How To Move A Website Without Any Downtime

Sooner or later, you might want to, or need to, change web hosts. Perhaps you’ve found a better package. Or maybe your website needs more features. Either way, you might be reluctant to move your website for fear of downtime, data loss, or incompatibility issues (in the case of a dynamic website which may rely on a certain configuration).

Fortunately, it is possible to move a website without any downtime.

Step 1: Plan The Move

The key to a successful move is planning. Do your research and choose a web host that meets the requirements of your site.

Dynamic Websites: If you have a website that is coded in PHP, ASP, or another programming language, you will need to choose a host and plan that supports the language. Give special attention to the versions of languages and software that are available. (For example, if your application runs using PHP5, your new host should support PHP5 or later. If your host only has PHP4 support, it is likely that your application will be adversely affected.) And for complex applications, it is a good idea to pay attention to the configuration of your new host, and whether or not you can customize it.

And to minimize downtime, your host will need to have the following features:

  • Temporary Url. This will enable you to view a functioning version of your website prior to moving your domain name. If your plan gives you a unique IP address, it is likely that you can view your site by inputing the IP address in your browser.
  • Temporary FTP Address. You will also need an FTP address — in addition to the ftp address at your domain — so that files can be uploaded in preparation of the move.
  • Access To Control Panel. Sometimes, a control panel can only be accessed by using a domain. Make sure that you have an alternate url by which you can access your control panel.

 Alright, now we’re ready for the move.

Step 2: The Move

To move your website, take the following steps in order:

  1. Download Your Entire Website. DO NOT DELETE ANY FILES. Additionally, if you have databases, you will need to export all data.
  2. Upload Your Files. To restore your databases, you will need to create a new database in your new hosting account and import all data.
  3. Preview The Website. Verify that all files have been uploaded and that your website is functioning as it should be previewing it using the temporary url.
  4. Update Your Nameservers. You will have received at least two name servers from your new host. Updating your nameservers are crucial to moving your website because nameservers are responsible for mapping a domain name to an IP address. To do this, you will need to return to your domain registrar. Each registrar varies, but there should be some documentation on how to do this.

All done. Of course, this process isn’t instantaneous. Instead, it may take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours for domain propagation. (Domain propagation is the process by which your domain location is updated, so that all requests for your website are now directed to your new host instead of your old host.) So there will be no downtime, but during this 24 -48 hour period, visitors to your domain with either be taken to your old hosting account or your new hosting account.

Step 3: After The Move

Once your website has been successfully moved, you can cancel your old hosting account. While you can cancel within 48 hours of updating your nameservers, it’s probably best to wait a full 72 hours. In addition, it is likely that you have created email accounts @yourdomain.com. So you will need to recreate these accounts on your new host. To save the mail currently in your folders, you should easily be able to forward the mail to yourself.

 

And there you have it! You can move your website with absolutely no downtime.

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13 Responses to “How To Move A Website Without Any Downtime”

  • neil July 11, 2008 at 9:09 am

    great article, no website downtime is not only important for the potential clients, but also with regards to search engine optimisation. definately worth a read for anyone transferring hosts

  • Per December 10, 2008 at 3:29 am

    I think you should mention that during those 48hours you will have two databases.
    People that visit your site during those 48hours might either go to the old server’s database or the new server’s database. If they happen to go to the old one, their data will not be visible once the propagation is done.

    • Velvet Blues December 10, 2008 at 7:09 am

      Indeed. That may happen. Of course, most times DNS propagation is super fast, so that leave less time for the databases to be out of sync. (So it’s great to do the switch during a low-traffic time for your website. Such as late night or over the weekend.)

      And if there is information that does get added to the old database, you could easily add those items to the database after the move.

      • Per December 10, 2008 at 10:46 pm

        We will set up a “we’re moving” page on the old server during the move and let people go to the new IP address (unique IP is recommended), once the propagation is done they will no longer see that page since they will go to the new server.
        Also we have copied all the databases, pictures, etc 2-3 days before the move so the day of the move we only need to copy very little data and the downtime should be in minutes and not hours or days.

  • Veronica Brooks December 10, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    Hello, Sorry if I’m offtopic, I’m novice in blogging and I need your help:) I have a little question for you: Can you tell me please from where can I download your blog theme? Thank You for your time, Veronica Brooks.

  • dave nava January 6, 2009 at 2:53 am

    Generally Ido not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so! really nice post.

  • Jameson September 28, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    think you should mention that during those 48hours you will have two databases.
    People that visit your site during those 48hours might either go to the old server’s database or the new server’s database. If they happen to go to the old one, their data will not be visible once the propagation is done.

  • Ovidiu Liuta November 17, 2009 at 6:07 am

    I might add that adjusting the TTL(time to live) values from your original site before moving will help with the DNS propagation after, and can take less than 10 minutes for the name server to propagate after the DNS move

    Cheers

  • Lucian Daniliuc February 13, 2011 at 3:21 pm

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  • Mister Waster August 9, 2011 at 2:01 am

    Thanks for this, helped me.

  • Stephan September 19, 2011 at 3:44 am

    A good idea is to forward the old site to the new site during the domain propagation. That way you know for sure people will instantly see the new site and – more important – use the new database. So in that case during this 24 -48 hour period, visitors to your domain with either be taken to your new hosting account by it self or redirected to it by your old hosting account.

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