Migrating to a new host can be a complex process that comes with potential risks. However, with the right approach, you can avoid the pitfalls and ensure a smooth transition. In this article, we will take a closer look at the risks involved and provide you with a step-by-step guide to migrating your website successfully.
Reasons to move to a new host
Migrating a website is often necessary when you are looking to upgrade to a better hosting plan or change your web host. You may want to do this if you find that poor performance or issues with reliability are affecting your website or if you have found a new host that provides better security, support and service.
Is migration risk-free?
Changing your hosting provider requires moving your website from the server of one host to that of another. This can be technically challenging and can present a number of risks. The most significant risk is that the process may not be executed correctly, resulting in your website not functioning correctly or even going offline. Losing your website’s data during the migration is also a possibility, so having a working backup that you can restore from is absolutely vital. Additionally, if you don’t handle the migration correctly, it can affect your website’s search engine performance, resulting in fewer visitors. To mitigate these risks, below is a step-by-step guide to ensure a smooth website migration.
- Keep your existing website online
To avoid issues affecting your users, keep your current hosting plan in place and your website online until you are certain that the new site is functioning properly with your new host.
- Create a copy of your website
Start the migration by copying your existing website and uploading it to the new server. This will allow you to test the performance of the site in its new hosting environment and identify any necessary changes. To keep your existing site operational during this time, perform this step on a different domain or subdomain.
- Prevent search engine indexing
Having both your existing site and new test site indexable can cause issues with your SEO. For this reason, you should prevent the test site from appearing in search engine results until the migration process is finished. Blocking search engine crawlers can be achieved by editing your robots.txt file, password-protecting your files and using a no-indexing tag.
- Ensure the new site works properly
Now you have transferred your site and blocked search engines, the next step is to test that there are no technical errors and that the site performs as expected. To do this, verify that all user interactions work correctly, including searches, menus, links, logging into user accounts and completing purchases. Additionally, check that all pages, posts and links load, display and perform properly on different browsers and devices.
- Check that Google can crawl the site
Though search engine access to the test site was blocked in step 3, once you are sure that the site is performing properly, Google should be given temporary access to find out if the site can be indexed once it goes live. You can check this by looking for indexing errors on the temporary domain in your Google Search Console account. It is important that the site can be crawled and indexed to prevent issues with website ranking. After successfully checking the indexing, block search engine access once again.
- Test site speed
Ideally, you want your site to load faster on the new server than on the old one. To check this, you can compare the speeds using Google’s PageSpeed Insights. If you have chosen a better hosting solution, such as moving from shared hosting to VPS, the improved server performance will accelerate site loading and response times, resulting in a better user experience and higher website ranking.
- Update DNS settings
Now that you know your new website works properly and performs well on its new server, it is time to connect it to the live domain instead of the test domain. To do this, you will need to change the DNS settings to point to the new server’s IP address. Doing this will direct users to the site hosted with your new web host instead of the old one. To ensure no errors are made, contact your hosting company to make this change for you.
- Re-allow search engine indexing
Once the DNS settings have been changed, remove the robots.txt file changes, password protections and no-indexing tag to unblock search engine crawlers. This will then enable your site to continue to be indexed on the new server. Once again, check if this is happening on Google Search Console.
- Test redirects
If you have any redirects in place, check that they are still working properly on the new server and there are no 404 errors.
- Conduct tests again
For peace of mind, it is always a good idea to carry out all the tests done in step 4 again, once the site is live.
- Close old hosting account
Once you are completely satisfied that the migration has been successful and there are no issues, you can then proceed to close your account with your old host. As part of this process, you may want to transfer your domain registration from your old host to your new host.
Migrating your website to a new host can seem overwhelming, but following the steps outlined above can make the process less daunting and increase the chances of a successful transfer.
If you are considering moving your website to Webhosting UK, you’ll have 24/7 technical support to help you with all aspects of migration and any other hosting issues you might have. For further information about our hosting solutions, visit our website.