How to Change Web Hosts and Keep Your Domain Name

Have you come to the end of the line with your web host? Maybe you’re having technical problems? Perhaps the amount you’re paying has suddenly shot up? Maybe you’re sick of waiting on hold for ages every time you want to talk to a human being in customer service?

There are some great web hosting companies out there. We review them regularly here at Web Hosting Sun. However, you may have heard that changing your web host is hard. You don’t want to lose your domain that you’ve worked so hard to build an audience on, so you stick with the web host you’ve always used. The devil you know.

Don’t despair. Help is at hand. I can’t lie, changing web hosts is a fiddly business. It’s not as easy as it could and should be. You are going to have to fumble around in the back end of your site, and you will need to be careful. The trick is to be methodical. Follow the process, and it can be done. You can be partnered up with the web host of your dreams in no time at all.

1 – Find a New Host

The first thing you need to do is find the right web host for you, and purchase a hosting plan with them. It’s important to do your research. You don’t want to be stuck with another web host that doesn’t perform for you. There are many factors you should consider when choosing a web host, such as price, uptime stats, and security. Fortunately, we have an article that can help you here.

Once you’ve signed up with your ideal web host, it’s important that you don’t immediately call up your old host and cancel your plan. If you do, you’ll lose everything. Save that particular bit of joy for the end of the process.

2 – Transfer Your Files

Often a good web host can help you transfer all your files for free! Check with your new web host. If they don’t provide this free service, or you want to transfer them yourself, follow these steps:

Once you have your new web hosting account, it’s time to migrate your files from your old host to your new one. There are a number of ways to do this. The right way depends how your site is built. If you have a standard, static site, which doesn’t change frequently, it’s a lot easier.

  • Go to your former host’s FTP and download all your files.
  • Then connect to your new host’s FTP and upload them.

It should be as simple as that.

If you have a a dynamic site with a database management system, such as MySQL, the steps are as follows:

  • Install your web apps to the new host
  • Transfer the database file.

Some systems allow this to be done as is, quickly and easily. Others require changes to the MySQL configurations. Make sure you know what you’re doing before you tinker around too much.

3 – Test, Test, Test

You should now have two identical sites. Your old site should still be up and running, with the domain name you have always used. Your new site will also be live, and you can access it using an IP address that you will be able to obtain from your new host. Now it’s time to test your new site within an inch of its life. Check as many pages as you possibly can. It’s possible some data could be lost in the transfer, so check everything, especially links and pictures. If there are any problems that you can’t fix yourself, talk to your new web host. Before you close down your old hosting plan, you need to be 100% sure you have everything where it needs to be.

4 – Updating your Domain Name Records

If you’re sure your new site is good to go, you can begin the process of updating your domain name records. You do this by changing the DNS record on your site.

Briefly, a domain name server (DNS) record is the instruction that tells the user which IP address to go to when they click on your domain. You want them to go to your new site when they click, rather than your old one.

Your DNS record will be held by a domain registrar, which will probably be the place you first bought your domain. It could be your old web host, but not necessarily.

Switch the information at your registrar to point the user to your new host. It should be easy to do, but make sure you enter the information correctly, or no one will be able to visit your new site, or your old one.

What if your domain is registered with your old web hosting company?

If it’s the case that your domain registrar is your old web host, you may want to transfer registrars too.

Like changing web hosts, it’s a fiddly process, but perfectly possible if you are methodical, and follow the right steps in the right order.

We have an article about how to change your domain registration coming soon.

5 – The Waiting Game

Once you’ve updated the DNS record at your registrar, you need to wait for the migration to be completed. This can take up to 24 hours. However, once it’s done, and your domain is fully registered, you can go ahead and cancel your old web hosting account.

…and you’re done.

Here are a few more tips that may be useful. If you can back up your files to an external drive before you migrate them across, so much the better. The more you can ensure that files do not go missing, the easier you’ll find the process.

If you’re unsure about anything at all, talk to the customer service team at your new host. They’ll be happy to help, showing off their customer service skills to their new member. It will save time and effort in the long run.

Many web hosts offer to carry out the transfer for you, as part of the service when you join. This is obviously easier for you, and much more reliable. After all, they do these transfers every day. Keep updated with our web hosting reviews to see who offers this service.

That’s how you can change web hosts while keeping your domain. If you’re going to make the move, good luck. I hope you and your new host have a long and fruitful relationship.

Have a question about hosting? Join us in the comment box below!

1 Comment
  1. Well, detailed article about moving to another host but it’s not easier as written especially from a non-savvy point of view. The mistake many make is to host their domain and site from one company. Once the company is messed they lose two things. That’s why care must be taken when choosing a web host.

    Leave a reply

    Web Hosting Sun