Changing Web Host - Moving Website & Email
If you're launching a new website then changing host usually isn’t something you need to worry about, but moving an existing website to a new host can be a more complex process. In general if a website is up and running it’s best to leave the hosting setup as-is, however there are reasons why switching host might be preferrable.
Why change host?
Here are five reasons why it might be benificial or even necessary to move your website to a new host:
1. Performance & Reliability
To ensure your website is fast and reliable it is sometimes necessary to move away from a problematic or outdated server to a newer one. Over time a server’s performance might degrade and become unreliable which can result in slower page loads, more downtime or even mail server blacklisting.
2. Space & Resources
Perhaps the website has outgrown it’s current hosting plan and an upgrade is needed for more processing power, storage space or bandwidth.
Different hosts can use different OS configurations and server side scripting cofigurations. Changing host might be necessary to ensure your hosting is compatible with the technologies and features your website requires.
Having a web design agency manage your web hosting can make technical support, billing and annual renewals easier to manage. Instead of dealing with two or three different companies, multiple billing areas, support contacts and logins you might prefer to consolidate all of these web services and billing through the one web design company.
5. Cost & Service
Getting a significantly better deal on your hosting can also be a valid reason to change host. At MGS Web Design we don’t charge for host migration if you are moving your hosting to us. Host migration is covered with the inital setup of all our hosting plans.
What’s Involved When Moving Host?
Typically when changing host it involves the following steps:
Existing website files, data and emails should be backed up before changing host. If you are downloading emails from your current host via POP3 to your computer or to a third party online web client like gmail then your emails should already be stored for you either locally on your computer or on your online email service. If you are accessing your emails through the web client provided by your host or via IMAP connection to your current host then your emails might only be stored on your host and you should backup any important emails before changing host.
For websites with a cms or e-commerce system a backup or save state of the website needs to be taken before initiating the move and in some cases the website put into maintenance mode until the changeover has fully completed. This measure is to prevent data from being generated and stored between two different hosts during the transition.
At MGS Web Design we can take care of backing up your website files and website data before moving host.
2. Setting up the new hosting account
A new hosting account needs to be setup and the website files uploaded to the new host.
Because email is often handled by the the same hosting account as the website it is usually also required to setup any existing email accounts on the new host/server. Therefore it is very important to take note of any email addresses currently in use on your websites domain name and notify the company handling the move so that the email accounts can be added to the new host. If you are using a custom email server that requires specific dns entries you should also ensure these are documented and if necessary added to any new dns setup before the changeover is initiated, in this situation your emails may be stored on seperate email server or service like gsuite, gmail or Microsoft 365 for example.
If you are moving your hosting to MGS Web Design we will look after setting up your new hosting, email accounts and uploading your website files to the new host. As mentioned above please make sure to notify us of any email addresses currently in use on your websites domain name.
3. Pointing the Domain Name to the new server
Once the new hosting account is setup the domain name for the website needs to be updated to point to the new hosting server. Typically this is done by changing the nameservers on the domain from the old host to the new host. A nameserver change can take a number of hours to complete and it’s recommended to allow 24hrs for this step.
If we are providing you with your new hosting we will notify you of the new nameservers and the changes required or you can choose to transfer your domain to us along with the hosting and we will look after the domain changes for you.
Third Party Email Servers
If you are using a third party email server for your email you should notify the provider of the move and email us any dns records that may need to be added.
Transferring Domain Name
It’s not necessary to transfer your domain to us when changing host but it is an option if you have difficulty accessing and updating your domain settings. If you are transferring your domain to us you will need to get the domain unlocked and email on the EPP authorisation code to us which is required for domain transfer. Once we recieve this information and the domain transfer has been initiated on our end the automated transfer process will send an email that may require action/confirmation from the current admin email addresses on the domain. You will need to ensure any required steps in the email are taken to complete the transfer process. Once a domain transfer is actioned be aware that changing it again can take longer, for example .com domains are locked for 60 days after a transfer.
4. Wait Time
At this stage once the dns changes have taken place it may still take another 24hrs or so before you are actually accessing and looking at your website served from the new host. This is because most computers, servers and ISP’s around the world cache domain names and the IP address of the hosting server. This dns caching is to reduce internet traffic and speed up domain lookups and website access times. During this transitional period it is possible that one computer will display the website from the old host and another computer might display the website from the new host. This usually resolves in about 24hrs but some ISP’s can take longer to refresh.
As mentioned previously websites that use a cms or e-commerce system should remain in maintenance mode until the changeover has fully completed. This safety measure is to prevent data from being generated and stored between two different hosts during the transition.
Once the switchover is complete you may need to start using new login details to access your email. As previously mentioned dns caching can cause computers, servers and browsers to switch between accessing the old or new host intermitantly for a few hours and so some email downtime or interruption should be allowed for. Make sure you have a secondary email address (not on your website domain) that you can use for emailing during any downtime.
One important thing to note is that it takes time for all of this to happen and at least 48hrs should be allowed for a hosting switchover to complete. Also if you don’t have all of the necesary information at hand or your website hosting, email or domain are handled by third parties it can take longer to move through the various stages.