Monday, November 4, 2013

How to Switch Web Hosts With Virtually No Downtime

There are many reasons on why you could be switching web hosts, more storage space, better features, less downtime etc, and for some this migration to a new web host seems pretty impossible, but it can be done and with very little to no downtime at all! If you have already acquired a new host and have stumbled upon the internet's age old question of "What do I do now?" Its a fairly straight forward question once you brush all the stuff you shouldn't be doing out of the way first. One thing you should not do is panic, understand while switching to a new web host might take a full day for the switch to happen while the internet works its redirecting magic on your newly acquired server.The first thing you should do is backup literally everything on your old host, all files, all folders all your information. This data you are backing up will be your new website so don't leave any pieces out. While your backing up all your files and folder, don't overlook backing up any databases you have made, its best to back up your databases as well, even if some of them are being used for testing purposes and will never be gazed upon by the millions and millions of internet users, its better to be safe then sorry. While obtaining extensive backups of everything, if you want to go the extra mile you might want to take a notepad out (Yes actual paper, remember that stuff?) and physically write down your old logins for your previous host and new logins for your new host, once again, its better to be safe then sorry.Backed up data should be easily accessible and also copied to CD/DVD for safe storage in case something goes haywire. This will give you a physical copy of your sensitive information. Your new host should have provided you with their Domain Name Server address which might look something like this ( or something similar in form, chances are they probably gave you two DNS's so not only do you have but in addition another, these are very important to you, these DNS's will be the newly redirected path for your old site. Make sure to have these DNS addresses written down at least for easy access.Also you should make duplicates of your email accounts on your new cPanel(if available) since you will need those new accounts to be functional from the get-go, this should be fairly simple compared to the rest of the configurations you are doing so just take your time and write down all your new host's mail information such as, email username, SMTP server, pop server, IMAP server and which ports they use. This is needed as most hosts tend to change which ports they use for email.Your next step before making the big leap would be to upload all your backed up data to your new web host, think of it as you have two folders on your desktop, named "oldwebhost" and "newwebhost" your backed up data needs to be copied over to your new web space so start uploading (copying) your data directly to your new web space. Do your best to keep folder structures as close as possible to how they were from your old configuration as this will help you should you run into any snags during the transition. Remember, our old host is still online showing the same old website, we haven't turned off anything yet, we just turned on out new web host and began copying our data over to the new web host. Your site should still be 100% functional and operational.Once all your data has been copied over to the new host, make sure to create replicas of any databases you created with your old web hosting. Make sure they are the same database version (example, MySQL 4.0 or mysql5.0 are different versions and may cause errors). We are making an exact mirror of our old website on the new website so when we pop the new web host's DNS address into the old web host's settings the transfer will be as seamless as possible. in order to do this we will need everything from the new web host data to be as close to the old web host data as possible.Ok, so by now you should have extensive backups of all your data, your new web host's DNS address ( &, created new databases on your new web host with the same information as your old databases from your old hosts, and if you are really serious, about 50 sticky notes on your monitor reminding you "everything is going to be ok" over and over. Once you are completely sure everything is copied to the new web host, files folders, databases, oh yea and email accounts don't forget those. Its probably a good idea to have a splash page on your old web host stating "we are updating some stuff so there might be technical difficulties" this will let your visitors know that if they experience some errors or issues that its only temporary and to not mock your site and never come back.Its now time to point your old website to your new website. There should be some DNS settings in your old web host's control panel, sorry I can't help much here since each uses different control panel interfaces, if you've browsed around your control panel and can't fine anything with DNS settings, it would be best to contact your old web host's administrator and ask them for help as that goes beyond the scope of this article. If you found your DNS settings on your old web host however, and feel confident to proceed, enter your new web host's DNS address(s) into your old web host's DNS control panel, dns1 should be your primary address and dns2 will be your secondary (Remember your DNS addresses may vary, this is just a general layout of what your DNS addresses might look like).With your new DNS addresses plugged into your old web host, its now the waiting game, it will usually take up to 24 hours sometimes longer sometimes shorter for the new DNS to resolve throughout the internet or (get to workn). With a little bit of luck your site will not go down at all, but if it does it will be minimal (5-10 minutes at most) intervals until the new DNS changes take full effect. I've done the following procedure with this website and it really works! See I do kinda know what I'm talking about!Congratulations! You have successfully migrated a website from one web host to another. Once your website seems to have completely resolved the DNS (This should be at least a day later) You can remove your folders and files from your old site and remove any databases you have setup on your old web host.That should be it in a nutshell. Feel free to post a comment below if you have any questions, comments or problems following this article, I'm gonna go learn me a book now. bye bye!*NoteBe prepared to deal with minor bugs or issues if they arise, other then that everything should be smooth sailing.