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This article is a ‘How To Guide’ describing steps to take in order to move your website to a new web host provider, or how to just move your domain registry to a different registrar.

Follow this link for registrar contact information to assist you in contacting your current domain registrar in order to make the transfer. If you are simply creating a new website and not moving an existing website then you may still find the sections regarding ‘WHY CHANGE WEB HOST PROVIDERS’ and ‘SELECTING A WEB HOST PROVIDER’ helpful.

WHY CHANGE WEB HOST PROVIDERS?

You may find for any number of reasons that you want to move your website to a different host provider. Here are some of the reasons that I have had in the past for wanting to move my website to another provider:

  • Site downtime. I’ve had many issues with site downtime over a period of several months when using Network Solutions while managing a corporate website for a former employer. Therefore I would not recommend Network Solutions. (They also charge a premium rate for domain registration.)
  • I needed more control of my website with better tools than available from my web host provider. I currently have a website hosted using Microsoft Live because I needed something up quickly without taking the time to create a custom website (see sample Live website ). But I found that ‘Live’ doesn’t support standard tools like FTP to upload/download my files, and many JavaScripts don’t work properly, and I need more customization, therefore I’m in process of moving that site over to WordPress under a new and different domain and web host provider. This presents some additional problems since there are no “live” people to talk to for support (pun intended) in moving my hosting from them, and based on what I’ve read on the Live Support Forums it seems extremely difficult if not impossible to transfer a domain FROM Live (they only offer help to transfer a domain TO Live) (I’d put a link here to the Live Support Forums but the forum site is not working at the moment since they’re “experiencing technical difficulties”.) It seems I’ll need to create a new domain, recreate the website under the new host provider, then cancel my account with Live. So I suggest avoiding using Microsoft Live unless you are a pure amateur looking for the very simplest solution for getting your website up quickly because otherwise in the long haul you’ll regret it.
  • I needed a Content Management System (CMS) that wasn’t available at my current web host provider (many CMS platforms can be installed and upgraded directly from your web host’s control panel). In case you haven’t noticed ‘CMS‘ is the new catch phrase, many bloggers and websites are now promoting CMS, and for good reason: everyone wants to have an easier way to build and manage their websites including allowing others within their organization to edit pages without knowing how to code or design websites. (Keep in touch since I’ll have another post soon specifically geared to CMS, and even how you can use CMS when your web host provider doesn’t inherently support CMS and if you don’t want to install an entire CMS platform to power your website.)
  • Price. This one needs no explanation. You shouldn’t need to pay more than $8-$10 per month for a good hosting plan unless you need additional services such as ecommerce. HostGator offers a good hosting plan for $4.95/month (this is a special they are running since the normal price is $7.95/mnth, still a very good deal).
  • Consolidating my web properties. Even though I have used several web host providers that were good in many aspects, I found that for each new website I started that it became harder and harder to manage until I was able to move them ‘all under one roof‘ so-to-speak. That is why I now use HostGator since they allow an unlimited number of website domains under one single hosting plan at NO ADDITIONAL COST (this is great for web designers who have multiple clients they manage). So using HostGator I currently manage about 10 websites for only $4.95 per month total! The only cost is the additional domain itself if not already registered.
  • I couldn’t stand the sleezy advertizing of my host provider. After being a client of GoDaddy for a couple of years I finally pulled my account and moved my domain and hosting to another provider once they started airing sleezy commercials. It has been a few years now and I don’t regret pulling my account since they continue to air what I consider to be lude commercials.
  • Bad customer service or support. I have resolved not to use any web host provider that does not offer a live person to talk to for set up and support. I have switched web host providers for this reason in the past.

You probably can add a few more reasons to this list of reasons why to change web host providers.

SELECTING A WEB HOST PROVIDER

When selecting an appropriate web host provider, in addition to taking into consideration the above list of ‘reasons why to change web host providers’, you will want to shop around for a web host provider that has the technology, scalability, pricing, and customer support that you need:

  • Does your web host provider support WordPress (for blogging)?
  • Does your web host provider support Joomla or other popular Content Management System (CMS) that may be required for your website (now or in the future)?
  • Does your web host provider support PHP, ASP, .NET or other technologies required for your website (now or in the future)?
  • Does your web host provider support the ecommerce shopping cart required for your website (now or in the future)?
  • Is the pricing plan for the new web host provider competitive, or does your web host provider charge for additional domains or sub-domains to be added to your account?
  • Does your web host provider provide good customer service and support with live people to talk to?

CONSIDERATIONS BEFORE MOVING YOUR WEBSITE OR DOMAIN

Before you initiate a transfer to move your website to a different host provider, or to move your domain registry to a different domain name registrar, there are a several important steps to consider:

  • Make sure your local copy of your website contains all of the latest files. You may need to sync or download your website to bring all of the most recent files to your local computer from your web host provider (including all folders, images, and scripts).
  • Make a backup copy of your local website files (date it and store it in a safe place in case your website transfer doesn’t go as planned). For the additional security of offsite backup try Mozy .
  • If you own or manage multiple domains, in order to aid in consolidating and managing your domains you might want to consider pointing the DNS for all of your domains to an online tool such as ZoneEdit.com or EasyDNS.com that can manage all of your domains, domain forwarders, email forwarders, etc. all within a single location. ZoneEdit provides 5 free ‘zones’, with 10 additional zones available for a nominal $50 fee. ZoneEdit’s help screens as well as their email based customer support are both very helpful in the event you need assistance setting things up.
  • Your domain must not have a Registry Lock on it. If it does, go into your current host provider (or possibly your registrar) control panel, look under Domain tools, select your domain, and remove or disable any Registry Locks. You can re-lock your domain once it is confirmed as moved over to the new provider.
  • Your domain name must have been registered with your current registrar for at least 60 days and is in good financial standing to be allowed to transfer your domain.
  • Your domain name must not be expired and cannot be within 10 days of expiring. If the domain has expired or is about to expire, you will need to renew with your current registrar before transferring to a new registrar (registrar contact information). Under this scenario you would need to wait another 60 days before transferring your domain.
  • If you have Domain WHOIS Privacy enabled, it must be disabled. This can be done through your current registrar (registrar contact information).
  • You must have access to the email used when registering your domain. If you don’t have email access you must contact your current registrar (registrar contact information).
  • If you also need to move your MX records, which control email for your domain, you will want to download and make a backup of all of your email from your current web host provider. Any email addresses, email forwarding, email filters, or spam filters will need to be set up once again with the new host. I recommend you don’t specify MX records, but rather configure ZoneEdit’s simple MailForward service by domain or individual email address.



“A” records make sure that visitors to your web site will connect to the web server that your web host provider has assigned to you, and “MX” (“Mail eXchanger”) records make sure that people who send you e-mail will connect to your web host provider’s mail server.


SETTING UP YOUR WEBSITE WITH YOUR NEW WEB HOST PROVIDER

Once you have selected and signed up for a new web host provider you will want to proceed with the following to set up your website:

  • Copy all of the code and images over from your current web host provider to a new FTP location for the new site. This is usually accomplished by uploading your local website files to the new FTP location provided by your new web host provider.
  • Make sure that secure access is applied to any directories or sub-directories that previously had secure access. This is accomplished through the file management tool located within the control panel of the web host provider.
  • If you have a way to preview web pages locally from your ‘local host’ or by using a testing server by using a web page editor such as Dreamweaver, (hitting F12 or other key combinations in Dreamweaver sends the page to your browser but displays locally rather than as coming from your web host provider over the internet), then do a cursory check page by page of the navigation, links, and images for at least a few select pages.
  • Check all web forms throughout the site to be sure they have been set up to work with your new web host provider.
  • Set up email addresses, email forwarders, etc. via your web host (unless you can use the preferred way of managing email forwarders using ZoneEdit, which makes it easier to manage should you move your website again).

TRIGGERING YOUR WEB HOST PROVIDER AND/OR DOMAIN TRANSFER

To initiate a domain transfer:

  • You must first obtain an authorization code from your current registrar. To do this you will need to contact your current registrar and request an authorization code for domain transfer. (Registrar contact information is located below.)
  • Provide the authorization code for domain transfer to your new web host provider so that they can proceed with transferring your domain.
  • Before pulling the trigger on transferring your domain I strongly suggested that you wait until late on a Friday night at the beginning of a weekend since the newly assigned DNS (Dynamic Name Service) pointers for the domain will take 24-72 hours to propagate throughout the main DNS servers of the world. This means there will be down time for your website (there’s no way around this). So timing as to when to initiate the transfer is critical and may depend on whether you have an ecommerce store, and when the slowest times are for your business. You will want to time the transfer to be just at the beginning of your slow time so that you can take the hit on your site downtime during your slowest business period since the transfer will cause a period of site downtime. You may not see the site go down immediately after pulling the trigger to transfer your domain, so be patient and give it a little time. It will usually take several hours, up to 72 hours, for the DNS to propagate to the world’s DNS se rvers in order for them to clear out the old DNS information and now point to your new web host provider so that your website will display based on pages hosted by your new web host provider.

CHANGING DOMAINS

If you are also moving your website over to an entirely new domain then there are an additional set of issues to be aware of. In this case you would also be concerned with the following:

  • Check the website domain name throughout the site (within the code) to be sure it has been updated properly in all HTML links and text (if necessary).
  • Check email domains throughout the site (within the code) to be sure they have all been updated properly in all HTML links and text (if necessary).
  • You should just be able to do a site-wide search and replace for these (website domain and email domain), but be careful since what you want to replace within a domain may also exist within other text in the site that you want different capitalization on

VERIFY YOUR DOMAIN TRANSFERRED SUCCESSFULLY

There are a few ways to verify that your website domain has transferred to your new web host provider and/or domain registrar, but I believe the easiest way is to keep a web browser open on your computer with a tab set to your website domain, and continue to refresh your webpage every hour or so until your website is visibly back online. You will want to be sure your browser isn’t displaying a cached page, so do a ‘hard refresh’ of the page each time by hitting Control-{F5}. This forces a clean reload of your page rather than pulling it from your browsers cache. You will want to do a WHOIS lookup to verify that your domain registrar, DNS information, and contact information are all registered correctly. One way to verify that new web host provider is displaying your site and that it is not your old web host provider hosting the page or that it is not a cached page, (and I think this is the easiest method as compared to pinging and doing a trace route), is to make a minor textual change on the home page with your HTML editor (something that won’t be noticeable to anyone else), and upload this new home page version to the new host provider. You can always remove this textual change later. When refreshing the page look for this updated home page to display as evidence that your new web host provider is now hosting your website, and that your DNS is properly pointed to them, and that your DNS has propagated to at least some of the main DNS servers out there by this time.

TESTING YOUR WEBSITE

Once your domain has been transferred successfully and is active then you want to proceed with the following:

  • Check all of the navigation, links, and images to make sure that everything is working properly.
  • Check all web forms throughout the site to be sure they work properly.
  • Make sure that secure access to any folders that should be protected as private are working properly and asking for a username and password before displaying.

REGISTRAR CONTACT INFORMATION

A very useful table found within the iPower Knowledgebase is a great resource listing the best way to contact various domain registrars. domain registrar contact information


Please let me know with your comments if you found this information helpful. Thanks! ~Jeff


Jeff Kemp (Golden, CO)