When service at your web hosting company is lacking, or your web site grows in traffic so much that you outgrow your current account, you may find yourself needing to change hosting providers. It can be scary to think about everything you need to do. Here are some things you should keep in mind that will help make the transition to the new host much easier.
1. Backup all of your files and databases
Before you decide to transfer anything over, you need to create a backup of every file and database you have on the current hosting provider's server. FTP into your current hosting account and copy all of the files from your public_html directory into a directory on your local hard drive that you'll find easy to remember later.
As for the database, backup methods will vary according to the database vendor, the control panel being used by the host if any, and the operating system of the server. Most providers provide a backup utility that allows you to save a copy of the contents of all of your database tables. If there isn't a simple backup utility available, you will need to export the contents of your database in a comma delimited file or the standard file format for the particular database you use. Most backup utilities will convert the database into one long SQL file that is then easy for any compatible database engine to reconstruct.
2. Transfering to the new server
Make sure that your website is functioning properly at the new location before you change the DNS information of your domain name. While it may not be possible to fully navigate the site without the domain name pointing to it, you can still point to some individual pages to be sure they will come up. For this though, you'll need to use the IP address of your hosting account along with your username if you have a shared IP address. On a Cpanel server, you would enter http://22.214.171.124/~username and your main website will come up. You can use this address until the DNS information from the domain propagates throughout the web.
3. Tidy up the loose ends
Upload the backup file of your databases or execute the SQL file you generated in the backup. This should restore your database back to what it was on the old server. Change the nameserver information for your domain name. This is almost always found with the registrar that you registered your domain with or with your old web hosting provider. They almost always assign you a username and password that allows you to log into an account that allows you to change the nameservers. If you don't have a control panel, then simply email the company that registered your domain for you and ask them to change the nameservers to the new servers. Within 24 to 48 hours, your website will be served from the new server and not the old one. Once you can confirm this, it is safe to ask the old web hosting company to delete and discontinue your old account.
This article was written by Joe Duchesne, president of http://www.yowling.com/, a web hosting company that specializes in helping online business owners increase their website traffic. Copyright 2004 Yowling. Reprint Freely as long as you link back to my website from this resource box.