How to Change Web Hosting Providers without Downtime?

When you’re dissatisfied with the services of your web hosting provider, you’re usually left with no other choice but to move to another host. There may be other reasons as well for switching hosts such as your website’s requirements may change and upgrading to a different website hosting plan is not available at your current host (e.g. the host may only provide shared hosting plans). Whichever the reason, changing hosting providers can be a stressful time since you want to avoid the risk of any downtimes associated with migrating to another host.

Knowing when and what to do can go a long way in minimising any potential problems. Before we go into the details of the when and how, it’s important to make sure you don’t cancel your current hosting account before securing another host and completing the transfer. The premature cancellation of your current account can make the transition more complicated than it should be.

Follow these easy steps to change web hosting providers without downtime:

1. Download/backup all your files

Since you will want all your current website’s files when you move to your new host, you either have to download them through FTP or through any publishing software you might have used to upload your files originally. The good thing about publishing software is that they retain the original directory structure used on the server. If you have a cPanel based control panel at both your hosts, you can easily use the backup page to download the full site backup and then restore the files to your new server.

If you have dynamic content and database interactions on your website, you can also export the databases. Most hosts will provide a means to dump your database into a SQL file. To secure your databases in cPanel, go to the same Backup page used to export the full site backup.

2. Create a new account at another host

Secure hosting at another hosting company. Make sure you choose a reputable hosting company with a good uptime track-record. Ideally, you should opt for a hosting company that allows you to upgrade your account whenever and which uses the latest software and hardware technologies. Look into their customer support responsiveness and any other aspects that you might consider important for a good hosting experience to avoid any of the issues that determined you to change hosting providers in the first place.

3. Transfer/upload files to your new host

Now that you’ve secured a new home for your website, you can initiate the transition process and upload/restore all your files to your new host. If you have to transfer databases as well, just create them and import them to your new host. In case of third-party open-source applications, you may need to change installed path of the application.

4. Create/migrate email accounts to the new server

Apart from website downtimes, email disruptions can also be a setback for your business. There are many ways to go about migrating email accounts, depending on where your emails are hosted at. If they are hosted on the old server, simply recreate the email accounts and configure them on the new server. If your email is hosted with the domain registrar, change the A record and point it to your new host’s IP address. If your emails are hosted with a third party (e.g. Microsoft 365), then you need to update the MX records in your DNS.

If both your hosts use cPanel, your emails will be moved together with the full backup of your site.

5. Check to see if everything is in order

Before you change nameservers, test your site for any problems that may have surfaced during the migration. A preview of your website is available via a temporary URL or IP address, or even a development staging platform that will allow you to preview your site and solve any issues that may have appeared. One thing to note when switching from a Windows host to a Linux host is case sensitivity. Directory and file names with Linux host are case sensitive, so make sure to keep this in mind.

6. Change nameservers

For this step, you need to log into your registrar’s web interface, locate the domain name server page and use the new data provided by your new host to change the old DNS records.

7. Wait for DNS propagation to take place

Usually, it takes up to 48 hours for the DNS changes to take effect. During this time, closely monitor your website and avoid adding content or making changes since these can result in loss of data. While the DNS propagates, some visitors will see your website at your old host, while others will see the new site. Downtimes will most likely not be an issue, however, if you have an ecommerce site or you have dynamic content with databases, you may need to program the old host to use the database on the new host, and retrieve emails from both the old and new host.

8. Cancel your old host

If you’re done carrying out all the steps detailed above, make sure to check again to see if everything is in order with your site and that it’s accessible to everyone. Now that you’re all settled in at your new host, you can go ahead and cancel your old hosting plan and look forward to having a better hosting experience this time around.

You shouldn’t settle for a sub-par hosting provider, even if you’re scared of things going wrong during the migration process. If you’re worried about not getting it right on your own or you don’t have experience with switching hosts, check to see if your prospective hosting provider offers free no-downtime migration services. Some hosts like InMotion or HostGator have this service for free, others like BlueHost will undertake this task for a fee. Whether you opt to change your web hosting provider on your own or with the assistance of your new host, changing hosts without downtime can be achieved.

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