"How to Switch Web Hosts" — Transfer a Website in 5 Steps (No Downtime)

If you’re not getting what you need from your current web host, it might be time to pick up and find a new one. Moving a site to a new web hosting service doesn’t have to be as arduous as moving to a new house or apartment. It can actually be fairly easy if you take the right steps.

I know a prominent lawyer who publishes her law firm’s website on WordPress. Stephanie’s current host’s support is superb, but there were a few things she felt were lacking. She wanted unlimited inbox storage because the limitations on her current email package were making it hard to keep important documents and messages easily accessible. She also wanted to move to a cloud-based server to increase the flexibility and customization of her server settings.

If it’s time to switch web hosts, you have two choices: Do it yourself, or have the migration done for you.

It took Stephanie a few months to make the decision because she was worried about the effort it would take and having downtime on her site. When she just couldn’t wait any longer, it turned out that switching web hosts was a painless process. With some advice from her local web hosting expert (yours truly), she was able to switch within a week. You’ll find that same advice in this article on how to choose and move to a new web host without breaking a sweat.

Option A: Choose a Host That Will Migrate Your Website For Free

Web hosting is a competitive industry, and as such, many hosts offer free assistance with switching to one of their plans from a different hosting service. This means you can transfer all of your files and databases to the new host, without doing the heavy lifting, free of cost. In most cases, all you need to do is request a migration after signing up for an account with the new provider, and they’ll take care of the rest.

Migration experts at your new web host may be able to transfer your data by creating a new account on your web server control panel – if your new host uses the same control panel system. If not, they’ll likely have to do it manually, which is more work for them but can be completed within a few days, depending on the size of your site. Regardless of the method, you’ll want to go with a provider that can guarantee a seamless transition with zero downtime.

Here are our top picks for hosts that offer hassle-free migration assistance:

BEST OVERALL RATING
★★★★★ 4.9/5.0
  • SSD hosting
  • Zero-downtime website transfers
  • FREE data backups
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $2.95
Money Back Guarantee 90 days
Disk Space Unlimited
Domain Name FREE (1 year)
Best Overall Hosting Plans www.inmotionhosting.com

Our Expert's InMotion Review

Offering a wider range of services than most — including shared, dedicated, VPS, and even WordPress-specific hosting — InMotion features a great combination of industry-leading hardware, always-there support, and mass scalability for all hosting needs. InMotion Hosting... read more +

Offering a wider range of services than most — including shared, dedicated, VPS, and even WordPress-specific hosting — InMotion features a great combination of industry-leading hardware, always-there support, and mass scalability for all hosting needs.

InMotion Hosting has nice SSD drives on their shared plans which give an added speed boost to your site. Their customer service and reputation are excellent in the shared space though they are higher priced then other shared hosts. If a little extra speed is worth a few dollars more a month, then they are a good choice for you.

In testing InMotion servers and account backends ourselves, there are a few things InMotion does that we especially appreciate. Automated and free data backups are included with each plan which we like to see since data security is important to us. They also offer zero downtime site transfers which makes switching to them or between their hosting plans a breeze. Finally, multiple datacenters and the ability to choose which will house your site appeals to speed-freaks like us.

Regardless of your hosting needs, InMotion  seems to have it covered. If you value great hardware and support, all at a reasonable price, we highly recommend InMotion as your next host.

collapse info -

BEST OVERALL RATING
★★★★★ 5.0/5.0
  • FREE site transfer or new site setup with 1-click install
  • FREE automated daily backups, CDN, email, and SSL
  • 24/7 expert support with no wait time on phone or live chat
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $3.95
Money Back Guarantee 30 days
Disk Space 10 GB - 30 GB
Domain Name New or Transfer
Best Overall Hosting Plans www.siteground.com

Our Expert's SiteGround Review

With an impressive breadth of overall hosting services offered, SiteGround is a leading innovator in the hosting space — from custom software solutions to premier customer support. They offer the full range of web hosting... read more +

With an impressive breadth of overall hosting services offered, SiteGround is a leading innovator in the hosting space — from custom software solutions to premier customer support. They offer the full range of web hosting features, including a free Cloudflare CDN, cPanel with SSH access, and unlimited MySQL databases and bandwidth — not to mention their prize-worthy customer support.

Tech Talk with Tenko Nikolov (CEO) & Ivo Tzenov (Founder)

We got a chance to sit down with both the CEO, Tenko Nikolov, and Founder of SiteGround, Ivo Tzenov, to discuss the technology behind some of their incredible innovations. They gave us the inside scoop on SiteGround's features, and took us through the solutions they've engineered to enhance the user experience.

Custom-Built Customer Service: Chat and ticketing systems

What's SiteGround's strongest "pull" factor, you ask? Well, customer service has been their claim to fame, without a doubt. However, customers come to SiteGround for the support, only to be blown away by the custom solutions they've built to make the hosting experience as stress-free as possible.

SiteGround has engineered an in-house chat software that allows users to select and rate thoroughly vetted customer service agents with whom they've worked previously. They've written their own ticketing system as well, which is comprised of an algorithm designed to select appropriate technical support representatives for specific tasks.

In-House Solutions: Shared, WordPress, Cloud, & Dedicated

They've taken their preference for in-house software solutions for customer support and applied it to their entire business. "All of our infrastructure and all of our code beds are done internally," Tenko said.

For their shared hosting service, they've conceived a one-of-a-kind server isolation system that prevents vulnerable servers from taking down entire networks. In place of VPS hosting, they've built their own cloud container platform, featuring thousands of containers and top-notch scalability and security. All SiteGround hosting service users benefit from their unique downtime prevention mechanism, which has helped SiteGround develop their reputation for uptime rates: 99.996% annually and 99.999% monthly.

Other Unique Perks: SuperCacher and In-House Backups

In the cases of caching and backups, customers have access to SiteGround's in-house SuperCacher, with a flexible range of options to meet any and all page load needs at optimum speeds. Their custom backup software improves upon technology off the shelf, which often takes up to a day to run. Instead, SiteGround customers receive daily backups from a system that only takes about an hour.

Final Word: Unmatched User Experience with SiteGround

SiteGround is, without a doubt, an esteemed leader in customer service within the hosting industry. They've emphasized that commitment to quality with the unique, custom solutions they've built. On the development side, they devote a tremendous amount of time to UX testing, epitomizing their commitment to the user experience.

collapse info -

BEST OVERALL RATING
★★★★★ 4.8/5.0
  • Heroic Support® and fully managed hosting services
  • Sonar Monitoring™ team detects and treats issues
  • Consistently recommended by customers to colleagues
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $34.50
Money Back Guarantee N/A
Disk Space 50 GB - 1.6 TB SSD
Domain Name 2 - 5 Domains FREE
Best Overall Hosting Plans www.liquidweb.com

Our Expert's Liquid Web Review

We've gotten to know a few key members of the Liquid Web team personally, and let us tell you: the passion they put into just talking about their products hints that this is a company... read more +

We've gotten to know a few key members of the Liquid Web team personally, and let us tell you: the passion they put into just talking about their products hints that this is a company worth checking out. Liquid Web boasts supreme uptime, always-there-for-you support, and a constant commitment to building out more functionality for the customer (you folks are the whole reason we do this, right?). Upon deeper review, it seems the enthusiasm of the team translates into the technology's awesomeness.

Testing Out Their Performance First-Hand

We took the Liquid Web servers for a spin. Below you'll find a sampling of the results from testing Liquid Web's signature Storm® Platform. Using a basic MongoDB application in NodeJS, without caching, we experienced page load times nearly half those of other providers. See for yourself in the chart below.

Liquid Web vs. Other: Comparing Average Page Load Times (in milliseconds)
Dallas, TX New York City, NY San Jose, CA
Liquid Web 402, 456, 440, 444 388, 357 542, 559, 530
Competitor 648, 611, 679, 709 604, 523 754, 937, 899

It can't be said enough: MILLISECONDS MATTER, and Liquid Web clearly gets that. Needless to say, we were pretty impressed with these findings.

Liquid Web Manages Everything, So You Don't Worry

The beauty of Liquid Web as a hosting provider is that not only will they host your new website, but they'll take care of all of the behind-the-scenes logistics of running it.

Privately Owned, US-Based, Fault-Resistant Network

Liquid Web has a redundantly built, multi-tiered network with four datacenters based out of the US (plus one coming soon to Amsterdam). They take advantage of all the latest technologies on the market, but most uniquely, they own all of their hardware. By owning rather than leasing, they have more control over the options they can offer their clients.

Guarded By The Sonar Monitoring™ Team

Liquid Web's servers are heftily and proactively protected under the watchful guard of the Sonar Monitoring™ team. These folks are trained to constantly survey server statuses and notice issues before they affect you, resolving problems quickly and quietly; chances are you won't even realize these disaster prevention ninjas are at work.

Guided By The Heroic Support® Team

Should disaster strike or questions come up, you are never alone. Within minutes, you can be on the line with a highly trained Heroic Support® technician who will be well-equipped to walk you through any hosting dilemma. These team members were mentored by experts, many are now Red Hat certified, and all of them uphold the Heroic Promise to be totally transparent and there for you. The Liquid Web Best Effort Support policy means they'll try to help any way that they can, even if it requires work outside of their traditional services.

Fully Managed Hosting Solutions

Liquid Web has three main tracks for managed hosting, not including their newest managed WordPress solution, and they offer varying degrees of management for their servers (e.g., fully managed versus self-managed). You pay a bit of a premium for managed hosting, but the peace of mind you get in exchange is priceless.

You Take Care of Your Business, They'll Take Care of the Rest

With Liquid Web taking over the infrastructure management, you're free to focus on what really matters: your content and/or your customers. Customers can easily install popular blogging software and eCommerce tools through the ever-popular and easy-to-use cPanel. Users get unlimited email accounts, secure access with SSH, and really fast page loads thanks to SSD storage.

Services Consistently Recommended By Customers

The hard-to-beat support that Liquid Web offers to their customers has been raved about by users, as evident by their consistently high NPSs (Net Promoter Score: the likelihood of a client recommending a product/service to a colleague). The devoted Heroic Support® team and equally reliable uptime rates, not to mention amazing, custom technologies, all work together to yield such customer praise (NPS of 68 in 2014).

State-of-the-Art VPS & Storm® Cloud Platform

Liquid Web's VPS hosting is arguably one of their most noteworthy services. Whether you want fully, core-, or self-managed service, they offer all the flexibility and power you need.

Powerful SSDs with RAID Protection

SSD power comes standard on all Liquid Web VPS plans, which means less latency and more security with RAID protection. VPS users also get Liquid Web's in-house-built Storm® Firewall for added peace of mind.

Daily Billing & Easy Scaling

VPS users can easily scale up and down, create and deploy server instances, and only pay (even by the day) for what they use. With instant provisioning, API access, and real-time server monitoring, you should feel confident in a Liquid Web VPS.

NEW Managed WordPress Solution is Perfect for Personal or Professional Use

Individuals and mom-and-pop shops looking to build a site will probably at least consider WordPress at some point in their hosting shopping. Liquid Web has introduced a Managed WordPress Hosting solution, which includes all the technology and support Liquid Web is known for, plus SSL certificates for all users. The team will migrate your WordPress site to Liquid Web for free, then maintain automatic backups and updates to the core and plugins.

Popular & Performance-Focused Dedicated Servers

Liquid Web's dedicated servers offer more flexibility than traditional dedicated server resources, particularly with the innovation of their Storm® Dedicated Server.

Tons of Add-Ons to Strengthen Your Dedicated System

Liquid Web has 50+ developers behind the maintenance of their platforms, and that includes tons of optional extras for added security, speed, and storage. Dedicated users can opt to include firewalls, load balancers, a CDN, or Liquid Web's Guardian Backup service, among other Dedicated Add-Ons.

Storm® Dedicated: The Power You Need in a Flexible Cloud Environment

The Storm® Dedicated Server offers the concentrated power you'd expect from a traditional dedicated service with the added customization of a cloud-based environment. While traditional dedicated servers don't guarantee instant provisioning, SSDs, and automatic migrations, the Storm® Platform does.

Last Words on Liquid Web & Their Hosting Solutions

The bottom line is that if you're ready for the real deal in web hosting — high-powered hardware and a team you can count on — you should consider Liquid Web. Their highly reliable Heroic Support® team experts help make for highly available sites. They own their servers and have a team dedicated to building out new solutions that make their customers' lives easier and sites safer. Based on our experience, it's really no surprise that customers consistently vouch for Liquid Web managed hosting.

collapse info -

Option B: Move Your Website to a New Host Yourself

If your new web host doesn’t offer migration assistance, or you would rather handle it yourself, you can move your website files independently. This is a good time to employ the skills of your in-house IT staff, who likely have experience with backing up and transferring files. Many web hosts also have documentation with step-by-step guides on how to migrate your website. Read on to discover the best practices for moving your website to a new host safely and quickly.

1. Choose a New Web Host (Before Cancelling Your Old Account!)

There are as many reasons to switch web hosts as there are features in a hosting package. It’s a matter of what aspects of web hosting are most important for the individual or company, and whether those are being achieved with their current host. For some people, the level of customer service is a high priority. For others, the price point is a top consideration. It’s wise to consider the range of your web hosting needs when thinking about switching hosts.

If you find yourself weighing your options, pinpoint those things that make you want to move your business elsewhere. Some aspects organizations usually consider include security system performance, server storage space, mailbox and email features, uptime, and the availability of controls panels, website builders, and shopping carts. Many web hosts have comparable offerings, but some hosts invest more into certain features than others. Ask yourself which features you can’t live without and which ones must perform the absolute best – then make your decision based on those answers.

Options abound for your next web hosting provider and service choices.

If you know you want to switch hosts, but you’re unsure of which provider you want next, consider our recommendations for the best shared host, VPS plan, and/or dedicated servers below.

Recommended Shared Hosting

If you’re looking to shop around for inexpensive providers, shared hosting is a good place to start. With shared hosting, you’ll share your server with other websites and storage space will be divided among the sites. Shared hosting can be a good option for small businesses with low-traffic websites, and is economical to boot, with most plans costing less than $10 per month. Check out our recommended shared hosting providers below, which carry many of the benefits of shared hosting such as effectiveness and responsive support.

SHARED RATING
★★★★★ 5.0/5.0
  • Known for high-performance, low-cost shared hosting
  • FREE website builder with 1,000s of templates
  • Endorsed by the WordPress.org team as a top WP host
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $2.95
Money Back Guarantee 30 days
Disk Space Unlimited
Domain Name FREE (1 year)
Shared Hosting Plans www.bluehost.com/shared
Our Expert's Bluehost Review
If you’re looking for an affordable host, Bluehost is a solid, reputable choice, but their low cost coupled with their supremacy in the shared hosting arena is what makes this provider such a value deal. The Bluehost name is listed toward the top of many of... read more + If you’re looking for an affordable host, Bluehost is a solid, reputable choice, but their low cost coupled with their supremacy in the shared hosting arena is what makes this provider such a value deal. The Bluehost name is listed toward the top of many of our reviews categories, and with good reason. They offer excellent hardware configurations, a generous list of extras, and fantastic support and reliability — all at a price point that’s, generally, lower than the competition.The speed and performance result from very modern hardware and a global content delivery network. They also offer nearly unlimited everything, including storage, emails, and bandwidth, and many other perks. For example, they include a free domain and marketing credits to get your site off the ground — adding to their value.We rank Bluehost at or near the top for their WordPress, VPS, and dedicated options and if those fit your needs, please check them out. You’ll be happy to note their incredibly competitive pricing across the board.We are convinced Bluehost has the goods to meet your hosting needs today and in the future, but more importantly, they are too. They offer a 30-day money-back guarantee should you become dissatisfied with any of their plans for any reason; however, we’re willing to bet you won’t be. collapse info -

See more shared hosting providers »

Recommended VPS Hosting

For businesses that want to maximize their site’s performance without breaking the bank, VPS (virtual private server) hosting offers the best of both worlds. On a VPS, each website has its own server space. The servers for each website on a VPS are housed on the same computer, but unlike shared hosting, companies can purchase as much space as their website requires. Pricing for a VPS is higher than shared hosting but lower than having your own dedicated server. Our top picks for VPS hosting are notable for their reliability, tight security, and customization options.

VPS RATING
★★★★★ 4.9/5.0
  • 50% off the first month with added discounts the first year
  • Real-time redundancy powered by a cloud infrastructure
  • FREE cPanel/WHM licenses with enterprise-grade CentOS
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $19.99
Money Back Guarantee 90 days
Disk Space 75 GB - 260 GB SSD
Domain Name New or Transfer
VPS Hosting Plans www.inmotionhosting.com/vps
Our Expert's InMotion Review
Boasting market-leading VPS hardware, slick management software, and free SSD drives and backups, InMotion offers the most attractive VPS plans you'll find anywhere. Each VPS plan comes with free SSD storage arranged in RAID 6,... read more +

Boasting market-leading VPS hardware, slick management software, and free SSD drives and backups, InMotion offers the most attractive VPS plans you'll find anywhere.

Each VPS plan comes with free SSD storage arranged in RAID 6, which is incredibly fast and secure. Each of their plans also come with an awesome amount of RAM for the server cost, so the speed-to-dollar ratio is high with this host.

InMotion’s VPS packages run on CentOS 6 Linux operating systems and all feature a license for cPanel. Each plan also comes with Web Hosting Management (WHM) software, making it super-easy to resell some unused server resources.

InMotion's reputation for uptime is second-to-none, with a solid track record as a large-scale VPS host and a large, friendly support team available at any time.

Lastly, InMotion has a 90-day money-back guarantee and offers a choice of datacenters, which are nice customer-centric features. Their support is top-notch and 24 hours. We highly recommend you check them out if you are looking for a VPS with great hardware and reseller options at a low price.

collapse info -

See more VPS hosting providers »

Recommended Dedicated Server Hosting

Dedicated server hosting is typically the most expensive option. It’s ideal for larger, high-traffic websites and can provide greater flexibility and security. Compared with a VPS, a dedicated server hosts one website only and thus allows for maximum resources to be available for that site. It’s a bigger investment than either shared hosting or a VPS, but as websites grow and businesses expand, it can become a more viable option for sites that need the space.

Read on to find out which web hosting providers offer the most comprehensive dedicated server plans, including fully managed services and premium email offerings.

DEDICATED RATING
★★★★★ 4.9/5.0
  • FREE incoming bandwidth and choice of operating system
  • Custom configurations with SSDs and instant provisioning
  • Auto-migrations, backups, and 24/7 Sonar Monitoring™
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $79.00
Money Back Guarantee N/A
Disk Space 211 GB - 1,775 GB SSD
Domain Name New or Transfer
Dedicated Hosting Plans www.liquidweb.com/dedicated
Our Expert's Liquid Web Review
Liquid Web's strong suit is their managed dedicated server hosting. They own and operate three state-of-the-art datacenters in the US and have over 50 developers working tirelessly to build and maintain custom solutions for added... read more +

Liquid Web's strong suit is their managed dedicated server hosting. They own and operate three state-of-the-art datacenters in the US and have over 50 developers working tirelessly to build and maintain custom solutions for added performance and security.

Fully, Core-, or Self-Managed — Plus Storm® Servers

Liquid Web offers single, dual, and quad processor servers with fully, core-, or self-managed plans. All dedicated server customers reap the benefits and support of the Heroic Support® team and the 24/7 protection of the Sonar Monitoring™ team.

Redundantly Built, Multi-Tiered Network

Featuring top-of-the-line Cisco equipment, the Liquid Web N+1 network is redundantly built to allow routing devices to quickly self-heal. They're designed to bounce back and correct system failures without interrupting the customer's connection. With the integration of premier providers, Level 3, Verizon, Comcast, Cogent, and Equinix, the Liquid Web network is optimized for rapid and fault-resistant performance.

Highly Available Sites with the Tech of 50+ Developers

Liquid Web boasted an incredible 99.995% uptime rate in 2014, a bragging right that's helped shape their reputation for performance. With the maintenance of 50+ developers, the Liquid Web infrastructure is engineered to evade and survive typical site disasters.

24/7 Proactive Protection from the Sonar Monitoring™ & Heroic Support® Teams

Should disaster strike, the Sonar Monitoring™ team is trained to catch the issue first, performing system-level health checks and patches 24/7, so they can hopefully have it handled before you're even aware of the situation. Meanwhile, the Heroic Support® team of 300+ experts is available anytime to help with any troubleshooting need.

Storm® Servers & Add-Ons

For the dev nerds out there, one of our favorite facets of Liquid Web as a hosting provider is the commitment to in-house-built technology. All of their team members' experience and expertise becomes very evident once you check out their custom Storm® Platform.

All the Power Plus All the Flexibility

If you're in need of dedicated resources, drawn to the customization of the Cloud, and know you need screaming fast performance, the Storm® Dedicated Server may be your solution. These custom server systems allow for cloud-like flexibility that traditional dedicated servers aren't capable of, like instant provisioning and automatic migrations.

Added Extras Make the Dedicated Cost a Done Deal

The Liquid Web development team is constantly coming up with new Storm® Add-Ons, like Load Balancers, Block Storage, Object Storage, and a VPN. Think you can't afford such full-featured and flexible hardware? Think again. With pricing starting around $110/month, the Storm® Platform is great for the cost-conscious dedicated server shopper.

Liquid Web Dedicated Servers in Review

If you want feature-rich dedicated resources and relentlessly reliable technical support, Liquid Web should be on your short list. They're known for strong managed service offerings, but the drawback to managed hosting is usually the cost. Liquid Web doesn't leave you hanging there though — in-house solutions like the Storm® Dedicated Server keep the cloud-level flexibility and performance up and the cost down.

collapse info -

See more dedicated hosting providers »

2. Back Up Your Website Files and Databases

After you’ve purchased your new hosting plan and before you cancel your old one, you’ll need to back up your website in its entirety and move it over to your new server. Download all of your files from the old host – they should have specific instructions for doing this in their platform – and then migrate them to the new host via FTP. Databases must also be backed up by downloading the files, uploading them, and then restoring the database using a control panel or SSH. Emails can sometimes be transferred but at the very least should be archived so they can be preserved. This step is crucial to maintaining the integrity of your site just as it was on the old host.

3. Switch Your Domain’s DNS Record to Your New Host or Registrar

When you switch to a new web host, your DNS (domain name system) server also changes. The DNS tells a user’s internet service provider (ISP) where the site files are located and directs the connection to your site so it can load in their browser. After your website files and databases are migrated to the new host, you will need to ask the provider from which you purchased your domain name to make the change. Be sure to contact your new host to get the new DNS information to give to the old host. This change typically takes 48 hours (two days) to take effect, at which point your site will load from the new web host.

4. Once the DNS Change Request Goes Through, Conduct a Final QA

So, you’ve fully migrated your site and changed your DNS name – now what? Don’t take it for granted that everything came over in one piece. Do a thorough quality control check to ensure no files are missing from your site. Once you cancel your account with the old host, there’s no guarantee you’ll get those files back, so be certain everything is as it should be before pulling the plug on the old host. Go through each page of the site and review all the files and databases you transferred over in fine detail.

5. Cancel Your Old Account!

Like closing on an old house when moving to a new place, the last step of switching hosts is to close out your account with the old web host. Once you’ve made sure you have all of your files and databases and have switched your DNS record, you should have no worries about checking off this final task. If you originally purchased your domain name with the old host, remember to keep the domain name registration, but your hosting account can go. Don’t look back – you’ve done everything you need to do to move on to the next chapter in the life of your website.

Switching to a New Web Hosting Provider Doesn’t Have to Be Daunting

Switching web hosts should feel like an upgrade, and what that looks like for your website might be different than for another. Keep in mind those key web host features that will make your site perform better and make your life easier. When Stephanie, the lawyer who switched to a cloud-based host with unlimited email storage and mailboxes, decided to make the move to a new host, she did so with full knowledge of her options and priorities. Use these host-versus-host comparisons to determine which web hosting providers carry the features you care about most.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jennifer Young

Jennifer Young is a specialist in educational technology with experience in web design and development. She also has 12 years of editorial experience writing for print and the web. Jennifer is passionate about covering topics related to web tools and technologies and enjoys learning about tech as much as she loves teaching it. She embraces the challenge of making web hosting accessible for every type of user and is delighted to share her knowledge with the HostingAdvice.com audience.