It can happen. You find a better deal with another web hosting provider that makes the (one-time) hassle of change worth it. Or you simply can’t or don’t want to stay with the one you have today. In either case, you’ll be changing from one provider to another. Just like moving house, you want to make sure you take everything you need with you and that nothing turns out broken at the other end. So what did you do the last time you moved? If you answered ‘I made a list of things to be done’, then you immediately score merit points. That’s the first big step towards a successful move, either to a new neighborhood or across the web.
Prepare for Packing
Make an inventory of your virtual belongings – data files, applications, custom configurations, program scripts and anything else that currently goes to make your system work. Then pack them up correctly by doing a complete backup from your current web hosting space to a local computer and to removable media (like a CD). Storage space is relatively cheap, so don’t stint on what you store. Better to have too much and have to spend a moment figuring out what’s what, than to end up without a crucial file. Note that good, regular backup should be part of your routine anyway, together with regular testing to make sure you can actually restore from your backups. Whether or not this is the case, make sure you test this vital backup before you move.
Find or Check Your New Home
If ya gotta go, ya gotta go. But finding a new web hosting provider is thankfully a lot easier and faster than trying to find a new house. Check that your new provider offers you everything you need, including the right environment for correctly running any particular scripts (CGI, Perl, PHP or other). It’s worth taking the time to investigate properly, or you might jump out of the frying pan and into the fire, as the saying goes.
Construct Your Parallel Universe
The good thing about digital worlds is that you can run two of them at the same time. And that’s what you should do here, at least for the transition period. Upload your carefully backed-up and tested files to the new web hosting space you have selected. Configure and run to check that your website and associated data, databases, scripts and so on are accessible over the web using the IP address associated with your server. In the meantime, your ‘old universe’ is still running with your domain name. Hopefully you’ll have enough time to make sure the new installation is working properly before the power and water (so to speak) are turned off at your old address.
Make Your Move
That means, make your move definitively. Transfer your domain name to the new web hosting provider (or have the provider transfer it for you). Keep your old website and email addresses for another two weeks or so if you can. This is to make sure that any stray emails will be caught either by your new or your old website installation: different systems on the net may only gradually update their own name servers with your new address. Test your new installation again, this time using your domain name. And if everything checks out, you can cancel your old contract, wave goodbye and look forward to living in your new virtual abode.