Need website migration services to shift your website to a new server as part of a change of hosting provider? Domain/website migration can be a complicated procedure the first time you need to do it, and this guide is aimed at de-mystifying the process…
Primarily focused on how to migrate a WordPress website to a new server, most of the stages are part of the relocation of any database-driven site – such as Joomla or Drupal. A static HTML site is generally less complex.
Website Migration FAQ
Why might you need a Website Migration Service?
Reasons for website migration services/server relocation are many and varied and can be as simple as discovering a much better deal elsewhere. Sometimes the move is driven by dissatisfaction, or a dispute, with the current hosting provider. Sometimes, the current provider may be unable to provide a specific service you require e.g. SSL Certificate, static IP address, or implementation of specialist software or services.
In some cases, your current supplier might be your website designer who has also provided your domain registration and hosting on a proprietary CMS system. Escaping from a situation like that can be slightly more awkward as that may preclude them from giving you access to the control panel and FTP. Worse, you might not find another service provider with a compatible system…
Regardless of the reason, it’s much easier to execute a move now than it was a decade ago, and there are certainly plenty of hosting options to select from. Most hosting companies offer technical support to assist you with your move to their server.
In general, most designers, hosting companies and registrars providing website maintenance packages will respond in a professional manner to your requests for the information required to effect a website move. Doing otherwise places their business at risk, as the national domain registrar enforces compliance with the rules.
If the relocation to a new hosting provider requires the transfer of your domain registration to a new registrar, that’s a complication but far from insurmountable. Choose your new provider and use their domain migration tools to initiate a change of registrar. The old registrar is obliged to cooperate promptly, and will probably send you a verification email to ensure you authorised the change. The process is usually completed within a couple of days.
What do you need to complete a Website Migration?
Making a move requires three sets of basic information as follows:
1. Old Hosting Account Details
You will need the current hosting account Control Panel access in order to back up your database and/or your site‘s files. You will also need access to FTP details, required to download the backups and site files.
2. New Hosting Account Details
You will need a new hosting account established and access details for both the Control Panel and FTP. Control panel access will allow you to create a new database if required, and FTP access is essential to quickly upload your site’s files to the new server. You also need the Domain Name Server details, usually provided with the documentation for your new account.
3. Domain Registration Account Details
You will need the access details for your account at your Domain Registrar’s website in order to make changes to the Domain Name Server (DNS) records. This is where you specify the location of the new hosting server for your domain.
Do you know the IP Addresses of the Old & New Servers?
To know when DNS propagation is completed, at some point, you may find it useful to know the IP address of the current hosting location. If you are a Windows user, enter CMD in the Start / Run box to open a command line interface.
Enter the command: ping + www.yourdomain.com – – that will list the current IP address of your website – take note of it.
How do I get Started on the Migration?
Assuming that you now have all of the required User ID and password details, proceed to back up all aspects of your website. If possible;
- Do a full site backup from your control panel and save that on your local PC
- Do a database backup if you are using a CMS – such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal etc
- Manually copy ALL site files from /public_html/ or /html_docs/ via FTP to your local PC
Backups are always a comfort and reassurance when you start fiddling… Ensuring you have the files stored locally is important because once you change the DNS server records, you lose access to anything left behind on your old server. Prudence and experience suggest that you cannot have too many backups, but you most certainly can have too few! 🙂
Are there WordPress website migration tools?
Website migration services are an important aspect of WordPress website SEO services, and you will find that there are several site migration tools available. The one I have been using for the past few years is the Updraftplus premium plugin.
How to get content into the new Hosting Location?
When it comes to tackling website migration service on the new hosting location, you have multiple options;
- cpanel: If it is a cPanel to cPanel migration, the new hosting company should do it for you using cpmove. That’s a “lock, stock and two smoking barrels” migration which includes everything including email accounts etc.
- Updraft pre-DNS switch: install WordPress from the hosting account control panel. Upload and unzip Updraftplus into */plugins/ directory. Transfer the Backup zip files to the desired location, usually /public_html/wp-content/updraft/. Use Skipdns.link to open the site in a temporary URL and restore the backup. Test the site looks as expected. Switch the Domain Name Server records over. Wait for the DNS propagation to occur and then check the site for issues and errors.
- Updraft after-DNS switch: install WordPress. Install Updraftplus and upload the backup files. Restore the backup and check for errors and issues
Option 1 is far less complicated and leaves fewer issues (such as broken links to resolve after the migration.
Options 2: when DNS propagation occurs, everything should immediately work correctly.
You need to check for broken links, missing images etc. This particular issue can sometimes be messy, and is best resolved with the “Search & Replace” plugin – which in itself requires a degree of expertise and confidence! 🙂
UPDATE: Proxy services to view a migrated site and check it before it goes live, via a Website Previewer:
- Hosts.cx – this is now defunct
- Skipdns.link – this works for several minutes and then dies. Requires $5 monthly subscription to be useful.
Enter the IP address and domain name to view the site before the DNS changes. This is much simpler than editing the host file…
How do I use Updraft Plus for Website Migration?
Updraftplus offers Backup, Restore and Migrate options and makes a complex process as easy as it could possibly be, in a series of logical steps;
- Do a Full Backup on the website on its current hosting
- Download the Full Backup to your PC
- Upload the Full Backup to the new hosting location
- Within the Control Panel on the new hosting, create a new WordPress installation.
- Install Updraftplus
- Upload the Full Backup
- Run the Restore process -Updraftplus will process the backup files and restore the content.
Updraftplus may be able to back up the files to the new hosting location via FTP, depending on server compatibility and security. In practice, there are fewer issues when FTP is used to first download backups to your local PC and then upload those to the new location.
How do I do a Static HTML Site Migration?
This website migration service is far easier, because you don’t have the complication of database migration to deal with.
The New Location
When it comes to getting set up on the new hosting location, you simply transfer all the site’s files and directories to the root directory – usually /public_html/
In a temporary hosting environment, you can open the site under a temporary Domain URL until such time as the DNS records are propagated. Be aware that any absolute links will point to the (correct) domain name, not the temporary IP-based URL.
Once DNS propagation is completed, everything should work as it did in the old hosting location. Static HTML sites are far less complicated and leave few if any issues such as broken links to repair.
When do I change the DNS Records at the Domain Registrar?
You are ready to edit the DNS records at the point when you have;
- All the required access details for both hosting accounts
- The new DNS records at hand
- Full & Database backups plus copies of all files safely in your possession on a local drive
- Installed a fresh version of WordPress
- Uploaded the Backups and/or migration script and restored those into the new WP version
- Checked the site on its new location – using a Web Previewer like https://skipdns.link
Log into your Domain account and locate the option to edit the DNS records. Change the existing records to the new values provided by your new hosting provider and save the settings.
DNS propagation may take up to 72 hours, depending on where you are located in relation to the server. Often, it occurs within an hour or two, and in most situations within 24 hours. There is no notification, and the easiest way to determine if it’s changed is;
- Check the site and if the default ‘under construction’ page or a listing of the Home directory loads then DNS records have directed you to the new location
- Alternatively, for a static site, using the ping command again will tell you what the current IP address is…
What should be done after DNS Propagation?
On a WordPress site, you need to do some Broken Link checking to make sure that nothing was broken in the process. Check the site thoroughly for broken links, missing images etc.
Finishing Touches to Site Migration
If your website migration service successfully moved the site and everything is working as it should be, courtesy suggests that a note to your old hosting company is appropriate. Let them know your move has been done and thank them for their help and services.
cPanel to cPanel Website Migration References
Page last updated on Wednesday, October 11, 2023 by the author Ben Kemp