moving webhosts

This morning a client emailed me excited that she found a great sale on a new web host…with a few clicks, her website would be transferred. Or would it?

It’s not difficult to transfer your WordPress website from one host to another, but it is important to make sure you move all the pieces and it’s better for your site visitors if you do them in a certain order. Each situation will be slightly different — your WordPress configuration, where you’re moving from, and where you’re moving to are different. Each webhost provides access to different tools. Yes there are other ways to do this but here are the general steps I recommend:

  1. Clean up your themes and plugin files. Delete the inactive ones. For your WordPress theme, you should keep your current theme (and parent if required) and one default (they’re all named for the year, I still like TwentySixteen).
  2. Backup and download your database! There are plugins that will do this if you aren’t comfortable using other tools. Make sure you save a copy on your computer (or your favourite cloud directory).
  3. Download the following key WordPress files and directories at a minimum: wp-config.php, current theme (and parent if required), plugins, and uploads.
  4. Next setup WordPress on the new host, create the database and install the core WordPress files. I know you can’t see your site yet. That’s ok. Make note if the new host changes your database name or your username.
  5. Edit the wp-config.php on the new host – do you have a custom table prefix? Make sure it’s accurate.
  6. Transfer the theme, plugins, and uploads to their appropriate locations.
  7. Import the database!
  8. Now transfer the domain and edit the DNS settings for the new host.
  9. After the DNS changes have propagated (this can take a few minutes up to 48 hours) look at your site and log in and make sure everything’s working as expected. I like to refresh my permalinks.

Congratulations you did it!

Individually these are simple steps. Many you may be doing already as part of your regular maintenance of your website. They do add up and can feel overwhelming.

What happens if you do them in a different order? This method allows for a mostly seamless transition from your old webhost to the new one. In other words, your website visitors shouldn’t notice unless you tell them. If you change DNS first your site visitors might see a “coming soon” starter page instead of your website.

Are there surprises? Always. Backup your files, and step through the process. This will help keep the disruptions and stress to a minimum.

Additional Resrouces

As this is a common occurrence others have written on it.