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Ten Steps to Changing Your Web Host

Does this scenario feel familiar? Your current Web host offers spotty support and is “down for maintenance” more often than you’d like. You wonder if you are losing sales or customers. (Yes, you probably are.) Still, there’s no immediate crisis, and you don’t know if the hassle of changing hosts is worth it. After all, you’ve heard horror stories about lost data and e-mail during transitions. So, you do nothing and stay…

Well, changing hosts doesn’t need to be such a hassle. Follow these ten simple steps to ensure a trouble-free transition.

(This assumes you have your own domain name that you will maintain after the switch, and that you intend to stick with the same operating systems and database.)

If you read the tips on the following page and are still wary about doing it yourself, consider hiring someone to do it for you.One company that specializes in switching hosts is They handle small and large Web sites and a variety of technologies.

  1. Carefully select a new host. Make sure it offers all the functionality you need, and uses the same operating system/databases etc. An accidental change to UNIX from NT or vice versa could cause unexpected problems.

  2. Back up your old site. In fact, burn several CDs of your old site and stash them around your office. It’s also a good idea to make a copy of your log files so that you can compare site statistics from your old and new systems.

  3. Do not inform your old host about your plans to switch - yet.

  4. Determine if:
    • Your new host uses the same default directory names for CGI scripts and other files. If not, you will have to do some re-coding.
    • Your new host uses the same e-mail protocols. If not, you will have to change some settings in your e-mail client.


  5. Upload your site to the new host.

    Remember to set up all e-mail accounts, e-mail aliases, auto responders, databases, scripts, etc.

  6. If you use .htaccess files to restrict access to certain directories, make sure you do this on the new host. If you’ve never heard of .htaccess, do nothing!

  7. Test, Test, Test. Test all scripts, shopping carts, and any other interactive elements. Run a link checker program. Make sure you test the new IP address, not the URL. If you do the latter, you are testing the OLD site.

  8. Change your DNS settings. To do this, go to your domain name registrar’s site and find the DNS or nameserver option. Insert the new primary and secondary nameserver information that you have received from your new host. You will probably have to verify these changes by replying to an e-mail sent to the address you used when you first registered your domain. Failing to respond will result in no DNS changes being made.

  9. Continue to check both your old and new e-mail accounts during the transition. An easy way to do this is to set up parallel accounts in your e-mail client (Outlook. Eudora, etc.). When you stop receiving mail in your old account, just delete it.

  10. Cancel your old hosting account. It can take one to two weeks for all nameservers to point to your new host, so keep both sites running concurrently for a while. Do not cancel your old account until sufficient time has passed.

Follow these steps to a fast and trouble-free transition. Good luck!

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