March 01, 2018
Recently I had a highly valued client decide to migrate web hosting to another web host provider. Unfortunately the process was extremely frustrating for my client and after a disastrous site migration they decided to return to using my services. This non-technical document is about everything that went wrong, and what should have happened for their migration to be a success. My hope is that anyone reading this document can avoid potential mistakes, and complete a successful migration away from an old web hosting company.
Initially when my client told me that they were moving on, I had a few concerns about their migration, mostly to do with the site being a live e-commerce site with orders coming in most the time. My general practice when clients decide to move on, is to only give them basic access to the server, so that the new hosting company can copy the files down via sftp and complete a full database backup. I rarely give information about how to migrate away from my server. The reason why is because other hosting companies may have different methods of migration that may conflict with any suggestions that I may make. So in order for no problems to come back to me, I rarely give any direction to my former client on how to migrate. For this reason as well, I take no responsibility for any issues that may arise if the following instructions are carried out by a third party.
|Potential Migration Pitfall||What happened|
|DNS is incorrectly configured for a seamless transition||My clients DNS took hours to propagate with orders going into both servers|
|Database backups are not refreshed when the new site goes live||My client at go–live found that two weeks of orders were missing on the new server|
|Scripts are incorrectly configured on the new host||During the long two week migration, a major new security patch was issued for the cart but not installed|
|SSL certificates are incorrectly installed or non-existent||My client had to instruct the developer to install SSL|
|The new host has not thoroughly tested the migrated site on a staging server||Very little testing was completed, with missing orders not attended to|
The developer involved in migrating my client to a new server did not know how to change the name servers at my clients current domain registrar for their domain name. For a successful migration this is DNS 101, and to be frank, should never have happened. Not only did the client have to update their domain settings, but they also had to do much research about DNS in order to do it. They spent hours trying to figure out how this could be done. My opinion is this; the person conducting the migration needs to guide them through the steps to change DNS hosting.
For my client this process was incredibly frustrating, the person conducting the migration even asked if their domain name could be moved from one registrar to another; the server hosting companies own domain registrar. Furthermore they wanted to do this live. So the actual migration was going to be done while transferring domain registrar’s. Again, to be frank, I’ve never heard of this happening before, and would be fraught with problems.
In light of this, I have created a website migration checklist that I use on a regular basis to migrate websites onto my servers. This is not a definitive check list for complex hosting scenarios, and in its current format is more suited to websites that receive less than 500 visits per day and up to 40 to 50 orders.
once satisfied that the new DNS records are correct I will instruct my new client to change name servers at their domain registrar
If the developer who attempted my clients migration had followed this process, then my client would be hosted on a new server, and I would no longer have the pleasure of hosting them.
Use this check list when you next conduct a migration to a new web hosting server.
Matthew Sweet lives and works in Melbourne as an SEO auditor.
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