If you run a business with a bustling online presence, chances are you'll hit a point when you've outgrown your server. When faced with slowing speeds, limited capabilities and rising costs, changing servers will likely be your best bet.
Changing servers can speed up your website and improve customer outcomes, but only if you choose a host that's right for you.
The following tips will help you pick the best host and minimize transition costs.
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Decide About Dedication
Slow service is one of the most common reasons for switching servers, and it often occurs because your site has grown big enough to need a dedicated server. Shared servers are fine for small sites, but as your web traffic grows, only a dedicated server can offer quick access for all your visitors. If this is the case, only select a new web host that can offer you a dedicated server. Another shared server, no matter how efficient, will not solve the problem.
To determine whether you need a new server, watch out for the following signs:
- Pages are taking too long to load
- Some pages are not being served at all
- The server is overloaded with database requests, creating frequent error messages
- You need to update your software more frequently than your host is letting you
Consider Customer Service
However great a new host may look on paper, you never know how well it will meet your needs until you've been using the server for a while. If you end up having problems with the new host that you didn't expect, reliable customer support is crucial, so only choose a host with a customer service department you can easily reach.
Make sure the host has a toll-free support number and call the number to see how long the wait time is. If the customer support line keeps you on hold, it's a sign that the host either doesn't prioritize customer service or is so flooded with support requests that it can't answer them quickly; either way, don't choose that host. Also see if the company's website offers Live Chat and support ticket options.
Pick the Right Package
Many web-masters mistakenly believe that their web hosting package must be compatible with the computer operating system they use. If I use a PC, shouldn't I purchase a Windows web hosting package for my website? In fact, web hosting packages have nothing to do with your operating system.
Choose a host based on what programs you want to use for your website. If you need to use WordPress, PHP or MySQL, choose a new web host that uses a Linux package. On the other hand, if you plan to use .NET Framework or Microsoft SQL, choose a web host that uses Microsoft.
Be Careful About Canceling Previous Service
Once you've chosen a new host, transition away from your old host carefully to minimize downtime and lost data. Canceling an old host too early can be devastating to your site. The old host, either out of spite or in a goodwill attempt to save you money, will immediately delete all of your old files, including content, subscriber information and outstanding payment details. If you haven't backed up this data, you will lose it forever.
To avoid this, don't cancel your old web hosting service, or even inform the old host that you plan to cancel, until you've finished moving all of your files to the new server. Once you're finished transferring all the data, let the new site run for a few days before you ask your old server to cancel the previous site. This will allow you to make sure you hadn't forgotten to transfer any information that was essential to the site.
Locate the Links
If you don't own your domain name, switching to a new web hosting server will change your site's web address. This can cost you considerable web traffic, especially if you relied on other sites that linked to your pages.
You can use a statistics counter to see how many visitors to your site reached it through links from other sites. Another option is to Google "link:" followed by your original site's URL and see which are the most popular sites using that link. Once you've found the sites, email their web-masters and ask them to change the links.
Alternatively, if your original site used a commercial web hosting server, you can simply maintain the old site and have it redirect traffic to the new one. Only do this, however, if the cost of losing traffic outweighs the fees to maintain the old site.