Moving your WordPress site to a new host or server can seem daunting, but it’s sometimes necessary. The internet can seem like everything’s just floating out in space, but when you get down to the nitty gritty, your WordPress website files actually have to physically live somewhere. A hosting company’s job is to store your files and database so that your site can be accessed by anyone from any location around the world.
Ideally, your website can live happily at your hosting company forever and you never have to give the physical files any thought. But there may come a time when you want to move your website. Let’s take a look at a few reasons you might need to migrate to a new host and how you can do this easily.
Reasons to migrate your WordPress site
You need a better host or server
You’ll know that it’s time for new hosting when your current website has:
- Too much downtime. Any time your website is inaccessible, it’s simply unacceptable. If you run a business, it can erode trust with your client base and cut off one of your main money-making assets. Timeout errors and what’s called the “white screen of death” are often related to network configuration (meaning it’s the fault of the host), and if they’re happening often, it’s time to think about switching. There are many hosts that guarantee at least 99% uptime. So there’s really no reason to settle for anything less. Pro tip: Use Jetpack downtime monitoring to alert you if there’s a problem.
- Slow loading speed. There are many factors that affect the speed of a website, but once you’ve optimized your site as much as you can, it comes down to hosting. If your host doesn’t focus on loading speeds, it could be time to migrate.
- Poor customer support. Whether you’re experiencing a stressful outage, want to add new features to your hosting, or just have a question about how your site should work, then access to knowledgeable support is key. If your host makes it hard to get in touch, or provides service that doesn’t give you the answers you need, consider moving your website.
- Limits on your storage or traffic. Most hosting packages limit both storage space and website traffic. In addition, some sites see spikes of site visitors — for example, when launching a new product or announcing a sale — and these aren’t always handled well by basic hosting packages. If you’ve hit the maximum levels with your current provider, or need to more easily scale during spikes, then it may be time to find a new company.
- Poor security. Have you been hacked? This is one of the most stressful things that can happen to website owners. Although there are many precautions you can take with your own website’s configuration, part of protecting your site rests with your hosting provider. You want one that knows how to set up their servers for maximum security, and that also includes regular backups of your site for quick restores in the event of a hack. If your host can’t provide those options, consider migrating.
- Lack of advanced features. Some hosting companies offer cheap packages, but charge extra fees for features like SSL certificates and backups. This can really add up! If your host is nickel-and-diming you with add-ons, it may be time to move your website to a host that offers a more complete package.
- Doesn’t support the community. WordPress is open source software, and that means it relies on the investment of developers and community members to remain strong, safe, and accessible to everyone. Some hosting companies are good WordPress community members and make it a point to contribute to the software; you can support WordPress indirectly by taking your hosting business to a company that is active in the WordPress community.
- No special configuration for eCommerce. If you sell online, you want a hosting company that specializes in eCommerce. With a good security configuration and the ability to handle large amounts of important data, the right host can make the difference in your success.
Remember, when it comes to good hosting, you get what you pay for. So if you’re living with some or all of these issues in the name of saving money, then it’s probably time to admit that the impact to your site isn’t worth it. Time to migrate!
Other reasons to migrate a website
- Moving from a staging environment to a live environment. When you’ve had a website for a while and need a major design overhaul, it’s hard to make that happen on a live site. The best way to work on major changes is to create a copy of your website — called a staging site — where you can iron out any problems and make everything perfect before launch. Copying your website to a staging site, and then copying it back to your live website, are both migration processes.
- Launching a new business website with a running start. If you have an existing site and want to create offshoots for specific ideas, you can copy and modify it instead of starting from scratch. This works perfectly if you have a business with multiple locations and want each to have its own site with identical branding and similar content.
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 a WordPress site
1. Choose and set up your new hosting plan
- Make sure that your plan meets (or, better yet, exceeds) the minimum WordPress requirements.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Set up any additional features you want to use. This may include server-side caching, a staging environment, email accounts, or an SSL certificate (see our guide on getting a free SSL certificate).
2. 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.
- From your WordPress dashboard on your current site, go to Plugins → Add New and search for “Jetpack.”
- Click Install Now → Activate.
- Connect to an existing WordPress.com account or create a new one.
- Choose a Jetpack plan that includes Jetpack Backup.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Let’s get cloning
Start the cloning process from your WordPress.com account for your site:
- Go to Settings → General.
- 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’ll need to enter your temporary/staging URL rather than your original site’s domain name as you’ll point your original domain’s DNS records to the site after cloning has finished. If you are updating your URL, enter the new URL. 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.
6. 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:
- 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).
- 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.
7. 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 WordPress to a new server
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!
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