Feb 222011

From time to time we need to pick up our sites and move to a new web host. There are several things that can go seriously wrong when you move to a new web hosting provider and here are some tips on how to fix a couple of those. Some of the issue that you encounter with the old host may involve:

  • There is some kind of problem with the site that the customer service can’t deal with, such as email issues.
  • The company has moved/changes/sold out and the new situation is inferior to the old one.
  • You’ve outgrown the old service
  • The old host decided to kick you off, for whatever reason
  • and so on.

Setting up a New Server

Setting up the new server correctly will easily solve most of these problems. First, set up the new server with your new hosting service and your existing main domain name details (but do NOT change the DNS settings – yet). You will still be able to access everything on the new host by IP, by using something like YourNewIpAddress/~YourAccountName, or by their domain, possibly like this: NewHost’sName/~YourName. They will be able to inform you of the exact access address.

Upload a copy of your site to the new host and make sure you can access it using that address. Once the new server is set up have your site uploaded, you can then park a different domain name at that server. For example, most servers with cPanel allow you to easily park one – or more – domains on top of an existing one (they’re usually called “addon domains”.) If you don’t happen to have a spare/unused domain name you can use, it won’t cost much to register a new domain just for this purpose.

Once you have the new domain registered, the one you will be parking at the new host, make sure that the DNS information for the domain at your domain name registry points to the new server. Once you can see your new web site under the new domain name, test it completely,  to make sure all the interactive routines – i.e. search routines, contact forms, forums, pages, etc., work as they should.

Once you are 100% certain that it works properly, and you’ve got your email sorted out (see next bit) then you can get ready to have the DNS for your main domain name changed to point to the new server. BIG TIP: Make a small change to the NEW home page so you can easily tell which site (old or new) you are looking at in your web browser. When you can see the change, it means your DNS has been updated.

How Not to Lose Any Email

Once you have changed your main domain name to the new host a problem is that it can take some time for that change to go through – up to 72 hours or longer for it to propagate across the whole Internet. During that time, some of your customers will be seeing the OLD version of your site, and if they send you email, it can be delivered to the OLD server, and you might not be able to check it because your ISP has updated the DNS and you can only see the new server.

This is easily fixed: at the old server, which you can still access using the IP address methode (shown above,) simply set up a forwarding (or redirection) for each of your emails that will send all of your your mail to your existing ISP email account, or perhaps even a new gmail type address. Once your domain name is fully transfered to the new host your email should be reliably arriving at the new domain.

If you don’t use your domain name for your email, because your already use gmail (or whatever) anyway, then you won’t need to change anything. If you do use your domain for email then you can set up Outlook (or whichever email program you use) to pick up emails from your gmail account in addition to your domain account. If the access information to the email account on the new server are the same as on the old server then you shouldn’t need to do anything with your email settings.

Between your regular email accounts and the gmail “inbetween” account you should have access to all of your email.If your new host uses different access codes for their email system (which will be the case if the old and new hosts have different types of control panels or operating systems) then you will need to update your email reader appropriately.

While the DNS System is Updating

If everything’s been set up correctly, then while the DNS is updating, several things will happen:

  • Any email being sent to the old server will be redirected to your ISP email address or gmail.
  • Any email that’s sent to the NEW server is ALSO being redirected to your ISP address, so you won’t lose any email during this period.
  • Your email client should keep checking the old server until the DNS change goes through. When that happens, it will most likely display an “unable to connect” error message, if the access codes are different, or it will seemlessly make the transition if they are the same.
  • Now, check to make sure you can see your new server in your web browser under your old domain name.
  • If you haven’t already, then change your email settings in Outlook to the new server settings and check that it works for both sending and receiving.
  • Now remove the redirections from the old and new servers, but keep the gmail account, just in case.

Finally, in about another week or so, contact your old hosting provider and close your account. It’s an important step, but so many people forget to do it, until they get re-billed for another month (and lots of luck trying to get a refund.)

 Posted by at 1:18 pm