WordPress Migration Services

We’ll migrate your WordPress website included in our hosting plan

Migrating your WordPress website is hard. What might – at first – seem as simple as copying some files can end up being a real nightmare if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing.

Today, I’m going to go over the ins-and-outs of migrating a WordPress website and the best practices that we follow when we migrate a website for our clients.

After reading this, you should have a better understanding of all the technical requirements and whether you could do it yourself or you should leave it to the experts to take care of for you.

Why would I need to migrate my WordPress website?

There are a handful of situations you might be faced with where you would need to migrate your website.

1. You are switching you WordPress website from one hosting provider to another

This is the most common scenario. You have a new and (hopefully) better host and you need to move everything over to them to be on their services.

2. Switching from one server to another

Even if you’re staying with the same provider, you may be faced with switching to a new server which will require a full migration. In most cases, any good host will likely handle this for you, but I’ve seen situations with budget hosts where clients were forced to migrate the website themselves. This is particularly likely if you have elected to upgrade to a higher-level plan, as opposed to being forced to change servers for technical reasons.

3. Changing domains

Even if you’re planning to stay with the same website host or even the same server, if you are changing your domain, this will still likely require some kind of migration. The exact steps will vary depending on your situation, but unfortunately changing your website domain is not as simple as just entering in a new address in the WordPress backend.

If one of these situations applies to you and you know you need to migrate, you’ll need to know what is required.

    What all is involved with a WordPress migration?

    The process obviously varies depending on your exact website and hosting setup but, at a minimum, it will require:

    • Migrating the database
    • Migrating all website files
    • Making a DNS change to point the domain to the new location

    In some situations, that may be all you need to do. In the real world, however, this is rarely the case.

    The following are all additional tasks that we commonly perform when migrating a WordPress website:

    • Set up a new SSL certificate at the new hosting location
    • Verify, test, and manage PHP versions for compatibility
    • Configure and verify email routing from the sending server
    • Verifying and testing that the site works as expected on the new server
    • Updating TXT/SPF DNS records to ensure email deliverability from the website

    Additionally, if you are changing the domain name you are using, we typically perform the following steps:

      What are best practices when migrating a WordPress website?

      While there are many ways to skin a cat, some are still better than others.

      Over the years we have migrated many hundreds of WordPress websites and have learned a trick or two. Along with that, we have developed our own “best practices” to use when migrating.

      Choose which tool or method you are going to use
      We typically lean heavily on the Duplicator plugin to do much of the heavy lifting for us. In many cases (most notably: migrating to or from WP Engine), this plugin won’t work and we have to choose another method. In those cases, we typically choose to manually migrate all files via FTP and manually export/import the database and perform the remaining tasks.

      Set up website at new server
      This can vary quite a bit depending on your hosting setup, but with our platform, WordPress comes pre-installed. From there, we just need to upload the Duplicator files and let it do its thing.

      Follow the instructions from your particular host and migration tool to complete this step.

      Test the website
      It’s important to test the website at the new server before making any DNS changes. You don’t want to be surprised to find that the site is completely broken at the new host when it goes live.

      The most common way to do this is with the “hosts file” trick, which will allow you to view the website on the new server at its actual domain, as if it were live. Using this method, you can test everything and finalize the setup, knowing for sure that the site will work once live.

      Some hosts have other methods available, such as development URLs, but in most cases you are better off using the hosts file change.

      Plan a time to officially go live with the site
      All relevant parties (website owner, IT providers, and website hosting provider) should agree on when the site can go live. Depending on your needs and preparedness, there is a chance there will be some downtime or other potential issues and you’ll want to plan the migration for a time when these can be dealt with while minimizing any disruptions to the business.

      Switch over the DNS
      This is the step that actually “launches” the website on the new hosting. Once the DNS has fully propagated, the site will be live.

      As an optional step, you could reduce the TTL for the main host/A record to the minimum allowable by your DNS provider. In theory, this enables you to switch the DNS back to the old provider quickly in the event that something goes wrong. It also (theoretically) reduces the time the DNS takes to propagate, minimizing the time that the site is “in limbo” between both hosts.

      In practice, I don’t think it actually matters. In my experience, TTL is entirely ignored pretty much universally across the web, so we don’t ever bother with this step. With our super-fast DNS hosting, changes typically propagate within minutes regardless of TTL.

      Likewise, if you’re using a slow/ancient/terrible DNS provider like Network Solutions, the DNS will take many hours to propagate, again: regardless of your TTL.

      Issue the SSL certificate
      Depending on the level of traffic to the website, it may be required to issue the SSL before the hosting is switched over. This can be tricky because the issuers don’t like to give out SSLs to a server that isn’t yet live.

      “But that’s stupid, don’t they need it active to avoid downtime?” Yes! Yes they do. And it is stupid, but it’s how the system is designed.

      There are ways around this, which vary depending on host and SSL issuer, but it can be done.

      Otherwise, as long as a small amount of downtime is acceptable, it’s fine to just issue the SSL once the DNS has propagated. We typically issue a Letsencrypt SSL immediately, and if the client would like a full, traditional SSL, we issue that afterwards. The reason for this is that Letsencrypt SSL certificates typically are issued within minutes, minimizing downtime. Traditional certificates generally take hours or even days to issue.

        Do most hosting providers include migration with their services?

        Cheap hosts rarely will migrate your website at all, even for a fee. Some smaller providers will do it for you for an additional fee.

        It’s not until you get to the premium, managed providers where they will migrate your site to their servers at no additional charge. Our clients all enjoy that privilege, and we handle all migration-related tasks included with our hosting fee.

        Check with your provider before agreeing to go with them. If you’re not prepared to migrate the website yourself, you may want to look around for more options.

          Conclusion: migrating a WordPress website is complicated

          I’ve really only scratched the surface here of what’s involved with a website migration. There is no limit to what could go wrong, and having extensive experience is invaluable to ensuring a smooth transition and good start with the new provider.

          We recommend avoiding the cheap website hosts out there which will not only provide you with a terrible service, but will also require you to fumble through the migration on your own. While you’re welcome to attempt it, I simply wouldn’t recommend trying to do it on your own if the stakes are high and you have no background in this.

          With a managed WordPress hosting provider, you’ll typically have migration included and no fee, and they will have the experience and knowledge to not only plan the migration to reduce the likelihood of problems, but to also solve anything that might come up quickly.


            Do you need to migrate your WordPress website?

            We would love to speak with you more and discuss what your needs are.


            Contact Us