Move Your Website – Guide to Changing Hosting Companies

Website Migration Checklist

Step 1: Get all of your files local.
Using a basic FTP program or whatever development tool you may be using, such as Adobe Dreamweaver or Microsoft® Expression, download all current files used in your website including graphics, html files, and anything else that may be used in your site. Most likely you already know this – but when you are copying down your files you want to keep the directory structure exactly as it is on your web server. If you built the site then most likely you already have all of this. It would also be a good idea to save a backup of it, just in case – either on a separate drive or burned to a CD/DVD (as size allows).


Step 2: Analyze your hosting needs and select a new host.
Is your site just basic html or will you need a Windows host that supports Active Server Pages (ASP)? Depending on your site needs, select a host that can provide what you need. Most hosts these days allow you to either handle the domain name change yourself, or they can handle it for you. Just so your domain name does not get switched faster than you can get your new files posted, you may want to handle the domain name change yourself. Be sure they know to still add a record to their DNS , but that you will be handling the NIC record change.


Step 3: Get everything loaded to your new server.
Before making the domain name change, go ahead and load up all of your site files using just the IP address provided by the new host. If the new account does not have a dedicated IP address, then request that they create a subdomain for temporary use from their domain – something like newcustomer.hostingcompany.com for you to work with before transferring your name. Most should gladly do this for you. Although they won't really work yet, go ahead and set up all of the email accounts that are used on your domain as well.

Test the following as needed:

  • Databases – Access, SQL – Do you need a DSN (data source name)?
  • SSL certificate – Verisign, Thawte, Geotrust – Have your own or using shared?
  • ASP components – ASPmail, ASPupload, ASPlogin – What are you using, if any?
  • Ecommerce – StoreFront, SalesCart, Cart32 – What cart are you using?

Step 4: Initiate the domain name record change.
Then next step is to go to your Domain Name Registrar to initiate the name change. Technically speaking, the only thing that really needs to be changed in your record is the name server information. If your host has not already provided you with this information, email their support and ask what their Name Server information is. It is also a good idea to update the technical contact on your domain name record to your new host, although that is not required.

Step 5: Monitor for the domain name change.
Depending on who you used to register your domain, you should get one or more emails confirming the domain name change. Once the change has been initiated it will typically take 24 – 48 hours for the entire world to see the change. This period is called propagation – it is simply the time it takes for all the DNS servers around the globe to "catch up" and take note of your domains new location. Once propagation has completed its course you are free to safely cancel hosting service with your previous host.

Test the following upon propagation completion:

  • Website (company.com)
  • Ecommerce (store.company.com)
  • Domain pointers (company2.com points to company1.com)
  • Subdomains (intranet.company.com)
  • Email (you@company.com) – POP accounts, email forwards, and auto responders

A note about the Propagation period: As mentioned before, it takes about 24 – 48 hours for the domain name change to propagate through everyone's DNS server. This means that during this time some people will get the new site, and some will still get the old site. As far as web surfing, that's really no big deal but can be tricky in regards to email. Depending on where an email is from, it may go to your new email server or your old server. To safeguard against losing messages, try creating 2 accounts for your email address, and use each mail server's IP address instead of the domain name in your POP settings. For example, if you are using mail.yourdomain.com as your pop settings, try replacing that with the IP address of your website or email server. Creating an account that checks both mail servers insures you don't miss any messages during this 24 – 48 hour period.

Website Migration Tips

Use a move as an opportunity to "clean house". Most servers accumulate a lot of unnecessary files over time – test pages, superseded pages, images etc. A good clean-up can simplify your life and will ensure you have maximum free space on your server.

If you use absolute addressing on your site's navigation hyperlinks (eg: "http://www..." format links), you probably won't be able to fully test your site's navigation until delegation has been made. Until that time, your server will only have an IP number, and absolute addressing will not work until your domain is linked to this IP.

By contrast, if you use relative addressing(eg: "../index.htm") type links, you should be able to test your site's navigation even if your server still only has an IP number, since relative addressing sends visitors through your server's directory structure– not back out onto the web searching for a URL.

If you're moving your website to a new web host, lower your stress levels by posting a prominent note to that effect on your website. Visitors are very tolerant of faults for a few days if they know you're moving. And you won't feel so pressured either...


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