Moving your website between hosts

Until you get involved in the behind-the-scenes work of the internet its real, unfathomable complexity is blissfully hidden.  Getting involved in building websites, though, has led me to see the messy and difficult processes involved in making some of the most simple things you can do with a website work.

This weekend I changed hosting provider from GoDaddy to Justhost.  There were a few reasons for my decision: Justhost was cheaper, allowed me to do more with my domain and had better customer support for when you want to do more intricate things.  So it would have been nice if to change over would take just a click of a button, wouldn’t it?  Nope.  Nothing of the sort.

Changing your domain from host to host is pretty complicated, and having to piece together from both sides the exact steps to take was pretty tricky.  Thankfully, though, I managed to get through it all with my sites intact.  Here’s a quick guide for anyone who finds themselves in the same position.

Step 1: Backup

As with almost any major change in a website or computer system, make sure to make a good backup of everything being used.  For websites, this means all files and databases.  For the files, you can transfer them over locally to your computer via FTP (I used FileZilla) and for databases you can use the PHPMyAdmin system that should be available through your hosting provider.

For WordPress it’s important to get both.  The files include things like plugins and themes that really give your website character.  However, all of your posts, pages and customisation is held entirely in your database – so if you really want to transfer things over simply, you’ll need to back that up.

Step 2: Getting your new hosting provider

Once everything is backed up it’s time to set up your account with your new hosting provider.  This shouldn’t be too difficult, as it is almost identical to setting up an account on any other site.  Make sure to register with the same domain as you have with your other hosting provider.

Step 3: Getting ready for the change

Once you have your new account, you’re going to have to start to prepare your other hosting provider for the move.  First of all, point your old hosting provider’s nameservers to your new host’s, which will mean that your site will be live sooner after the move.

The next step is “unlocking” your account.  You’ll need to remove the privacy on your domain, if you have paid for it, as well as updating your WHOIS information – so that your details can be verified.  Then you will have to unlock your domain so that it can be accessed by other providers.

Step 4: Making the transfer

Now begins the formal process of making the switch.  From your old hosting provider, request your EPP/authorisation code to make the switch.  This will probably be sent to your e-mail address.  Once you have that, you will be able to go on to your new hosting provider’s site, go to the section for your domain and find somewhere to begin the transfer.  There you will enter your EPP code and be sent an e-mail, to the e-mail listed under your WHOIS account, to confirm that you made the request.

Step 5: Final Authorisation

Once you receive the e-mail from your new hosting provider you will have another authorisation code to enter, which will be your final confirmation on their end.  There is a small fee associated with transferring your domain, related to the international domain registration service ICANN, but your new hosting provider may well pay that for you.  After this, though, your new hosting provider will essentially have control over your domain.  You may then be asked by your old hosting provider to accept or deny the transfer, which you can accept to complete the process.

Step 6: Restoring your site

Now you have transferred your domain, you can start to repopulate your website –which will essentially be empty at the moment.

First of all spend some time creating the subdomains that existed on your site before and learning where your FTP logins and PHPMyAdmin details are.

Then upload your old database and files to your new hosting provider account.  This should

Step 7: Clearing Up

Remember that now that your site has moved you will still have to close your account with your old hosting provider.  Your domain will have switched, but any hosting subscriptions will not have.  Go to your old hosting provider and delete your account, removing your subscriptions and information.

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