How to Relocate a WordPress Website?

WordPress Website - server & hosting relocation

When you need to relocate a WordPress website, there are multiple considerations to address. Moving a website to another server can be required for many different reasons.

Regardless of the “Why” factor, we can safely back up your website, relocate it to a new hosting account, reactivate it and test that all is working as it should be!

WordPress Site Migration

From time to time its necessary to relocate your website to another hosting company, perhaps;

  • A disagreement with the hosting company, due to having a hacked WordPress website on their server
  • A desire for better service at a lower cost
  • A need to physically house the site in a different country.

Regardless of the reason, we can help you move the entire site to its new location, install and configure it, and test its all working as it should be. We can also assist with;

  • Locating new hosting for you
  • Switching DNS (domain name server) records to point ot the new hosting location
  • Configuring hosting account – emails, anti-spam and more

Domain / website migration can be a complex procedure, especially the first time you need to do it, and having an expert to carry out the process for you can be a relief!

Primarily focused on how to migrate a WordPress website to another web server, most of the stages are similar for any database-driven site. A static HTML site is invariably less complicated.

Why Relocate your WordPress Website

Reasons for relocation are many and varied and can be as simple as discovering a much better deal elsewhere. Sometimes the move is driven by dissatisfaction, or a dispute, with the current hosting provider. Sometimes, the current provider may be unable to provide a specific service you require e.g. SSL Certificate, static IP address, or implementation of specialist software or services.

In some cases, your current supplier might be your website designer who has also provided your domain registration and hosting on a proprietary CMS system. Escaping from a situation like that can be slightly more awkward as that may preclude them giving you access to control panel and FTP. Worse, you might not find another service provider with a compatible system…

Regardless of the reason, its much easier to execute a move now than it was a decade ago, and there’s certainly plenty of hosting options to select from.  Some hosting companies even offer technical support to assist you with your move to their server. If not, I provide expert WordPress website hosting relocation services.

In general, most designers, hosting companies and registrars will respond in a professional manner to your requests for the information required to effect a website move. Doing otherwise places their business at risk, as the national domain registrar enforces compliance with the rules.

If the relocation to a new hosting provider requires transfer of your domain registration to a new registrar, that’s a complication but far from insurmountable. Choose your new provider and use their domain migration tools to initiate a change of registrar.  The old registrar is obliged to cooperate promptly, and will probably send you a verification email to ensure you authorised the change. The process is usually completed with a couple of days.

What You Need To Complete the Migration

Making a move requires three sets of basic information as follows.

Old Hosting Account Details

You will need the current hosting account Control Panel access in order to backup your database and/or your site’s files. You will also need access to FTP details, required to download the backups and site files.

New Hosting Account Details

You will need a new hosting account established and access details for both the Control Panel and FTP. Control panel access will allow you to create a new database if required, and FTP access is essential to quickly upload your site’s files to the new server. You also need the Domain Name Server details, usually provided with the documentation for you new account.

Domain Registration Account Details

You will need the access details for your account at your Domain Registrar’s website in order to make changes to the Doman Name Server (DNS) records. This is where you specify the location of the new hosting server for your domain.

IP Addresses of Old & New Server

To know when DNS propagation is completed, at some point you may find it useful to know the IP address of the current hosting location. If you are a windows user, enter CMD in the Start / Run box to open a command line interface.

Enter the command: ping +

– that will list the current IP address of your website – take a note of it.

How To get Started on the Migration

Assuming that you now have all of the required User ID and password details, proceed to backing up all aspects of your website. If possible;

  • Do a full site backup from your control panel and save that on your local PC
  • Do a database backup if you are using a CMS – such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal etc
  • Manually copy ALL site files from /public_html/ or /html_docs/ via FTP to your local PC

Backups are always a comfort and reassurance when you start fiddling… Ensuring you have the files stored locally is important because once you change the DNS server records, you lose access to anything left behind on your old server. Prudence and experience suggests that you cannot have too many backups, but you most certainly can have too few!

WordPress Site Migration Tools

WordPress users will find that there are several site migration tools available. The one I have been using for the past few years Updraftplus. It’s a premium plugin with reasonable licensing costs – I’ve got the Developer’s License which allows unlimited use, ideal when providing website maintenance across many websites.

The New Hosting Location

When it comes to getting set up on the new hosting location, you have at least two options;

  1. Transfer Full Backup and restore it up on the new hosting location straight away under the correct Domain Name. Set the WordPress & Site Address to the correct domain name.
  2. Install a fresh WordPress version and Updraftplus via the temporary URL usually assigned in Cpanel systems . Transfer the Full Backups across via FTP to the required location, usually /wp-content/uploads/updraft/. Restore the Full Backups – Updraftplus replaces URLs as part of the restore.

Option 1 is far less complicated and leaves fewer residual issues (such as broken links, WordPress & Site addresses) to resolve after the migration. It does have the disadvantage of showing a generic or “under construction” Home page until such time as you run the Restore script.

Option 2 means that when the site is viewed on the Temporary URL, it is still referencing the old site for internal links etc. All menu links will point to the correct Domain Name. When DNS propagation occurs, everything should immediately work correctly. A “search and replace” may be needed to find links in slideshows, widgets etc.

In the scenario where you’ve redesigned the site on a development server AND are migrating it to new hosting for the launch, you should not be surprised to see the Home page link try and open the old site.

As soon as DNS propagation occurs, everything should work correctly.

Regardless, we need to check for broken internal links, missing images etc and fix up any that are broken. Often, some may be set to the temporary IP-based URL instead of the correct domain name. This particular issue can sometimes be messy, and is best resolved with the “Search & Replace” plugin – which in itself requires an additional degree of expertise and confidence!

In a temporary hosting environment, you are obliged to use a temporary Domain URL until such time as the DNS records are propagated. In that case, once DNS propagation is completed, you will need to edit the WordPress Admin / General  Settings for;

  • WordPress Address (URL)
  • Site Address (URL)

These will need to be changed from the temporary URL – (e.g. to the site’s correct domain name. Any residual “temporary” path links need to be fixed then because some hosting companies “expire” the temporary URL, breaking those internal links.

Updraftplus Migration

Updraftplus offers Backup, Restore and Migrate options and makes a complex process as easy as it could possibly be, in a series of logical steps;

  1. Do a Full Backup the website on its current hosting using Updraftplus
  2. Download the Full Backup to your PC
  3. Install WordPress and Updraftplus in the new hosting location
  4. Upload the backup to your new hosting location’s /updraft/ directory
  5. Restore the Backup – this converts URL’s as/if required to the new hosting location
  6. The final step removes the old plugind & themes directories and temporary files.

You may be able to transfer the files to the new hosting location directly via FTP, depending on server compatibility and security. In practice, there are fewer issues when FTP is used to first download backupsto your local PC and then upload those to the new location.

Static HTML Site Migration

This is far easier, because you don’t have the complication of database migration to deal with.

The New Location

When it comes to getting set up on the new hosting location, you simply transfer all the sites files and directories to the root directory – usually /public_html/

In a temporary hosting environment, you can open the site under a temporary Domain URL until such time as the DNS records are propagated. Be aware that any absolute links will point to the (correct) domain name, not the temporary IP-based URL.

Once DNS propagation is completed, everything should work as it did in the old hosting location. Static HTML sites are far less complicated and leave few if any issues such as broken links to repair.

When to Change the DNS Records at Your Domain Registrar

You are ready to edit the DNS records at the point when you have;

  • All the required access details for both hosting accounts
  • The new DNS records at hand
  • Full & Database backups plus a copies of all files safely in your possession on a local drive
  • Uploaded the Backup and Restored it to the new location
  • Tested for broken links and images

Log into your Domain account and locate the option to edit the DNS records. Change the existing records to the new values provided by your new hosting provider and save the settings.

DNS propagation may take up to 72 hours, depending on where you are located in relation to the server. Often, it occurs within an hour or two, and in most situations within 24 hours. There is no notification, and the easiest way to determine if its changed is;

  • Check the site and if the default ‘under construction’ page  or a listing of the Home directory loads then DNS records have directed you to the new location
  • Alternatively, for a static site, using the ping command again will tell you what the current IP address is…

After DNS Propagation

Once the site has been loaded into its new home, check it thoroughly for broken links, missing images etc.

Relocate a WordPress Website – Finishing Touches

If you successfully moved the site and everything is working as it should be, courtesy suggest that a note to your old hosting company is appropriate. Let them know your move has been done and thank them for their help and services. As part of any migration project, I offer a WordPress website website maintenance plan that ensures you always have pro-active management efforts ongoing.

WordPress Tech Support Services
Note: this is NOT a free service. Support for self-hosted WordPress websites is provided at $75 per hour…
Please let me know exactly how I can assist…

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