A Simple Guide to Changing Web Hosts

Changing web hosting plans is a chore for any website owner. As with many things that involve change, a lot of problems can end up making a tedious but necessary task an all-out nightmare.

1 – Don’t forget to BACKUP

Easily the most important step, making a backup of everything with your current web hosting company is crucial. Things can get lost, damaged or deleted accidentally during any web hosting move, whether you’ve got an account with the best enterprise web hosting solution or a budget, affordable web site hosting plan. Remember that if your site relies on a database, that needs to be backed up, too. Create two copies of your backup and store them in separate physical locations to minimise the risk of the backups being damaged.

The best way to backup is to manually copy all your files from your web hosting provider. Some hosts offer backup features, but these sometimes rely on specific technology that is not compatible with other web hosting companies. If you need to backup a database, you can create a simple PHP, ASP or Perl script (depending on your web hosting solution) to do the job.

2 – Tedium Extra

Once you’ve done your backups, you’ll be ready to make the switch. The checklist below will help you gather your thoughts:

(a) Find out your new web hosting provider’s DNS

(b) Check environmental factors such as PHP/MySQL versions, settings and other differences that may require changes to scripts

(c) Find out the temporary address to your new web hosting space so that you don’t have to wait for the URL to be transferred to see if it all works OK

(d) Some scripts may not work correctly after being directly transferred across, and so may require re-installation on the new servers. Ensure that you have copies of the installation instructions so that you can do this, if necessary.

3 – Let the world know

Good and courteous practice dictates that webmasters should inform their users of a web hosting change in good time. This allows users to prepare for (or at least not be surprised by) a sudden loss of operation. Particularly if you run an online shop, there’s a tendency for users to worry that you have disappeared with their money if they find they cannot access your site after they’ve paid for something and don’t know why.

Offering a temporary or alternative e-mail address is always a good idea, too, and keeping users up-to-date on the change process will help make the move smooth for them.

4 – The actual move

Schedule the actual switch between web hosting providers for a time that your hosting logs show is less busy. Perform one final backup for the latest, most up-to-date information, and then start copying files. You can help your users by uploading the parts of the site they use most, such as the main page. Getting error pages up there early is also a good idea, as it will allow you to inform visitors about the web hosting switch and apologise for problems.

If your website is really big, you may want to span the web hosting move over a few days. Prioritising sensibly by uploading the most important parts of your website first can really help make the whole transition much more seamless. Constantly check that pages and scripts are working by using the temporary URL to your web host.

5 – Press the big red button

Once you’re satisfied with everything, it’s time to change your DNS over to the new server. The process, once started, will take between 24 and 48 hours, so there’ll be a space of time during which you can tweak your site if you need to.

By making a tiny change on the main page of the site on the new web hosting provider, you’ll be able to tell the difference between the new and old hosts, and see if the DNS has resolved (has been assigned to the new host).

6 – Keep those eyes peeled; you’re not out of the woods yet!

Keeping your old web hosting account for at least a fortnight after you make the move is a really good idea. Check for server activity, e-mails and online contact systems (such as web form messages). Once you are satisfied that all of your users are being directed to the new web hosting provider, it’s safe to close the old account.


Frequently Asked Web Hosting Questions

Congratulations! After much thought and consideration, you finally took the plunge and decided it was time to have your own web site. That’s a great accomplishment in itself. However, now you’re left with another daunting task — selecting a quality web host.

Selecting a good web host is of the utmost importance. However, with all of the technical mumbo jumbo, knowing what to look for can be very intimidating to say the least.

For this reason, I have devised a list of the most frequently asked web hosting questions.

Question: I’m not exactly sure what a web host is. Can you please explain?

Answer: A web host is a company that provides you with server space for your web site. This includes all of the files associated with your web site. When your web address is typed into a browser, the web host displays your pages.

Question: Is it true that a good web host will cost me a lot of money each month?

Answer: Although the old adage “you get what you pay for” still holds true, there are many quality web hosts that are reasonably priced. You can expect to pay $20 – $50 a month for up to 50MB of space depending on the company and your specific needs.

Question: I have been considering hosting my site with a free hosting company, but I’m a little concerned with their reliability. Can you shed some light?

Answer: NEVER host an ecommerce web site with a free hosting service. These services are highly unreliable and could care less if your site goes down. Their main concern is with their advertisers. As long as their ads are up and running, for the most part, they could care less about you or your site.

In addition, sites hosted with free services look very unprofessional. If you’ve taken the time to get your own web site designed and your own domain name, why would you risk your success and host with a free service? It’s just not worth it.

Question: I’m at my wits end. I’ve been to so many hosting companies and am completely overwhelmed. I have no idea what company to go with. Can you please tell me what I should be looking for in a good host?

Answer: Selecting a quality hosting company can be an intimidating process. Your first consideration should be the company.

o Do they offer fast connections?

o Do they have a back-up system in place to protect your data in case there is a power outage?

o Do they require you to make payments in advance?

o Do they require a long-term contract?

o Do they charge set up fees?

o How is their customer support? Test them.

o Do they provide you with free access to a secure server for order processing?

o Do they offer shopping cart software to process your orders?

o Do they provide you with an online Web Site Manager?

o Do they provide you with an online support manual?

Ask for references. Talk with some of their customers and ask them if they have been satisfied.

Here are some basic features you should look for when selecting a web host:

1) 24/7 reliable tech support

2) Your own domain name (www.yourname.com)

3) At least 10GB of monthly transfer (traffic)

4) A minimum of 20MB – 50MB of server space

5) Unlimited true POP email accounts – [email protected]

6) Unlimited email aliases

7) Email forwarding

8) Unlimited autoresponders

9) Your own unrestricted CGI-Bin

10) Access to SSL Encryption for secure transactions

11) MySQL Database

12) Perl

13) htaccess password protection

14) Server Side Includes (SSI) support

15) Design (and upload to) your site using Netscape or other HTML editing software

16) Microsoft FrontPage Server Extensions for those utilizing FrontPage

17) Unlimited free access to your server via FTP/Telnet

18) Easy access to your log files

19) Statistics on visits to your site

20) Referral Program

When selecting a web host, you must look at the entire picture prior to making your decision. You may find a host that charges $5.00 – $15.00 a month to host your site, however, their technical support may be poor, or your web site may be slow or down a lot.

A lower monthly payment may look appealing, but how much is it actually going to cost you in lost sales? Most likely much more than the amount you’ll save.

Although there are many web hosting companies online, there is only one that I can recommend:

Host4Profit – Professional web hosting specifically designed for the Internet marketer.

Take your time and select the host that best meets your needs. It will be well worth your time and effort in the long run.


Web Hosting, Where to Start?

Web hosting is a necessity when starting your web presence, with out it you don’t have a site, but finding high quality web hosting can be a daunting challenge, after all, do you need one gigabyte of bandwidth, web hosting with one IP, unlimited databases or a free domain name. What does this really mean and what should you be looking for when you try to find a suitable web hosting company.

Web hosting companies are extremely profitable if they are popular, they have high start-up costs, but over time their general overheads dramatically reduce (proportionally). This is evident if you think that they have to pay to get directly connected to the backbone in order to establish the fastest possible connection, they need secure fire resistance premises, equipment, support staff and much more.

Once established their costs per web hosting account reduce, if you go to a major web hosting company and order a web hosting server, all they are really doing is adding a computer to their existing network, therefore splitting the overall costs. Then you pay approximately $150-$200 per month to keep that dedicated web hosting server.

Your web hosting requirements

You need to realistically establish what web hosting requirements you have for your site, do you really need 400 gigabytes of bandwidth (transfer) per month? Most sites are lucky to use 2 gigabytes per month from their web hosting account. Databases are another big issue, many web hosting companies change extra for databases, when in actual fact they don’t cost anything to maintain as they reside on the same server. So before you proceed, you need to analyse what web hosting requirements you really have, look at the script requirements you have of any potential software products you plan to use on your web hosting account.

Another limitation a lot of web hosting companies impose is the amount of mailboxes you can have, many people start on the internet with the intention of offering their friends, family and staff email boxes as well as numerous emails for their site, for example [email protected] , [email protected] , [email protected] and [email protected] . The chances are you really don’t need that many mail boxes and administering them can be a gruelling task.

You know your web hosting requirements, what next?

Your primary goal should be to visit web hosting information sites in order to obtain a list of potential web hosting companies. A great web hosting information resource is Web Hosting Village, they provide web hosting articles, news and information, and in fact the best place to start your search for quality web hosting.

Creating a list of potential web hosting companies

Given that web hosting companies are profitable, they tend to advertise immensely across the internet. The more successful a web hosting company is the more they are willing to spend on web hosting related advertising. Therefore finding hosting companies via paid advertising, such as Googles Adsense, is generally a good idea as this a good step to take to establish how successful they have been.

Short listing

In order to short list your potential web hosting companies you need to visit each site and just quickly look around, if the design is poor or they don’t offer adequate support, then the chances are this web hosting company is not for you. Whether you are new to the whole web hosting experience or an expert, there will eventually be a time when you need to contact your web hosting support. If they are non existent then you will really have a problem, so establishing their channels of communication and support should be one of your top priorities when selecting a web hosting company.

Inside information

Once you have a shortlist of several web hosting companies, you need to research them via forums and webmaster communities. Chances are if someone has had a bad experience or extremely good they will want to write about it somewhere on the internet.

Selection

You should now have a list of two to three potential web hosting companies who you are really impressed with, now you need to make the selection. The best way is to weigh up the features and price and be really realistic as to your requirements, we have all been in the situation where we have been over ambitious and bought something that is too advanced for us.

If you have a winning concept that will make you bigger than Yahoo or eBay, the chances are you still don’t need a mega server when you start off, you just need something small and stable that will allow you to develop and promote your business. Once you have a good source of income you can upgrade your web hosting account with your current supplier and not experience any downtime whatsoever, so why pay for a mega web hosting account when you can get by with a $19.99 a month web hosting account and use the additional amount on marketing or development.