It’s finally happened: the chance has come up to migrate your WordPress site to a new host.
There are a variety of reasons why you may need to choose a new hosting service. Factors like cost, uptime, storage, and others can have an impact on this decision. Maybe you chose a so-so host in the past, and it has limited what you have been able to do with your website. Hosting can have a big effect on your page speed, security, scalability, support, and search engine results to name just a few examples.
Switching web hosts is never an easy decision, and there are so many options on the market it can be hard to know where to start. It’s also possible that you may simply have outgrown your original web host provider.
Moving your WordPress site to a new host can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. While there are some risks to contend with, it is possible to take on the process yourself. Many people prefer to pay professionals to move their site for them or look for a host that has WordPress migration services on offer because they are too afraid to take it on themselves. However, by following all the steps carefully, you can find out how to migrate your WordPress site with little to no downtime and have a new domain up and running in no time.
Ready to get started? We’ll take you step-by-step through the process of migrating your WordPress site to a new host in this article.
Back-Up Your Website
The first step to take prior to migrating the site is to make sure that everything is backed up – this should be done any time you are preparing to make major changes. The very last thing you want to do is migrate your site only to have something go wrong and no way to revert it. Depending on the type of site you have, this back-up can take some time to complete. The more data you have, the longer this process will take.
There is usually a lot of data that will need to be moved with an existing website, and luckily there are plugins you can use to backup your site for you before you start the migration. With WordPress, every time that you install a new add-on, it changes the “eco-system” of your website. Having a back-up of these is essential, because with migration to a new web host, just in case compatibility issues arise.
VaultPress and Duplicator are two such plugins that can automate backups, transfer or duplicate your site and allow you to restore it if anything goes wrong. Backup plugins like these can replicate your built-in settings, installed themes and plugins, and migrate them along with the rest of your site data. VaultPress has added security benefits such as automated file repair, file scanning, and spam defense, while Duplicator Pro enables you to access cloud storage, multi-threaded support, and more for your WordPress site.
If you’re unable or unwilling to use a plugin (especially a paid one) it is possible to do this type of backup manually. This, in short, involves using a file transfer tool (known as FTP) like FileZilla for PC or Transmit 5 for Mac. Once all your files have been backed-up and downloaded, you can focus more of your attention on the rest of the database.
Export Your WordPress Database
The next step is to export your WordPress database – this can be done by logging in to the cPanel of your web server and opening the phpMyAdmin application. From there, choose the database that holds your WordPress data and export it. You need the default settings of the ‘Quick’ export as well as the SQL format.
To do a manual migration, start with your FTP as mentioned above. Use it to move the files of your site to your local computer and then upload them to the new host. If possible, try to create a ZIP archive of your site files, because transferring one large file will be faster than transferring tons of smaller files. From there, you will need to migrate your database. Once you’ve downloaded or exported all of the data you need, you can create a new database on your new hosting account and import your data to it.
Once the FTP has been completed you can move on to the next step, which is all about working with your new hosting service.
Importing To The New Host
With your exports and files in hand, it’s time to upload them to the new web host. You can start this process by connecting your new web host using the FTP you’ve set up. Under normal circumstances, you would enter your WordPress domain name as the host when you connect the FTP client. The problem is that your domain name is likely still directed towards the old host, so you’ll need to connect using the server IP address or hostname. This information is available on the cPanel of your new hosting account.
This import may take some time depending on the database size you are working with. You should get a success message once the import has successfully concluded.
Some hosting services will provide additional support or migrating services to help you make the transition. Don’t be afraid to rely on these services in order to make sure your import goes smoothly.
Accessing Your New Site
You can access your newly imported WordPress site temporarily on your computer through host files. These host files are then used to set up domain names with specific IP addresses. From there you need to add a domain name entry in the host file, pointing to the new hosting solution you’ve selected.
These changes should enable to you access your WordPress site files on the new host with the right domain name, while your old site stays intact, ensuring constant uptime. Keeping your website up consistently is key; not only does it protect the professional image of your business, but it also helps you to avoid losing sales and leads. Uptime is just as important for your search engine rankings – Google, for example, imposes strict ranking penalties on sites that are unable to stay consistently live.
Once you’ve confirmed that the new site is correct, you can move on to replacing the old domain completely. The next step is to make sure all your links and files are pointing towards your new domain, instead of the old one.
Replacing The Old Domain
This is the stage in which most errors can occur. Files can be easily lost, there can be downtime during migration, phpMyAdmin can time out or your post URL’s may stop working. These problems can be troubleshot and fixed, provided you know how to approach them. If an error comes up, do some research.
The chances are good that other site owners will have run into the same issue and shared their solution online. This is also what makes that back-up from step one so important – you want to be sure that you have a copy of all files in case of any issues. Having a back-up also gives you the peace of mind that should you play around a bit with the site settings, you won’t be doing more damage than good.
A common issue found when migrating sites is that site links and images point to a URL on the server, which doesn’t work on the new domain. You’ll want to look for these issues that are connected to your old domain name and replace them with the new domain. Check out the Search Replace DB script on Github made for this purpose – just be sure to double-check that everything is correct before moving on.
Another issue that often comes up has to do with versioning. If you’re not using the most recent version of WordPress, or your plug-ins and themes, you can also run into trouble. Plug-ins, in particular, are notorious for causing site crashes and errors, which is why it’s important to vet them carefully. You can minimize the impact by ensuring that you are using plug-ins that are updated regularly by developers and that you keep them updated on your system.
You’ll need to pay attention to additional details like whether your SSL certificate has successfully updated and been added to the new domain.
Finally, you need to update the site URL. This involves searching and replacing any instances of the old domain with the new one and altering the site URL. This can be a timely process, but luckily WordPress supports an automatic relocation method that can help relocate a site from server to server quickly. Moving a WordPress site to a new domain doesn’t have to be that tricky after all!
From there, you want to be sure to test your new site thoroughly. Should any issues come up, it’s better for you to discover them than it is for a customer to. Some tools like Plesk offer features that allow you to preview your new site before the domain is redirected.
If you’ve been thinking about moving to a new web host but weren’t sure how to get started, have no fear. The process of migrating your WordPress site may seem daunting at first, but when broken down into simple steps it becomes more easily approachable. There are many tools available out there that can assist you with WordPress migration services, but there is also no reason why you cannot attempt to do so yourself, as long as you are armed with the right knowledge.
The key is to be thorough and check everything carefully throughout the process. The most important thing you can do when migrating your WordPress site to a new host is to be thorough. Take the time to make the back-ups you need, and do your due diligence in terms of what needs to be done. Once you’ve gone through all the steps, be sure to do the most important one: test, test, test. Correct any issues needed before setting the site to live, and voila you are done!
Don’t be afraid to rely on a website transfer service if you are not as technically-inclined. Just be sure to look for companies that can transfer websites but also have a good reputation and plenty of reviews.
By using some of the resources listed in this article, you can move your WordPress site to a new host within a day.