A Step By Step Guide to Moving Your Website Hosting To New Zealand's Best

16 Oct 2018 / Freeparking Team

Resolving to leave your present hosting provider is often challenging. Webmasters needlessly endure substandard services simply because they are not ready for the difficulties associated with switching hosts. At some point you may feel the need to relocate your website hosting from your current service provider to another.

Reasons that can prompt you to move your website

Webmasters rarely ever move just for the fun of it. They must have endured poor service and changing to a new web host must have been the last resort. Below are some of the  grounds for switching website hosting service providers:

1.           Your site has outgrown your current hosting plan:What happens when you outgrow a pair of shoes? Do you keep forcing them on? No, you discard them and buy a new pair. Same could be said about changing website host providers. If your website has reached the limit of what your provider could support with a standard, shared hosting, move to a provider with a better plan.

2.            Your current host falls below expectations:Has your current web hosting provider ever experienced a problem which kept your site offline? What is your host’s response to technical problems? How often do you have technical glitches? How long do they last? How swift and helpful is their customer service? If your web hosting company is unreliable, it is time to move.

3.           Removal of unnecessary ads:Unnecessary and unrelated ads may destroy the reputation of your website, causing you to want to move. It is not uncommon to see a religious websites with pornographic ads placed on them.

4.           You found a better offer:Websites are moved when webmasters are offered better services at a cheap rate. If your current website host offers you limited bandwidth and your website has a low loading speed, even after optimising its speed, finding a host with a better offer which includes an increase in bandwidth limit is necessary.

Practical steps on how to move your website

There are things that should be done to ensure that migration from one web host to another goes smoothly. If carelessly done, you could experience downtime for over 36 hours while your website waits for the propagation of the DNS. Some assets could be misplaced during the transfer, and in some cases, there may be a corruption of the database, leading to the loss of invaluable data.

It is vital that you have a plan and that you involve your new host in the process, from start to finish. Moving your website is a delicate process and should be done after careful planning and preparation.

Planning your move

Start by selecting a new host. Firsthand information from the clients of your prospective hosting provider can be helpful. Read reviews and testimonials. Do not make your decision based on their adverts.

Another important factor is the environment of your new website hosting provider. What is their hosting environment? Is it the common shared  Linux server  with MySQL databases cPanel or is it a complex and hi-tech environment? If it is the latter, have you certified the compatibility of your files and databases with the new hosting environment? You can do this by talking to the customer service department of the potential website hosting provider.

Inform users that you’ll be moving your website

When moving your website, you may experience some downtime, ranging from 24 to 36 hours. Give your web users at least a week’s notice of your website migration and the accompanying downtime. This will give them enough time to prepare. Send emails to them. A single email may not be enough because not all your users will remember a single notice. Send more mails to remind them of your plans. Immediately the site is back on, inform them. Also, communicate the migration via social media and internal communication methods. Use a 3rd party online status website, such as  Constant Status  and  StatusPage.

Finally, implement 301 redirects so as to make it easy for visitors to access your new URL. This also prevents broken links that can result from website migration.

Backup your files

To manually back up your website, log into the server and export the site files and the database from two different locations. The site files are located within your File Manager, whereas your database can be accessed through phpMyAdmin.

Evaluate your site

Since you are going to be moving your website, take out the time to evaluate the progress of your website before you move to your new host.

Focus on these areas during your evaluation:

1.           SEO features: A thorough analysis of your site’s SEO strategy should be carried out to determine if changes should be made. Oftentimes, after a web host migration, the website’s SEO ranking takes a hit; therefore, a thorough  analysis of functionality  should be performed. This can be done using the  Moz's On-Page Grader Tool.

2.           Mobile optimisation: An important part of your evaluation includes checking if your website is optimised for mobile phone users. With the influx of high-end mobile phones, web users on mobile devices make up to  30% of retailers’ site traffic, so a fast website optimised for mobile users is crucial to a good user experience. Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages project (AMP) is rapidly becoming more dominant in e-commerce results and Google now penalises websites for not being mobile-responsive, so it is important that you optimise your website for mobile users before you move.

3.           Load speed:Perform an audit to detect how long it takes your page to load and the bounce rate. The evaluation will allow you to remove anything weighing down your site.

Download your website files

The major reason for copying your files and database is to restore your website the same way on your new account. That way, your web visitors won’t detect any change. The structure of your directory is of utmost importance and should not be handled lightly so as to avoid breaking internal links or corrupting your content management system.

When downloading your files using FTP client, follow these steps:

1.            Create a folder where your files will be copied on your personal computer.

2.            Using FTP, connect to your web host and copy all files under your website’s directory to the folder on your computer. In most cases, they will be in the public_html folder. Check your FTP programme’s Help File to display hidden files like .htaccess in case you cannot find it in the public_html folder.

3.            Drag all the website files into the folder in your personal computer then verify that they downloaded properly. Once the file has finished downloading, it will be visible.

4.            You can zip or compress them into a zip file to save space. Also, keep at least 3 backups on the file in case any of them gets lost or corrupted, and store them in different places using different means, like hard drives, CDs or DVDs.

Setting up things on your new account

To set up your new account on your new web hosting provider, you have to:

•             Amend your website files to indicate your new database name and credentials.

•             Create a new database on your new hosting account.

1. Amend your website files:If your website consists of website files and databases, you will have to alter your website files to connect them to the newly created database. This process relies heavily on the software your website is built on. There are three major content management systems: WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. The files you are to find and modify differ for the three of them.

•             For WordPress: wp-config.php;

•             For Joomla: configuration.php;

•             For Drupal: settings.php

After the modification, save the changes and close the file. If the software you use is different from the aforementioned, then you will have to locate and consult the documentation that applies to your software to locate the correct file you want to amend.

2. Create a new database:You will have to setup a new database on your new account using MySQL Database Wizard or phpMyAdmin. The wizard is more intuitive so it is the generally preferred option. Follow the instructions and create a new database after which you can then import the SQL data you downloaded from your previous host.

Export your website databases

To export your website’s databases, use the programme provided by your present hosting provider. Every type of database has a different type of application. The most common type of database is a MySQL database and it is accessed using  phpMyAdmin.

Upload your website files and import your databases

Now that you have the new database and a copy of your website files and databases on your computer, it is time to upload your files and import your databases.

Upload your website files:Just like downloading website files is easiest when done with FTP client, the same is the case when uploading. You will have to create a new FTP account the first time you want to use it to connect to your new hosting account. After creating the new account, use the information provided by your hosting provider to connect your FTP client to your new hosting account. After this, locate the public_html folder and drag your files there.

Import your databases:To do this, go to your cPanel interface and select phpMyAdmin. Select the database you just created and click the import tab. On the import page, select choose file and select the database file you exported previously.

Once this is done, click Go at the bottom of the page. After some time, a message will pop up to let you know the import was successful.

Test your website

Test the connection between your website and database to be sure everything is properly installed. Ask your new hosting provider for help with this step because it involves advanced techniques, which vary across hosting providers and content management systems.

To test your website, you have to:

•             Know how your new host enables temporary URLs and formulate a URL to access your account

•             Adjust your website configuration details to reflect the temporary URL.

The goal is to confirm that your website files and database are connected. Once this confirmed, go ahead and change the website’s configuration details to reflect the permanent domain where the website will be found.

Setup your email

If your former hosting company manages your domain name, then your email runs in their servers and needs to be moved. You have to recreate the email addresses currently receiving mail at your former hosting account before pointing your domain at your new hosting account to prevent loss of incoming emails.

Before you proceed,  back up all your email, then find the email settings and use them to set up a new account. To do this, go to your hosting control panel, look for the email accounts icon and recreate any email addresses receiving mail on your old hosting account. However, know that you will not be able to connect to this account till you move your DNS. Once you do this, send yourself test emails and if it is in perfect condition, go ahead to delete the old account, copying any important email you would like to keep.

Point your domain

The next step is to point your domain name at your new host’s nameservers:

•             Go to your hosting account control panel and find your host’s nameservers.

•             Head to your domain name registrar’s website, login to your account and add your host’s domain nameservers to your domain.

After this, your domain registrar sends out updated information to all servers that make up the DNS. To check the propagation of your DNS change, use  whatsmydns.net.

Test your website again

This is the final test to be sure everything is in perfect condition before you go online. If there are no hitches, then your move was successful and you can move to the next step.

Cancel your old hosting account

At this point, it is time to cancel your old hosting contract and delete all your files and email accounts. All things being equal, your new site should look the same and operate the same way too. If anything goes wrong, your new hosting company should help you fix it.

Moving your WordPress website

The greatest risk when moving your WordPress account is data loss or extended downtime; however, with proper guidelines, you can move your WordPress site with no data loss and no downtime.

Back up your website’s files

This is a requirement for moving your website especially for those who run a WordPress website. There are quite a number of  automated backup routes  for WordPress websites, such as  Duplicator, the free plugin. Use these tools and plugins to confirm that your site and data are replicated or backup your files manually. There are a few ways to back up your website files but the easiest of them is to use a File Transfer Protocol programme (FTP), such as  FileZilla  to do the task.

To perform your backup manually, download your entire WordPress directory. To do this, follow these steps:

•             Login to your web host and go to cPanel.

•             Navigate to the File Manager and enter your public_html or Home directory.

•             Locate your WordPress directory and select compress from the menu bar.

•             Choose the compression type; ZIP, Tar or GZIP and hit the compress file button then wait for your server to save your compressed WordPress folder.

•             Click on the archive and choose download

•             Choose a secure location on your hard disk and save it.

•             Make several copies to ensure you don’t lose your site if any of the back-ups fail.

Export the WordPress database

WordPress uses a MySQL database system to operate, therefore to export the database of a WordPress-powered website, log in to the admin interface of your website’s cPanel and click on the databases dropdown menu and select phpMyAdmin. Select the database of your website and click on the export tab. At the export console:

•             Select Quick as the export method

•             Select SQL as the format option

•             Click Go

The file will automatically start to download after which you will see a file with .sql saved on your computer. Save it with any name and move it to the same folder as your website files for easy access.

Create the WordPress database on your new host server

To create the WordPress database on your new host server, follow these steps:

•             Go to your new hosting account’s cPanel dashboard, scroll to the databases section and click on MySQL databases icon.

•             On the field meant for creating a new database, enter a name for your database and click the create database button.

•             Scroll down to the MySQL Users Section and provide a username and password for the new user and click the create a user button.

•             Go to the add user to a database section and select the database user you just created, then the user and click on the add button.

At this point, your database is ready. Take note of the database username and password for future use.

Edit the wp-config.phpFile

The Wp-config.php file is a configuration file that is a part of the WordPress site. WordPress stores your database information in this file. After backing up your website’s files, edit this file. Before you edit the wp-config.php file, create a copy and store in another folder in case anything goes wrong. You can edit wp-config.php directly in the cPanel File Manager or download and edit it using a text editor then upload it. Follow the step below to edit the file in the File Manager.

•             To edit the wp-config.php file, connect to your website using the FTP client.

•             You can find the wp-config.php file in the root folder of your website with other folders like /wp-content/.

•             In File Manager, right click on the file and select edit from the menu.

•             In the edit dialogue box, click on edit.

•             Open the file with a Text Editor or Notepad, not MS Word or other word processing applications to avoid changes in the format.

•             Edit your database name by changing the (db_name) from the name of the old web host to the new database you just created.

•             Also, change the database username (db_user) from the username of the old host to match the username you just created.

•             Finally, edit the database password (db_pass), from the password in your old host to a new secure password you created for your MySQL user.

•             Save wp-config.php and close the file.

Import your databases

After your files are uploaded, you need to restore your database. To begin the import process:

•             Launch phpMyAdmin from the cPanel on your new server and select your new database from the list on the sidebar.

•             Select the import tab from the navigation menu.

•             In the file to import section, click the choose file button and select the SQL file you previously exported.

•             Deselect the Partial Import checkbox and make sure the format is set to SQL.

•             After this, scroll to the bottom of the page and click go. The database import will then start.

Upload your WordPress files to your new host

After the reconfiguration of the wp-config.php file and databases have been imported, the next step is to start uploading your files to your new host. To do this:

•             Connect to your new web host using your FTP client and move to the folder in which your website will be held. Usually, the public_html is the directory.

•             Upload your website files which now include the updated version of the wp-config.php.

•             As earlier mentioned, you have to mirror the directory layout of your former WordPress website on your new hosting account, making sure all folders and subfolders correspond in the account.

•             Also, make sure that you upload the backup files and not the backup folder.

•             After the upload finishes, do not delete the files from your computer until the final steps have been completed.

Note that this process can take time and if there is any discordance in the structure of the directory in the old and new account, there will be glitches in the new account.

Linking to new URL and defining your domain

Most times, URL links break and give rise to errors when moved to a new domain. This is because the links on the former website are directly pointing to a URL on the server. To correct this, search for your old domain name and replace with the new name. Also employ tools, such asSearch Replace DB.

Another benefit of the search-and-replace process is that replacing your old domain with a new one will change the site’s URL values in the database which will prevent your new site from redirecting you to the old one when you log in.

The final touches

Reconfigure your domain’s DNS settings from your old host IP address to that of your new host. This is because as the change propagates across the world, some users will see your new website while others will continue to see the old website. This can last for up to 48 hours during which you should not make any changes to your website.

When all the servers show your new IP address, you can start uploading your site on the new server and that concludes your move. At this point, you can snotify your former hosting company of your wish to close your account. Confirm from your old hosting company that the account has been closed and will not be renewed.

Things to pay attention to when moving your website

1.            Note the features of your new website hosting company, such as:

•             Server’s load balancing

•             Server location options

•             Server space (whether dedicated or shared)

•             Data transfer costs

•             Costs of dedicated IP address

•             Speed of the hosting company

•             Support and backups

•             Server’s physical and virtual memory

•             Guaranteed uptime

•             Web security

•             Limits on domains and subdomains

•             Limits on number of email accounts

•             Email account types

2.            Backup everything before you start.

3.            Schedule your move to happen at a time when you have the lowest rate of activity. This is called the lull-period. This way, the move will affect as few people as possible. Pay attention to what time of the year you have the slowesttraffic. In most cases, this is during the weekends and midnights.


4.            Plan for all contingencies. Even though you have meticulously prepared for the move, have backup plans in case something goes wrong. Even if everything seems to be working fine, do not cancel your account at your old host until a few days after the move.


5.            Redirect each and every existing URL to the new URL.


6.            Test your website over and over before going live. Ensure that your website is in top condition before the redirects go live. Staging sites are set up on a private test server so you can make some changes before going live. Also, verify all redirects and go through your website launch checklist.


7.            Update all your canonical tags to the new site, not the old one.


8.            Set up a custom 404 page for links that no longer work so the person can easily navigate your website and find the page they are looking for.


9.            Submit your old and new sitemaps to the Google Search Console.


10.          Test crawl your website using tools, such as Screaming Frog before launch.


Can you move my website for free?

At Freeparking, our prices are very competitive and affordable, giving you up to 45% discount when you move. We also offer a full refund in the first 30 days if you are not 100% satisfied with our services.

How will my website be affected after the move?

Your website may experience a temporary drop in rankings immediately after you move. You may have to wait for 3-6 months or even longer for your rankings to reach bounce back to pre-move levels. That is why it is recommended that you move at a time when there is the lowest rate of activity.

How long will it take to complete the move?

It depends on multiple variables, such as server speed, network speed, size of data, and number of files. Generally, the time range for domain propagation is from a couple of hours to a few days at most.


For more information about Freeparking's web hosting options please visit:https://www.freeparking.co.nz/web-hosting/

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