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How to switch web hosts

Sick of your hosting? Wondering how to switch web hosts without creating downtime for your site? I’m here to help. Many people stick with a bad web host just because they don’t want to go through the pain of moving all of their pages and data to a better one. If you follow the steps on this page, however, the experience of switching web hosting should be a pleasant one with minimal downtime. You may want to buy the champagne for celebration right now. With these instructions, you can switch web hosting with the least number of problems.

Process to switch web hosts

  1. Collect login details. In order to switch web hosting, you need to make sure you have the login details for everything that will need to be changed. This includes your current web hosting account, your domain registrar (where you registered the domain name), and your FTP login details.
  2. Find a new host. Make sure you research properly to find a web host that meets your needs. You don’t want to switch from one crappy web host to another crappy web host. Make a list of all the web host features that you need and then use the Web Hosting Wizard to find the best hosting plan for your needs. You may want to call a potential new host to verify that they support your particular scripts, check on their money-back guarantee, or see if they have any special suggestions for when you switch. When buying the new hosting, make sure you don’t move the domain name yet.
  3. Download your site files from your current host. Login with FTP and copy all of your site files (HTML, PHP, images, etc.) to your local computer. Keep the same directory structure. You will also want to backup a copy of the database and make note of all the email addresses you have set-up. If you have an SSL Certificate, ask to get a copy of it and the private key, otherwise you will have to have your new host create a new key and reissue your certificate with your SSL certificate provider.
  4. Upload the files to your new host. Transfer all of the files to your new host using FTP. You may need to change the file permissions on certain files. Create new databases and import your database backup. Create your email accounts and adjust any other settings. Let your new host know if you are having any problems. It is good to test their support at this point anyway.
  5. Test your site. When you first buy hosting, you won’t be able to access the site on your new web host using the domain name but you can access it using the IP address or a subdomain (e.g. that your new web host gave you. Make sure to test all of the functions (database, email, user registrations) and ensure that they all still work. If you hardcoded the domain name into any links or forms (e.g., change them to be relative (e.g. /form_page.php).
  6. Update your domain name’s name servers. Pick a day and time when your site receives the least traffic (such as a weekend) and log in with your domain name registrar (Network Solutions, Godaddy, Enom, etc.) and find the option to change the name servers (DNS servers). They are currently pointing to the name servers at your old host. Change them to the name servers of your new host (your new host should have emailed you this information). This will tell your visitors’ browsers to go to the new IP address when they enter your domain name but it can take several hours for everyone to get the new information. You can make a page on the new host and try to visit it so you know when your browser has switched over to the new web host.
  7. Cancel your old web host account. After you are sure everything is working smoothly with your new web host (you may want to wait at least a week), cancel your hosting with your old web host.

Switching hosts can be complicated if you have a big, dynamic site but, if you follow the steps carefully, you can switch web hosting like a pro. Find the best web host using the Hosting Wizard.

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