Looking to move the site to a new host? Whether it’s finding better options or because the site outgrew the old provider, people shift their assets across the Internet on a regular basis. It’s like moving into a new house. Sometimes the layout of the property is more ideal for growing a family.

In this case, it’s a business.

To transfer a website, developers need to follow just five easy steps. It’s not a difficult process if people take their time. While moving is often a simple procedure, sometimes things can go wrong.

Here is how anyone can move the digital business and how to avoid some of the most drastic issues.

Step 1: Choose the Right Host

First, choosing the right host is of utmost importance. Although developers can easily transfer a website from a host that isn’t the best fit, it’s easier to find something that can deliver quality through the long haul. Besides, moving can be a time-consuming process that may not be necessary should someone use the right hosting provider.

The Internet is full of companies that offer seemingly stellar plans. However, there needs to be more thought into picking one outside of being “affordable.” Just because something looks cheap, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be the best fit.

Here are some things that need to be under scrutiny when looking for a good provider:

  • Does the host offer unlimited space and bandwidth?The provider needs to be able to grow with the business.
  • Is there access to 24/7 tech support?Not every company keeps the same hours.
  • Is there access to a content delivery network?Speed is vital when scoring with search engines and visitors.
  • What do reviews tell about the service from the provider?Customer reviews and testimonials can give great insight to the host.

These are only a handful of things that need to be considered. Everything from accessing VPS hosting to overall functionality of the provider needs to be addressed before committing.

Step 2: Create a Backup of the Site

Once the provider has been established, it’s time to start packing. Before any move, developers need to back up their websites. This provides a level of protection should something happen during the transfer. It’s a good practice to get into as it can help recover from disasters of any kind.

Backups can be easily created through a variety of tools. If website owners are using content management systems such as WordPress, these backups can be created with simple plugins. For example, the Backup and Restore Dropbox plugin will automatically send files and the database to the Cloud-storage platform Dropbox.

Using File Transfer Protocol programs like FileZilla can also be of great benefit. This system is free and will let users create a complete copy of the website on their computers. Just don’t forget to log into phpMyAdmin and export the database as well if there is one.

Step 3: Copy or Clone to New Location

After the backup is complete, users can now safely start copying data or cloning the site to the new host. This has potential to be a long process depending on the number of files and the size of the database. It can take anywhere from a few moments to more than an hour.

Of course, speed of the hosting providers will also play a part in how long this transfer takes.

If the website is based in WordPress, Joomla or Drupal, it may be possible to simply use a plugin or module to copy the entire site. Many of these tools will also grab the database while making adjustments in the system’s code for the new host. Many of these additions are free to use and are often part of the backup tools mentioned earlier.

Step 4: Change the Name Servers

When the files and database has been moved to the new host, it’s time to change the name servers. While some hosting providers will do this for the developer, these changes may be up to the owner. Using the name servers provided by the new host, site owners need to change these domain locations with the registrar.

It’s like telling the post office where to send the new mail. Without changing the name servers, visitors will still be sent to the old hosting account. Once this host is deactivated, visitors will then receive a 404 File Not Found error.

The reason name servers should be among the last changes to make during a transfer is to prevent a loss of traffic. Let’s say that someone changed the server to reflect the new host before the website was copied. Visitors and search engines alike my not see the new site. This could impact future visits as well as affect search engine results.

Step 5: Verify Content Transfer

Before deactivating the old hosting account, it’s important to verify all files were copied without a problem. Once the old host is gone, it may be almost impossible to retrieve important files or data. That is, unless a backup copy was created.

What if something was wrong with a backup as well? As redundant as it may seem, keeping the old host active for the time being gives developers a way to ensure the entire site has been moved. Some experts believe the old host should remain running until the account expires on its own.

In reality, verifying all components of the site were copied safely shouldn’t take a lot of time. If the site was relatively small, it may only take a few hours to quickly scan through the content. The length of time to keep the old host active is really up to the user. However, it’s important to understand the risks of doing so even if they are remote.

In the end..

All too often, people try to rush a moving procedure when they transfer a website. This can easily lead to losing data, corrupted pages and lost traffic. By following these steps, one can deliver a seamless transition visitors may not even realize. After all, a single second of downtime can result in lost income or even search result ranking.