How to Move Your WordPress Site to a New Host or Server

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We recently discovered that the hosting provider of a customer’s website was woefully outdated. They were only offering up to PHP version 5.6 at the end of 2019. PHP is the language that WordPress is based on, and running an old version of PHP leaves your website vulnerable to security and performance problems. Security is one of the top reasons why users choose to move their WordPress website to a new host.

If your website loads slowly, despite your attempts to improve site speed, or if your site gets hacked, despite making concerted efforts to lock down your web security, you may also want to consider moving your website to a new host or server. Migrating your website can be stressful, and many WordPress users put off this change until it is absolutely necessary. But if your current web host is not giving you what you need, it may be time to move your website elsewhere.

Move your WordPress site to a new host

Option #1: Purchase a Migration Service

Before you begin your migrating your site, you will need to choose a new web host. [Read our guide to choosing a web host here.]

If you do not want to deal with the legwork and technicalities of migrating your site by yourself, you can purchase a new web host that offers a migration service. This may be a preferred option for busy business owners or beginners who are not familiar with what a host offers and how it’s set up. 

Several hosting platforms include a website migration service as part of their hosting package or for an additional fee. Once you sign up, the support team typically can transfer everything over within 24 hours. You will need to provide the support team with your old hosting login credentials (hostname, control panel login, and FTP login, etc.) 

Note: While your WordPress files and database are now at the new webhost, they won’t actually be served from the new provider until update your domain’s DNS record to point to the new host. In plain language, you need to connect your web address (www.yoursite.com) to the files on the computer’s owned by your new hosting company. A web host with good support documentation can help you update your personal computer’s hosts file in order to check everything out before the site is served to the world by the new provider. Once all systems are good, edit the DNS records and wait about 24 hours for the changes to propagate. Only then can you say adios to your old host.

Option #2: Manually Move Your Website 

Manually migrating your site will give you more flexibility in choosing a hosting company and can help save money. This option requires more work, but by following these steps, your site migration should proceed smoothly. 

  1. Sign up for a new web host
  2. Move your files, databases, and email accounts to your new host
  3. Test out the website on the new host’s server
  4. Adjust DNS records, and wait for the changes to propagate
  5. Check that everything moved over smoothly

Below, we will describe each step in greater detail.

Sign Up for a New Web Host

There are several hosting providers available, and you will need to evaluate which option is best for you based on factors such as cost, server space, customer service, and server configuration. 

You will also need to decide on the hosting package needed. Choices usually include shared hosting, dedicated hosting, managed WordPress hosting, or a virtual private server (VPS). 

Move Your Files, Databases, and Email Accounts to Your New Host

First, you will need to install WordPress on your new hosting platform. Each hosting interface will look slightly different, but many have a control panel with a clear button or link that indicates how to install WordPress automatically. Otherwise, you need to follow a few steps to install WordPress manually.

No matter which method you choose, in order to migrate your old website data, you will need to export your website database from your old host and move it to your new host. If you are using cPanel, you can do this easily with phpMyAdmin

Next, you’ll want to keep all of your custom files that have been updated for your particular website, that being your theme, images, plugins, etc. All of these will be in the wp-content folder. Take that entire folder from your old host and overwrite the new one. Make any necessary edits to the wp-config file to reflect new database or user names.

You can also move your database and files with the help of a WordPress plugin, such as Duplicator. Plugins can help simplify the process and ensure you do not miss any steps. 

The procedure for moving your email will depend on how your email is being hosted. If your email is hosted on your domain registrar, such as GoDaddy, simply log into your domain registrar, and change the A record to point to your new host’s IP address. If your email is being hosted by a third party, such as G Suite, you will need to ensure that your MX records are updated in your DNS settings. If your email accounts are being hosted by your old web host, you should download your email accounts and files from your old web host’s cPanel and upload them to your new web host. 

Once everything is transferred to the new web host’s account, update your personal computer’s hosts file in order to check that everything looks okay, and edit as needed.

Adjust DNS Records, and Wait for the Changes to Propagate 

DNS records are instructions for where to send users when they visit your website. When you move your WordPress website to a new host, you will need to point your website’s DNS records (A, AAAA, CNAME, MX) to your new host’s servers. 

Instructions for changing your DNS records will differ slightly for each web host, but you should be able to find guidance on your host’s website or by contacting their customer support. 

DNS changes can take anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days to propagate. During this propagation time, your website may experience some disturbances for up to 24 hours, so schedule this time wisely.

Test and Troubleshoot

After you have completed the migration, it is important to test that everything is working. Try pulling up the website on different devices and browsers. Send yourself test emails. Check for broken links and 404 errors.  After you have ensured that everything is working properly, you can cancel your old web host and enjoy your new hosting service! 

A Word to the Wise: Back Up Your Site First

Whether you decide to migrate your site manually or with a migration service, it is important to create a backup of your site before beginning the migration process. If something goes wrong during the migration, having a backup will allow you to easily restore your original files and start fresh. 

[Read more about creating an offsite backup here]

Conclusion

If you want to move your WordPress website to a new host or server, you will need to either purchase a migration service or manually move your website. A manual migration involves moving your files, databases, and email accounts to your new host, adjusting the DNS records, and testing. 

If you need assistance moving your WordPress website to a new host or want general site maintenance, contact us to learn how we can help.

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