Changing Hosters: A Beginner’s Guide
The reasons to switch hosting providers are numerous and varied but a lot of times they fall down to a handful of consistent issues:
- Storage requirements
- Bandwidth requirements
- Customer service issues
- Moving from Shared to Dedicated Hosting, etc
Changing to a new hosting company is not a decision to be entered into lightly but it can be made easier when a few basic steps are taken that will save you a lot of time and headaches.
Don’t Run to a New Hoster
Keep your existing hosting account active and available during the transition. The last thing you want is for a mad rush over to a new server to happen and important settings becoming inaccessible because the old account was suspended too soon. The old account is a treasure trove of settings and configurations that have been modified and tweaked over the years of owning that account and a lot of those settings can be moved over to the new account to bring the new server up to speed with what you were experiencing prior to the migration.
Make a Backup
It is always advisable to keep a semi-current backup of your website on one of your own computers as an offline copy. If something happens to the “live” version or the migrating copy (especially when the new hoster provides migration services) then you have access to a most recent backup of your online contents.
Choosing the new Hoster
When looking at a new hoster one of the most overlooked, and misunderstood, aspects of choosing your new hoster is the type of Operating System (OS) the server you are planning to move to is running.
If your existing website is built on something like ASP, MSSQL, MSACCESS or other Microsoft-specific technologies you will absolutely need to secure a Windows-based hosting solution.
The alternative to a Microsoft-platform server is a Linux server. A Linux server supports nearly all other website technologies that are not Microsoft-specific.
Bandwidth and Diskspace
Bandwidth represents the amount of traffic allowed, typically on a monthly basis, to your website. Every page, file, download, and image on your website affects your bandwidth consumption. Most hosting packages are robust enough to allow a reasonably sized website to operate relatively smoothly with its base bandwidth support but it is a good idea to look at how much you’re currently using before committing.
To learn more about bandwidth please read our article Unlimited Band-Myth
Diskspace, however, represents how much capacity there is allotted to your account on your potential new hoster. A good reference is to reference how much space you are currently using to host your website files. An important detail to keep in mind is not just how much space you need for your website but also how your staff or associates will be accessing email. If the plan is to make use of the web hosters built-in email service you will need more space to hold weeks, months or even years worth of email.
Make a list of all of the email address you currently have so that they can also be set up on the new server. Be sure to take a look at any forwarders or aliases you are currently using and make note of them as they will need to be set up again.
Changing your DNS and Propagation
Once your website has been uploaded to your new hoster, your email accounts all re-created, and everything has been confirmed as ready to go you can change your DNS settings.
DNS settings are used by the Registrar of the Domain Name to find your website and the server it is hosted on. These DNS settings would be provided to you once you have registered for a new hosting account.
The new DNS will take between 24 – 72 hours to properly update to direct all new traffic requests for your website from your existing hosting provider to your new one. Keeping your old account active until this propagation is complete is the best way to make sure that things can go as smoothly as possible.
Cancel your Old Account
Once the new hoster is providing all of your email and hosting requirements and the DNS propagation has completed you can go ahead and cancel your old hosting account.