“Migrate WordPress” sends shivers down the spines of the most heroic techies. So, it may seem easier to stay with the ‘devil’ you know, than to switch to a new web host supplier.
But last week, I faced the challenge of finding a cost-effective solution for hosting my seven stand-alone WordPress websites. And while I have a basic understanding of building websites and backend cPanel processes, I’m not techie genius.
After emailing a few questions to potential suppliers, I engaged in other online research. This included reading:
- Customer complaints about web hosts on social media.
- Online reviews.
- Browsing techie forums for web host recommendations.
Once I had weighed up my options and the feedback, I was ready to make the move. Now, came the huge task to migrate WordPress.
Seven tips to migrate WordPress smoothly
Here are some tips drawn from my own experience:
- Check WordPress compatibility.
- Check the compatibility of your plugins.
- Read through articles on how to migrate WordPress.
- Copy your web files and database to multiple locations.
- Change your domain name servers.
- Check your database information and password in the config file.
- Cancel your old web hosting service.
1. Check the compatibility of your chosen host with WordPress
Before you purchase web hosting, first check if the web host is compatible with WordPress. The last thing you want to do, is to sign up with a new host without checking the services they offer. You should check if they:
- Offer WordPress installations.
- Have Cpanel (my hosting platform of choice on Linux servers).
- Use the minimum SQL version recommended by WordPress.
- Use the minimum PHP version recommended by WordPress.
WordPress.org publishes information on the minimum requirements for WordPress.
2. Check the compatibility of plugins
3. Decide on your commitment level
Before purchasing your new web hosting account, careful consider your purchasing options. Rather than purchasing an annual agreement, a three month or monthly option allows you to trial the new host.
For instance, with my seven websites, migrating one and trialing how it runs over a three month period creates less risk than migrating all my sites at once.
4. Copy your web files and database
Always create backups of your files and database before migrating. If you need to deactivate and remove any plugins, create a backup after you have performed this step.
- Create your own WordPress migration checklist.
- Notify your website users of downtime.
- Lock users out of your website.
- Check, turn off, deactivate or remove any security plugins, such as BPS Pro.
- Use an ftp client to copy your WordPress web directory and files to your computer.
- Export your SQL database and save a copy of the database locally.
Before migrating your website, check with your new web host to see if they provide a free migration service. Some hosts offer this service as an incentive to attract new customers. You still need to prepare your site for migration.
5. Change your Domain Name Servers
An often overlooked step during the migration of a website is the change to domain name servers.
When you order web hosting, your new web host should provide you with your Domain Name Servers. A Domain Name Server is like a home address for your website. It directs traffic to the server location where they will be hosted. If you forget to change your domain name servers, you could be
- looking at your old website on your old host if it is still running, or
- receiving an error message from your browser, such as “Oops! Your browser can not find yourwebsite.com“
To change your domain name servers, you need to access your domain registration account details and change the server address where it says “Nameservers”. This often looks like
6. Check your database information and password in the config file
If you first installed a new copy of WordPress and set up a new mysql table, you may need to configure the database and user names, and database password in your WordPress config.php file. If there is an issue with the configuration, you will get an error that says something like, “Error establishing a database connection” message.
7. Cancel your old web hosting service
Once your new web host has your WordPress website up and running, make sure you contact your old web host if you no longer require their services, and cancel your hosting. Do not get caught with a payable invoice you no longer require.
Final considerations to help migrate WordPress
In step 4, I mention creating a custom WordPress Migration checklist to assist with your migration. Double check your list to ensure you have completed all the necessary steps. Go through your website and check for errors.
Uh-oh. Houston we have a problem – White screen of death strikes
Out of the seven websites I migrated in the last few days, one website site had a corrupt theme stopping me from going into the CMS back end. I ended up with the dreaded white page of death. None of the pages or blog posts worked.
Using phpMyAdmin, I removed the offending theme from the database and replaced the option with a standard WordPress theme, such as TwentySixteen. This then gave me access to the backend and the motivation to redesign the website. The remaining WordPress websites migrated smoothly.
If you strike a problem while migrating, email your hosting support. And if you haven’t had any sleep for a while, get some. Challenges always look different with a fresh perspective.
Use the tips I’ve put together above to help make your WordPress migration a stress free and enjoyable experience.