guidelines for the best method of moving your Web site from one host to another.
Step 1: Purchase web hosting from the new Web host.
Step 2: Backup.
Backup all of your files including images and databases. A good method is to make a new copy directly from the server of your old host so that you know you have the live, working version on your computer. Don't delete any files on the old host, just copy them. If you use Web mail, now is also the time to backup your emails, or forward them to a different email account as they will not move to the new host.
Step 3: Set up at the new host.
Although they won't work yet, set up your email accounts at the new Web host. If you use sub-domains and/or a MySQL database, also set these up now following the host's instructions. Use the same email addresses, database names and passwords that you used at your old host.
Step 4: Upload to the new host.
Log in to your FTP account using the temporary login information that your new host has provided and upload all of the files you previously backed up to the new server. (You cannot log in with "ftp.yoursite.com" as the domain name is still pointing to the old host.) Be sure to keep the directory structure of the files the same as at the old host. In the case of databases, import backed-up files using phpMyAdmin from the control panel.
Step 5: Test, test, test.
Using the test URL provided, make sure your Web site is working and viewable. The only thing you can't test right now is email. Don't panic if there is a problem—your visitors are still safely viewing your Web site on the old host.
Step 6: Change DNS settings.
Log in to your domain name account, find the DNS settings, and update both of the name-servers. Your new host should have already emailed you with the information to input here.
Step 7: Wait 48 hours for the settings to change.
It usually only takes a few hours for the migration to occur, but it can take up to 48 hours for everyone, everywhere in the world, to catch up. During this 48-hour period you actually could have one visitor viewing your Web site on the old host and another viewing the Web site on the new host.
Step 8: Check that everything has updated.
Using a WHOIS domain tool, check the name servers. Are they the servers of the new host? Also, check that your email is working on the new host and check to see if any email went to the old host during the DNS update.
Step 9: Cancel the old Web hosting account.
Once you are absolutely sure that everything is working on the new host, perhaps after testing it out for a few days, you can finally cancel your account with the old host.
About the Author
Emele Maisey is a Web site designer and small business owner. She first started her small ecommerce business selling handmade cards and gifts in 2004. In 2008, Maisey opened her own Web design and search engine optimization business to help other small business owners succeed online.