Edit – 2019-2020: We now offer our own hosting in our own high-end server at affordable pricing compared to competitors, free SSL, daily backups (on-site and off-site), and unlimited bandwidth.
If you run a website for more than a year or two you’re likely want to change web hosts. It could be that you’ve outgrown your original plan or you discovered their service wasn’t really that good. Sometimes your needs just change over time.
Here’s the tricky part, the same features of most entry level hosts that make them simple to use — one stop domain + hosting + email — can make them tricky to leave when it’s time. Here are some tips for hosting that I’ve learned over the last decade or so to help when the time comes to move on.
Keep Everything Separate
So you have your domain name registered with GoDaddy — don’t host with them! I have found that it’s easier to have a separate hosting account with a different provider than it is to have both your domain registration and hosting at the same place.
Why? Often times you’ll have a unified control panel. That was the case at my first host, 1&1. Sure there were DNS settings there so I could set up a hosting account elsewhere and forward it properly.
The only trouble was there was no way to step my account down to just the domain names. I still had to pay for the hosting plan I had even while I was no longer hosting with them. All to keep the domain names I had registered there. They made it easy to add on additional names. I just never though about what it would be like to move them.
Now I register my domain names with one company, like Name Cheap or GoDaddy, and keep my hosting elsewhere. By dividing up those responsibilities, it easier to shuffle things around.
Never Use Bundled Email
Many web hosts offer email hosting for your domain name. It sounds great. You get to have your own custom email address at your domain name and it doesn’t cost extra (or not much more).
But if you thought transferring a web site to a new host was tricky, that’s nothing compared to moving emails.
It may just not be possible. Many people have lost their entire email archive because of a move. Some hosts just don’t have a way to import/export emails. Some email systems that aren’t tied to a host may not have an import feature.
Back Up Daily
Do you know what you need in order to move the content of your site to a new host? A backup. You need to make backups just in case anyway, but because all good backup tools have ways to restore a backup, they are also perfect for moving your site to a new host.
Take Backup Buddy. This great plugin creates a zip file that has your complete WordPress installation — core files, plugins, themes, uploads plus a copy of your mySQL database that has the actual content from your site in it. All you do is upload that zip file and a file called importbuddy to your new server and visit the new site in your browser and follow the prompts. It take care of the move for you.
VaultPress which is part of WordPress.com’s Jetpack plugin can also handle site moves for you. Don’t you just love it when one solution fills two needs?
Your first breakup may be a bit tougher than it needs to be because you didn’t know what to expect going in. Hopefully now you’ll be better prepared with this next hosting relationship and able to move on a bit more easily.
If you have any other tips for making site moves as easy as possible, share them in the comments.