How to Change Web Hosts with NO Downtime
Here is how to change your web host with no downtime, no loss of email and little frustration.
Step1 After a VERY frustrating last year with my previous host, I decided to make a change. I was not looking forward to this process, and, as one of those things I would not do often, I was concerned that something might go wrong. I’d hate to lose email and a real customer contact form reply from my site that got lost could cost me money. Or worse, that wink or reply from match.com that got lost in the ether might kill my social life. First step, find a new host. Be careful!! A lot of sites that claim honest host reviews are simply affiliates that get surprisingly large fees if you signup from clicking links on their pages. There are real honest reviews, but they are few and far between. Do you homework NOW. After all, how often do you want to go through this exercise? For example, my previous host gets glowing reviews almost everywhere I check. And yet, I have had excessive downtime and most often I discovered well before they did. FrontPage extensions would NOT work. Support was outsourced to Russia and had terse replies and often misunderstood my problem. On and on. I could not find any mention to that in any of the reviews of this particular host.
Step 2 So, now you have found the host with the features, plan, reputation you can live with. Now what? Switch hosts with NO downtime Buy an account at the new host! And do nothing else for the moment. Do not cancel your old account at the old host. And do not change the Nameservers in your Domain Registration just yet. Just buy an account and wait a few minutes for your welcome email. Even though you have your domain name in your account (whether a new name or a transfer of your existing) , since the nameservers have not yet been changed, you will not be able to access your new account by entering www.yourdomain.com just yet. You will have been given an IP address and a way to access, however, such as http://123.456.7.8:2082/frontend/newwebhost/index.html . This will get you into your CPanel (or other control panel) so you can start rearranging the furniture and plugging in your appliances – so to speak. You will also be given ways to FTP files to your public directories using the new IP address as well. Or use that information to publish through FrontPage or another web creation program. Go to your new control panel, look around. Install the FrontPage extensions first, if you need them. Takes a click or two. Set up your email accounts. In fact you can make them IDENTICAL to the ones you had at you last host if you are transferring your domain name. And no new passwords to remember unless you want to make them different now. I kept everything the same. And during the transition, I monitored email at both hosts until no more email came in to the old host. But more about that in a moment or two.
Step 3 Setup your new webmail client. Now upload your site to the new host. And test it by using the above mentioned IP address and your site name preceded by a tilde (~) like this http://123.456.7.8/~yourdomainname. Should work fine. Of course, if you type in www.yourdomainname.com, you will still be reaching your old host. This is fine for now. Do make a small change to your home page at the new host. Something. Hit counter value, a small character change. Something that you can easily see. This is so that later on when you type in www.yourdomain.com, you know instantly if you are seeing the old site at the old host or your new one while likely no one else will notice any change at all. It will help. Again, do not tell your old host you are cancelling your account for the next few days at least! Now, your site is uploaded to the new host (we won’t go into downloading your site from your old host and moving it in this tutorial. I assume you have a current local copy on your local computer.) Email is set to go. Anything else like blogs or forums have been configured on the new host and all test OK. Now what?
Step 4 Change your domain names dns. The new host should have provided you with their domain name servers (dns). If they haven’t contact them to find out what dns you should use for your domain name. But my new host did this next to instantly and here I used: NS1.MyNewHost.COM NS2.MyNewHost.COM where MyNewHost is your new host information. Now, your domain name registrar may be different than your old host. It may be the same. Some companies include free domain registration with an account. So your OLD Control Panel may have a link to controlling your domain registration. Or, you may have registered with GoDaddy, 000domains, Yahoo, or one of hundreds of other choices. Only you know. So go there and change ONLY the DNS Nameservers. At worst, ask you old host to make the change for you, but you are then beginning to unbag the cat. If you get stuck here, live chat or email your new host and ask for help. But it may turn out to be easier than you think. You will need your old host login and password, so have that handy. Now, sit back a bit, pour a glass of Chardonnay and wait a little.
Step 5 Sometimes YOU will see the site come up at the new host when you check www.yourdomian.com in minutes or hours as the new nameservers start to propogate around the world. This is great. It shows that it is working. BUT, others around the world may not be seeing this. Want to be safe? Once you can go to your new site this way, wait three days. Most if not all will be updated by then. Now, also monitor email at BOTH your old and new site for these three days. You should start getting your email at your new host and email to the old should start diminishing. In a few days, no more email will arrive at the old host. Tell ’em to take a hike. I did and boy did it feel good :^) Perhaps to clarify a little more, if both your old and new hosts have an email address called firstname.lastname@example.org with the same password at both accounts, then an email client such as Outlook or Outlook Express can be set to POP that email and it will receive email from both hosts. After a period of time, email will no longer come in from the old host as DNS propogates. Then you need to make no change to your email client, just cancel your old account at the old host. If you check email headers (check your Email client for how to view full headers), you can see which host the email arrives from. It will show either the old or new host. When no more show from the old host, wait a day or two to be sure, then close the account. If you followed the above, you should now have made a switch with no downtime on either your site or your email. Congratulations!