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Moving to Another Web Host

Jul 21, 2008
On Google, any people ask about moving to another web host or IP address without having any sort of glitches. If you have a static website or can spare one day when the site can move between two IP addresses, this would be helpful. However, if you have a dynamic site, the concept will remain the same, but will be slightly more difficult for you. The steps involved in the process are these:

Step 1: Sign up with a good web host provider

You can do some research work or follow some references to find a good web host for yourself. I preferred by present web host (csoft.net), which I selected after research, and I also found that the readership of the site was growing beyond my expectation. A non-SEO friend of mine used pair.com. Let me refer to the example using IP addresses. If we move from csoft.com to pair.com, the IP would change from 63.x.x.x to 65.x.x.x. DNS is a system used for mapping websites to the IP address which a machine uses, like, say,

Step 2: The aspect of Creating a backup of your website on the new web host

Having a static website is good as that would mean that just copying the whole file to the new web host - that is all. Having a blog makes it harder as it usually involves MySQL for storage of posts. Some e-commerce websites are more difficult for this reason as the database is always synced. In this case, you may have to set up a replica of the database between the old and new locations during the switch.

Let us cite an example of a WordPress blog using MySQL database which can deal with being down for two hours without too much trouble. Assume that you have used the FTP or tar for copying the static files from one web host to another. You will then need to make a fresh MySQL database on the new host. Usually you can give the same username and database name. if that is not allowed, you can tweak the WordPress wp-config.php on the new location to update the username, database name, and other relevant matters.

Having the new SQL database, you can copy the old one to the new one and the load the database. This is quite simple.

Keep in mind that you not only have a username and a password for both the web hosts, but different usernames and passwords for the database at every single location. You may also have the MySQL database stored on a unique location, which is the reason I showed the host option while database restoration. Also, if the new host has a unique option for the database, you will be required to edit the wp-config.php file, else WordPress will be unable to access the database on your new host.

You have similar copies of your website at 2 locations. If your blog is just updated with a couple of comments daily, it's not a big issue if a comment is posted or if someone changes your database during the period when the transition is taking place. But if your site is huge and based on e-Commerce, then you will need to work hard to keep both the databases synchronized.

Step 3: Changing the DNS to point to the new web host

This is the main thing to achieve. Let me give some fair idea on DNS first. Whenever Googlebot or anybody attempts to reach your site, they look your IP address. They do their best make sure of the authenticity by rechecking the IP address after about 500 fetches, or even check whether certain number of hours have elapsed. Normally, people using DNS-enabled browsers are affected by TTL [a setting - Time to Live], which is measured in seconds and says "The IP address you fetched will be safe for 'x' seconds; you can cache this IP address and not bother to look it up again for that many seconds." Obviously, since if you tracked the IP address for all the content on each webpage of your site, the browser would move very slowly indeed.

For DNS, TTL assumes a significant role. A couple of websites like Google, Yahoo!, MSN, etc. have pretty short DNS TTL setting of about 300-900 seconds. This is because if you have many data centers, you would like to take one of them down to enable the data center mechanics to provide good data to the machines. If you have a short TTL, you would be able to pull the IP address of a data center out of the rotation in merely a couple of minutes.

It elucidates the days of 'Google Dance'. Staying nearly for a week and based on the data center that the user strikes, it served both the old and new results. Actually, it took many days to move the data to all the centers and having filled it with new data, each data center was overthrown and reinstated. The webmasters used to verify www2.google.com or www3.google.com in this course of time because they directed them to the latest data centers. Now, you can accomplish this entire process at the drop of a hat because of a perfect production system.

Step 4: Wait while the DNS change is propagated through the internet

Being mainly a TTL function, it banks upon the fact if you are really getting to the name servers present in the DNS at this time. Remember that DNS is hierarchical and the process of DNS caches getting into flushes is time-consuming as the TTL is exceeded. This switch gets faster with a smart registrar and a recognized set of the new name servers and it slabs place at the root of DNS. In order to be sure if the new name server is there on the root server, one can employ 'dig+trace domain' in UNIX and Linux.

Step 5: You are almost done with your task when you are sure that Googlebot is fetching from the new web host and the IP address. In such a case, the old website can be shut down.

With the aid of your domain, your IP address can be verified. Make yourself familiar with the proceedings and remember that the new visitors should be endowed with the new IP address, whereas, it is possible for the previous visitors to employ the old IP address from their DNS store. Permitting a couple of days is recommended because it is possible for some people to possess long TTL set, although, these are mostly meant for a day or even less. So, get rid of hosting on the old location after a day. In order to have an infallible verification on this, test your logs and it is perfect if your log doesn't show any previous visitors.
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This article is published with permission from WebHostingMadness.com, a provider of web hosting company reviews, comparisons and detailed articles about web hosting.
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