Migrating WordPress in 9 Easy Steps

Migrating WordPress

Migrating WordPress websites is something small business owners can be forced to deal with from time to time. Migrating WordPress to a new hosting company can be a daunting task with many business owners nervous about the possibility of downtime for their site.

Luckily, a lot of hosting companies offer free migration services. If your hosting company doesn’t offer free migration, and a lot don’t, then you can always migrate your WordPress website yourself by carefully following the steps below.

Reasons for Migrating WordPress

Maybe you have simply outgrown your current WordPress hosting and need more storage or more power. Perhaps your hosting company has decided to up their prices to a level you’re not comfortable with. Or maybe you simply are currently using one of the many terrible hosting companies out there who cram thousands of WordPress sites on to the same server.

At WP Focus, our expert WordPress developers have helped hundreds of businesses migrate their WordPress website to new hosting for a huge variety of reasons.

From weak and lax security to greedy hosting companies charging over the odds for terrible service, we have come across many websites that would benefit from migrating to a better hosting company.

So if migrating WordPress is on the to to list for your business, you can follow the steps our WordPress developers take and successfully and safely migrate your website to a new host.

Migrating WordPress in 9 Easy Steps

Step 1: Install Updraft and Take a Backup of the Database

Migrating WordPress Updraft

Before you embark on the migration journey, ensuring the safety of your data is paramount. To accomplish this, we recommend using Updraft, an excellent WordPress plugin that simplifies the entire backup process. Here’s how you can get started:

  1. Log in to your WordPress dashboard and navigate to the “Plugins” section.
  2. Click on “Add New” and search for “Updraft.”
  3. Install the plugin and activate it to make it functional.
  4. Now, head to the “Settings” tab and find “Updraft.” Click on it to access the plugin’s settings.
  5. Within the Updraft settings, you’ll find the option to initiate a complete backup of your WordPress database. Click on the backup button to get started.

Taking a backup is a crucial step before proceeding with any migration. Updraft simplifies this process and ensures that your valuable data is protected.

Step 2: Download the Backup

After the backup process is complete, you’ll have the option to download the backup files. Updraft allows you to choose where you want to store your backup, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, or directly on your computer. We recommend downloading the backup to your local machine for easy access during the migration.

Having a local copy of your backup provides an extra layer of security. In case anything goes wrong during the migration, you can quickly restore your website to its previous state without any hassles.

Step 3: Download the WP-Content Folder via Hosting File Manager or FTP

Now that your database is safely backed up, it’s time to handle the “wp-content” folder. This folder houses all your themes, plugins, images, and other media files that make up the visual and functional elements of your WordPress site.

Access your hosting account, and depending on your hosting provider, you can use the file manager or an FTP client like Filezilla to locate and download the “wp-content” folder. This step is crucial as it ensures that none of your media assets get left behind during the migration process.

Remember, the “wp-content” folder is vital for maintaining the design and functionality of your website, so it’s essential to handle it with care.

Step 4: Install a New WordPress on a Temporary Domain or Use the Hosts File IP Address on the New Host

To ensure a smooth migration process and avoid any potential downtime for your website, it is highly recommended to set up a temporary domain or utilize the hosts file IP address on your new hosting server. Some hosting companies will provide you with a temporary URL which will allow you to check your website on the new server while your website remains live on your old hosting.

For hosting companies that don’t provide a temporary URL, you can trick your computer into using your new hosting instead of your old by using the hosts file workaround.

This can be achieved by editing the hosts file on your computer, which allows you to associate the domain name of your website with the IP address of the new server. This step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of editing the hosts file, enabling you to view and test your new website with ease.

Locate the Hosts File

The hosts file is a system file present on your computer that maps domain names to their corresponding IP addresses. In Windows, the hosts file is typically located at “C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc\hosts,” while on macOS and Linux, you can find it in “/etc/hosts.” To access this file, you may need administrative privileges, so make sure you have the necessary permissions.

Open the Hosts File

To begin, open your preferred text editor with administrator privileges (right-click on the text editor icon and choose “Run as administrator” on Windows). Then, navigate to the hosts file location mentioned in Step 1 and open it with the text editor.

Identify the IP Address of the New Hosting Server

Before editing the hosts file, you must obtain the IP address of your new hosting server. This information is typically provided by your hosting provider upon purchasing a hosting plan. Ensure that you have the correct IP address at hand for the next steps.

Add an Entry to the Hosts File

Once you have the IP address of your new hosting server, it’s time to add an entry to the hosts file. The entry should follow this format: “<IP_Address> <Domain_Name>”. For example, if your new server’s IP address is “123.456.789.101,” and your domain name is “example.com,” add the following line to the hosts file:

123.456.789.101 example.com

Save the Changes

After adding the entry to the hosts file, save the file. Ensure that you are saving it in the same location where you opened it, and that you have the necessary permissions to overwrite the file.

Flush DNS Cache (Windows Only)

On Windows, you may need to flush the DNS cache to apply the changes immediately. Open the Command Prompt with administrative privileges and run the following command:

ipconfig /flushdns

Preview Your Website

With the hosts file edited and saved, you can now preview your new website without changing the nameservers. Simply open your web browser and type your domain name (e.g., “example.com”) into the address bar. Your browser will now load the website from the new hosting server, allowing you to inspect and test it before making any permanent changes.

Revert the Changes (Optional)

Once you’ve completed the preview and testing phase, you can revert the changes made to the hosts file by deleting the entry you added. Simply remove the line “<IP_Address> <Domain_Name>” from the hosts file, save the changes, and flush the DNS cache if necessary.

Step 5: Install Updraft on the New WordPress Installation

Now that you have successfully set up your fresh WordPress installation on the new hosting server, it’s time to safeguard your website’s data by installing the Updraft plugin. Updraft is a reliable and popular backup solution for WordPress, and using it will ensure a smooth restoration process for your website.

To begin, follow the same simple process as you did in Step 1 for installing plugins. First, log in to your WordPress dashboard and navigate to the “Plugins” section. Click on “Add New,” and in the search bar, type “Updraft.” Once the plugin appears in the results, click on “Install Now” and then “Activate” to activate the plugin.

Once Updraft is active, you will have access to its powerful features, including the ability to backup and restore your website with ease. Now, before proceeding to restore your website’s data, it’s crucial to create a backup using Updraft. This backup will serve as a safety net should anything go wrong during the restoration process.

Step 6: Upload the WP-Content Folder to the Root via File Manager or FTP

With Updraft successfully installed on your new WordPress installation, it’s time to transfer your website’s “wp-content” folder. This folder contains essential elements such as themes, plugins, images, and other media files that define the appearance and functionality of your website.

To accomplish this, you have two options: using the hosting file manager or an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) client. If your hosting provider offers a file manager, log in to your hosting account and access it. Look for the “public_html” or the root directory of your new WordPress installation. Upload the “wp-content” folder you previously downloaded into this location.

If you prefer using an FTP client, such as FileZilla, begin by connecting to your hosting server using the FTP credentials provided by your hosting provider. Once connected, navigate to the root directory and upload the “wp-content” folder from your local computer to the server.

Step 7: Upload the Updraft Database Backup

Now that the “wp-content” folder is in place, it’s time to handle the database restoration process. Updraft makes this task remarkably straightforward. First, access the Updraft plugin settings in your WordPress dashboard. You can find it under “Settings” > “Updraft.”

Inside the Updraft settings, locate the “Restore” tab and click on it. Here, you’ll find a list of backups available for restoration. Look for the database backup file you downloaded in Step 2. When you find it, select it, and click on the “Restore” button.

Updraft will take care of the rest, efficiently restoring your database to its previous state. It’s worth noting that depending on the size of your website and database, the restoration process may take some time. During this period, avoid making any changes to your website to prevent conflicts with the ongoing restoration.

Step 8: Verify the Migration

Congratulations on successfully completing the migration process of your WordPress website! However, before you can fully relax, it’s crucial to verify that everything is functioning as expected on the new host. By following these steps, you can ensure a seamless transition and a hassle-free experience for your site visitors.

  1. Thorough Website Check:

Once the restoration process is complete, take the time to thoroughly check your website on the new hosting server. Start by visiting your homepage and navigate through various pages and posts. Pay close attention to the layout, images, and media elements to ensure they appear correctly.

Test all the interactive features on your site, including contact forms, search functionality, and social media integration. If your website has any e-commerce functionality, make test purchases to confirm that the checkout process is smooth and without errors.

  1. Media and File Verification:

During the migration, it’s possible that some media files or images may not have transferred correctly. Check your media library to ensure all images and files are present and displaying correctly on your web pages. If you encounter any missing media, consider reuploading them to the new host manually.

  1. Functionality Testing:

Verify that all plugins and custom functionalities on your website are working correctly. Sometimes, plugin configurations might differ between hosting environments, leading to discrepancies in functionality. Address any issues by adjusting plugin settings or seeking support from plugin developers, if necessary.

  1. Contact Forms and Email Notifications:

If your website relies on contact forms or email notifications, submit test inquiries to ensure that you receive them in your designated email inbox. If any notifications are missing, check your spam folder, and review your email settings to ensure everything is properly set up.

  1. Performance and Loading Speed:

Take the opportunity to gauge your website’s performance on the new host. Test its loading speed using various online tools. If you notice any significant slowdowns, consider optimising your images, enabling caching, or reaching out to your hosting provider for assistance in improving performance.

Once you’ve meticulously checked and confirmed that your website is functioning optimally on the new host, it’s time to proceed with updating the DNS settings.

Step 9: Update the domain DNS

Changing the DNS (Domain Name System) settings is the final step in directing visitors to your website’s new hosting server. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Obtain the New DNS Information:

Your new hosting provider should have provided you with the necessary DNS information, including the nameservers for your domain. Keep this information handy, as you’ll need it in the next steps.

  1. Log in to Your Domain Registrar:

Access your domain registrar’s website and log in to your account. Locate the domain you want to update and access its DNS management settings.

  1. Update Nameservers:

Replace the existing nameservers with the new ones provided by your new hosting provider. Save the changes, and the DNS update will begin propagating across the internet.

Keep in mind that DNS propagation can take anywhere from a few minutes to 48 hours, during which some visitors may still be directed to the old host. This is normal, so refrain from making further changes to your website until the update is fully completed.

FAQs

Is it necessary to use a migration plugin like Updraft?

Using a migration plugin like Updraft is highly recommended, especially for those who are not familiar with manual migration techniques. While it is technically possible to perform a manual migration, using a plugin simplifies the process and significantly reduces the chances of errors. Updraft, in particular, streamlines the backup and restoration process, making it efficient and user-friendly.

Can I migrate my website without a temporary domain?

Technically, yes, migrating WordPress is possible without a temporary domain or hosts file IP address. However, doing so may result in temporary downtime during the migration process. A temporary domain or hosts file IP address ensures a seamless transition by allowing you to test the migrated website before making it live. It’s a best practice to use a temporary domain or hosts file to avoid any disruptions for your website visitors when migrating WordPress.

What if my new host doesn’t support Updraft?

If your new hosting provider doesn’t support the Updraft plugin, don’t worry; you can still proceed with migrating WordPress. In such cases, a migrating WordPress manually is the alternative solution. You can export your website’s database from the old host and import it to the new one. Additionally, manually upload the “wp-content” folder to ensure all your website’s files and media are transferred correctly.

However, if your new host doesn’t support Updraft it should act as a major red flag about the hosting company’s suitablity. Migrating WordPress with Updraft is something every good hosting company should be capable of doing so if your new hosting company can’t handle that, it may be worth considering another hosting company to prevent further problems.

Will the migration process affect my website’s SEO?

When executed correctly, the migration process should not have a negative impact on your website’s SEO rankings. To maintain SEO continuity, ensure that all URLs remain the same after migration. Update your DNS settings promptly to avoid any confusion with search engines. Following SEO best practices and verifying that everything works smoothly on the new host will help maintain your website’s SEO performance.

Do I need to notify my users about the migration?

While it is not mandatory, it is a good practice to inform your users about the upcoming migration. This is especially important if there might be a brief downtime during the process. Providing your users with prior notice can help manage their expectations and prevent any confusion or frustration.

What should I do if I encounter errors during migration?

If you encounter any errors during the migration process, don’t panic. Refer to Updraft’s documentation for troubleshooting tips and step-by-step guidance. Additionally, you can seek assistance from your hosting provider’s support team. They are well-equipped to help you address any migration-related issues and ensure a successful transfer.

Is it possible to migrate only specific parts of my website?

Yes, it is possible to selectively migrate specific parts of your website. For instance, you can choose to migrate only the database or the “wp-content” folder. However, it is crucial to ensure that all selected components are compatible with the new hosting environment to avoid any conflicts or issues.

Can I test the migrated website before making it live?

Absolutely! Testing the migrated website before making it live is highly recommended. You can do this by using a temporary domain or setting up a staging environment. By conducting thorough testing, you can identify and rectify any potential issues, ensuring a smooth transition when you finally make your website live on the new host.

Will my email accounts be affected during migration?

No, migrating your WordPress website should not affect your email accounts, provided they are hosted separately from your website. The migration process primarily involves transferring website files and databases, and email hosting is typically handled separately by your email service provider. As a precaution, it is always a good idea to verify your email settings after migration to ensure everything functions correctly.

Should I keep a backup of the old website after migration?

Yes, it is advisable to keep a backup of your old website for a certain period after migration. Keeping the old backup serves as an additional safety net in case you need to refer back to any data or encounter any unexpected issues with the new setup. It’s better to be cautious and retain the old backup until you are confident that the migration was successful and everything is working as intended on the new host.

Conclusion

Migrating WordPress websites may initially appear daunting, but armed with the right approach and tools like Updraft, the process becomes much more manageable. By following the step-by-step guide provided here, you can confidently and successfully move your website to a new hosting provider without any data loss or downtime. Remember to thoroughly verify the migration and promptly update DNS settings to ensure a seamless transition for your visitors.

At WP Focus, we recognise that migrating WordPress can be a complex task, especially if you lack technical expertise. That’s why our team of experts is here to assist you every step of the way. From backing up your data to flawlessly restoring it, we are committed to providing a hassle-free migration process with minimal disruptions to your website’s performance.

Don’t let the fear of migrating WordPress hold you back; contact WP Focus today, and let us handle your website migration needs with precision and efficiency. Your website’s smooth transition is just a click away!

Remember, with the right tools and expert assistance, you can confidently move your WordPress website to a new host, unlocking new possibilities and ensuring a seamless online experience for your users. Happy migrating!

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