The Complete Guide to Migrating Your WordPress Site

Moving your site to a new host can seem daunting, but it’s often necessary. Hosting provides the critical infrastructure needed to make your website available for users all across the world. It’s important that you choose one that’s reliable, secure, and high-quality.

But how do you know if you need a new hosting provider and how do you easily and safely move your site?

You should consider switching hosts if:

1. Your host has become unreliable. 

An unreliable website gives visitors the wrong impression, keeping them from becoming clients, customers, or repeat visitors. If your site experiences a lot of downtime or loads slowly during busy periods, your host might be the cause. Not sure how often your site goes down? You can monitor downtime on your WordPress site with Jetpack.

2. You’ve outgrown your plan. 

It’s not uncommon to start with a less expensive, shared hosting plan. But as your website grows in both volume of content and number of visitors, you may need to upgrade to a virtual private server (VPS), dedicated server, or cloud hosting provider. See our recommended WordPress hosting providers for more information. 

3. Your host increases their prices.

Your host may need to raise prices due to inflation or to add new services. If the new prices are unsustainable for your site or business, you may want to consider a more affordable option.

4. Your security requirements have increased.

If you added an eCommerce store to your site or started collecting sensitive data like medical information, you may need to add more stringent security measures. While Jetpack offers a premier suite of WordPress and WooCommerce security tools to guard your website, your server needs the same kind of protection. 

5. You need features that your host doesn’t offer.

There are many dedicated WordPress hosts that include WordPress-specific features like built-in caching for speed or staging environments, which allow you to test updates before pushing them to your live site. If your current host doesn’t offer these features, you may want to consider a move.

Whatever the reason for migrating your site, if it’s time to make a change, don’t let the technical process get in your way. The effort will be well worth it! 

How to migrate your WordPress site

Choose and set up your new hosting plan 

  1. Make sure that your plan meets (or, better yet, exceeds) the minimum WordPress requirements.
  2. Ensure that your new host has adequate resources for your specific site, including disk space, bandwidth, memory, and CPU. Not sure what you need? This article can help you figure it out.
  3. Consider the location of your server. If most of your visitors are in a particular country, then it makes sense to use a server located as close to them as possible to help your site load quickly. If your traffic comes from all over the world, you’ll want to consider a WordPress CDN once you’re up and running. 
  4. Set up server-level backups. If your site is only updated periodically, a daily backup will probably be fine. But if you run a store or your site’s content updates regularly, you’ll need something more frequent. Remember, you shouldn’t rely on your host alone for backups. You’ll also want to use a tool like Jetpack Backup to protect your site.
  5. Set up any additional features you want to use. This may include server-side caching, an SSL certificate, a staging environment, or email accounts. 

Install Jetpack

Jetpack Backup takes the headaches out of migrating your WordPress site, plus provides ongoing daily or real-time backups that you can count on. 

  1. From your WordPress dashboard on your current site, go to Plugins → Add New and search for “Jetpack.” 
  2. Click Install Now → Activate.
  3. Connect to an existing WordPress.com account or create a new one.
  4. Choose a Jetpack plan that includes Jetpack Backup.

Set up SSH/SFTP/FTP credentials

Jetpack will need to connect to your new host using SSH, SFTP, or FTP. Your hosting provider should have specific instructions on finding this information, but if in doubt, don’t hesitate to contact their support team. For more information on finding and adding your credentials, read our documentation.

adding SSH/SFTP credentials to Jetpack

Prepare for migration

It’s important to migrate at a time when you aren’t planning to publish any new content. If you create new content during the migration, you might lose that data. It’s also a good idea to do the entire process when your site isn’t too busy, so there’s minimal interruption to visitors. This time will be unique for every website, but may mean that it’s best done over the weekend or late at night. 

Jetpack’s clone feature transfers WordPress and its data over to a new server, but will not transfer other data such as email accounts. If you have email set up with your old hosting provider, now might be a good time to migrate this to a dedicated email host (like G Suite or Microsoft 365), which typically offer more features than standard hosting email. At the very least, make sure that you have a plan for any email accounts that you have set up.

Before you start, there are a few things you’ll need on hand:

  • SSH/SFTP/FTP credentials for your new web host.
  • The login for your DNS host. This will usually be your domain name provider, but could also be a standalone DNS provider such as Cloudflare.
  • The DNS records for your new server. This will usually be the server IP address, which you can find from your hosting provider.

Let’s get cloning

Jetpack Backup screen asking for a destination site title and URL

Start the cloning process from your WordPress.com account for your site:

  • Go to SettingsGeneral.
  • Scroll to the Site Tools section at the bottom and select Clone.
  • This page will show you some basic information about your website. If it’s all correct, click Continue.
  • Enter your destination site title and destination site URL. This is the new host you’re cloning to — in most cases, you won’t be changing your URL and should enter your current one. If you are updating your URL, then input the new details. Click Continue.
  • Enter your new server credentials, which we spoke about earlier. Jetpack will use these to clone your site from your current host to your new host. If you’re unsure, check with your host for the right information.
  • Enter the destination WordPress path. This is where your site’s files should be stored and is probably something like /public_html. If you’re at all unsure, then your new host should be able to provide this information. Click Save.
  • Select Clone current state to use the most recent backup. Or choose Clone previous state to choose an earlier backup. If you choose the latter, you’ll be taken to your activity log to select an appropriate clone point. Click Yep! Begin cloning to kick-off the copy process.
  • You’ll see a confirmation screen that allows you to return to the site’s activity log. Click To the Activity Log! to follow the progress.

Test, test, test!

To check if your migration was successful, it’s useful to check the website before pointing your domain name to the new host. Ensure that content is loading as expected and all functionality works properly. This isn’t a step to rush. Be thorough and take your time. 

There are a few ways to do this:

  1. Use a proxy service such as hosts.cx. This super simple way to test works on nearly every operating system. Simply enter your new server IP address and the website domain name (be careful here — ensure everything is correct including www vs. non www).
  2. Change your hosts file. This is a file that sits on your computer that allows you to point a domain name to a different IP address. The process changes depending on your operating system. Click here for more information.

Point your domain name to your new host

Once you’re satisfied that the migration was successful, you’ll need to change your DNS settings to point your domain name to your new server. The specific process for this depends on your provider, but here are the typical steps:

  • Log in to your domain registrar or DNS provider and locate the area to update your DNS settings. Again, this will vary based on your provider, but they should supply clear documentation.
  • Change the A record to your new server IP address. The exact steps to follow are dependent on your provider, but domain.com has a great example. You can also always ask your provider to make this change for you. Important: Don’t remove, edit, or delete any other DNS settings unless you are certain that you no longer need them. 
  • Once you’ve saved your settings, you need to wait for the DNS to propagate. DNS changes can take up to 48 hours to update around the world. For this reason, it’s important not to immediately cancel your old hosting until you’re confident that propagation has finished. You can verify propagation with tools such as DNS Checker.

Note that your Jetpack plan will be transferred to your new site, but will be put into maintenance mode. To reactivate Jetpack, look for the maintenance mode prompt and select “Fix the Jetpack Connection.” 

You can do it: migrate your own WordPress site

Congratulations! You now have the power to move your site to any host you want. Remember to take your time, double-check everything, test your site before you update the DNS, and reach out to your new host if you have questions! 

Ready to get started?

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