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Make sure you register your domain elsewhere - The first time I registered a domain name, it seemed so convenient to just use my web hosts domain registration service. What I didn't know is they became registrar, and it was a nightmare getting domain transferred to a different one. By registering domain at a different company, you will most likely get a better price, and you will gain independence from your web host.
Scope out a few hosts in advance - Even if you are completely happy with your current web host, at least take a few minutes and have a few names ready just in case. This way if you are forced to move, you have a pretty good idea of where.
Moving To A Different Host
If you are lucky, you get to make choice about moving. In that case, you can simply upload your new site, get it all working, then transfer domain and cancel old site. This gives you a large amount of control, because you don't have to transfer domain and cancel until you are happy with new host.
If for some reason your web host has cut off access to your site, then you have to move fast. This is where monitoring services come in handy - you know immediately when your site fails.
These are steps that I follow when I change hosts.
1) Determine that a change is necessary. Ideally you are one making this determination. Of course, if your web host decides for you, then you have to perform rest of these steps very quickly because you are down.
2) Find a new hosting company. Read all of information on internet that I can find. I also learned something hard way - check hosting companies own forums for customer complaints. There were several times that I would have avoided trouble had I followed this advice.
3) Review features of hosting company to be sure they offer what you need. If you have any questions, be sure and send an email off to their sales department.
4) If you need a storefront, shopping cart and/or merchant status, be sure you resolve any issues you may have before laying out any money.
5) Sign up for hosting company with right size package, but minimum amount of time (one to three months). This gives you some time to check them out without laying out too much money up front.
6) Once site is active, start uploading files.
7) Modify any scripts as necessary. Test all of them to be sure they work.
8) Upload any autoresponders and set up your email forwarding as desired.
9) Create any subdomains, if you use this feature.
10) Of course, set up any databases. If your other site is still active, then just load databases on new site with data from most recent backup - you just want data for testing purposes. If it's not active, then load databases with most recent values you have.
11) Set up your storefront, merchant services and credit card processing, if necessary. Test as thoroughly as you can.
12) Once everything works and is tested, transfer domain to new host.
13) If you have option, freeze your databases on old site about 12 hours after transferring domain. Disable all activity to old databases, then copy to new site.
14) Once domain transfers (usually a day or two) test thoroughly again. Unfreeze databases as soon as you can.
15) Once everything works, cancel old account.
16) Depending upon circumstances of move, demand a partial or full refund. It does not matter what hosting companies policies are - presumably you moved because they were not fulfilling their contract. This means they are in breach of contract, so demand your money back.
17) If they will not give it back (and they probably won't), check with your credit card company to see what your options are - if you've paid within 60 days via credit card, you may be able to get credit card company to get your money back for you. This is where your monitoring logs come in very handy (assuming downtime or response time was reason you left) - you can prove your case using third party data.
18) Why focus on getting a refund? Because hosting company did not provide contracted services - and no one should be rewarded for failure to fulfill their contract. The only real weapon you have is your money. Demand a refund.
19) Once you've moved, be sure and practice maintenance steps mentioned earlier in this article. You may have to move your site again, and you want to be prepared.
So basically, moving to a new host is always a traumatic, time consuming event. You should take pains to be prepared so that trauma is reduced in duration and loss.
Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets at http://www.internet-tips.net - Visit our website any time to read over 1,000 complete FREE articles about how to improve your internet profits, enjoyment and knowledge.