Changing Web Hosts and Avoiding Downtime

By Digital Pulse Hosting
2004-03-14 19:12:38
Some web masters cringe at the thought of moving their web site to another hosting provider, but the reality is that it is not so difficult. This guide was designed to help you migrate your site smoothly and with minimal downtime.

General Guide

Backup your current web site files to your computer.

Using an FTP program or whatever web development tool you are used to such as FrontPage download all your current web site files. Be sure to download all the pages, images, and anything else that may be used on your site. While you are doing this you need to ensure that you are maintaining the correct directory structure. For example, if your image files reside in the /images folder on your web site then you need to make sure that you download them to a directory called /images also.

If your site uses a database remember to make a backup of that too. CPanel includes a tool called phpMyAdmin which can be used to export your database tables to a text or zip file.

You should make a copy of this backup and store it seperately. You can then make any changes neccessary to your original copy to get it to work on your new server and keep the archived backup incase you mess something up.

Record any account information you will need later

Keep a textfile or a notebook to record any settings such as your POP mail accounts, email forwarders, etc, that you will need to recreate later.

You may also want to use your control panel to create an email forwarder to forward all emails you receive at your old account to an alternative POP account you have, such as one provided by your ISP. This will prevent emails being stored on your old account until your DNS settings are updated, then the email settings on your new account will take effect.

Signup to your new hosting plan.

Select which hosting plan you would like and signup. Shortly after you will receive a welcome email containing details of your account. The email will also include a temporary IP address that you can use to access your new account while your domain name still points to your old account.


  • An FTP Program.
  • Your new host's DNS server information.
  • The temporary URL for your account.
  • A copy of the installation guide for any scripts you use in case copy them does not work and you need to reinstall them.
  • If your website uses Perl/CGI/PHP scripts then you should create a list of any server settings and server modules you require and ensure they are installed on the new host. See your script's installation guide for a list of any required modules.

Inform your website visitors

It is good practice to inform your visitors of the move in case there is any down time and you can also provide an alternative email address to help prevent losing any emails from them.

Upload your web site files to your new host.

Use the FTP program to upload your files to your new account using the temporary IP address from your welcome email. You can also login to your CPanel account with this IP. CPanel will allow you to import your database backup if you have one, and you can also recreate your email accounts (although they will not be used until your DNS records are updated).

Verify your site has uploaded correctly.

Visit your site using the temporary URL in your web browser and check as many pages as you can.

There may be some broken images or other problems relating to the temporary directory structure. For example, some of your pages make try to include /images/logo.jpg but if your temporary URL is then /images/logo.jpg would not be found (it would instead be found at /~yourusername/images/logo.jpg). These errors are only temporary and will disappear as soon as the domain name resolves to your new host.

You need to be aware of more significant errors such as database errors, or scripts that do not run correctly. You will need to solve any of these problems before changing the DNS records.

Update your domain name records.

This step will require you to login to your registrar. This is the site where you originally registered your domain name. You need to change the primary and secondary name server fields. Enter in the new name server addresses that were given to you in your welcome email from your new host. After you update your records the changes will take between 24-48 hours to propogate throughout the internet.

Monitor both accounts

For the next week you should monitor both accounts. You need to ensure that all traffic and emails are being correctly sent to your new server account. You should be able to visit your old account using it's temporary URL that you received in your old account's welcome email. Check logs/statistics to ensure traffic is going to your new host. When you are satisfied you can cancel your old account.

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