Guide: How To Switch Web Hosting Providers

January 9, 2009 by heri in: Web Hosting Articles

If you are looking into switching to a web host with better services, products and prices, the process of transferring your websites can be either seamless or a tragedy. If you just copy and paste files, you will risk losing emails, traffic, databases, and may face the wrath of your audience.

Here is then  a complete guide on how to switch, with the objective of having zero downtime, and have at the same maximum availability of the website:

  1. Stop any Search Engine Campaign, PPC advertising, content promotion campaigns, or publication of new content on your website
  2. Do a backup of your static files (html, jpg, php, javascript, css, etc.), your wordpress or drupal plugins and templates, either by FTP or by the use of a source control repository such as svn or git. Get a copy of the files on a separate disk, either on a local dedicated hard drive or on a DVD
  3. Do a backup of your emails
  4. Choose your web hosting product: shared web hosting, dedicated servers, or advanced solutions
  5. Setup your web server and the OS (such as optimization, security, updating to latest version via available mirrors)
  6. Install your web server, programming languages, gems and libraries required for your setup
  7. Create the domain on your new web server
  8. Transfer the static files saved from step2
  9. Export the database to a SQL text file from your old host, import it into the database of your new web server
  10. Test the website, with the new temporary URL provided by iWeb. In the case of a dedicated server, you could also use directly a IP address provided to you. 
  11. If there is any problems, or if you think it requires fine-tuning and optimization, go back through the different steps, from step 5
  12. Choose a day for your switch. One tip: use your website analytics software to choose a date, by looking for a day and hour with low traffic. Typically, the night from saturday to sunday is a good choice.
  13. Send a newsletter to your customers, partners and website visitors, announcing them that there’s a planned maintenance on a given period, with your contact information
  14. Now, you need to setup the database. This step can be difficult to implement, and you might need the help of an experienced system administrator. There are 2 ways to do it: the easy way is to export the latest version of your database and then import it. If there is sensible and critical data, you need to setup a S-Tunnel or secure synchronization link between the 2 databases so that new changes are reflected into the new one. 
  15. Change DNS Settings from your domain name registrar. Point the new server to the domain name, by inputting IP adresses for your DNS primary servers (NS1 & NS2)
  16. Upload a static maintenance page on your old web server. Note: you can choose to go through this previous to step 15, depending on your setup.
  17. The propagation of the new DNS settings can take from 15 minutes to 24 hours. It means a few users will see right away the website from your new web server, but most people will take up to 1 day to see the new changes. For this transfer, you need then to ask your old web hosting provider to suspend your account and stop payement, 72 hours after the DNS switch. 
  18.  Last (optional) update to do: change your emails settings in your email software (Microsoft Outlook,, Thunderbird)

Voilà! Of course, if you have multiple websites, you have to go through this process for each website. I hope this guide will be useful for you, to get quickly a website online with iWeb

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  1. Thanks for the guide even though it is a little late for me :) I switched from a nasty host in Toronto, hostpapa, to iWeb and it was not to bad of a switch for me.

  2. Scott, glad to have you onboard! I hope you will stick around for more, we will publish regularly guides, tutorials and insights on how to use fully your web server at iWeb.

  3. by the way, I had a look at your SGaming website.

  4. So far I have been very pleased with iWeb, I am using the shared service for now as it meets my needs. Thanks for the info on the about page, but that part of the site is still under construction. Is it recommended to put something there for the meantime until I get it finished?

  5. I added the link in case you didn’t notice it.

    I changed the comment, for you, to get you time to fix it.

  6. Wandered over here from a google search (feeds not working)

    I swapped hosts yesterday. I followed all the steps that you suggested so feeling rather proud of myself :) this is a great list and I wish I had it when switching as confirmation. Everything seemed to work well (fingers crossed)

    Alas it seems I have lost all my subscribers into cyberspace…

  7. Kelly, sorry for the problem

    well hopefully, you’ve bookmarked the blog and follow the other articles we have on web hosting :-)

  8. [...]  Guide: How to Switch Web Hosting Providers [...]

  9. I figured this out on my own in moving my shared hosting business, there are two unfortunate things here though:

    1) I didn’t move from my colo to iWeb
    2) I’m paying four times as much at my new location and having more problems that where I left

    The good thing is that I the one dedicated hosting customer I had, I moved to a dedicated server at iWeb and I’ve had no problems.

    20/20 hindsite sucks!


  10. Hi,

    I’m the main developer for a company website and we NEED to change hosts. I am worried about the process, but luckily the site is still static (has no customer database, no database at all). But we have things like a forum (phpBB). What is the downtime if something goes wrong?!?!