Changing Web Hosts, Step by Step
Whether you are moving to ITS Group Information Technology because of poor service, bad support or purely for
financial reasons, there are a number of things that must be
taken into account when switching web hosts. Here at ITS Group Information Technology, we have built our award winning reputation on our
ability to successfully and painlessly help other web hosting
companies clients who have "tried the rest and now need the
best" to move to ITS Group Information Technology. To this end we have on
staff dedicated Web Hosting Moving Consultants.
In addition we have provided here a
for making this transition as simple as possible. For some this
list more extensive than necessary however it is a good idea to
go right through it to make sure nothing is overlooked.
For those just looking
for the basics steps (note:
we would like to advise that you read on below just to make sure
everything goes smoothly).
Step 1: Choosing
the right ITS Group Information Technology hosting solutions plan.
You have to order the appropriate
ITS Group Information Technology hosting plan for your needs.
If you need more help, read through our
You Need To Know About Web Hosting"
Step 2: Backing
up or copying your web site
backed up your web site from your other web host but do not
tell them that you are moving (read below for reasons why).
You will want to maintain your old site until you are sure
the new site works fine.
Uploading your web site to ITS Group Information Technology
have received confirmation from our New Account Setup
department that your account has been set up, you can log in
to your account to upload your web site to our server.
To log in to your account to upload your files, you need to
have FTP (File Transfer Protocol) software on your local
computer. For more on using FTP, refer to the documentation
found under Support.
have uploaded your website onto ITS Group Information Technology test all
links, etc. exhaustively before going to Step 4:
Please note that if your links are absolute, (i.e. include
your domain name), they will go back to your old site; you
should make your links relative, (i.e. link to pagename.html
instead of http://www.yourdomain.tld/pagename.html, or
manually type in your IP with us prefix when testing the
links to ensure the page is found.
Step 4: Changing
For those with a domain, you will
need to change your DNS over to ITS Group Information Technology Internet.
Please note that you have 2 options available at this point:
- Select ITS Group Information Technology as your new Domain Name
- Stay with your current registrar and change the DNS
records of your domain
It is recommended that you first change your Domain Name
registration over to ITS Group Information Technology. To do this or to
learn more, go to our
Domain Transfer page
However, even if you are doing so, you will still need to
change your domain's name servers to ours when your site is
ready to go live with us, since registrar move process may
take up to a month (while DNS name server change is instant
at most registrars).
To change your DNS, you will need to go to your domain name
registrar (i.e. Register.com, Network Solutions, etc.) to
have your Domain redirected from the current nameservers.
Usually you do this by accessing the
on Register.com or the
on Network Solutions, or similarly on
your registrar. If you do not know your registrar's name,
then do a
to determine this.
You will need to provide the following names servers for
ITS Group Information Technology:
During the transition it is advisable that you duplicate
your web site identically over to ITS Group Information Technology. It is
advisable that any changes or updates to your website wait
until after you make the move over and your site is running
Step 5: Moving
Once the change in your domain
registration record comes into effect, e-mails sent your
domain should be going to the your new email account at
ITS Group Information Technology. However, some may still be trickling to
the old account so you may need to check both accounts for
e-mail during this transitional period.
Terminating your old web hosting account
After waiting 1-2 weeks to ensure that
your new site is running smoothly and DNS propagation has
occurred everywhere and that every ISP's DNS records has
been updated), terminate your old web hosting account.
For more complicated
moves, here is a fairly comprehensive plan.
Make a comprehensive
Copy your web site onto
Check all internal
Be completely prepared
Updating your DNS
(previously had a domain)
Things to keep in mind
Making the move
Set up your directories
Test exhaustively for
Be sure that you
carefully look after the final details
Carefully monitor the
Updating links to your
Make random checks
periodically later on.
- Worry about the little
1. Worry about the
little things - no detail is too small.
If done properly, switching Web hosts does not need to be a
traumatic experience. The first step is preparing a detailed
changeover plan or checklist. By following a checklist, you'll
feel more confident about what you're doing and you'll
anticipate problems and fix them before Web site visitors
encounter them. Moreover, you'll make a smooth transition for
your visitors on and after moving day.
Before preparing the checklist, you will want to decide if you
want to stick with the same operating system. For example, at
the old host you may have used UNIX. A move to Windows NT may
require more work.
If your move involves a change in operating system, such as UNIX
to Windows NT, or a change in file or database management,
additional steps in the checklist will be needed. (More on this
2. Make a to-do list- a
good plan helps to ensure nothing is forgotten.
The checklist covers preparation of the new site before public
release and implementation, monitoring and follow-up.
All the way along, it is important to:
||Back up all your work and if you can
and know how, save up-to-date mirror images of your old and
new sites on your PC's local hard drive. Utilities such as
Dreamweaver's Synchronize Site feature simplify this task.
||Carefully document what you plan to
do and what you've done.
||Continuously test your changes.
||Work behind the scenes to set up your
web site on our server before anyone can view it. This
includes keeping the domain name pointed to the old server
so that your present visitors see your site always up and
Good planning will help alleviate a lot of headaches on
moving day and will help to prevent problems during and after
the move onto your new ITS Group Information Technology server.
3. Copy your web site
files - even if you think you have a backup
I repeat, "be sure to back up a copy of your complete web
site." Unbelievably there continue to be a large percentage
of web site owners/managers who actually only maintain only one
copy of their website - the one on their web host's server.
Should you be one, then it is very important for you to make a
copy of your website before you start. Absolutely back up your
web site onto your computer before letting your web host know
that you are moving. In fact, until you have moved you may not
want to tell your current web host.
Sure it might cost you an additional month but some disreputable
web hosting companies may take it badly when you notify them
(unlike here at ITS Group Information Technology). They might terminate your
account before you're ready, throttle down your bandwidth or
other such petty things. If you don't believe that such things
happen, just browse the various Webmaster newsgroups and you'll
see that even worse things can occur.
To copy your files, just reverse the method that you normally
take to upload your files, and download them instead. If you do
it through FTP, then copy them through FTP. If you use a browser
to access your site via your web hosts' online "File Manager"
(or the like), then do it that way.
4. Check your internal
The next step is to check all your internal links to make sure
they do not have any hard coded URLs to the old address. This is
not a problem if you have your own domain (since your URL will
not change in that case).
You might want to consider making all your internal links
relative links (i.e. to simplify your relocation process. You
can always hardcode links again later if that's what you prefer.
Note that your old site is still active. At this point, no one
knows you're going to shift yet (except of course you and your
Upload your pages to your new host. Test all your pages. Make
sure they work. Remember - you have not yet officially shifted.
If you have your own domain name, you have also not yet updated
your DNS to point to your new host. The whole point of this
exercise is to make sure everything is functional on both ends.
5. Be prepared-
preparation is everything
Begin site construction on your new ITS Group Information Technology server
by uploading pages and creating directories and files, using
only the new IP address. Because the domain name is not
associated with the IP address on the new server, you can expect
only a few stray visitors to the new site while under
Only when the new site is fully built and ready for release,
should you point the domain name to the DNS at the new Web host.
At that point, all visitors should be directed to the site on
the new server.
Additionally this will prevent the search engine spiders from
indexing and cataloging the site before it's ready.
Updating your DNS records - Domain Name Holders
For those customers who have their own domain name and are
moving it along with their web site, you will need to update
your DNS records with your registrar but only when you're
satisfied that your new site works as intended.
If you have just registered a new domain name (and you did not
have one previously), simply point the domain name to the new
host. Do NOT point the domain to your old host first for any
reason. This will cause additional complications that you're in
a position to avoid.
Although the registrars tell you that the update should be
completed within 48 hours or so, in practice it actually takes
about a week for all the name servers around the world to catch
up with the new location of your domain. In that interim, only
some parts of the world will be able access your domain at your
new host; the rest will continue to access the old site. Note
that even if you see the new site in your browser, it is not
necessarily true that others will see the new site. This is
normal - do not worry.
7. Things to keep in mind
Do not delete the old site during this interim. This will
help you avoid losing visitors. Just maintain two copies of your
site. Endure the inconvenience for this period - it's only a
Do not put up a page on your old site-redirecting people to your
new domain. It may seem like a good idea, but it isn't. Only if
you have a name based web hosting accounting or dynamic content
is this necessary
Do not tell your old host just yet. Give it at least one week
where both sites continue to run concurrently. This applies even
if you're paying both hosts monthly fees (sure you will save a
bit of money but wouldn't you prefer your customers always find
your web site). Plan to have both sites up for at least that
Temporarily freeze new developments or programming features
you're working on that might interfere with the transition.
You'll want to make sure you're working with the same versions
of forms, pages and programs on the both servers.
Back up a mirror version of the old site on your PC's local hard
disk, a zip disk or a CD.
Produce a directory-by-directory listing of your old site; FTP
transcripts, from your FTP program or server directory listings,
will show directory and file permissions you'll need to
Confirm with the new Web host any differences in structure of
the new site or the methods by which the new site handles Web
and e-mail based events, including the following:
||E-mail protocols (POP and SMTP may be
different. You may have to change the way incoming mail is
||Autoresponders and mailing list
interfaces may work differently.
||If the CGI directory name is
different -- the path to files and directories will almost
certainly need to be changed, even if the URL remains the
8. Making the move -
depends on whether or not you had a domain before.
Had a domain with your old web host:
If you had your own domain name previously, then when you upload
your web site over to ITS Group Information Technology using FTP, there will
be little else to do. You can simply terminate your account with
your old web host, and you're done (or if you can afford it,
wait a week or so longer to make sure every ISP's DNS records
has been updated).
Your visitors will probably not even know that you changed
hosts. Your search engine listings are not affected since they
still point to the right place: your domain. If you followed the
instructions above, everything should be running smoothly.
Did not previously have a domain (must change URLs)
If you have been hosting with free web hosts or your old ISP
without your own domain name previously, you're now faced with
the prospect of losing visitors. Visitors will be lost because
they follow old links to your site (whether from search engines
or other sites) and will not find it there. Some loss of
visitors is actually unavoidable, but you can do much to reduce
the number lost.
The most obvious thing to do is to put a page on your old site
redirecting your visitors to your new location. For the
inexperienced, there are basically two ways to write web pages
that redirect your visitors
||A page that simply provides a link to
your new site asking your visitors to click on the link; and
||A page that automatically forwards
your visitors to your new site.
But, as we know here, there are problems with this approach.
The problem with the first variety is that most people don't
bother to follow links. If they do not see what they want
instantly, they'll just hit the back button and proceed
elsewhere. This is a well-documented characteristic of Internet
The problem with the second variety is that you will lose your
search engine listing. Search engines generally do not like
redirection pages. If they see a redirection page when their
spider is returning to check out your site, your old URL will be
deleted from their index. You don't want your old URL deleted
from their index if possible because your new URL is still new -
it takes time before your new URL is listed in the search
engines (sometimes it can take a month) even if you immediately
index it when your site becomes live.
The best solution I can think of is to modify your old site's .htaccess
file. Some web hosts allow you to put a .htaccess file in your
web directories telling your web server what to do when a
visitor tries to access a file on your site. Check your old web
host's documentation to see if this can be done. In general,
only web hosts that use the Apache server will have such a
Using .htaccess can redirect visitors browsing your site to
customized pages informing them that the requested page does not
exist, access is forbidden or a server error has been
encountered. The simplest way is to delete all the files in your
old server and put a line like the following in your .htaccess
This line directs the web server to send your visitors to
your new site's main page every time they try to access a
document that does not exist on your site (which will be all the
time, since you've deleted everything).
Alternatively, if you prefer to redirect them to different parts
of your new site according to which page they try to access, you
might want to use lines like the following:
Every time a visitor tries to access oldfilename.html on your
old site, the server will tell the browser to load file.html
from your new site instead. Your visitors will then be
transparently redirected to the new host without the requirement
that they click on a link, etc. If they do not look at the
location bar on their browser, they might not even know that
they had been redirected.
At the same time, when a search engine is given the above lines,
the more intelligent spiders will update their index to contain
the new URL. You can't win them all though - I don't think all
spiders do this automatically. Like I said, there'll be some
losses: you can only reduce them.
Using .htaccess can redirect visitors browsing your site to
customized pages informing them that the requested page does not
exist, access is forbidden or a server error has been
Build error pages to which visitors will be directed if the
server does not successfully retrieve a page. The pages should
indicate the reason for the errors, which are typically Error
404 (file not found), Error 403 (restricted access), and Error
500 (server error).
Set up an .htaccess file to handle redirection to these error
pages. For example, a file containing the following code will
redirect a visitor to err500.html in the /errors directory if a
server error is encountered.
ErrorDocument 404 /errors/notfound.html
ErrorDocument 500 /errors/err500.html
ErrorDocument 403 /errors/restricted.html
Set up your crontab file. If you have the server perform
regularly scheduled tasks, set up a crontab file on the new
server, checking new paths and permissions. This can be
installed after implementation.
Can not use .htaccess
If you don't have access to .htaccess on your old site, I guess
the next best thing to do is to simply use a page that
automatically redirects your visitor to the new location. You
can do this by putting a special META tag in the HEAD section of
your web page (keep it in one line on your real page):
The "0" in the line specifies that the browser should wait 0
seconds before redirecting. If you want to display some sort of
message, you can always change that to (say) 5 to tell the
browser to wait 5 seconds. The content attribute would then
Even if you wait "0" seconds, you should still include some
sort of short message in the body of your web page together with
a clickable link to the correct page on your new site. This is
because some old browsers might not support the META refresh tag
that is used here. A visible, clickable link will give your
visitors an alternative way to get to your actual page.
Note that "0" and the new URL are part of the same string that
is assigned to the "content" attribute. The opening quotation
marks is before the time ("0" in our case) and the closing.
9. Set up your directories
and files- organization is the key to success
||Create directories and transfer the
files, making sure all permissions are correct. Incorrect
permissions can lead to server errors or make the site
vulnerable to attack.
||If you use .htaccess to restrict
access to certain directories, install the .htaccess files
in these directories.
||If your HTML documents use
server-side includes (SSI), check to see how your new server
is configured to handle SSIs. Make any necessary path and
file name changes.
Refer to our FTP documentation to ensure that this process
is done correctly. Check permissions to see if they are
accurately set on all files you upload. Remember to set
permissions on SSI files named with the .html or. shtml
extension to be executable by all users. The UNIX command for
doing this is chmod 755.
Upload HTML documents and any include files to the new server.
Do a search on HTML forms you use to make sure the action paths
are correct for the new site. Simple text editors with
search-and-replace features can accomplish this. The CGI
directory will contain all the programs and configuration files
transferred from the old server. Identify the new path for files
in the CGI directory. For each CGI script, change the old path
to reflect the path on the new server.
Change paths to Perl scripts if necessary.
During the period when the new site is identified only by its
IP address, any CGI scripts using the domain name must use the
script on the old server because the domain name still points to
the old site. To test how the scripts will run on the new
ITS Group Information Technology server, you'll need to temporarily change the
domain name in the script to the numerical IP address of the new
Upload the scripts to your new CGI directory, setting
permissions to allow users to execute the scripts.
11. Test exhaustively
Test the scripts from the Telnet command line. Running the
scripts from Telnet will help identify the source of any error
with the script. If you just test the scripts from your browser,
any errors they contain will most likely lead to a server error
without indicating the nature of the error. Scripts that run
fine from the command line can then be tested with your browser.
Learn how to read and interpret your server logs. They provide
invaluable information about how your server is functioning, who
is visiting your site and whether they are accessing directories
to which you'd rather deny access.
If you have a suite of programs that process the server log,
check what you need to do differently if the location and/or
format of the server logs have changed. Wait until moving day to
transfer files containing content that changes through user
action. But do a test run before moving day to make sure the
files users update can be updated on the new server. Correct
file permissions where required.
12. Carefully take care
of the last-minute details
Here are a few final steps to take the day before making the
||Remove temporary .htaccess files from
public directories on the new site and replace your dummy
index.html pages with the real thing. Once the DNS is named
with your domain name, visitors will be directed to the new
||Run a check on internal and external
site links using a link checking software.
||Correct any missing or incorrect
links; there will certainly be some you forgot to update.
Test the site thoroughly just before moving day, including
all autoresponders and e-mail forwarding. The last thing you
want to have is the new site falling over because of things
you forgot to install or permissions you didn't set
||On moving day, transfer the files
containing content that change through user action. This
guarantees the content of the new site is up-to-date.
||Direct the domain name to ITS Group Information Technology's DNS. The changeover is not instantaneous. It may
take up to 24 hours or more for the DNS to be updated.
13. Carefully monitor
the implementation process - including follow-up
Monitor server logs regularly for unusual activity. Use a simple
search with a text editor, or a more sophisticated grep search.
When you're happy with the transition, upload a version of the
robots.txt file that allows robots to roam your new site as
Print a hard copy listing of your directories, files and their
permissions on your new ITS Group Information Technology server. Keep these as
a snapshot of the state of the new server for reference. You
might need to compare them with corresponding listings from the
old server in any post-implementation troubleshooting.
After the move, notify your old Web host you're discontinuing
service. The notice period will depend on your contract with the
old hosting service.
14. Carefully monitor the
implementation process - including follow-up
If your web server (old and new) has logs, or if you have a
statistics counter that tracks referrals to your website, make a
list of all the sites that sent visitors to your site. Visit
those sites and see if they are still referring to your old URL.
If so, you might want to inform the Webmaster of that site of
your new URL.
If your old URL is listed in any directories, you should also
take the trouble to update them. Likewise, you will want to
quickly submit your new URL to the search engines. Note that
some search engines take forever to list a new site, so you just
have to be patient.
You can also search for links pointing to your old URL by
entering either that old URL or the name of your website into
the search engine and look at what turns up.
How much time do you have to update the links? It really
depends. Theoretically you have as much time as you want, as
long as you continue to maintain your old hosting account where
you can set up redirections to your new URL. In practice
however, web hosts (especially the smaller ones) sometimes
notice that an account has gone dormant and will remove it.
Redirection pages also tend to lose some people along the way
(not everyone follows the redirection).
Our experience is that it is very difficult to exhaustively
remove all links pointing to your old URL. Some webmasters can't
be bothered (particularly the webmasters of sites that have not
been updated for years); some cannot be traced (no email address
on the site) or you fail to notice the odd site or so that
rarely sends you traffic.
15. Make random checks
periodically later on
In the meantime, periodically check the old server logs. You'll
probably find a small number of users or robots are still using
the IP address of your old server and not your domain name.
Identify the pages they're accessing and replace them with a
page that redirects traffic to the new server.
While you may experience a few problems that have not been
outlined here, you will find that a detailed checklist will pay
off. At any time that you feel you do not understand or are
uncertain about any element of the move, please feel free to
contact our Web Hosting Moving professionals.
you have any questions:
support@ITsGroup.org or Phone 1-780-701-7282.