Sometimes, a web host isn’t quite what you expected. Maybe you’ve been hit with a ton of unexpected, hidden fees. Maybe the level of performance they promised isn’t quite what they delivered. Maybe getting in touch with their customer support team is like pulling teeth.
Or maybe there’s nothing wrong with them at all – your website has simply outgrown what they can provide. Whatever the reason, you’re in the market for a new web host. But where exactly do you start?
Let’s talk about that.
Step One: Backups
The first thing you should do – before you even begin your search for a new host – is make sure all critical data on your website is backed up. Download each and every file and webpage on your site to your computer, and make sure to also record account details, configuration data, and security settings.
There’s always a chance that the move from one provider to another won’t go as planned. There’s also the chance that if you’ve chosen a bad host, they might get a little vindictive when they find out about your plan to swap. Better to take pre-emptive action and protect yourself now.
Step Two: Due Diligence
Now that all your critical data is safe and secure, it’s time to start searching for a new host (assuming you don’t already have one in mind).
It’s important that you perform as thorough a search as possible. After all, you wouldn’t hire an employee or sign a contract with a business partner knowing nothing about them. Why would you choose a web host without at least looking into who they are and what they do?
As you explore your options, we’d recommend focusing on the following:
- Online reviews. What are people saying about the host, and how has the host responded?
- Pricing. Are the host’s prices within your budget? Do they offer flexible packages or plans? Are they unusually cheap or expensive?
- Functionality. What do you need in a web host? What features or functions are absolutely essential?
- Language. What sort of uptime guarantee does the host offer? Do they make promises that seem too good to be true? What do their contracts look like?
- Opportunity for growth. Will this provider offer you the level of scale your website will need in the future?
Step Three: Inform Your Audience
Next up, you’ll want to post a brief announcement to your site’s visitors. Let them know that you’re in the process of performing an upgrade, and that they may experience some connectivity issues in the near future. If at all possible, establish a concrete schedule for the downtime.
If at all relevant, ensure your customers have a means of contacting your business even while your website is offline.
Step Four: Make The Switch
With the preparatory work done, it’s time for the real heavy lifting. You’ll want to export your website’s database and upload all the files and pages you downloaded in step one. Most web hosts provide a service to help you with site migration, so this need not be stressful or difficult.
The big challenge here lies not in the migration itself, but in ensuring all your assets are where you need them to be. It’s very easy for files, pages, and even entire directories to wind up misplaced when switching between hosts. We’ll talk a bit more on how you can keep an eye out for this issue in step six.
Step Five: Test The New Site
Now for the real meat and potatoes – testing. Before you finalize your site migration, it’s critical that you make sure everything is working as intended. Whether you’ve handled things yourself or put it in the hands of your web host, there’s always a chance that something might go wrong.
Be diligent and do the following, and you’ll be just fine.
- Monitor your site’s uptime and traffic
- Pore over every page to ensure all your graphics and assets are where they need to be
- Make sure every link points to the right place
- Test your forms to see that they’re still functional
- If you used any scripts on your old host, double-check to make sure it’s still working as intended
- Use a link checker to find broken links after manually browsing to ensure you haven’t missed anything.
Step Six: Update Your Domain Name Information
Once your new website is up and running, you’re going to want to change your DNS record. Talk to your hosting provider to get the information you need – in some cases, this might be as simple as asking your host to do it. However, even if you need to do this yourself, it’s not especially complicated.
Simply login to whatever domain registrar you’ve chosen and initiate the change. Once you’ve done so, it should only take a few days for the new domain to propagate.
Step Seven: Cancel Your Old Hosting Account
With all that out of the way, there’s only two things left to do. Contact your old web host to cancel your account, and enjoy your new host!