I can feel my temperature beginning to rise as I think about this topic. One of the most frustrating aspects of having a website and doing business on the Net rears its ugly head once one comes to the realization that it can be put off no longer: I've got to change Web Hosts! Enough is enough!
Whatever the reasons that have inspired this decision, be it horrible customer service or lack of competent technical support, unbearable downtimes on the old host, or an awareness that you could be getting a much better deal elsewhere, the time has come to pull up roots and find a new home for you website.
Well then, so be it. Accept it and look at the bright side: you will (hopefully) be leaving your old troubles behind, getting a much better deal and superior service from your new host, and it is a good time to perform some much overdue housekeeping on your website(s), anyway.
How, then to change Web Hosts as painlessly as possible, with little or no downtime, and without losing too much ground on the business, promotion, and site location fronts? The answer is easy:
1) Carefully follow a checklist of what to do, in what order, and what not to forget or overlook; a list such as this, for example. And the first item is: Print out or write down this checklist and keep a log of everything you do and still need to do. Sometimes hard copy is best, and this is one of those times.
2) Then: Backup, backup, backup. Did I say backup? Yes, backup your website - all pages, images, files, databases, scripts, email addresses, links - everything. Then, back it up again. If your site is not exceedingly huge, this will not take that long, and you will thank yourself (and me!) over and over again when you can no longer access your site on your old Web Host for whatever reasons.
I like to have one copy of my site on the server, one on my hard drive, and one burned onto a CD. This is a good habit to get into, especially if you revise your site frequently. You'll save yourself a world of grief and precious time that could be much better spent on "real work." Don't forget about auto responders, CGI routines, Emails and Aliases, or anything else that may be on your old host, including any databases you may have.
Be sure that you have a backup of everything. You have been warned.
3) Find another Web Host. Be sure to do your homework and research thoroughly so you won't have to go through all this again. Be sure they have all the features you need and a refund policy just in case things don't work out with them. There is no point in moving to a new house that is more rundown than your old one. Check them out as closely as possible using the techniques we discuss in our articles here on HostSearch.
4) Once you have your new account, upload your website and all related files, programs, and scripts. Setup any database(s) you may have, as well as email accounts, subdomains, storefronts and credit card processing if you use them.
You will be allocated an IP number from the new hosting company. Take time to debug and test the new site from the individual IP number since you have not yet transferred your domain name.
5) After your site is entirely debugged and you verify that all site functionality is operative, contact your registrar and transfer your domain name from your old to your new host. To do this, you first need to change the DNS server details, which is pretty easy to do.
Obtain the Primary and Secondary Nameserver details from your new Web Host. Go to your domain registrar's site (the site where you registered your domain name) and login into your control panel, which is now offered by most of the domain registrars. In the control panel, look for the 'DNS', 'Nameserver' or 'Delegation' option and replace the previous Nameserver details with the new ones from your new host.
Some domain registrars confirm these changes by sending an email to the address you designated when registering that domain. You will need to reply using that email address. Many Web Hosts offer a free domain transfer service and will make the necessary transfer changes for you. The domain transfer usually takes 24 to 72 hours. If it is taking longer than this, begin looking into it.
6) Wait for the domain name to transfer and propagate throughout the universe (I always loved that expression!) before proceeding to the next step. During this DNS transition period, which is referred to as the "propagation period," your website will be resolved by both your new and old host, as new DNS information about your site disseminates through the Internet worldwide. It typically takes about 1-2 weeks for the transfer to fully propagate around the Internet, so keep your old site running in case you get visitors whose ISP's Nameservers haven't updated yet.
It is critical that you retain both your old and new hosting services during your web hosting transition. You will need to check your e-mail from both hosts during this time, since some regions of the Internet will direct e-mail to your old host, while other regions will start sending mail to your new server earlier during the transition.
7) Test your new site thoroughly. This means checking all the links, emails, scripts, databases, images, and related files. Your site should be 100% functional before proceeding to the next step.
8) Now - and not before - is the time to cancel your old account. Canceling before this point can present you with unexpected troubles, not the least of which can be brought on by your old host. Hopefully, your domain was not registered in their name, which some unscrupulous hosts have been known to do. The best policy is to do as much yourself as possible, especially when it comes to any registrations - it is your website, after all, not theirs!
Make sure to only pull the plug on your old account when e-mail stops arriving from your old server.
9) Demand any refunds that are fitting from your old Web Host. Since you were obviously dissatisfied with their services, you should be due something. Use whatever resources are at your disposal to get them to pay, which will probably be difficult, but should be done by all those unhappy with services promised and not delivered.
Otherwise, these unscrupulous companies just carry on doing the same thing to customer after customer, since they can. They are dealing in quantity, not quality, and you will have been one of the many unfortunates that they took advantage of. Don't be.
Your credit card company may be able to help, especially if you have documented proof of their breach of contract. This is where website monitoring services come in handy, such as www.netmechanic.com, www.alertsite.com, and www.internetseer.com. If you are not familiar with these services, they are well worth checking out to ensure that your site is up and running as much as your host says it is.
10) Once you've moved, be sure and practice the maintenance steps mentioned earlier in this article. You may have to move your site again, and you want to be prepared. It is always a good idea to keep your eyes open for better Web Hosts, and have an exit strategy in place just in case. One never knows what may happen tomorrow…
By practicing due diligence, being prepared, and keeping on your toes, the pain of moving to a new host can be drastically reduced. Plus many of these steps pay off in other ways, usually after some unexpected event that will affect others less prepared than you in often harsh ways. Unfortunately, there are people out there testing our patience and vulnerability all the time, be they isolated hackers and virus writers, incompetent technicians, greedy companies, or even faulty hardware. The best defense is a good offence: be a good Scout, be prepared.
Reprinted with permission from HostSearch
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