We often get asked by our customers (especially new customers) – can you transfer my website to HostGeek with no downtime? And the answer is YES! We can migrate your website without it going offline for any period of time.

How do we do it? In this post we will share the steps that we follow to transfer a website without it going offline. These are generalised steps – the exact steps taken by our team of Geeks will vary case by case depending on the exact setup the client has and what their requirements are.

Steps to transfer a website with no downtime

In this example, lets ass that Mr Customer has the domain name example.com and has a website hosted by the fictional company SlowHosting.

Step 1 – Adjust DNS TTL Values

The first step is one of the most critical in the process. In order to ensure a quick and easy cutover, we need adjust the TTL (Time to Live) values for the DNS with the old host. This setting defines how long DNS servers on the internet can cache DNS results for this domain, and is typically approximately 4 hours. As we want the DNS records to update very rapidly when we change them, we would reduce this value to around 300 seconds (5 minutes). This reduction in the TTL value is what allows us to transfer the website easily with no downtime.

Step 2 – Copy website files and database to HostGeek servers

First step in the process is to copy the files and the database for the web from SlowHosting’s servers across to HostGeek.

If the old host uses cPanel then the process is a nice and simple – we can use the built in backup tools in cPanel on the old server to take a full account backup and transfer it across to the new server. This full backup file can then be restored on the HostGeek server, and contains all web files, databases and email accounts.

However we are not always so lucky with the old host – in the example they do not use cPanel so the files and database need to be transferred individually. To do this we would typically use FTP to download a copy of all the files, and take an export of the database using a tools such as PHPMyAdmin. If PHPMyAdmin was not available, we have a script that we have developed that can dump a copy of the database to a local file, ready to be imported on our servers

Step 3 – Test the site

Now we need to test the site in order to ensure that it is working correctly on our servers. We cannot simply browse to the website (as DNS would point us to the old hosts’s servers), we we edit the Hosts file on our workstation to point the website for our computer to the HostGeek servers. This allows us to test the website in a near-production manner without modifying DNS settings.

Typically we may need to make some adjustments to the configuration file for the website, and generally update database connection details. Any other issues that are discovered that do not exist with the old host are rectified by the team.

Step 4 – Set up email accounts

If we were lucky enough to get a full account backup from the old host, then the email accounts will already have been created. However in our example this was not the case, so we create new email accounts for the customer, using the old hosts configuration as a guide for the accounts that need to be created.

Step 5 – Update DNS with old host

At this point we are ready to cut over the services. We book in a time with the customer to perform this action, so that they are in the communications loop and there are no surprises. We adjust the relevant DNS settings (typically the root A record, WWW CNAME and MX records) to point to the HostGeek servers. This is the point at which the website is migrated to HostGeek with no downtime.

Step 6 – Help migrate email settings

At this time the email client software (e.g. Outlook, Thunderbird, Mac Mail) needs to be updated to connect to the HostGeek servers to get new mail and may need new authentication details. We make this process seamless and painless for the client by using our remote support tool LogMeIn Rescue to connect to the clients workstations and update the necessary details for them – they don’t need to try and work out the Geeky details!

At this point, the website is fully functional and the email services are cut across.

Step 7 – Re-delegate the domain name

At this point we are ready to re-delegate the domain name across to HostGeek, so that the HostGeek servers are responsible for answering DNS queries for the domain.

Step 8 – Transfer the domain name

The final step is to transfer the registration of the domain name across to HostGeek’s registrars. This allows our support team to better support the customer in the future, as all of the web services are with HostGeek.

Result – website moved with no downtime

There we go – a few simple steps that if executed correctly (and in the right order) allows our team to transfer your website and email services across with no downtime!

Remember that our website transfer service is available for FREE for all new services. Just contact our support team before or after lodging your hosting order and our team of Geeks will be able to look after the process for you.

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