As your WordPress site grows from a few visits a day to thousands of visits a month and more, the shared hosting account that provides its bandwidth, storage, and processing may be unable to keep up with the increased traffic. Either it will perform poorly for all visitors — slow page loads with frequent unresponsiveness. Or it will perform poorly during periods of peak traffic — it might stop working at all under especially heavy load. No one wants their site to collapse just when it’s at its most popular.
If a WordPress site’s hosting isn’t up to the job, there are two options. Upgrade to a more powerful hosting plan with the same hosting provider or move to a new hosting provider.
If you’re happy with your current host, upgrading is the simplest option, but if you aren’t happy, it’s time to consider making a move. Many bloggers and business site owners stick with their current hosting even when they aren’t happy with the support or the service they receive. They take the “better the devil you know” approach and assume moving to a new web hosting company is complicated. They also worry that it might hurt their SEO ranking or traffic.
In reality, moving to a new web hosting company is quite simple. First you find new hosting and migrate the site itself while the original site is still up and running. Then you change your domain records so that they point to the new site. Then you take the old site down and cancel your original hosting contract.
The only complications occur if you change the architecture of the site or the domain name as you make the change. Even that can be handled with a minimal impact, but I’ll stick to the simple case for this article.
Migrating The Site
Migrating a WordPress site is not difficult. A working WordPress site needs three things: web hosting, a WordPress installation (which is just a collection of files), and a database. Once you have a new web hosting account, you need to move the files into the root of your hosting account and import the site’s database.
If that sounds complicated, you might want to hire a WordPress professional to do it for you, but most decent web hosting companies will help you with the migration; many will do it for free.
If you want to make the move yourself, the best option is to use a plugin like All-In-One-Migration, which is capable of moving both the files and the database to your new hosting account.
All the plugin does is to copy the files to your new hosting account, export the database from the old site, and import it to the new WordPress installation. The same process can be done manually, but if you haven’t migrated a WordPress site before, I’d advise you to stick with one of the methods I’ve suggested.
Changing DNS Records
I’ve used the word “migrate,” but in reality the site has been copied. The new site works, but when users type the address into their browser or search for your site, they will end up on the old site.
To direct users to the new site, you need to change your domain name’s records so that it points to the IP of your new hosting account, rather than the old one.
There are two organizations involved in making a domain name work: the domain name registrar and the domain name host, although sometimes the same organization offers both services. The domain name registrar keeps the record of who owns the domain. The domain host manages the domain name servers that link your domain to an IP address.
When you change web hosting companies, you need to do one of the following:
- Change the domain name servers that your domain registrar uses for your domain so they point to your new web hosting company’s DNS servers.
- If you don’t want to use your web hosting companies name servers, change the DNS records for your domain with the DNS host you use.
In most cases, you’ll just want to visit your domain name registrar and use their interface to change the DNS server records so they point at your hosting company’s DNS servers. The domain name registrar or your web hosting company will be able to help you do this if you’re having trouble.
If you want to move your site without making any changes to its information architecture or the domain name, that’s about it. There will be no damage to your site’s search engine optimization, because from Google’s point of view, not much has changed. The content is the same, it’s accessible at the same URLs, and incoming links still work.
Don’t settle for a poor hosting experience. If you’re not happy with your hosting company, moving to a new provider is easier than you think.
About Graeme Caldwell — Graeme works as an inbound marketer for Nexcess, a leading provider of Magento and WordPress hosting. Follow Nexcess on Twitter at @nexcess, Like them on Facebook and check out their tech/hosting blog, https://blog.nexcess.net/.