Transferring a website from one web hosting company to another is a lot like moving an old house and can come with unique sets of potential issues. There are details to mind like securing the right size transportation, making sure your new location can handle your existing structure and accommodate additions, inspecting for damage, and changing addresses. Avoid these ten-plus mistakes before you transfer your website.
- Incompatibility With New Web Hosting Provider
Your new web host’s operating system needs to be the same as the one your current host runs unless you have a simple HTML website that will run on any operating system.
- Make sure they support any special scripting languages you are using such as Perl, ASP, or PHP.
- Will your database software run on their operating system?
- Do you have enough data transfer for your old site? Does the current hosting company have download limitations?
- What kind of hosting do you need or anticipate needing? Upgrading with the provider you are with is easier and may be a better option than switching providers. If you must switch, make sure they have an option to scale up or down with their services.
- Failure To Back Up Your Website Databases Before Exporting
This seems obvious, but how backup is done varies from one web host to another, so contact your current provider for instructions or assistance.
- Not Having Full Control of Your Domain Name and Registrant Details
If you have not kept yours updated, do this before you transfer a website. Then you can decide whether to switch your domain registrar altogether if, for example, you are having issues with them, or switch only the DNS on the domain name to point to the new hosting provider, this being the preferred choice. If you have shared web hosting, then you will need to make sure this is done for each page that has its own Internet domain name.
Tip: Avoid downtime by waiting until you verify that your website files and emails have been uploaded before changing the DNS settings on the domain name.
- Inadequate Technical Support
Live chat, email and telephone technical support options are offered by most reputable hosting providers but not all. Test their level of support by posing a question via each of these to assess wait time, ability to resolve issues within one or two contacts, and follow-up practices. Do they offer free migration and set up assistance? Most reputable web hosting companies do, but ask.
How to transfer websites is not the same with every host. This checklist is by no means complete, but start gathering these pertinent details to help you compare web hosting companies and prepare to transfer your website.
- Name of current host
- Current web host’s operating system
- Data transfer statistics from old host provider
- Control panel URL
- FTP Hostname
- Current account usernames and passwords and new ones you may need
- All database software you use
- Special scripting languages you use
- Full ownership of all domain names and registrant details associated with each page that has its own separate domain name
- Current hosting costs versus new. Many web host providers offer free migration and set up assistance, but you need to verify all charges outside the hosting fee.
- Inviting 404 Errors
Transferring a website should not be rushed but seamless for the user and not hamper your website’s Google ranking. It needs to tell all search engines this is a permanent move, and let Google know your new pages should get the same quality signals as the old ones.
- Move the site in phases or at least a couple, and test after each one until you are certain the move is working properly.
- Start with one sub-domain or directory contents.
- Permanently redirect those pages from your old site to your new one using a 301 Redirect, which lets search engines know your site has moved permanently.
- A blanket redirect of all traffic from the old site to the new site may avoid 404 errors, but make it easier for users by using a page-to-page redirect. At least redirect pages that will not have a 1:1 match to a corresponding page on the new one. Keeping users satisfied is worth the extra effort.
- Transferring a Website and Launching a Redesign All At Once
The whole process will seem smoother for the user when you manage the amount of change they see at a time, and it will be easier to troubleshoot any surprise behavior if you do this in two phases. First, move it. Then launch the redesign.
- Not Checking All The Links To Pages
Make it easy for users to find your pages. Check all links to pages on your website, both internal and external. Best practice is to update the webmasters of each site that links to yours and ask them to update the links so they point to the correct page on the new domain. If this is impractical, you will have to do it yourself. Update internal links on the old site. Use a link checker to check for broken legacy links, especially if it had any absolute links instead of relative links. Having control of your old site for several months will be important during this near-end phase of transferring.
- Thinking the Hosting Portion Includes Everything
You will still need to transfer your domain, switch DNS from the old server to the new one, and test all functions of the new website. If you have a shared hosting account, you will need to point the DNS for each of those pages separately. You will have to set up and configure your email accounts. Depending on where they reside, you may need to contact the website host provider for instructions. Before you close your old hosting account, give it at least a week to make sure everything you need is completely transferred from it.
- Trying To Do It All Without Help
Choose a host provider who offers free, step-by-step support in each phase of the transfer. Since many web host providers offer free assistance, let them do it.
Tip: Update billing information for all new accounts.
There is more to transferring your website than just the moving. Wherever its new destination, remember that the instructions to transfer a website are different from one web hosting company to another. Avoid missing a step by letting your new web hosting company manage all the details to keep your new website running as smoothly as possible.