Sometimes the engine that runs your car needs an update. In the internet world, your web host is the engine behind your website.
Like in all things, we are always on the lookout for ways to improve the functioning of a blog. Earlier this week, I made a decision to change my web host to Hostgator. This was not a light decision as there are always pitfalls to a major change such as moving an entire website. However, I had decided that this move was long overdue.
Why I Decided to Move to Hostgator
As I wrote previously, I had reviewed hostgator as a candidate originally for this blog when I was first starting out. They rated favorably in my research for customer service as well as reliability. However, I decided to chose ipage mainly due to pricing.
However, over the course of time, I found that iPage had some reliability issues with their servers. I would experience erratic behavior when visiting the site as I’m sure some of you have also noticed. I was lucky enough during the downtimes to have my Cloudflare service serve up a cached version of the blog so that Riches Corner was generally available. However this was not ideal. Also, I found that the blog at times loaded slowly even when it was up.
Recently, I’ve been seeing my traffic growing and Riches Corner has started generating some revenue. As the traffic grew, I knew that the hosting problems would become magnified. So, I had been considering a move to a more stable host for some time.
Secondly, the decision for the move became easier once my monthly revenues were enough to cover the monthly cost of hosting. While the monthly cost is generally low, Hostgator charges $8.95 per month, I had set a goal at the outset of this blog that I would only spend profit on my blog expenses. (After my initial investment on hosting)
This was a personal goal for Riches Corner. It was twofold. First, before I spent any more money on the blog, I had to recover my initial investment of $42 for the first year of hosting. I passed that mark in December. After that, I wanted the blog to sustain itself for all future expenses.
Based on the last several months, Riches Corner currently earns enough to pay for Hostgator’s monthly hosting fee and leave some profit.
How to Move Your Blog to a New Host
The move itself was almost a seamless transition, though some of you may have noticed a few discrepancies on the blog the last couple of days. This was due to the nameserver update which can take up to 72 hours. During that time, some of you were seeing the hostgator version of the blog and others were seeing the iPage version.
For the most part they are identical, however I put up a Hostgator banner on the front page of the Hostgator version so I could tell them apart.
There are some technical aspects to moving a wordpress blog that anyone who is considering this transaction should know.
First Step: Backup
The very first step is to prepare and back up all of your information. There are several plugins that you can use to backup your database.
Most plugins operate the same way as far as backing up your blog, but you also want to ensure that the plugin is easy to use in the way of restoring from backup as this will make it much easier to simply restore your original blog to your new host. I found xcloner to be good for this purpose.
Backing up your files and your database is a good first step, but I found that it’s also good to separately backup your individual posts. The reason for this is that I found that when I simply backup and restore, I lost a lot of my html formatting. This resulted in a lot of my posts and pages only partially restoring.
This blog has 145 posts as well as several pages. So, you can imagine the difficulty of having partial restores of the majority of these posts. I tried several different restore plugins, but they all met with the same result. What this meant is that in order to bring back all of my posts completely, I had to manually update each one.
Normally, this would have been a pain, but I had been prepared for this possibility.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about desktop blogging software in this post. One benefit to most of these desktop programs is that they will save your posts to your computer, creating a backup of the complete post on your desktop. As a default, these programs will generally save a few of your most current posts, but you can change this number. So, I had set it to save all of my posts.
This way it was a simple matter of going to the new blog and updating all of the posts from the desktop program. While I still had to go through each one, it only took a couple of clicks and I was through it all in about 5 minutes. I used Ecto to do this, but found that Qumana will do the same thing if you want to use a free option.
Second Step: The Move
After backing everything up, you are now ready to start the process of moving to your new host.
Actually, the first thing I did was contact Hostgator and ask them to move my blog for me. Many hosting services will provide this technical support for a new customer. Hostgator will transfer your new blog for free.
This really made it simple. After I contacted them, they had my blog moved by the next day.
In the event that your hosting company does not provide this service, you can use xcloner to back up your database and files. Then download the backup to your computer.
Now that you have the backup file, you will want to access your new blog and install the xcloner restore file.
There is a trick to doing this. You need to edit your computer’s host file to trick your browser to sending you to your new host.
Here’s an excerpt for an explanation on how to do this from Hostgator:
Windows 7 or Vista Edit your hosts file on your PC.
- Browse to Start -> All Programs -> Accessories
- Right click “Notepad” and select “Run as administrator”
- Click “Continue” on the UAC prompt
- Click File -> Open
- Browse to “C:\Windows\System32\Drivers\etc”
- Change the file filter drop down box from “Text Documents (*.txt)” to “All Files (*.*)”
- Select “hosts” and click “Open”
- Make the needed changes and close Notepad. Save when prompted.
MAC Do this if you want to preview your site on our servers without changing DNS and you are running Mac OS X:
- Open the Terminal application. Start by typing Terminal on the Spotlight, or by going into Applications -> Utilities -> Terminal.
- Open the hosts file. Open the hosts by typing on the Terminal that you have just opened:
- sudo nano /private/etc/hosts
Type your user password when prompted.
- Edit the hosts file. The hosts file contains some comments (lines starting with the # symbol), as well as some default hostname mappings (e.g. 127.0.0.1 – localhost). Simply append your new mappings underneath the default ones. You can navigate the file using the arrow keys.
Replace domain.com with your actual domain name. Additional domains, sub-domains or addon domains can be added at the end of the line separated by spaces.
- Save the hosts file. When done editing the hosts file, press control-o to save the file. Press enter on the filename prompt, and control-x to exit the editor.
UNIX On Unix-based systems, you can find the hosts file at /etc/hosts.
You will need to open the terminal (on most distributions is located at the following):
- Menu > Applications > Accessories > Terminal
Follow Steps 2 through 4 above (for MAC) to edit this file.
This way, you can go to your new site from your web browser.
Now, you will simply upload your xcloner backup as well as the restore tool that xcloner provides to your new site.
Here are the instructions for restoring your blog using xcloner:
- upload the backup archive to the new restore site
- upload the XCloner.php and TAR.php files in the same location as the backup from 1., you can find these files in directory wp-content/plugins/xcloner/restore/ on the original site
- start the XCloner.php restore script in your browser
After you run the restore script, your new blog should be mostly identical to your old blog. Just go to your website’s url from the browser and check that it looks the same. You can log into wordpress as you would normally and check that everything is working correctly.
In my case, I had to take the additional step of manually updating my blog posts using my desktop program.
After you are done, you should remove the edits to your computer’s host file.
Third Step: Update Your Nameservers
Now that your new blog is up and running, you need to tell the world that you are at a new host. This is done by simply updating your nameservers to your new host. Your hosting provider will give you the directions on how to do this.
Keep in mind that after you update your nameservers, it will take at least 24 hours or more for the update to take place. During that time, your visitors will still be directed to your old blog.
As a precaution, don’t cancel your old hosting service until you are completely satisfied that everything is running smoothly at your new host. Once you cancel, you may not be able to access your files anymore.
Also, if you have blog visitors that are leaving comments on your old blog while you are waiting for the nameservers to change, those comments will not show up on your new blog. You can resolve this issue by using the wordpress export and import tools.
Simply export from your old blog. Then edit your host file to go to your new blog and import the wordpress export file.
The wordpress export and import tools are designed to only import the new content. It will not overwrite existing content, so you are safe. This will get any new comments up on your new blog.
- How to Request for Free Website Migration from HostGator (shoutmeloud.com)
- HostGator Review & Coupon Codes (bloggingtips.com)