Had Enough of Your Web Host ?
Have you had it with your current host and are ready to move on to greener pastures, or has the worst happened and your host is about to (or has already) shut down? You’ve worked hard to build up your content, tweek your SEO techniques and have built a dedicated following. You’ve probably been rewarded with good search rankings and a nice page rank. Understandably, the thought of moving your site makes you nervous. Well, it should; one wrong move and you can kiss all your hard work good-bye.
It’s All About the Details
Enough doom and gloom. Moving your website can be tricky, but if you create and follow a detailed plan it’s hard to make too much of a mess. You know (or should) your web site better than anyone, create a check list of everything that has to be moved – be specific regarding file/post names and URLs. List every domain and email address that your site answers for, and make sure the new host is prepared for them.
Download, Upload – DONE?
Your task is made a bit easier if your new host uses the same platform or system that the current one does. Also, this is one of the few times that your job is made easier by NOT using a Content Management System (CMS) or Blogging platform like WordPress. If your website consists entirely of static files and hard-coded links all you need to do is download everything from current host via FTP or the hosts control panel and then upload them to the new host. Submit DNS changes and Voila! you are done.
Not Static? Not a Problem
If your site is based on WordPress, or some other commercial platform you still have a bit of work, but it shouldn’t be a nightmare. Most of those platforms have an export/import feature that makes it pretty simple to transfer your content from one host to another. In WordPress 2.7, go to the tools menu and select ‘export’. Save the file, then go to the new site and select ‘import’. WordPress recreates all articles, comments categories – wow, that was easy. WordPress will even import from blogger, typepad, live journal and many others. I recently moved this site, (which uses WordPress) from one host to another. I had expected a few hiccups, but there were none – it truly was SIMPLE.
Non-Standard (or no) CMS
This is the tough one, if your CMS is a proprietary platform and you are moving away from it, or you are converting your static site to a WordPress based one, then you will need to create an extensive list of 301 redirects so that your readers and the search engines can continue to find your pages – that includes image and other media files as well.
Fortunately WordPress has a great plugin called “redirection” that makes it very easy to create your 301′s. Another cool feature is that it will track your 404 errors so you’ll know if you missed a file or two.
If you had form handlers or other CGI scripts you’ll need to recreate those as well – hopefully your old site had those coded with “nofollow” so the new site shouldn’t suffer if they change.
In the end, hopefully you’ll come out OK.
Prepare for next time
I’d be willing to bet that you didn’t expect you’d have to move your site this time, and next time will probably come as a surprise as well. Do all you can to be prepared. Make sure you back up your new site frequently, there are a few plugins available to help you with database back ups, and you can use the WordPress ‘export’ tool to be even more safe. Don’t forget about your media files and themes, etc, you need to back those up as well. Once again, there are plugins to help, but those want to send you everything, every time – not a problem if you have a small site, but as you keep adding photos and such that could get a bit unmanageable. I just make it a habit to download my files & folders as I make updates to my site. FTP works pretty quickly so you won’t have to wait long for it to finish.
So whether you are moving or just maintaining your site – follow the Boy Scouts motto and “be prepared”.
UPDATE: Been working with a web dev pal via Twitter today, his company is taking over the admin of a site that was created using templates. Unfortunately when the site transferred none of the templates went with it. If you have a site built, or do it yourself using any templates, make sure and keep a copy of the originals or you may have some trouble updating files in the future.