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How to migrate your WordPress website to a new hosting partner?

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Migration is not a regular part of a site manager’s job description.

Generally, website owners choose to migrate a website only when they’re facing issues with their current host. The nature of the issues can vary, from performance issues to high costs and even a lack of support.

Whatever the reason maybe, migration is not exactly straightforward. Even on WordPress where you can use plugins to aid the migration process, there are things you need to remain mindful of.

Here’s how you can migrate your WordPress site to a new host:

  1. Select a new hosting partner for your website.
  2. Back up and export your WordPress website.
  3. Import your website to the new hosting partner.
  4. Edit your wp-config file.
  5. Point your domain to your new host by changing the nameservers.

Alternatively, you can use a variety of migration plugins to complete the process automatically. We will explore both these options in detail. First, let’s see how the process works without plugins.

Migrating your WordPress website (without plugins)

Plugins do make migration easy, but they often run into reliability issues. Some plugins may not be compatible with a particular host, or your website size may exceed the plugin’s storage limit.

It is thus important to know how to complete website migration manually. Knowing the process on a granular level will help you complete website migration successfully without worrying about plugin compatibility.

Let’s dive in.

Step 1: Select a website hosting provider

Why does one migrate a website? It is usually because they’re not happy with their current hosting provider.

The reason can be anything. High costs, poor performance, bad customer service; hosting churn can happen for a variety of reasons.

So how do you select a new host for your WordPress website?

Let’s first classify website hosts into two broad categories:

Both WP Engine and SiteGround are examples of managed WordPress hosts. These hosts can massively improve your website speed, and offer you managed solutions for performance and security.

Basically, you can stop worrying about hosting and focus on growing your site.

Once you’ve purchased a hosting plan, you can start the migration process.

Also read: Shared vs Managed hosts: A complete comparison

Step 2: Backup and export your WordPress site

Next, you need to backup your existing WordPress website. There are many ways to back up your WordPress website.

Ideally, you should ask your website host how to create a restorable backup. Website hosts generally have built-in backup mechanisms. Alternatively, you can use plugins like Duplicator and All-in-one WP Migration to backup your site.

Next, you should export your WordPress website. You need to export three main components:

1. wp-content folder
2. wp-config.php file
3. Your website database.

Follow the steps below to learn how to do this:

Now you have all the things you need to migrate to your new hosting provider.

Step 3: Import your website files and database to the new host

Let’s start. You need to upload your files and database to the new website host. The process is fairly simple but can take a little time if your site is large.

It is advised that you first import all your files to a new subdomain. If the process works, you can simply repeat it for your main website.

3.1 Install WordPress on your subdomain

If you already have a subdomain, the process is fairly simple. If not follow the steps below:

Once this subdomain is created, it’s time to install WordPress in it. There are again two ways of doing this. You can either install WordPress manually or do it through an installer.

Manual installation

In a manual installation, you simply need to download WordPress.

define(‘DB_NAME’, ‘database_name_here’);

/** MySQL database username */

define(‘DB_USER’, ‘username_here’);

/** MySQL database password */

define(‘DB_PASSWORD’, ‘password_here’);

With an installer

cPanels generally come equipped with automatic WordPress installers. You will generally find a WordPress button in your cPanel.

3.2 Import your database

Now that a blank version of WordPress is ready, all you need to do is upload your website database and files. Let’s first start with importing the database.

Similarly, update the value for option name as home.

3.3 Import your wp-content folder

Once your database import is ready, all that is left is uploading your website’s files. To do this, go to your file manager.

Once the upload is complete, unzip the file in the same subdomain directory. You can delete the zip file once the extraction is complete.

Step 4: Edit your wp-config.php file

If you go to your subdomain now, you will still see a blank WordPress site. To change this, you need to make a small edit to your wp-config.php file.

You will find a common prefix behind every table in the left panel menu. Note the prefix, and update it in the wp-config.php file.

Now your subdomain should load your existing WordPress website normally. If the process works as intended, you can go ahead and install WordPress on your main domain. There are a few things you would need to do differently this time:

Step 5: Update your nameservers

The final step is updating your nameservers to point to the new website host.

All you need to do is log in to your domain account and go to DNS settings. Here, you should see your nameserver fields. Simply update them to point to your new website host.

You would have received your nameserver details while signing up for a new host in the first step. Just enter the same details here.

It can take up to 24 hours for the domain to be completely propagated to your new host. You can use free DNS checkers online to remain updated on the propagation of the domain to the new host.

Once the propagation is complete and your new host is working fine, you can go ahead and deactivate your old hosting account.

Migrating your WordPress website with a plugin

Migrating a website manually can be a little challenging if you’re not familiar with working with your site’s cPanel.

If this is the case, using a plugin is a better choice. It also takes less time to complete the migration this way. However, you do have to check whether your existing and new hosts are compatible with the migration plugin you’re using.

We will be using All-in-One WP Migration to migrate your WordPress website.

Step 1: Install and activate the plugin

You first need to install and activate the All-in-One WP Migration plugin on your WordPress website.

Step 2: Export your WordPress website

The next step is exporting your current WordPress website using this plugin.

Step 3: Change DNS settings

Now that your export is ready, it’s time to import it to your new website host. Once your new hosting account is ready, install a new version of WordPress on it.

Next, you would need to update your DNS settings.

Simply login into your domain account and update the nameservers to point to your new host. Once the update is complete and the DNS has been propagated, you would see a blank version of WordPress on opening your website.

Step 4: Import your website to the new host

You can now import the same file you exported on your old WordPress website. Here’s how the process works:

In case you face an error while uploading your export file, it could be because your host has a size limit for file exports. You can ask your host to update the size limit, or do it on your own by following the steps below:

In conclusion

Website migration can seem complicated if you don’t know how the process exactly works.

Once you know the separation between a website’s files and database, and the role of important files like wp-config, you can easily migrate WordPress sites and diagnose issues if you ever run into them.

With this tutorial, you can see how the process works on a file and database level. Even though you can always use plugins to migrate sites, it is important to know how to perform a migration manually, should the need arise.

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