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How to migrate from one hosting provider to another

  knowledgebase  :: network status

Warning: this is a complex process, and the steps noted below are a guide only. You should consult a networking professional before attempting to migrate to a new hosting provider. Failing to migrate correctly may result in the loss of email and web service, among other things, to the affected domainname.

Situation: you want to change hosting providers, eg. you want your website and email to be served from new server. You want to keep using the same domainname, email addresses and passwords as before.

Note: this process requires that you have access to your domainname registrar's control panel, that is, the control panel that lets you change the nameservers for your domain.

  1. Obtain a hosting account with your NEW hosting provider.
  2. Using FTP, publish your website to the NEW hosting account.

    At this point, you cannot use standard addresses to access your NEW hosting account, as the nameserver change has not yet been completed. If you try and use an address like ftp.yourdomain.com to access your NEW hosting account with FTP, you'll be trying to login to your OLD hosting account instead. Likewise, if you try and use an address like www.yourdomain.com to access your NEW hosting account with a web browser, you'll see your OLD website. To access the NEW hosting account with FTP, and see the NEW hosting account with a web browser, BEFORE the nameservers have been changed, use the addresses detailed here: accessing your webspace before changing your nameservers

  3. Using the control panel of your NEW hosting account, create email accounts as per the OLD hosting account, using passwords that are the SAME as the passwords to your existing mail accounts (you may need to access the control panel of your OLD hosting account to get this information).

    It's likely that your OLD POP3 usernames will be different from the NEW POP3 usernames. Also, your POP3 server address may change. For this reason, you cannot immediately enter the NEW username and server address into your mail program. This is because until the nameserver change is done (below), you'll want to check your OLD server for mail, as that is where it will be forwarded. Once the nameserver change is done, mail will be forwarded to the NEW server. However, this means that you must wait until the nameserver change has propagated, before you can enter the new details into your mail program.

  4. Using your domainname registrar's control panel, change the nameservers for this domainname to point at the nameservers that come with the NEW hosting account.
  5. Wait for the nameserver change to propagate. This may take up to 48 hours. Once the change has propagated, change the account details in your POP3 software.

    When the change has propagated to your local DNS server, you MAY see an "invalid username" error when you try to check your mail. If you see this error, it will be because your mailserver has changed, and your mail program is submitting your OLD username and password to the NEW server. You should now change your POP3 account details in your mail program, to match those details of your POP3 account on the NEW server. If you don't see an error, this could be because the nameserver change has not yet propagated, or because you were able to create accounts on the NEW server with matching usernames and password. You can test whether the change has propagated by using ping or traceroute to resolve the IP address of your webserver. The IP address of your website will change from the IP address of the OLD server, to the IP address of the NEW server, once the nameserver change has propagated.

Once the nameserver change has propagated, all traffic for the domainname will be sent to the server associated with your NEW hosting account - mail will begin accumulating in the NEW POP3 accounts you created, and you'll see traffic in your webserver logs for your NEW hosting account.

Tip: You can also use third-party sites such as CheckDNS or Domain White Pages to check your nameservers.

Note: On high-traffic email accounts, there is a possibility that mail will be delivered to the OLD mailbox for several days after the nameserver change has commenced. This is due to out-of-date entries on the sender's DNS server, and cannot be prevented. To collect this mail, you need to enter the IP address of the OLD POP3 server into your mail client's 'server address' box (in your account settings). We advise to wait several days after the change, then one time only, check the old mailbox. You may wish to note down the IP address of the OLD server before you start the nameserver change, you may not be able to determine what it was afterwards.

Note: This document does not cover numerous aspects that may be need to be covered, in order to migrate an advanced website, for instance a site where there are custom PHP or PERL scripts, user-updated files, databases, or ecommerce. If your site contains such features, we advise you to engage the services of a web developer to perform the migration.

Note: Changes to DNS records (such as your nameserver settings) can take up to 48 hours to become active. This is a limitation of DNS which cannot be worked around, and is a consequence of the distributed nature of the internet. Indeed, while your DNS changes are propagating, some DNS servers may report your old settings, while others will report your new settings. This may cause anomalous behaviour. If you experience strangeness, and you've modified your DNS records within the last 48 hours, you should wait several hours, and retry whatever you are doing. You may need to restart your computer in order to have it recognise a DNS change.