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The best way to transfer a website seamlessly

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Gather your registration data

Before starting your website transfer, you will need to gather your account ID and password for your current web host and domain registrar. It’s a good idea to write these down somewhere as you will need them throughout the transfer process. Don’t forget to log any credentials to third-party apps and plugins that your website currently depends on such as Google AdSense or Analytics. Even if you’re not changing registrars you’ll need access to your registrar account to change the DNS settings.

Create a backup of your website

Depending on what platform you run your website on, you’ll need an application to backup all of your website content. Many websites are now run on WordPress CMS, which can be easily backed up using a utility like BackUpWordPress. Those using Joomla to run their website may want to check out the popular Akeeba Backup utility. If you have a static or dynamic HTML/PHP/JavaScript website then you can simply download copies of the folders containing your data from your old host. This is often accessible through the File Manager in the admin or control panel of your host. Alternatively, this data can be downloaded through FTP with just a few clicks, if you’ve set up the proper FTP account permissions.

Don’t forget to download your databases as well as the media and other content present in your website’s server folders. Databases can be downloaded through the aforementioned backup utilities by selecting the database recovery options if you have a WordPress or Joomla website. 

Register with the new host

Now that you’ve created a backup of your website, it’s time to register with a new web host so you can transfer a website to it. Make sure to check the hosting provider’s specifications and plans to find a good fit for your website. This should take into account traffic (measured in bandwidth) and storage space required for your files. Make sure your account is active and you are able to log in and upload files before moving on in the process, as accounts sometimes take a few hours to activate. Make note of the name servers provided by your new host. This information is often found under an Account Settings tab.

Upload your website to the new host

Upload your website content, including databases, to your new host. This task can be automated through the Akeeba and BackUpWordPress apps mentioned above, or you can do it manually by locating the file manager utility on your new host. If you or a utility you’ve used have compressed the files when creating the backup you can wait for decompressing them after they have been uploaded. Check the file size of the folder on your new host to make sure it matches the file size of your content on the previous host, taking into account any file compression. This will ensure you haven’t lost any data in the process.

Making the DNS changes

At this point, your data exists as a copy on both your old host and the new host. Now it’s time to point your domain name to the new host so that users find the appropriate web server when visiting your site. Locate the options to transfer a website to your domain registrar’s administration panel. This may be simply labeled “DNS Settings.” Log into your new host and locate the name server information to redirect your domain to your new server. Fill this information in under the Name Server option in your registrar’s DNS or site transfer panel. 

Verify your transfer was successful 

DNS changes including the updating of name servers often take 72 hours to propagate across the web. You can try visiting your website through a new browser window, or clearing your cache in your web browser and seeing if the site loads properly. You can also use an online tool like Pingdom’s DNS Checker to make sure your site’s DNS has been properly configured. Once you can verify your site is loading from the new name servers you are fine to remove the website content and databases from your previous host.

These six small steps comprise a surefire method of seamlessly transferring any website or blog. By creating a backup of your website and uploading it to the new host before removing the original data, you’ll have the redundancy in place to protect yourself from lost data and downtime. Organizing your administration and registration information will ensure you won’t run into any snags when verifying ownership of your domain name and website content. By skipping these steps you could cause 72 consecutive hours of downtime on your website and possibly find yourself with lost data.

This is a guest post by Nicole Rockling.

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