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A Simple Guide to Changing Web Hosts

Changing web hosting plans is a chore for any website owner. As with many things that involve change, a lot of problems can end up making a tedious but necessary task an all-out nightmare.

1 – Don’t forget to BACKUP

Easily the most important step, making a backup of everything with your current web hosting company is crucial. Things can get lost, damaged or deleted accidentally during any web hosting move, whether you’ve got an account with the best enterprise web hosting solution or a budget, affordable web site hosting plan. Remember that if your site relies on a database, that needs to be backed up, too. Create two copies of your backup and store them in separate physical locations to minimise the risk of the backups being damaged.

The best way to backup is to manually copy all your files from your web hosting provider. Some hosts offer backup features, but these sometimes rely on specific technology that is not compatible with other web hosting companies. If you need to backup a database, you can create a simple PHP, ASP or Perl script (depending on your web hosting solution) to do the job.

2 – Tedium Extra

Once you’ve done your backups, you’ll be ready to make the switch. The checklist below will help you gather your thoughts:

(a) Find out your new web hosting provider’s DNS

(b) Check environmental factors such as PHP/MySQL versions, settings and other differences that may require changes to scripts

(c) Find out the temporary address to your new web hosting space so that you don’t have to wait for the URL to be transferred to see if it all works OK

(d) Some scripts may not work correctly after being directly transferred across, and so may require re-installation on the new servers. Ensure that you have copies of the installation instructions so that you can do this, if necessary.

3 – Let the world know

Good and courteous practice dictates that webmasters should inform their users of a web hosting change in good time. This allows users to prepare for (or at least not be surprised by) a sudden loss of operation. Particularly if you run an online shop, there’s a tendency for users to worry that you have disappeared with their money if they find they cannot access your site after they’ve paid for something and don’t know why.

Offering a temporary or alternative e-mail address is always a good idea, too, and keeping users up-to-date on the change process will help make the move smooth for them.

4 – The actual move

Schedule the actual switch between web hosting providers for a time that your hosting logs show is less busy. Perform one final backup for the latest, most up-to-date information, and then start copying files. You can help your users by uploading the parts of the site they use most, such as the main page. Getting error pages up there early is also a good idea, as it will allow you to inform visitors about the web hosting switch and apologise for problems.

If your website is really big, you may want to span the web hosting move over a few days. Prioritising sensibly by uploading the most important parts of your website first can really help make the whole transition much more seamless. Constantly check that pages and scripts are working by using the temporary URL to your web host.

5 – Press the big red button

Once you’re satisfied with everything, it’s time to change your DNS over to the new server. The process, once started, will take between 24 and 48 hours, so there’ll be a space of time during which you can tweak your site if you need to.

By making a tiny change on the main page of the site on the new web hosting provider, you’ll be able to tell the difference between the new and old hosts, and see if the DNS has resolved (has been assigned to the new host).

6 – Keep those eyes peeled; you’re not out of the woods yet!

Keeping your old web hosting account for at least a fortnight after you make the move is a really good idea. Check for server activity, e-mails and online contact systems (such as web form messages). Once you are satisfied that all of your users are being directed to the new web hosting provider, it’s safe to close the old account.

Frequently Asked Web Hosting Questions

Congratulations! After much thought and consideration, you finally took the plunge and decided it was time to have your own web site. That’s a great accomplishment in itself. However, now you’re left with another daunting task — selecting a quality web host.

Selecting a good web host is of the utmost importance. However, with all of the technical mumbo jumbo, knowing what to look for can be very intimidating to say the least.

For this reason, I have devised a list of the most frequently asked web hosting questions.

Question: I’m not exactly sure what a web host is. Can you please explain?

Answer: A web host is a company that provides you with server space for your web site. This includes all of the files associated with your web site. When your web address is typed into a browser, the web host displays your pages.

Question: Is it true that a good web host will cost me a lot of money each month?

Answer: Although the old adage “you get what you pay for” still holds true, there are many quality web hosts that are reasonably priced. You can expect to pay $20 – $50 a month for up to 50MB of space depending on the company and your specific needs.

Question: I have been considering hosting my site with a free hosting company, but I’m a little concerned with their reliability. Can you shed some light?

Answer: NEVER host an ecommerce web site with a free hosting service. These services are highly unreliable and could care less if your site goes down. Their main concern is with their advertisers. As long as their ads are up and running, for the most part, they could care less about you or your site.

In addition, sites hosted with free services look very unprofessional. If you’ve taken the time to get your own web site designed and your own domain name, why would you risk your success and host with a free service? It’s just not worth it.

Question: I’m at my wits end. I’ve been to so many hosting companies and am completely overwhelmed. I have no idea what company to go with. Can you please tell me what I should be looking for in a good host?

Answer: Selecting a quality hosting company can be an intimidating process. Your first consideration should be the company.

o Do they offer fast connections?

o Do they have a back-up system in place to protect your data in case there is a power outage?

o Do they require you to make payments in advance?

o Do they require a long-term contract?

o Do they charge set up fees?

o How is their customer support? Test them.

o Do they provide you with free access to a secure server for order processing?

o Do they offer shopping cart software to process your orders?

o Do they provide you with an online Web Site Manager?

o Do they provide you with an online support manual?

Ask for references. Talk with some of their customers and ask them if they have been satisfied.

Here are some basic features you should look for when selecting a web host:

1) 24/7 reliable tech support

2) Your own domain name (www.yourname.com)

3) At least 10GB of monthly transfer (traffic)

4) A minimum of 20MB – 50MB of server space

5) Unlimited true POP email accounts – [email protected]

6) Unlimited email aliases

7) Email forwarding

8) Unlimited autoresponders

9) Your own unrestricted CGI-Bin

10) Access to SSL Encryption for secure transactions

11) MySQL Database

12) Perl

13) htaccess password protection

14) Server Side Includes (SSI) support

15) Design (and upload to) your site using Netscape or other HTML editing software

16) Microsoft FrontPage Server Extensions for those utilizing FrontPage

17) Unlimited free access to your server via FTP/Telnet

18) Easy access to your log files

19) Statistics on visits to your site

20) Referral Program

When selecting a web host, you must look at the entire picture prior to making your decision. You may find a host that charges $5.00 – $15.00 a month to host your site, however, their technical support may be poor, or your web site may be slow or down a lot.

A lower monthly payment may look appealing, but how much is it actually going to cost you in lost sales? Most likely much more than the amount you’ll save.

Although there are many web hosting companies online, there is only one that I can recommend:

Host4Profit – Professional web hosting specifically designed for the Internet marketer.

Take your time and select the host that best meets your needs. It will be well worth your time and effort in the long run.