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Switching Web Hosts – Why And How
By: Rich Smith
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    When you first sign up with a hosting provider, you may think that it is a permanent arrangement. After all, you spent a lot of time researching different hosting providers and evaluated their offerings. You have the perfect host for your situation.

    This is not always true. Sometimes you come to find out that your web host just cannot live up to their promises. Alternatively, your website might have become so popular that your current web host just cannot handle the sheer volume or scalability that you now need.

    Lets face it; there are many reasons to switch web hosts, both pleasant and unpleasant. If done right, it can be accomplished with relative ease.

    First, you need to take the time to shop around for a new hosting provider. It may help to make a list of the features you need for your website, as well as any that you feel you might need in the near future. When evaluating new hosting providers, compare the available features of each one with the list that you have created. You will undoubtedly find at least a few that offer packages that will fit your needs. Be sure to investigate their options for scalability and support as well.

    After you have made your selection, contact the host to make arrangements. During the signup process some companies want to transfer the domain to their servers immediately. Make arrangements to transfer the domain at a later date. You may have to contact the web host directly to accomplish this, since most automated sign-ups do not accommodate such a request.

    Now that you have a new web hosting account, make a fresh backup of all your content on your original website. Backups are something that should be done on a frequent basis, but that is a topic for another time. Make sure that you have backed up all of the information needed to run your site. This includes HTML, scripts, images, database files, downloads, etc.

    Once you have backed up all of your data, it is time to upload it all to your new website. Since you have not transferred your domain name yet, you will either have to use an IP Address to access your website, or some kind of sub-domain (i.e., http://www.webhosting.com/yournewwebsite). Using an FTP program or another method, upload all of the required files to your new web account. It may be necessary to have your new provider make security modifications to files or folders in your account, depending on the provider and your website requirements.

    It’s now time to test. Test your website very thoroughly on your new server. Try every option and click every link. I know this seems like a lot of work, but it is necessary. The last thing you want to do is switch over to your new web host and have problems right away. Testing everything will ensure that the transition will go more smoothly for you and your website visitors.

    After fixing any problems you encountered while testing your site you will want to transfer over any content from your original web host that may have change while you were setting up and testing your new service. It is important to make sure the two sites are completely in sync, since you are now about to enter the transition period of your domain transfer.

    I refer to it as a transition period, since it is the easiest way to describe it. When everything is tested and ready, you will need to notify your new hosting provider that you are ready for them to transfer the domain name to your new account. Your hosting provider will make it so your domain name now points to their name servers. The problem with this is that it is not an immediate process. Once the changes have been made, it can take as long as 10 days for the changes to propagate completely throughout the Internet.

    Since it can take so long for the changes to completely propagate, or spread throughout the Internet, you may not only need to keep both web accounts functional but completely synchronized as well. There is no telling when a visitor types in the URL for your website, which one that they are going to hit. So, for at least one week after the transfer of the domain name, you will be in the transition period between the two providers.

    This transition period is not only for your website. It can also affect your other services such as email. You may need to check email for your website on both services for the duration of the transition period. As a matter of fact, any service of your website that can be located using the domain name is affected by propagation, so be sure to take those cases into consideration.

    After your transition period, your new provider will now be handling all of your site traffic. It is now appropriate to discontinue your old web service. One final backup is recommended, just in case there is something that slipped through the cracks and did not get transferred to the new web provider.
    In the case you find yourself in need of a new hosting provider, following the above guidelines will help you complete the transfer with a minimal margin for error.

    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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