Is It Easy To Switch Website Hosts? Web Dev FAQ


Hey there, this is Dave from camoIT Solutions and I’m the SEO specialist here. Today, I want to talk about switching hosts when it comes to websites, and whether or not that process is easy.

Let me put it this way – it CAN be easy, and relatively straightforward. It isn’t always easy, however, because it really depends who you’re hosted with currently, and who you might switch to, and everything in between.

In the world of web development (aka setting up websites on the internet and developing them to be better and more efficient), the concept of web hosting can be rather abstract to a regular person who doesn’t spend their hours working on the web.

Therefore, let me clarify some things here around web hosting.

What is Web Hosting?

Web hosting is where the files for your website live, using various file folders and databases to contain your website files, like images, and the overall site architecture.

Often, web hosting will offer something like WordPress to make your website come to life and make it visible on the internet in a visually appealing way, which is called a CMS (content management system). This is also stored on the hosting platform.

Without a CMS like WordPress, you are left with using code to construct your website, and that means you need to learn various coding languages, which is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Hence, most people just use a CMS like WordPress or something similar to create their website.

That said, how you make your website is totally up to you, although how you make it definitely comes into play along the way.

Your DNS (Domain Name System) and Web Hosting Options

One thing to mention here at this point is that the website name, or DNS (domain name system), can either be purchased as part of the hosting, or it can be bought elsewhere (ie. Namecheap, or a similar service) and the website name can then be connected to the hosting service.

This little detail is very important, so take note of it.

As it stands, there are many hosts out there to choose from, at different price points and offering different things. I’ve personally used several over the years, from Host Gator, to Godaddy, to Wix, to Siteground, to Vultr, to name but a few.

There is certainly a difference between hosting platforms. Some provide better customer service and try to make things super easy, while others give you more space and speed for a higher price.

These types of hosting services are more hands off, and that can be worth it if space and speed is your ultimate goal.

Basically, some hosts assume you know more about web development and can do things on your own mostly (Vultr), while others target customers who know almost nothing, while focusing on the overall simplicity of the setup process and results (Wix).

The average hosting service is somewhere in between being hands off and hands on, with certain apps built into the service like Cpanel, which has a subset of other apps that can be used to manage your website via the hosting service.

Here’s a look at Cpanel, if you haven’t seen it. It has maybe 20-30 apps built into it.

Reasons Why People Switch Web Hosts

There are many reasons someone could want to switch web hosts.

Maybe you are ready to take things to the next level, and your current host doesn’t provide enough resources for what you need.

Maybe you aren’t keen on their customer service, and find the overall services of the hosting platform to be lacking in some way.

Maybe something happened that was really not ideal, and you have to make a break for it.

Whatever the reason may be, switching web hosts does assume that you’re not starting from scratch, and you’re needing to change things up.

Many people I’ve talked to have stressed over this process. Heck, even I have stressed over it, because it’s like moving from one location to another in real life.

You need to be organized, you don’t want to forget anything, you have a certain amount of time, you don’t want to overspend, and yet you know it will have costs associated with it.

There’s also the very real possibility you could make a mistake and quite quickly, your fun adventure can turn into an inconvenient annoyance, or even a full blown nightmare.

For example, if you do the switch improperly, your website could either go down, and be offline for a while, or you might actually delete it permanently, which would be very bad if that was not your intention.

Usually, however, there is a grace period where if you delete your site by accident, the host will save it for 30 days or maybe even a year.

I once had a client stop paying their hosting fees, and the website went into the digital meat locker, for over 10 months, and I was able to get it back for them, although the host charged a fee for this retrieval.

How To Switch Web Hosts – The Nitty Gritty

If you understand that in every web hosting situation, things are going to be slightly different, and so results may vary, then allow me to share my opinion on how to switch web hosts, the way I usually approach it.

Buckle up, because the rest of this article is going to be a bit bumpy! In the end, hopefully you’ll be ready to try this yourself.

First of all, you need to know what the new web host platform will be. Let’s say it’s Siteground, as I often use that company for web hosting.

Therefore, in order to move any pre-existing site to Siteground’s web hosting, you need to have an account on Siteground to do anything there at all.

All hosting websites are – as you might expect – also websites themselves.

Let’s say you’re currently using Godaddy, as many people I’ve talked to over the years happen to have made a website there on Godaddy, and that’s where their websites live – happily or unhappily over on Godaddy’s servers.

Let’s assume, for the sake of this article, that you are not entirely happy – hence wanting to switch web hosts.

Here’s a run on sentence: A lot of people who have a website with, say, a host like Godaddy, do at least understand that they have an account registered with Godaddy, and their website is “on” Godaddy, as in hosted by Godaddy, and maybe the name or DNS / url is also purchased with Godaddy. I’ll say it one more time – Godaddy.

In other words, if Godaddy sank into the sea, your website, also hosted there, would cease to work on the greater internet. Without Godaddy, there is no site (if that’s where it’s hosted).

Hosting and the Importance of Your DNS

The website name, like I said, is very important in this whole equation.

If you purchased the name on Godaddy, and the website is also built on Godaddy with the Godaddy Page Builder, then, if you’re moving to Siteground, you have some options to consider as there are a few ways to do the web host switching.

This is where the choices become very important, because these choices determine exactly how easy or insufferably difficult switching web hosts will be.

For instance, you COULD just delete the site on Godaddy, but still keep the domain name purchased on Godaddy.

Deleting a website doesn’t actually mean you don’t own the name anymore – you DO definitely own the name still, and that fact doesn’t change if you happen to delete the entire website.

Most hosts offer DNS services so you can just buy the name with them. On the other hand, people like me, buy them in two different places, for security reasons. Basically, if someone hacks your website, they can’t get your name if it’s on a different platform. Pretty clever, huh?

Buy New Hosting, Rebuild Website Option / Nameserver Redirection

If you chose to simply delete the website on the host you are leaving (Godaddy), you could then rebuild the whole site over on Siteground (for example) using their customary WordPress install, while the name is still owned over at Godaddy, which means you will need to do what’s called redirecting the nameservers.

So, you’d need to redirect the nameservers that are on Godaddy over to Siteground, and just go ahead and rebuild the whole site over on Siteground. I’m not a big fan of the Godaddy Page Builder anyway, so that is what I’d do.

To access the place where you change the nameservers, you need to go to the DNS section of the hosting platform and you’ll probably find them there. This determines where the website lives online, and so the nameservers associated with the DNS need to match the hosting service nameservers.

Site Migration Option

Then again, there’s also the concept of “site migration” to understand. This is where you “port” or move the website from one web host to another, air lift style.

Usually, Siteground will offer a free site migration when you sign up, which means you can drag your website, and all its parts, from Godaddy over to Siteground and have it be re-built quickly over there, as if nothing even happened from the perspective of the outside web visitor.

If this process takes a while, which it can, depending on who is migrating the site (ie. you or the hosting platform people), you can always put a “Under Construction” message on your website’s domain while it’s being moved over to the new host.

This process can be a bit confusing because if you are the one migrating it, it just means you’re following some sort of migration plugin that the host offers, which is usually easy to follow, however sometimes, it can be harder to follow.

One false move, and the migration will, at the very least, take longer than expected, since the site may get caught in transit. This can result in a “page missing” or 404 error.

Migration Issues With Godaddy to WordPress

One issue that can happen between Godaddy and Sitground, is that Godaddy Site Builder and Siteground’s WordPress install are not the same platform.

Therefore, you’d need a Siteground web dev, or someone who is a web dev, to rebuild the site over on Siteground, as a normal migration isn’t possible, due to Godaddy Site Builder and WordPress not being the same CMS.

It’s like saying, I want to take this cat (Godaddy Page Builder built site) and move it into a house that only allows ferrets (Siteground WordPress built site). Something weird might happen and the cat would either have to dress up like a ferret, or be chased away by the actual ferrets.

Ok, maybe that’s not a great analogy (maybe it is though), but the point is, Godaddy Site Builder and WordPress are not the same type of website architecture.

A typical site migration from WordPress Install (on one host) to WordPress Install (on another host) is the most smooth option, as the software that performs the migration is designed for similar site architectures only.

Godaddy Page Builder, much like Wix or Squarespace Page Builders, are proprietary software, while WordPress Installs (while still proprietary), can migrate easier between two web hosting platforms, with the help of automated software.

Website Propagation

Don’t worry, I’m almost done here.

Site propagation refers to the process by which changes or updates made to a website are distributed or spread out across the internet.

When you make changes to your website, such as adding new content, updating images, or changing the design, those changes need to be reflected on the internet, so that users can see the most up-to-date version of your site.

This especially occurs when you make a new site, or migrate a website, and it’s presence on the internet must be communicated to the rest of the internet from its source on the web host.

During site propagation, servers around the world update their records to reflect the changes made to your website, with migration or making a new site being the two things that take longest to propagate.

This ensures that when someone types in your website’s address or clicks on a link to your site, they are directed to the most recent version of your website.

Overall, site propagation is essential for ensuring that your website remains current and accessible to users across the internet.

Summing Things Up

So, to recap here, what matters when it comes to switching web hosts is whether you plan on migrating your site when you switch hosts, or not. You are either moving a site, or deleting and then rebuilding a site.

It also matters where your name was purchased.

If you buy your website name (DNS) where you get your hosting, then it simplifies things. If you’re switching hosts but keeping the name where it was on the old host, you need to redirect the name servers in order to make things work.

At the end of the day, switching web hosts can be done fairly quickly, if you know the steps to do it, and understand what you’re doing.

I recommend always speaking to your web host’s support team, in order to ensure that your switching of web hosts goes smoothly. This may involve doing tag-team chat sessions with two web host support agents AT THE SAME TIME, which I’ve done personally, I might add.

Got to love those support agents, let’s give a round of applause to those folks! Hip hip horray!

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